Saturday, December 11, 2010


In the winter months, when it's too cold for the park or the soccer field, it's always nice to find a non-messy craft that will occupy the girls. The fort that they recently made out of blankets, string, stuffed animals, pipe cleaners and paper boxes does not fall into this category. Melissa and Doug Sticker collection sheets do.

Over Thanksgiving, the girls' friends Cam and Drew introduced them to the sticker sheets and since then they've been hooked. Noni particularly likes the fashion collection and Evie and Lucy love the make-a-face book. The sticker books have become our go-to birthday present these days. If you're looking for a holiday present that will keep your little one entertained for hours, I strongly recommend them. They are available at Childish Things in Boulder or online at

Lucy making sticker art

Our fridge, courtesy of Noni

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Math Muffins

For the past few weeks, I have been helping teach Evie's math league. It's not a natural fit for me. I either lack a natural propensity for math or else lack enough of an interest to be competent in it. My daughter, however, fills notebooks with calculations in her free time and I want to support this interest.

After I offered to volunteer, I immediately felt apprehensive about my ability to actually teach the class. So I decided that I would bake some muffins to bring to her math league. That way, even if I didn't do a great job, everyone would still find me to be a respectable volunteer.

The kids loved the muffins and the first day was a success. And it turns out that despite getting D in Calculus in college, I am quite capable of teaching fourth grade math. However, I wasn't capable of calculating that after I brought muffins once, the kids would come to expect them each time. And so Tuesdays have become baking days as Noni and I experiment with making pumpkin and banana and chocolate chip muffins. Today, I made apple strudel muffins and they came out so well that I wanted to share. Below is the recipe, slightly modified from a recipe I found on They don't actually make you better at math, but they do taste good. Enjoy!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups grated apples
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease two 12 cup muffin pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Mix in vanilla. Stir in apples, and gradually blend in the flour mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan.
  4. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is like coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over tops of mixture in muffin pan.
  5. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to sit 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan. Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Introducing Francie's Fortune!

I just thought I'd take a moment to let you all know that my new book is now available at both Blue Mustang Press and! You can get up-to-date information on my book on the Francie's Fortune Facebook fan page (try saying that five times fast...) or the website Thank you so much for reading my blog. I hope you enjoy my book as well!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Next Stage

This morning I filled three garbage bags with clothing for Goodwill. The clothes range from size "newborn" to 2T and each item brought back a flood of memories. Glover Park t-shirts, Frederick soccer uniforms, much loved leotards and princess t-shirts... I pulled out the ones that felt particularly significant, like the pink and black skirt that Evie wore daily for nearly a year, but the rest are off to be released into the world. For the first time, I am not saving the smaller sizes to be passed down to a little sister. I felt a stir of emotions as I filled up the bags, but they weren't the emotions I was expecting.

For the past nine years, I have devoted my life to raising three daughters. I also went to grad school and wrote two books. But, if you took snapshots of me moment to moment over the past nine years, you would see me wiping a nose here, pushing a swing there, changing a diaper here, and giving a hug there. I have been very busy with all the very busy things that one does when raising toddlers. It's not that, as a mother, I'm not doing any of those things any more just because the girls are older. It's just that recently I find myself more often planning activities for Lucy's Brownie troop or teaching Evie's math league or listening to Lucy read or helping Evie think up arguments for a debate or driving to soccer or ballet or piano or drama or science seekers or gymnastics... I'm still busy raising them, but it's different.

This difference struck me a few weeks ago when I spend the weekend in Boston with five friends from college and three babies. I watched them nursing and snuggling and calming their babies. I remember that stage so well. There were nights when Evie was up screaming for three hours and I found myself in tears thinking this stage will never ever end. And then there was her first smile and her first laugh and I found myself praying that this stage will never ever end.

But it did. It does. That's the way life works of course. Now my first baby is learning about elastic potential energy, my second baby can read and ride a bike and my third baby goes to preschool and didn't even need to sit on my lap during Tangled. This is the though that, while folding tiny t-shirts, I expected to bring me to tears.

