My mom adventures in Fort Collins

Another Gratitude Post: 19 Things I’m Thankful For

Once I set out to accomplish something, it’s hard to get me to set down the baton and admit the race is over. Furthermore, I’ve publicly announced my goal, so there is no stopping me now–the fact that Thanksgiving has been over for 3 months means NOTHING to me. Two more posts about gratitude… after this one.

Since it is the nineteenth of the posts on gratitude, why not go for “Nineteen things that I am thankful for RIGHT NOW”?

1. Ruby is a bit sick, but she’s holding it together rather well. She keeps calling her cough a “Naughty Cough” which is mostly inexplicable but quite hilarious. I can only hope that we don’t all get Ruby’s Naughty Cough. But if we do, we will shame it into submission.

2. Cory did the dishes for me tonight. I have been trying to convince him for several years that he should get around to doing this a bit more, and lo and behold it is WORKING. Turns out nagging DOES work.

3. I am thankful for my friend Polly who took a very long walk with me in the sunshine today. Today was a glorious day, and it was made all the more lovely by the river, the sound of a meadowlark, and connecting with a good friend.

4. I am grateful to both Ruby & Scout for a good–I’d even say GREAT–morning around here that didn’t involve any yelling. Woohoo!

5. I am grateful for The Cellar, and I’m especially grateful to their employee Becca who directed me to a delicious red wine that I am sipping presently.

6. I am grateful for my health, and that of my family. My dad is healthy, my mom is healthy, and though they both have their issues, we are NOT where we were last year at this time.

7. I am grateful to people who have a sense of humor, like whoever took the time to make this:

8. I am grateful for a warm, safe house. After a gorgeous day with temperatures in the 50s, I find myself suddenly feeling chilled to the bone after the weather turned cold.

9. I am grateful to Mary Pope Osborn, and the great work that she does that has entertained my children so much in recent months. Jack & Annie are almost real people around here, I think Scout even asked if we could look for Frog Creek, Pennsylvania on a map.

10. I’m grateful for my Secret Sister. Secret Sister is this thing we do at my daughter’s preschool, sort of like Secret Santa but all year round. My SS gifted me Enstrom’s toffees. If you’ve never had such a delicious treat, check them out here.

11. I am grateful to my sweet hubby, who is currently gearing my kiddos up in the living room something like this:IMG_4718

12. I am grateful for good books. I read a lovely one recently called The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It’s a story about a young woman who aged out of the foster care system. Also important to the story: this woman communicates in the Victorian-era “Language of Flowers,” where a red rose means romantic love and a thistle means misanthropy. If you’re at all curious, there is a great interview with the author here:

13. I am grateful for coffee. EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE.

14. I am grateful for my sweet niece who turns 8 today. Years ago, on the day she was born, Cory and I drove up to Cheyenne, Wyoming so that we could catch a glimpse of her. Seems hard to believe that she’s now so mature, when it doesn’t seem that long ago I held her in my arms.

15. I am grateful for small favors, like when someone holds the door for you while you’re carrying something or when you find exactly what you’re looking for at the grocery store without having to wind your way back to an aisle that you inadvertently forgot.

16. I am grateful for The Mindy Project, which is not coming back until April 1st, but I can be patient a bit longer. PLEASE, please, please, Danny, DO NOT SCREW IT UP. You either, Mindy!

17. I am so incredibly grateful for the teachers at my daughter’s elementary school. Her kindergarten teacher returned today from a 3-month maternity leave, and the long-term-sub was such a gem in her absence. The other kindergarten teachers and the paras pitched in so incredibly well. I feel so fortunate that there are so many kind people who are out in the world working with these littles and teaching them about life and literacy and how to hang your snowpants up.

18. I am grateful for my church, a place of community and love. The pastor recently gave a sermon on “Faithfully Side Stepping Tradition”–about welcoming EVERYONE.

19. I am grateful for it all, this messy, imperfect, bittersweet life. I am not a person that exudes joy in every step, or pretends that all is well when indeed it is falling apart (as it often does in parenthoodland), but I think I can honestly say that there is nowhere I’d rather be than right here in this place.

Do you have something that you are grateful for RIGHT NOW? 

Library Book Hoarder: “Confessions of a Scary Mommy” by Jill Smokler

It has been ages since I did a book review. I read this book recently, and this puppy is begging for a review. Jill Smokler wrote this book to shed humor on the work that many of us do all day as (at least part-time) stay-at-home-moms.

