Running turkeys

I fell off the daily blogging wagon, but November isn’t quite over yet. The pull toward Christmas is strong, but I’m focused on Thanksgiving prep. During breakfast I asked my oldest (age 6.5) to tell me what Thanksgiving means.

It means to be thankful for the things that you have and for others. You have a big feast and you say your gratitudes. Autumn season is that everybody starts to get their feast out and they have a lot to do and after they say their gratitudes they have a really, really, really big feast. Some people even have seafood. Maybe that’s what I will do for mine if I’m close to water with my cousins.

I thought that was a pretty solid response.

What does Thanksgiving mean? I asked my youngest (age 3.5) and he replied:

On Thanksgiving you run! That’s it! You just run! and turkeys walk.

His brother followed up:

Actually, farm turkeys walk. Wild turkeys run and fly because they don’t eat that much. They just flap their feathers around. They lift their wings up like this and put their neck up and go like this (demonstration of wild turkey ensues).

We are running as a family in a Turkey Trot tomorrow morning and he is ready to earn his medal.

These short people who live in our house are watching and listening even when I think they aren’t paying attention. Yesterday Max and I were on our way to pick up his brother from Forest Ninja Camp and he asked me a few times about my phone and how to find Miles. I wasn’t tracking until he finally asked, How can you find my brother without using your phone? I considered the implication that I rely on GPS mapping a wee bit too much. I am grateful for the person who developed mapping software.

Public school is closed the entire week of Thanksgiving, so we are spending a lot of time together. This morning is best described as cozy and lazy, the kids in Pj’s watching public television, drawing and writing, and talking about turkeys. I’ve prepared 10 lbs of potatoes and fresh cranberry sauce which should really be called cranberry sugar. Remaining dishes to prepare include the classics: dressing, greens and obviously – the bird. But first, our dog is nudging me to go outside. Walk me! Run me! Get me a ball!

So out we went on this beautiful, chilly, sunny day before Thanksgiving. We have much for which to be thankful. Here are a few photos of my running turkeys.

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Making a list, checking it twice

Every year I make a list tracking the gifts I’ve procured for Christmas so far. On the list appear my husband, kids, mom & dad, youngest sister, sister’s kids, sister’s husband, in-laws, nephews, and a few others. Tonight I jotted a few notes down after a mad trip to Target on the Saturday before the holiday and briefly thought, who’s next? Liz?… oh, right, she’s no longer on the list.

My thoughts then turned to the twenty children who are no longer on the list. No doubt holiday gifts had already been lovingly purchased and tenderly, or rapidly, wrapped for them. Sigh. Those moments when my brain signals to me that my middle sister is still among the living are rare these days. Once in a while I still reach for a phone to connect with my sister again in hopes of hearing her voice just one more time.

As I quiet my mind, I do hear her voice. It is specific and directed, with a note of barely held back laughter. It is real, as real as anyone else’s in the room. I’m just not certain what she’s saying (or I’m just not listening, which is entirely plausible).

These past few months have been full in a way so different than what I was used to in the past, mostly because my work shifted and my kids have had to spend a whole lot more time with me rather than with caregivers. They have been good, challenging, funny, tiring months. As we approach the end of the year, my heart feels as full as a heart can get, I think. The gaping hole in my heart left after my sister’s death remains not full yet no longer empty.

For seven years I lit a candle in my sister’s memory – not quite every night, but almost. I was challenged recently to consider what I will do the next time I lose a loved one (and though it may be far off, it is inevitable). Will I light a candle for him or for her? Will I eventually be surrounded by candles, their lights flickering at sunset, tucking me into bed every night?

It seemed more creepy than comforting when I pictured so many candles around me, one day. So I am taking a break from the Guadalupana.

I suspect that my sister won’t mind me getting on with life, because she may be far busier than I am these days, what with welcoming all those young souls from Connecticut into a new space and a new light.

Observing the firelight from my place tucked beneath a soft red cozy, I appreciate that the boys are quiet, the dog is sleeping, and the wind is still. It is finally my time to just be for a few minutes, and let the world around me just be, and let us all just be enough tonight.

Wishing each of you a most wonderful holiday.

