Thursday, November 27, 2008


Dear Lena and Kelsey,

I want to thank you both for getting me through a recent rough night during which, while Ben was away (and had been gone for 5 long days, even during the mice incident) I opted to watch a documentary about faces which scared the absolute crap out of me. I figured I'd be safe with something hosted by John Cleese but I should have remembered that it doesn't take much to freak me out.

If I'd had my druthers, Lena, I would rather that my first conversation with you, my youngest brother's beloved, be about something pleasant instead of a late-night panicky phone call because I am afraid the murderous mayhem that happened to the poor woman in the documentary might happen to me. Yes, the documentary hosted by John Cleese - why didn't I just watch A Fish Called Wanda?.. I don't know.

Anyway, after your admirable reassurance helped calm me down - thank you! - I spent the next 2-1/2 hours on the phone with my brother. I don't know what sort of Saturday night plans you guys had but they most likely didn't include your Sugar Drawers talking the night away to his freaked-out sis. I want to thank you for sharing him with me, though, because a) it really helped, and b) it was a damn good conversation. We ranged from drunken beer stories to When Harry Met Sally to The Grapes of Wrath, and I got off the phone feeling cared-for and protected. As you know, Dave is one awesome brother.

(And, as I hope you'll soon find firsthand, we have a great family that includes our other awesome brother, his Main Squeeze, and their boys, and our folks, and my Honey Buns and our kids... I am a lucky woman.)

So, after Dave talked me down off the ledge, I went to bed - which is where you come in Kels! Fate smiled upon me that day a few weeks ago when you loaned me the book occupying the top shelf of your newly-14-year-old heart, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. Kelsey, I LOVE this book and I can totally see why you'd refer to it as your 'bible.' If I was a teenager now, it would be my bible too! You know a book is good when, almost from the first line, you're wishing you hadn't read it yet so that you could experience the fun of reading it for the first time again. Well, that's how Nick and Norah is - as you already know.

But here's the thing, while I was reading I was also thinking about how very grateful I am that you're a part of my life. Without your mom, and the other Ya-Ya sisterhood girls that I had the extreme good fortune to be 14 with, I would not be the happy, strong, lucky woman I am today.

Family and friends, friends and family: you all have bled into each other to form the wonderful rainbow of my life.

And that's something to be thankful for.

Friday, November 21, 2008


All day, I've had this line from the classic SNL skit "Shwetty Balls" in my head:

Margaret-Jo, co-host of the faux-NPR show The Delicious Dish:"Terri, what goodies will you leave out for Santa this year?"

Terri: "I can't leave food out due to my.. excessive rat problem..."

It's about the only thing that's had me smiling since I pulled a sleeve of saltine crackers out this morning and found that it had been nibbled. By, if not rats, mice, and so I've spent the whole day cleaning out cabinets, vacuuming under the stove, putting everything into hard plastic containers, and figuring out how to humanely get the invaders the heck out of the house.


To make me feel better, I found a video of cute mice:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When Dinosaurs Ruled... Our Home

The signs are everywhere: the dino box, open in the living room, dinosaurs strewn all over the house. The dinosaur books, dozens of them, taking up so much library shelf space that they had to be given their own shelf.

Not that they're ever on the shelf - mostly, they are currently being read, or have been left open to the page at which they were last read, on the couch.

They are piled on each other, usually with a kid or two nested into the space next to the pile.

Dinosaurs have provided a window into morality and perspective for 4 year-old Owen, trying to wrap his mind around the idea that velociraptors and other meat-eaters aren't necessarily evil, just really quick predators. He shouts at them when he sees pictures of carnivores catching herbivores, or stealing eggs, or hunting birds... he will ask questions such as "Mama, why is that dino eating a bird? He should stop that! Velociraptor, don't do that!" I won't get into the tongue-lashing I got when I suggested that we, too eat birds, but I think Owen became a vegetarian today.

Luke is now a time traveler, and brings back about 10 dinos' DNA each morning (it's his watch, you see, that makes this possible); then, Owen spends the rest of the time before lunch turning into those dinosaurs, curling up and reading to his "dino baby." Or insisting that his T-rex have a chat with Black Bear, a favorite stuffed bear with a French accent - don't ask me, I just live here.

Anyone interested in dino artwork, may I recommend How to Draw Dinosaurs, an Usborne Activity book which we like because of the free-flowing and visually unique images that can be made by even little ones. Our other favorite is Paper Dinosaurs, a book of origami dinos that we had the great luck of finding at the library.

When Luke wants to resarch dinosaur books, he's been going to Better World Books, an organization whose mission is to promote literacy worldwide. They accept donations of used books and then sell them, as well as new books, free of charge in the US. Luke will go the Better World website and write down names and authors of books he wants to own, and usually will shout out loud exclamations like "Mom! This book's only $3.98!" Yes, for anyone who didn't see the significance, Luke actually writes this information down; a breakthrough for a boy who could not be cajoled into writing nearly anything 6 months ago.

Dinosaurs have been good to us in many ways: the boys desire endless facts about them, create dinosaur scenes in pictures and origami, want to hear and read dino stories, incorporate them into their fantasy play, and consider the ethics of omnivorism.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Finally, after three years, I have a relatively permanent sewing spot! I didn't realize how much I'd missed quilting until I could finally get back into it. I've unpacked my fabrics, and sorting through them has brought back memories of favorite past quilts. In the 7 or so years that I've been quilting, I have had some fun! Here are some of my favorites:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

Baby quilts and wall hangings were among the first ones I made because they're fun and quick.

From Fall Blog

This quilted bag, made for a friend around the beginning of the "quilted bag" craze, made me feel so proud - I created something that someone actually wanted to carry around!