From the website

From the website

At first glance, this book looks like a dozen others: A blogger (in this case, a mommy blogger) gets a following, then cashes in on a book deal to make the big money. But this book is a fast read and more humorous than your average day in the trenches. To be fair, I am not a follower of the Scary Mommy blog. For all I know, this book could be a regurgitation of her best blog posts. Each chapter is short and sweet and begins with the anonymous confessions that are synonymous with the Scary Mommy site.

This book is not parenting advice, and it’s not rich with inspiration, but it is a light bit of comedic commentary on the very difficult work of parenting. I didn’t love the author’s writing, and I don’t adore the premise that she bashes her children incessantly for a good laugh, but I do think that she’s onto something. Jill Smokler has pulled the spanx off motherhood and let it all hang out. And that’s okay by me.

Here’s the thing: this book is not pretty but it is authentic. It’s raw. It’s real. I didn’t understand this at first, but it is scary. I use the term “scary,” because it’s scary just how big the canyon is for some women between what motherhood IS and what they present motherhood AS. Motherhood as a pink-fluffy bunny lovey, a cute apron and fresh-baked brownies is amazing. Motherhood is the shrill cry when your kid realizes she left her pink-fluffy bunny lovey in the shopping cart. Motherhood is the apron always hanging on the hook instead of your body and your new shirt covered in Ragu. Motherhood is the fresh-baked brownies that the dog pulled off the counter while they were cooling, but you didn’t know this because you were needed to wipe a butt in the bathroom. The point, I think, that Jill Smokler is making is that this motherhood–the real motherhood–can also be amazing.

We don’t have to b.s. one another. It is freeing to admit that you love your dirty, obnoxious, germ-infested, skinny-jeans-despising life. I do! I know many women who do. I don’t have the answers, and I’d be (mostly) embarrassed to show you the goldfish cracker crumbles at the bottom of my purse, but I do love my kids, my life and my job as mom. But it is scary sometimes.

On a personal note, I am on a bit of a search for authenticity these days. I love my friends and I have so many good conversations with them. They support me and make me smile. I am filled with genuine love for them. Most of my friends live far away, so on a day-to-day search for communication, I have often depended on a social networking site. Essentially, I’ve been lazy. I’ve been lazy about communication, and it has been a challenging few years to feel satisfied with this type of communication. I read here why Facebook stinks. I agree with the article. While the overall idea of seeing photos and reading statements made by my friends and family members sounds delightful, I have found that this is rarely what happens. Instead of reading a close friend’s joyous news or the riveting article someone linked to, I’m struck by my friend-from-summer-camp’s revelation that her bridal gown is going to be two sizes too big, or the link to a zoo animal in need of donations. I waste a ton of time, I rarely communicate with anyone in any significant way,  and I wind up feeling less connected as a result. I am, admittedly, not using this site correctly. I have no “groups” and I have very few filters.  I feel like when I’ve asked this site to “hide posts from so-and-so” it hasn’t worked well enough. If my gun-toting cousin from back home posts a political cartoon bordering on xenophobic, I see it. And I get annoyed.  But I keep coming back like the vicious zit of a large-pored ‘tween.

This book has opened a door to me. If we equate the type of “scary” that Jill Smokler is talking about to being “honest” or “real” or even “raw,” then let’s embrace scary. Being “scary” might be abrasive to some, but it’s as comforting to me as a warm cup of tea in my hand. I wish all of my “friends” on Facebook were big ol’ scary people. Can someone break off and create a new social networking site that would only allow scary people who make scary comments and have scary photos? Because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have to read about your genius kid hitting the potty-training boot camp with the fervor of a rodent on a wheel. Scary people don’t rave about potty training. Ever.

To me, a bit of authenticity is worth a bucket of love. I don’t see Jill Smokler’s book as a major revelation in real-life parenting, and I’m sure she wrote it knowing she wouldn’t be in the running for a Pulitzer. But I do see it as a significant breath of fresh air. It is also a comforting, humorous look into the life you already lead but aren’t always willing to admit: The Scary Life.

Quick Thought: Queen Bees and Wannabees

I am finally reading “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman. You know the book, it’s a non-fiction account of Girl World, written by a woman who started an empowerment program in the nineties. She did workshops all-over with adolescent girls and her book is essentially a sociology experiment (anthropology experiment??): Cliques, social hierarchy, bullying, etc.

I’ve only just begun, but I had this thought: It gets better.

You know the Dan Savage program out there for gay adolescents? Well, really, maybe we could extend the same message to all adolescents.

I am only 35 pages into this blessed book, and already I’m having flashbacks to my own awkward middle school years, where I started out a petite girl (I remember wearing size 3 pants) and left in eight grade at my present height (5’9″) and weighed 135-140 lbs. That’s saying nothing about the friend drama, only the body trauma.

