Sunday, November 30, 2008


I love so many things about Thanksgiving: a beautifully set table, the traditional dishes, the whole emphasis on gratitude, and just the idea that so many people around the country are sitting down to similar tables and bowing their heads in thanks. And I have so many great Thanksgiving memories.

The first time Brian met my family was Thanksgiving '90.

Omalley table 

And Angie and I bonded over a failed pie-extravaganza at Coronado on Thanksgiving '91.

Thanksgiving 91 with Angie 

Even in Russia, we hosted a big Thanksgiving feast after scoring some turkey legs in the city. I also remember an event hosted by the English department at the university in Komsomolsk, where the female students dressed up as Native Americans and the males dressed up as mobsters, yes--ala "The Godfather", in their celebration of America.Thanksgiving in Komsomolsk 

We were so young---*sigh*.

We've always either been guests (at the Chandlers in '02, at my sister Eileen's in '03, and at the Rockows in Flagstaff last year) or, more often, hosts (the Numaguchi's and my sister Maria in '04, my college friend Kris and family in '05, Brian's mom and our neighbor Carol in '06). 

1999 web 

Thanksgiving 1998 when we hosted Brian's parents in our tiny Oregon apartment.

This year we had the least stressful Thanksgiving of our adult lives. For the first time ever we were neither host nor guest; it was just us. And guess what, it was heavenly. I love a big table of family and friends, like we enjoyed last year, and I hope we will again next year. But it was also nice to put aside whether the whole house was company-clean, and if the turkey needed another half-hour, there was no worry.

Thanksgiving 2008 web

Our Thanksgiving traditions are simple. The usual dishes: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes & gravy, sweet potatoes, corn or green beans, walnut-craisin salad.

Brian always makes the turkey. And apparently I always take a picture of him doing so:-)


We go around the table saying what we are grateful for.

Gratitudes 08 copy 

Becky Higgins wrote about giving winter jammies on Thanksgiving instead of Christmas Eve, so they have a longer season. I love that idea (and as I type this, I realize that happened last year when the boys received pjs from Angie & Jeff on Thanksgiving). So that is a new tradition.

I never thought my boys and the curmudgeon Andy Rooney would have much in common, but when it comes to Thanksgiving, they're on the same page. Aidan and Sean were the Thanksgiving police, complaining in the grocery store about the Christmas decoration display "when it is STILL November!"  They stared aghast as our neighbors strung Christmas lights on their front porch last week.

Rooney makes a good point about why Thanksgiving gets cut short every year---it's not a big marketing holiday. There's nothing commercial about this holiday, which perhaps explains why I'm so sad this year to see it go.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

a photo, a prayer, and a recipe

Thanksgiving web  


We thank thee, Lord, for happy hearts,

For rain and sunny weather;

We thank thee, Lord, for this food,

And that we are together.

And my very favorite Thanksgiving dish---the cranberry sauce! I love every possible way it is prepared, but this is my newest favorite, with a hat tip to Angie's mom, Carmen, who shared it with us.  It uses raw cranberries and is really more of a relish. Enjoy your day of giving thanks!

Cranberry Sauce
1 lb fresh cranberries, finely chopped
2 tart green apples (Granny Smith), chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
10oz pkg frozen raspberries ,thawed
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Mix together and enjoy,  will keep in refrigerator for a month.

Friday, November 21, 2008

the bigs

Dance craze web 

Quick post about the big brothers.

The day after Halloween Nolan came down with a fever and cold that hung on for a week. Sean had to entertain himself a lot that week, and he took to coloring at the kitchen table with a passion.

3 yr old concentration web 

And, in proof of the benefits of benign neglect that my friend Deirdre Barber always espoused, Sean went from scribbling to drawing characters and by the end of the week, his figures had arms and legs for the first time. Now they even have fingers, though they often resemble claws.

My favorite thing in Nov web 

I can't express how much delight it brought to that rough week to have Sean present me with his latest work of art. During a normal week, I'm sure I would have balked at all the computer paper he kept bringing downstairs, and my own boredom would have led us outside or to other activities. I love the confidence he brings to his work, with such clear intent.

The same kind of intent and confidence with which he declared the red power ranger  (that he chose for Thursday's show-n-tell) was really a spiderman in disguise.  He kept referring to it as Spiderman, and I couldn't understand, if he wanted to bring a spiderman, why he didn't just pick one of the actual spidermen in his character box. But no, this was a special disguise.

My new favorite photo web

Not sure sure why, but the above photo has become my latest favorite.

And despite all my discouragement, Aidan is still "Ben-10" obsessed. He seems to come home every day with new information. "Mom, Dylan says Spidermonkey can climb..." "Mom, Simon told me that Grey Matter..."