PDX tree

The tender, terrible, two-year-old blues

Sample of real life conversation between my kids:

Five year old: “Don’t point that at me!”

Pretend shooting noises from my two-year-old.

Five year old: “Stop it!”

More shooting.

Five year old: “Stop it! I’m tired of these Lego gun games!”

Two year old: “Stop it!

Five year old: “Stop copying me! These are my words!”

Me to two year old: Can I help you?

Two year old: “NO!! I do it!” (two seconds later) “Mama, help!!!!!!!!”

Actually, he is two years and eight months old.

Five year old: “You’re just getting coal for Christmas!”

Two year old: “Roar!”


Five year old, happy: “I’m Puss in Boots!”

Two year old: “No, I’M Puss in Boots!”

Five year old, frustrated: “I’m Spiderman!”

Two year old: “No, I’M Spiderman!”

Five year old: “I just need some space!”  He marches away. The two year old follows him while contentedly humming the “Ants Go Marching” song.


The two year old is crying because we have said good-bye to his big brother.

Me: Are you sad?

Two year old: YES!

Me: Why?

Two year old: Because Max no give Mi-nuls huggy in kindergarten”.

Good times. Can two years old be over now? Bring on three, please, or I might not make it.

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What makes a hero?

What makes someone a hero?

On this Memorial Day, I am thinking about those who have fallen in the name of freedom, and considering what makes someone a hero.

According to the dictionary, a hero is:

“A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.”

“A person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: i.e he was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.


 “A being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity”.

I looked up a few variations of the term “hero”. Interestingly, they always began with “a man who…”

But we all know women who are heroes.

Children are often heroic little beings, too.

My kids and I spent the morning outside playing with friends at the park. It’s an unremarkable late spring day, neither terribly warm nor chilly. It feels good. Safe. Easy. We’re heading out to a barbeque soon.

All that is opposite of actions taken by heroes, which are often dangerous, difficult and scary.

On this Memorial Day, I think of the unspoken heroes… those who haven’t died for us… but the ones who LIVED for us. They include our mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, doctors… all of the people who cared for us when we were small and didn’t know any better.

I don’t consider myself a hero, but parents are heroes in their own way. We protect, serve, shelter and love, and do so under the best and worst of circumstances. We do this every single day. Last night my eldest had a nightmare and came to tell me about it at 4 am. It happens. I hugged him tight, and as usual, I couldn’t fall back asleep for a few hours. His heart close to mine, he drifted into a quiet slumber.

My tiny lover of superheroes.

I am grateful for the men and women that protect and serve and work long, hard, frightening hours away from home in order to keep us safe. I have family members who are a part of the American military community and I honor them today.

I also honor their parents.

We are all a part of the same world. And in our own way, we can each bring a bit of heroism to it today.

read to be read at

Una Feliz Navidad

It’s Christmas Eve. The candles glow softly and create a gentle shadowlight on the wall. Pandora streams holiday music, and we listen to Eartha Kitt sweet talk Santa. The children aren’t yet sleeping with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. The eldest is watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and the youngest is somewhere behind closed doors with his father on a top secret Christmas mission. For the first time all day, I sit down.

I sip my wine. It’s a tempranillo from Rioja, Spain and the color of rubies. Quite perfect for tonight.


It is now Christmas Day! I was interrupted last night by the littlest among us who has little patience with his mama on the computer. He’s a free spirit, our Maxwell. I’m looking forward to hearing the words come more easily as he approaches two years old. Currently he uses signing and gesturing and posturing to get what he wants. And screaming!

The boys woke early this morning, but their dad tucked them in again and went out to light a fire and brew coffee while I stayed in bed, wondering how much time I had before the fussing to escape their bedroom would begin. I heard…. nothing. For a long time. Almost two hours, in fact, went by before they woke up! It was 8:35 am when my little ones got up.

It was a Christmas miracle!

Miracles tend me make me feel good. We opened gifts, the littlest tossing and crumpling paper in glee, the eldest taking in all of the new superheroes and building blocks and books and clothes with a smile, an occasional shriek, and my favorite observation: “Mama, Santa knows my whole name!” (First, Middle and Last was written on one of the gifts).