Sometime soon, I will have to write letters to my own daughters for them to open upon the beginning of fifth grade. It will start with the line, “Before you roll your eyes…”


Camping: A progress report
May 21, 2012, 12:07 am
Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

We made our maiden voyage with the ol’ JayCo Swift this weekend. Dare I say it was a success? Sure, I forgot my flip-flops, and it did rain a bit, but the kids and my husband–oh, my husband–had such a fantastic time. Therefore, I had such a fantastic time.

My list of why I now love camping is expanding every time I think about it, but here’s a general run-down of our fun times:

The weather, when it cooperates, lends itself to happy hikers.

Ruby was shaking it right up the hill

The weather, when it doesn’t cooperate, lends itself to cozy inside time.

The kids got to watch a movie, my hubby and I got in a game of cribbage and I got to finish my book!

The weather, even after it doesn’t cooperate, does make amends.


The best dessert in the world might just be roasted, toasty marshmallows.

The roasters loved the flames, but not the smoke (hence the sunglasses)

Taking all of us away from our everyday routine proved restorative.

Throwing rocks on the beach

This camping thing might be a very fun hobby for all of us.

Library Book Hoarder: Three books to enjoy with your kids

Quick note: Since my test audience (a.k.a. my kids) are ages 4 and 2, I’d describe all three of these books as being pre-school age appropriate.

A Collection of Six Carl Stories (image from

You’re a Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day

For Christmas this year, my brother sent my girls the Good Dog Carl collection. This was after we had kept the borrowed library book for the maximum 9 weeks. Back when Scout was just a baby, we were given the original Good Dog, Carl by a neighbor.  You can see, my love affair with Carl goes way back.

Alexandra Day is the author and illustrator. I say author, but if you know Carl books, you realize that this is kind of a misnomer: Carl books are nearly completely free of narration. I say illustrator, but she actually paints from elaborate photos that she sets up to inspire the scenes she creates for her books. Carl books are filled with the most wonderful illustrations of a Rottweiler taking care of a baby (and alternatively a toddler) while the mother is out. It sounds hokey and weird, but it’s not. Reading a Carl book with your kids is giving them the gift of telling YOU the story. The kids can discover things from the illustrations (sometimes with your help, but often times without). This collection has six awesome books in it, and I love them all. (So do the kids!) Carl Goes to Preschool is a good one, but there’s also Carl’s Masquerade. The illustrations are so fantastic in Carl’s Masquerade, with a room full of costumed party-goers. You will have fun asking your child to describe each person’s costume.

If you have never read any Carl books, then get yourself to the library. Start with any book, there are many. Some do come in board book versions, if that is something that you prefer. Be surprised at your child’s attention span with these books. Likewise, if you are a dog lover, enjoy discovering Carl’s antics. Where is my Carl? My dog does do well with the kids, but I’ve never seen him turn on music to entertain them.

Verdict: Storytelling through gorgeous illustrations works for me

Image from

Sofia’s Dream written by Land Wilson and illustrations by Sue Cornelison

This was another one that we discovered from the library and then put on our Christmas list. I’m just going to warn you that this book has a “liberal agenda,” kinda like the Lorax. Sofia is a little girl that talks to the moon, and eventually dreams a dream that takes her up to the moon. There, the moon confides in her the fears he has about our planet. Sofia learns that she must care for the earth. The illustrations are lovely and they do give a dreamy feel to this book about a dream. The words rhyme and the story has a cadence that I enjoy. For me, the best part is talking to my kids about their dreams and asking them if they’ll dream a dream that takes them to the moon tonight. Plus, at the end of the book there is a page about how this book minimized its carbon footprint. Little Pickle Press is the publisher.

Verdict: This dreamy tale with a message is fun to read and look at

Image from

But Who Will Bell the Cats? By Cynthia von Buhler

This was a recent discovery for us. We brought it home from the library a few weeks ago, and I didn’t even look at it when Scout picked it out. Once we read it, I knew it was special. These illustrations are unlike any that I’ve ever seen. It’s clear there’s some photography involved, as well as some drawing. I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that the author and illustrator set up scenes in a doll-house or something like it, and then put her drawings in the scenes like little paperdolls, and THEN took the picture. These are seriously inventive scenes. The story begins with a retelling of Aesop’s fable which you can read more about here. From there on, it’s two parallel stories: the spoiled, fat cats living the life with their princess in the castle, and the sad, pathetic mouse and his friend the brown bat living a life of cold, dank unpleasantness in the basement. But in the end, someone does bell the cats!

Verdict: Imaginative illustrations get me every time—I loved it so much I broke my lenten resolution not to buy something, and bought two of these books on Amazon