And every time I take my camera out, he requests I capture his latest Ben-10 move:

Ben 10 at the dinner table web 

I may be the uncoolest mom ever because we don't get Cartoon Network (thank GOD), but you should have seen his face when I made him this:

AIdan 10 copy 

Because next month, it will be something else, I want to remember here that November was the month that Aidan decided swinging in the backyard was cool again.


He can't get enough of it.

Every day after school, after putting away his ice pack and hanging up his backpack, he asks, "Can I go outside?" which immediately leads to Sean asking the same question. I scored a Right Start baby swing for $4 at a Human Society sale last week that Bri already hung up (not pictured) so now Nolan can join them too.

It gets dark early now, and we have to drag them back inside. So grateful for this yard, for their brotherhood, for these boys.

Eight months

8 months old web 

At eight months, Nolan is...

* ?? lbs and ?? inches, to be filled in later

* playing peek-a-boo, with a book, with a cloth napkin, with everything. He lifts it over his head (sometimes revealing his face) and waits for you to say "Where's Nolie?" and then drops it down and laughs. And so do we:-)


* going through a major case of "stranger anxiety". It took me a while to clue into it. I thought he was having a hard time getting over his cold, even though all the symptoms were gone. He was a little more clingy than usual, and while he would giggle and smile for us, out and about he gave everyone else a dead stare.

8months stranger fear web

(doesn't it look like he is protecting his Elphie? And, aren't those the cutest pants?)

I thought I was so clever getting a babysitter to be here during Brian's 40th bday bash, and he refused to go anywhere near her (despite loving her previously). Suddenly instead of flirting with my neighbor Carol, he would bury his head into my neck. I was complaining to my mom and she said, "Of course, he's eight months old. Right on schedule." Duh. It hadn't even occurred to me.

Hopefully he'll be over it by Christmas when we head to Chicago to see  his grandparents.

Teething 8M web

* teething again, which means drooling again, upper teeth to appear any day now.

Good eater web

* eating everything, even bits of pasta and LOVES when Daddy gives him pieces of crushed ice. Prefers sweet potatoes and fruit to green peas and green beans. It's clear already that he can't wait to feed himself.

Baby hands  baby hands, oh how I love them

* reading along with "the bigs" (aka: Aidan and Sean) these days. Favorites: any board book with photos of babies.

8 Nolie's new obsession web  

*super playful and curious. Latest obsession: the stacking cups. All 3 boys have loved these. You can't stack them fast enough for him to knock them down. Luckily he has two brothers who are willing to re-stack over and over. Loves bouncing in the office chair. Making music with my metal measuring spoons. Dropping said spoons over and over from his high chair while his gullible brothers pick it up over and over. 

*babbling and talking. Lots of da-da and ga-ga. Major conversation. And then this hilarious, deep grunting noise. No idea what that's about.

*sleeping better and worse. Some very good nights (like last night, a short 1 am feeding and otherwise sleeping from 6 pm to 6 am) and some rough days (like Monday when he only napped in my arms).

8monthsold043 web

*not crawling yet. Some backward scooting and up on his knees. Loves standing up, and, with our hard slate floors, even I---a devout believer in crawling first--can understand his desire to walk instead of crawl. 

For several reasons, this month has been a big challenger than others. But we couldn't be more grateful for our Lil Pumpkin, who makes us all laugh and smile, who loves kisses and cuddles, and is SO interested in everything and everyone long as his momma doesn't leave the room!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Autumn Joy

I saw the boys playing outside and had to sneak out and capture some photos.

Sunday afternoon web   

I can just imagine Sean walking up and asking Aidan, "Whatcha doing?"

And in answer to Aidan's response of either "I'm raking. Now go away," or just "Go Away", Sean decided to do this:

Sunday afternoon 2 web  

And Aidan realized if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Sunday afternoon 3 web 

Sunday afternoon 4 web

Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Week: Day 3, Memoirs

"Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that's why I made works of art."  - Felix Gonzales-Torres

I love memoirs. All art is about deciding what to edit, what to leave in and what to leave out, and I imagine it must be even more challenging within the genre of memoirs. Four that I'm most grateful for:

519HKX9M69L__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_ Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Sometimes while reading this, I think maybe I shouldn't be, maybe it is too private. Frank is so honest, so vulnerable here, about the transition from young girl to woman, about mothers and daughters, and then about the unspeakable evil that surrounded her family.

Mostly I am just grateful that we are able to read this book. And in awe that such a young girl could capture in her words, written only for herself, such characters and drama and truth.

41YQTH3QZ2L__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_ Bring Me a Unicorn by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead is the greater work of art, the story of joy followed by tragedy. But I love this collection of Lindbergh's early letters and diary. It gave me such hope as a young girl myself, because she comes across as sensitive and immature and all the things a young girl is, and I knew she eventually became the woman who bared the worst and wrote so beautifully in Gift from the Sea.