Here's the thing though. I love this stage. I love that we can all go skiing or hike up Sanitas together. I love that I spent the morning in a debate with Evie and Lucy over whether it's better to be a werewolf, vampire or ghost (in case you're wondering, I'm going with werewolf) and that we'll spend the afternoon at the Nutcracker. Do I miss the snuggly, sweet stage of raising babies? Of course. But while I look older nine years later, I'm also realizing that I'm suddenly feeling younger than I've felt in a long while. I'm getting more sleep and more exercise and I'm finding more time to pursue interests that have gotten dusty over the past nine years.

Looking at those bags, I can't help but feel nostalgic at all the memories that go along with the stained and worn clothing in them. But part of me feels that, by pulling those clothes out of closets and the basement and releasing them into the world, we have made a little more room for ourselves at this stage of our lives. And to tell you the truth, that feels like a wonderful thing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

King Tut Has Lice Too

Stitches and lice, the two childhood rites of passage I always hoped my kids would skip. Well, I can cross one off the list. In case you've never had the joy of picking crawling bugs out of your child's hair, I will let you share in my experience.

It starts like this. You're at the museum with your friend and your kids. The girls are trying on Egyptian hats. You turn to your friend and say, "Well, when they get lice, we'll know exactly where they got them." And you laugh. Ha ha ha.

That night, at dinner with your family and your husband's business partners, your daughter starts itching her hair.
"Mom, my hair itches."
"No it doesn't."
"Yes, really, it itches."
"No. It doesn't."
"Your head really itches?"
"For real?"

Sighing, you take her to the bathroom. You part her hair and there it is--a little louse crawling around your daughter's hair, about to wreck havoc on your life. You take a deep breath. You notice a single fruit fly, sitting on the bathroom mirror. You think about fruit flies and lice and temporarily consider yourself a failure as a mother. But you don't really have time for contemplation. You yell to your husband in the other room, "You need to go to the drugstore. Now!"

When you emerge from the bathroom to tell him and his business partners what happened, you all start scratching your heads. This is what happens when you even think about lice, you start itching.

You spend the evening rubbing toxic shampoo into your daughter's scalp. The lice could care less. They crawl around unfazed, coated in lice shampoo. You imagine their conversation. "Mmm, I love this tasty shampoo." "Oh yes, this brand is my favorite. Even better than scalp." You spend the next hour picking the lice out of her hair because clearly the shampoo is not doing anything. The rest of the evening is spent washing sheets in hot water.

The next morning you remember that your niece had lice and you call your sister hoping for reassurance. She tells you that sucks, it really really sucks. Not the reassurance you were looking for, but it's always good to know the truth. You tell her that your daughter got lice at the museum yesterday and you had picked nine out of her hair. She tells you that your daughter didn't get lice at the museum, she gave lice at the museum. She couldn't have had nine already unless that hat was teaming with lice. You feel momentary guilt thinking of all the dozens of kids who tried on the Egyptian hats after your daughter that day. Then, following your sister's advice, you buy an electric comb.

When you are done electrocuting lice, you call the school to tell them that your daughter won't be coming in that day. They tell you that at least four other kids are out that day too, all with lice. This isn't comforting. The last thing you need is to get rid of lice and then get them back again.

When you hang up the phone, you ask your daughter if she'd consider shaving off all of her hair. She isn't amused. You head back to the bathroom for another comb-through, and suddenly have a deep understanding of the expression "go over it with a fine-toothed comb."

Four days, twelve comb-throughs, and countless loads of laundry later, you breathe a small sigh of relief because your daughter's head is no longer itchy and so far your other daughters' hair remains bug-free. You are hopeful that you can put this whole experience behind you.