From Fall Blog

When Luke got his big boy bed (gosh, that seems such a long time ago now), he needed a quilt, which made me brave enough to venture into the world of bed-sized quilts. Below is the bed quilt I made for my parents' fifth-wheel home away from home; now that I have my sewing stuff all set up, I cannot wait to finish the bed quilt I started in fall 2007 for Ben and I.

From Fall Blog

And here's my most recent quilt, made for friends who just had a baby girl.

From Fall Blog

It feels great to quilt again!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Return to the Time of the Dinosaurs

From Fall Blog

When Luke was about 4, he fell hard for dinosaurs; then he dropped them like a hot potato 2 years later.

But the dinosaurs have returned with a vengeance in the last week or so. The catalyst seems to have been when I pulled out the giant box o' dinos from the basement, mostly, I thought, for Owen's amusement.

From Fall Blog

Suddenly, Luke is flying around like Quetzalcoatlus, using his watch to take him back in time so that he can "research" various dinosaurs, lamenting the lack of dinosaur books in our house for older kids, watching the entire Walking with Dinosaurs series - thank you, Netflix! - spouting facts gleaned from the gazillion dino books we do have (some of which are quite advanced), begging to go on a field trip to a science museum to check out their dinos...

I have managed to squeeze in a little math and writing into this new obsession:

From Fall Blog

I'm the tip of the diplodocus' tail, and my guys are at the tip of its' nose, 82 feet away - or, if you're on a football field, 30 yards minus 8 feet away!

Here are some museum photos, from our visit today:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

The museum of science in Boston is good for more than dinos, though, and we found lots of other cool stuff - Luke, up top, is stopping the spinning discs by spinning his own the other way. Owen, below, is learning how sound vibrations can make a pattern. Well, sort of...

From Fall Blog

Here's the skyline as seen from the museum:

From Fall Blog

I'm glad to be back in the world of dinosaurs; if the fad continues, I'll post some of our more educational activities and resources.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Late Fall Amusements

With a turn of bad weather upon us recently, we have been more indoor creatures more than outdoor ones. We've found several ways to keep busy, luckily.

First of all, I've got a place to quilt again! After so many non-sewing months, I can finally stretch a part of my imagination that I'd nearly forgotten about. Also, for the first time since we moved into this house 3 years ago, my fabric is out of boxes and set up so I can find what I need to make stuff... and so can my guys:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

In case you were wondering, Owen is making a blanket for Darth Vader. Because you just never know when an evil Sith lord might need a cozy blanket, do you?

At the world's best thrift shop, I found one of those paint-flinging-spinny-whizzy-things for 75 cents! Only instead of paint we've used markers (saving paint for a day when poor Ben's not home to see the disaster until we have had a chance to clean it up). Luke and Owen love this thing:

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

From Fall Blog

It makes really cool pictures, no?

I've saved my own current obsession for last: The Twilight books. I borrowed the first one from my sister-in-law, waited for a whole month for the second from the library (torture, extreme torture), and borrowed the third and fourth from a 13 year-old friend.

Because the thing about this series is, it appeals to girls young and... well, not so young, I guess. They are so well-written, and funny, and poignant; they make me remember what it was like to be in love for the first time.

I cannot stop reading these books, and even when I do I still end up in them - while teaching an aerobics class this morning, I told the ladies that I was there physically, but otherwise still in the little town of Forks, WA, with the vampires and werewolves.

And I got a good laugh when I realized that a high percentage of them were right there with me!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Holiday Appeal

This post is about the way my family - my extended family - will exchange gifts this year; nobody has any money, which got me thinking. (Actually, it got Ben thinking first... I admit to stealing his idea!)

If we don't have any money, we who can pay the mortgage or the rent, who can afford groceries, clothes, and the odd treat or meal out, what must it be like to really not have any money?

Once I put myself in the shoes of those who choose, every day, among which bills to pay, or between food and heating oil, or between a shelter and the street, I must say it made my holiday wish list look pretty sad. Hmmm, which should I ask for, a subscription to Home Education Magazine or a mandoline?... Tough choice, no?

So, instead of buying each other wish-list stuff, the adults in my extended family will contribute $25 each to a to-be-determined charity. That will make for a sizable donation which can then be used to help families, or homeless veterans, or low-income women who want to become entrepreneurs, or whichever charity is chosen.

If you want to help us decide where to contribute, you can - by voting in the poll at right.

But I hope you'll do more.

I hope that you'll read this and then convince your family to do something similar; each individual person need only contribute a small amount in order to have it count big in your extended family.

Or group of close buddies.

Or friends at your workplace.

Or members of your church.

"You must be the change that you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Ghandi

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Is it a Bird?... A Plane?... No, It's....

... SuperBarack!

We keep watching this, and watching, and watching.

And thinking that this is a story with a fantastic ending:

"And so it came to pass that on Nov. 4, 2008, shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time, the American Civil War ended, as a black man — Barack Hussein Obama — won enough electoral votes to become president of the United States." - Thomas L. Friedman, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times.

On second thought, a story with a fantastic beginning:

"I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand." - President-Elect Barack Obama, November 4, 2008

We're ready to get to work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote First, Ask Questions Later

The first time I ever heard of Tim Robbins, in 1992, he was playing a Pennsylvania conservative Senatorial candidate in the fantastic mockumentary, Bob Roberts.

The movie bowled me over; I think of it often while thinking about politics - and who's thinking about anything else right now?

The preview above, while funny and engaging, does not do the movie justice.

But it does end with the interesting tag line, "vote first, ask questions later" - perfectly expressing the whole point of the movie.

And to find out more, you'll have to watch it.