41MDSDAH05L__BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_ Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

I was assigned this by a speech teacher my first year at Loyola. I don't know how it was connected to Speech 101, but I'm grateful to that teacher all the same. It is a slight book, but contains so much. It's far from perfect, and in many ways isn't a memoir at all but an explication of his theory of "logotherapy." For me, it was the right book at the right time and I still pick it up whenever I see it at used bookstores so that I can give copies away.

Frankl survived four different concentration camps, only to learn they had taken all of his family, including his pregnant wife. I'm attracted to such stories not because of the drama or the terrible pain involved, but because I'm curious about what we become when the worst happens. Frankl suggests that it is completely up to the individual:

"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Also love this: "The immediate influence of behavior is always more effective than that of words."

The misanthrope in me is heartened when those who have seen the worst of humanity can still find meaning in anything. I still have much to learn from Frankl.


West with the Night by Beryl Markham

Since I already mentioned Out of Africa, on Day 1, I'll include Markham's book here. I don't know much about the controversy surrounding whether her 3rd husband may have ghost written it with her, but it is the best written of all the books listed here. The kind you reread not only for the great stories but also to wonder at the writing itself. The kind of clean, clear prose that I am unable to write but adore. And the stories themselves are amazing---my favorite is a battle between her beloved dog and a lion.

Thanks, Anne, for the inspiration of Book Week. Check out more great books at her site and the links to others who participated. I meant to post more than three days but it's been a crazy week. Nolan also turned 8 months old this week, but I'll wait to update next week.

Here's to a great weekend and wonderful books.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Week: Day 2, Children's Books

I love children's books. Correction---good children's books. Man, there are a lot of crappy ones out there. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but people, please read the book before you give it to a child as a gift.

To find some way to limit myself, here are the 10  7 ( ran out of time) I'm most grateful for:


The Little Farm by the Sea by Kay Chorao

I don't want to read it, I want to crawl inside it and live there.  Or at least live nearby and buy fresh eggs there.


I love the detailed illustrations, the playfulness of the animals set against the labor of the humans, and the narrative of how life on the farm changes with the seasons. Recommended for all ages.


Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Love Frog and Toad. They still make me laugh. My favorite is "The Lost Button." Ages 5 and up. 


Farmer Will by Jane Cowen-Fletcher

Best for 2 yr olds. Will takes his favorite animal toys outside, where they stretch to real life...


 and have a great time till his nap beckons.


Ten Minutes Till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann

Love Rathmann, and her attention to detail. Dad counts down to bedtime, oblivious to the hamster tour/party taking place, while his son diligently gets ready for bed. Both my boys LOVED Rathmann's Goodnight Gorilla as toddlers, and there are several little nods to its fans (note the familiar gorilla below). Minimal text, but you are guaranteed to notice new details, even on the 101th read.


The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Doug Wood


Another favorite of our little boys. They love the repetition (one of the first books they "read" to us) and the expressions on the little mouse's face. Aidan finally picked up on the unreliable narrator around age 4, but there is plenty to enjoy even before they get the joke.


Harry the Dirty Dog by Gary Zion & Margaret Bloy Graham

This was a childhood favorite of mine. Harry runs away to avoid a bath, and returns so dirty that his family no longer recognizes him.


Bloy Graham uses only orange, green and shades of black to illustrate, and somehow those limits open it up even more to the imagination.


The Little House by Virgina Lee Burton

Seems like everyone else on the planet already knew this book when I finally discovered it last year. First published in 1943, it is the story of urban sprawl and, yet again, another great depiction of seasonal changes.



Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Week: Day 1, BFB


Thanks for all the happy birthday wishes:-) After a week of celebrations and at least 3 cakes, I'm relieved it's all done...and happy to welcome in Anne's Book Week. In keeping with the gratitude month theme, I'm focusing on my favorite BFB (books from Brian) today.


A while back (looks like 1997 to be exact), Bri started giving me The Best American Short Stories anthology every year at Christmas. Now I expect it, which is the problem with traditions...but I love finding out who this year's editor is, and every Christmas, after all the giving is done and the wrapping paper has been corralled, I read the opening essay (which is sometimes better than any of the stories within). Short stories mystify me with the power they contain in such a sparce space. Some are hit and miss, some become favorites (it was within these pages that I first read People Like That Are The Only People Here).


When we were *young* and living in Arizona, Brian left to fight a wildfire in New Mexico and returned home with this small gift, The Three Little Javelinas. At the time I loved that it alluded to the children I hoped we'd have some day. Now it is one of our kids' favorites, mainly because of the illustrations, beautifully detailed, and its southwestern twist on the three little pigs (the big bad wolf is now a coyote).