And that, my friends, is the story of lice. If it sounds like good times, then by all means go about your usual business. Maybe even take your kids for some hat-trying-on at the Denver Art Museum. But, if you'd rather keep your experience with lice limited to reading about it on a blog, I strongly suggest going through your kids' hair with a fine-toothed comb just to check, especially if you live in Boulder. Checking obviously won't prevent them from getting lice, but it's always good to catch it early. Also? Ponytails and buns are always good looks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

King Tut Has a Big Butt

The girls had the day off of school today so my friend Tina and I decided to take them and her daughters into Denver for some art and culture. As soon as I told the girls that we were going to the Denver Museum of Art to see a King Tut exhibit, Lucy made up a song about it. Driving to the museum listening to "We're going to see King Tut and he has a big butt!", I began to have my doubts about our plans. Yet it turns out that spending a day at the DAM with the girls was a great way to spend the day.

I've learned a couple things in my years of dragging the girls to museums. Kids, like adults, enjoy art more when they understand it in context. Tina dropped off a bunch of books about Egypt from the library for us before our museum trip. Mummies & Pyramids, with a whole chapter on King Tut, proved the most valuable. The girls knew about tomb raiders and mummies and pharaohs before we set foot in the museum. The books plus the 3D movie we watched when we arrived (which, incidentally, started with a jackal jumping out at us from the screen. Noni spent the rest of the movie on my lap without her 3D glasses) gave the exhibit more meaning.

I also always bring notebooks for the girls now when we go to museums. Lydia and Lucy might still be in the King Tut exhibit drawing sarcophagi if their younger sisters hadn't grown impatient. Giving them something to physically do always helps keep their attention.

I think we all left the museum better informed about Egyptian history. And the "King Tut has a big butt" song is finally out of our heads. Now we are all singing this instead: click here

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Francie's Fortune

A year and four days ago today, I embarked in the crazy adventure of Nanowrimo, or the challenge to write a novel in a month. I didn't do it. But I got enough of a start that I couldn't stop writing. Through that process, Francie's Fortune was born.

I'm happy to announce that Blue Mustang Press will be publishing Francie's Fortune, which will be available on and hopefully at a bookstore near you by the end of the month. The website for the book is currently in development, but check out the Francie's Fortune fan page on Facebook to get updates about the book.

Thank you to everyone for your support of my writing on this blog. I hope you'll check out Francie's Fortune as well!

Here's a sneak peak from the back cover:

Ten-year-old Francie is looking forward to spending the summer at home in Los Angeles as she always does, hanging out at the ice cream shop and at her best friend’s pool. When her mother drops the news that Francie will instead be spending the summer with her estranged grandmother in a remote mountain town in Colorado, Francie is crushed. Even worse, once she arrives, she begins to suspect that her grandmother is actually a witch. And why is a mountain lion following her? Will Francie survive the summer?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Multiplication Music

As I write, the girls are blaring music from their room. It's not the usual Lady Gaga or Glee CD. Instead, they are newly obsessed with a CD that Lucy brought home from school: Multiplication Sensation. It has really, um, catchy lyrics like, "Five times ten is fifty..." and yet at dinner tonight Lu was singing, "Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thiiiiirty." If I'm going to have numbers in my music, I prefer Feist, but I highly recommend Multiplication Sensation for kids. It will drive you crazy, but so does most kid music and at least your kids will learn some math in the process! Check it out online here:

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Unlikely Princess

As you might know if you've been reading this blog, or if you've ever spent 30 seconds with Noni, she's kind of into princesses. "Kind of" as in she sleeps with a stuffed Snow White on her bed, obsessively reads the Disney Princess Encyclopedia, dressed in nothing but princess dresses for almost a year, and usually leaves the house with at least two Polly Pocket-sized princesses in her pocket or purse. So when Halloween came around and she asked my dad what he was going to be for Halloween, he decided he had the perfect answer for his three-year-old granddaughter: "A princess."

And so, my dad dressed as Cinderella for Halloween. And Noni was terrified. Not only would she not go near him, but when we stopped at the first house to trick-or-treat, she turned to my dad and said, "You stay back!" We were cracking up. However, but the end of the night she had totally warmed up to the idea. Before she went to bed, she told my dad, "Next year I want you to be Snow White."