Breakfast included scrambled eggs, sausage, cookies, and oranges. I’m on my third cup of coffee.

We just put on The Lion King (or as Miles calls it, “The king of the lions”).

All is well.

I still haven’t mailed my holidays cards, but who cares?

Wishing you a safe, joyous and love-filled Christmas Day.

The 12 Casualties of Christmas

1. Ball ornaments. This one’s obvious. Who can get through the season without one of those shiny, delicate ball ornaments smashing into teeny pieces? You can buy “shatterproof” ball ornaments now, but evidently we don’t have any.

2. Wine glasses. Actually, I haven’t broken any glasses in a long time, but for some reason whenever we have friends over, a glass is tipped, toppled, or otherwise damaged. Could it be due to our old and lovely porcelain sink? or is the wine that bad?

3. Tummies (or for you non-parents, the gastrointestinal system). Overindulgence at the dinner table, or holiday gathering, or any old place seems to take place fairly often during the season.

4. Cerebral property. Perhaps due to said overindulgence or due to the combination of working-shopping-thinking-card-writing-picture-taking-relative-gathering-and-greeting-wrapping frenzy that overtakes some of us around now, our minds are lost.

5. Wrapping paper. So pretty and sparkly in the store, and so good at making something desirable in the home. But once the gift is opened, it’s toast.

6. The advent calendar. I bought one of those calendars at Trader Joe’s that has chocolate. On day 16, our dog ate it while we were at work (and my eldest was outraged: “he gets COAL for Christmas!” Definitely.)

6. Wood. Fires burning bright, we thoroughly enjoy our fireplace in the rainy season that means winter in the Pacific Northwest.

7. Expectations. This is a sad one. My personal expectations are being met quite nicely so far. The tree was selected and trimmed happily and the holiday music is being played. But for many, the season brings about expectations that remain unfulfilled.

8. Yukon Cornelius’ foot. It is broken and now missing. No one admits to witnessing it, but this favorite ornament was hurt during the tree trimming activity last Saturday night. The usual suspect is the 21-month-old child who resides in the same household as said ornament.

9. Exploding tree lights. Just kidding! This has never happened, but it would be exciting.

10. Bubble wrap. Take two boys and give them several sheets of bubble wrap from boxes delivered pre-Christmas from grandparents and other relatives. Super fun to stomp on and mildly destructive = a brilliant toddler + preschooler distraction activity.

11. Merrymaking mistakes. It’s best to avoid midnight on New Year’s Eve unless one is in a secure and loving relationship, but if you must make merry with a stranger, get on with it and never regret it.


12. Travel plans. If you are connecting through Chicago, don’t leave home for the holidays! Just don’t do it. Stay home, sleep in, build a fire, and raise a glass.

Wishing my readers a wonderful holiday season and a joyful New Year.

#Reverb11 Gratitude

What five things are you most grateful for from 2011?


My husband and boys are energetic and loving, funny and inspiring. They warm my heart and hold my hands.

They challenge me: Yesterday Miles asked me if we could celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas.

And they make me laugh: this morning, my eldest son arrived at preschool and announced: “Mama, you forgot to give me any underwear so I’ve got nothing under my pants!

I am grateful for my children.


In early January 2011, I drove myself to the ER after midnight with acute abdominal pain. After 24 + hours of testing and observation, and a misdiagnosis of appendicitis, I went home with a handful of prescriptions and no answer for what I had experienced. Fortunately, I did not suffer another attack of the mystery ailment.

I am grateful for my health and wellbeing. 


His unwavering love for us resonates even on those days when he is ignored, pushed aside, or scolded. He was our first baby, and since human boys # 1 and # 2 were born, his place in the household hierarchy has dramatically declined (and he knows it). Even so, he remains a sweet and steady presence in our home.


I’m forgetful and scatterbrained at times and I can’t remember how to get somewhere until I’ve driven there at least a dozen times, but I’m grateful to the ability to capture thoughts and ideas on paper, and for the joy that writing brings.


It’s challenging, interesting and unthreatening. Unlike other places I’ve worked before, I am surrounded by like-minded, hard-working, intelligent and fun people. We’re doing real things to help real people eat better, and live better. I am grateful to be employed.

Prompted by Reverb11