I can't remember the occasion for which he gave me this, but I remember being so happy. I'd been searching for a hardcover copy of Out of Africa, probably my all-time favorite book. It needed to not include Shadows on the Grass, which it almost always does now, and not feature a picture of Isak Dinesen on the cover (something she was adamant about when it was first published). The movie is a beautiful romance, but it has very little in common with Dinesen's poetic memoir. If you haven't read it, go get it. I envy your ability to read it for the first time.


And this weekend he gave me this, which I had completely forgotten about after making the passing remark, while we watched the John Adams miniseries, that I'd love to read a collection of their letters. I didn't have it on any wishlist, so he must have made a mental note of it at the time. And knowing how difficult it is to remember anything once you reach the advanced age of 40, it is now my favorite BFB of all time.

Next Up: Favorite Children's Books

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I cannot believe I have only one more year to be thirtysomething.

In college, my friends Maria and Kim held "thirtysomething" parties every Tuesday night. Cheap Boone's Farm wine and introspective TV. I don't mind that I'm going to be 40 next year, but I do find it inconceivable that I could ever be older than Michael and Hope.

I love my birthday, and I love lists. So here's one for this year...(I believe Hula Seventy was the main inspiration for my list. I love her numbered follow-ups as well).

40 things to do before I'm 40:
  1. Save photos to external hard drive
  2. Write down things Aidan and Sean say Using Ali Edwards' They Said notebook
  3. Submit some writing somewhere
  4. learn to use all the features on my camera (lots still to master but I can use 'em!)
  5. finish Sean and Nolan's baby books ...which would require that I finally...
  6. get photos printed Did several times but there's always more...
  7. celebrate Nolan's 1st birthday
  8. sew a tablecloth and napkins for our table (those should be easy for a novice, right?)
  9. sleep 8 hours consecutively at least once April 20th--first time in over a year. Thanks Nolie.
  10. cross "Office" off my to do list...finally  I learned the office will always need decluttering and reorganizing, but the big piles and mysterious boxes are gone. This was  a much larger task than I anticipated and took most of autumn to finish.
  11. finish a will and last directive
  12. renew my passport So simple but a challenge to make a priority. They even sent me back my PC one:-)
  13. A weekend away with Bri and no kids (with Nolie so young, maybe not this year. Maybe I should just aim for "uninterrupted conversation with Brian") I can't see leaving Nolan with anyone at this age, but we have had lots of good uninterrupted conversation, thanks to our babysitter Tori. The weekend will have to come in my 40s.
  14. Read Of Human Bondage  summer of 2010
  15. buy an old typewriter
  16. take my boys apple-picking
  17. get a basket & lock for my bike Mother's Day 2011
  18. make at least one DVD from videos of our kids Now a New Year's tradition
  19. have a family photo taken and framed
  20. drink only water, wine, or tea for a month This was my way of saying Give Up the Pepsi addiction. It worked.
  21. plan and take a trip that isn't to see extended family...a vacation! My 40th bday gift from Brian: a family vacation to San Diego!
  22. get rid of all nursing bras/clothes (the thought of nursing no more can make me sad or make me ecstatic, depending on the hour)
  23. memorize a list of US Presidents in order. My sister Elizabeth gave me the greatest gift of showing off my nerdiness in front of all my siblings. Priceless moment.
  24. fire pit in the backyard This turned into a huge back patio project, but Bri did it all.
  25. begin basement project  We start and stop, save again, start and stop. Likely to continue that way for a few more years.
  26. plan and facilitate a one-day retreat for moms (with Amy & Kathy's help!) We planned & I loved working with K & A, but the retreat was cancelled when only 8 registered.
  27. create Christmas least begin 
  28. research buying our own photo-booth for the living room & start saving;-)
  29. plant mums. Planted bulbs last month and swore I won't do it again for a couple years.
  30. learn to recognize at least 3 constellations
  31. take boys on letterboxing adventure (Brian has taken them Geocaching, but I finally took them on a Letterbox adventure to Culvert Canyon in the fall of 2013)
  32. take a photo of Nolan with his baby cousins Maria and Henry It's not necessarily a good photo of any one of them, but they are all together in it so I'm happy.
  33. sell something on ebay
  34. buy something on etsy (12/10: Xmas gift from heatheranndesigns)
  35. thin our strawberry patch
  36. start composting
  37. make homemade bread
  38. surprise Aidan at lunch April Fool's Day wooden lunch strikes again!
  39. win a giveaway at Pioneer Woman * 
  40. take my time, pay attention, cultivate gratitude
I'll cross them off here as they happen, though #40 will never be finished...

More to post, but off to sleep before my birthday ends. Cheers!

*ETA: #39--No, I never won a giveaway there, and fell out of the habit of reading that blog. I crossed it off anyway, because I won so much else online.

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