My dad as Cinderella. Noni, as a "princess cat", looking skeptical.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Dinner: Mummy Dogs

Tonight I needed to make a quick dinner so that the girls could be out the door with face paint on to meet their friends by 6 o'clock. I went to (which seems to be getting a lot of air time on my blog lately. As I said, something about the fall and cooking. Hmmm... That could actually explain the struggle to get into my jeans today...) and looked up Halloween food and found the perfect recipe. (Click here for the full recipe.) Mummy dogs could not have been easier to make and the girls loved them!

It's always good to serve organic hot dogs on Halloween, before you allow your kids to eat 5 lbs of high fructose corn syrup and red #40...

Evie, the green crayon, helped make the mummy dogs.

Aren't they cute?

I have to admit, this guy was my favorite. Lucy looked at this picture and said, "I feel so sad! He's in my belly now!'

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Noni, Top Chef

Lately I've had a helper in the kitchen. Whether she's stirring a pot of red lentil soup or flattening some pizza dough, Noni has taken a sudden interest in cooking. If I'm making a recipe that is too complicated for a three-year-old helper (she still has some work to do on cracking eggs), we pull her plastic kitchen set into the hall and she keeps me company by coming up with her own make-believe creations while I cook.

I give Monica Wellington the credit for Noni's newfound interest. Wellington is the author of a series of books about young entrepreneurs and many of them are in the business of making and selling food. Whether we're reading about Suzette selling crepes or Annie selling apples or Sally selling pizzas, Noni loves her stories.

You can check out the recipes from her books on her website (click here). Noni's favorite is the pizza recipe, which we altered only slightly by using 1/2 whole wheat flour and adding olive oil.

If you have a little chef in your own kitchen, I suggest you check out Wellington's books.

Chef Noni in her apron

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fat Squirrels

Today Noni and I came home to three squirrels on the front porch eating the pumpkins. It might be time to invest in a fake Jack'o'lantern:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn Baking & Cooking

I love this time of year. Boulder doesn't quite offer the fall splendor of the Mid-Atlantic or New England, but we still have some changing color and the weather lately--sunny, dry, high sixties--has been perfect. This morning, Toby and I biked up past Bald Mountain to see the damage done by the fires and were amazed at the size of the charred valley. Our ride up, however, provided views of yellow and orange trees with a blue sky and snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. It was a perfect way to start a fall day.

During the summer, I am usually uninspired to cook. I'll throw something on the grill and make a side salad and then repeat the following evening. But the cooler weather has motivated me to try some new recipes and I thought I'd share some that we've been enjoying lately here (courtesy of Enjoy!

Easy & Delicious Pumpkin Soup

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups cubed fresh pumpkin
  • *2 small potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 whole black peppercorns


  1. Cut pumpkin into 1/2-inch cubes.
  2. Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, potatoes, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.
  3. Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender.
  4. Return to pan and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir in heavy cream. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.

* not in the original recipe, but I felt they made the soup a better consistency (thicker).


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup all-purpose)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine the egg, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in bananas and chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts


  1. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Combine the egg, oil, milk, lemon juice and vanilla; mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in zucchini, chocolate chips and walnuts. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done.

Happy fall!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hanging Out in South Carolina

To Hang out: verb, informal: to spend time in a certain location or with certain people; to spend time doing nothing in particular

I spent most of my college years hanging out with my friends. There were the occasional breaks to study or to endure the freezing cold sprint from the dorm to the gym for a game of racquetball or to go to a party or bar, but we spent most of our time in our dorm room just talking, and maybe drinking a beer or eating from the giant bowl of M&Ms on our living room table (no wonder we all a little pudgy).

When you're a parent, spending time "doing nothing in particular" doesn't seem to happen so much anymore. When you're at home, there are dishes to be washed and floors to be swept and toys to be put away. And if you decide to spend a few hours ignoring all that and hanging out on the couch, you do it knowing that destruction is occurring as you sit -- you're likely to find that as you relaxed, your daughters spilled a can of paint on the floor or made a giant fort out of cardboard and cushions in the basement.

This is why it is of utmost importance to get away every once in a while. Not just for a date night, but for a real full weekend break. And last weekend, we did. My mom watched the girls (thank you!!) and Toby and I headed to South Carolina for our friend Jeremy's wedding, where we spent the weekend hanging out on the beach in 75 degree sunny weather. I have so many wonderful memories from the weekend -- sitting on the front porch while Toby and Parzych played guitar, lounging on the beach with friends, catching up with friends I haven't seen in years, walking under the stars along the beach at night and spotting glow-in-the-dark ghost crabs, kayaking through the marshes with Toby. The beauty of the weekend was both spending time with friends I haven't seen in far too long and just doing whatever we felt like doing whenever we felt like doing it.

It's not easy to get away for the weekend, but last weekend we all talked about how we shouldn't wait for another wedding to all get together. I feel fortunate this fall -- we've had two wedding weekends already and I am meeting up with college friends again in Boston in November. But normally my life doesn't include so many weekends away and this past weekend was a good reminder that it is worth the effort to make sure it happens more often. Because, while we were probably excessive in our lounging around in college, it turns out that spending a weekend just hanging out with your friends is really good for your soul.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2010 Boulder 1/2 Marathon: A Review

Today, after a two week delay due to the fires, I finally ran the Boulder half marathon. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and cool. The course couldn't have been better--thirteen point two miles on dirt roads that wind through horse ranches and cow pastures, ending and starting at the reservoir, with a view of the mountains the whole way.

Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling so great. I woke up with, um, digestive issues and struggled with stomach cramps during the whole run. It was one of those races where you debate just giving up and walking with every step. Not so fun. I probably would have given up and walked had it not been for my family coming to watch. When I reached the six mile point, they all cheered me on. I ran the next two miles with the thought of Lucy in my mind -- waving her spider-monkey arms, yelling "Go Mama!" and giving me a big hug when I ran past her. When I crossed them again at mile eight, she ran out to give me a huge smile and hand me a Gatorade. Then Toby joined me for the rest of the run. You might think joining in for the last five miles of a thirteen mile race isn't such a huge deal, but I couldn't help but appreciate his effort. I wasn't sure he'd follow through, as he spent the prior evening attending the CU game and then celebrating their victory. But he made it (albeit a little hungover) and, if he hadn't joined me, I am not sure I would've run the whole thing.

With a time that was nine minutes slower than the last half marathon I did, it wasn't exactly the best race I've ever run, but I am still glad I did it. I am thankful for all of the beautiful mountain trail training runs leading up to it (and also grateful that the coyote I kept seeing on my morning runs was, in fact, a coyote and not a mountain lion as I imagined every time). Also, despite my less than stellar day on the roads, it is a beautiful, well-organized run. Hopefully my family is up for cheering me on again, as I'll probably torture myself with it again next year!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Evie's Wonders

Evie's homework assignment for the night was to write down fifteen things that she wonders about. I love that her teacher gives her such creative assignments and celebrates his students' imagination in that way. Here's what she came up with:

I wonder...

what it would be like to live on Mars.

if I'll have kids.

if people will remember the Beatles in 2020.

how the dinosaurs died.

if I'll remember my friends now when I'm older.

what I'll look like when I'm thirty.

if I'll ever move again.

if scientists will discover new animals.

if there's a way to walk off the earth.

if there will be new transportation invented.

who I'll have for my 5th grade teacher.

if the sun will run out of light.

what it would be like to travel to Australia.

if someone will find a food with all the vitamins in it.

if we're really just on a speck and someone's holding us and saying, "there's life on this speck!"

I don't think adults don't spend enough time wondering. What do you wonder about?