Saturday, December 29, 2012


I have this favorite jacket that Mr. O has been trying to get me to throw out for years.  Since we got married, really.  I picked it up on clearance from some cheapy, teen-oriented store at the mall for seven dollars. SEVEN.  How could I pass that up?  It definitely wasn't made to last, but I like the color and it is one of the most comfortable things I have ever owned.  In addition to these virtues, I wore it the summer I spent in Scotland, so I’m pretty sentimentally attached.  I love my jacket.

It pains me to admit it, but Mr. O is right.  It’s been looking a bit shabby (“ratty,” he calls it) for quite some time now.  Every time I consider throwing it away the soppy, emotional part of me takes over—I have so many good memories were made wearing this coat.  It is a reminder of many, many wonderful adventures.  I haven't wanted to replace it.  But the fabric is fraying and the lining is torn and the zipper on the left pocket is broken.  A trip through the washing machine would probably finish my beloved jacket all together.

My favorite day with this jacket: a self-guided walking tour of the Lake District.  When some locals suggested that it would be impossible for my friends and me to walk from the shores of Lake Windermere all the way to the home of Beatrix Potter, we took it as a personal challenge and tromped through the English countryside for an entire day, much of it in pouring rain.  I have never at any other point in my life been so entirely, thoroughly, joyfully soaked.  Beatrix Potter’s garden is lovely in the rain. 
Memories aside, it is time to say goodbye. I bought new jacket.  I was finally won over by a (discounted) blue and grey beauty in Target.  Will I miss my old jacket?  Definitely.  But I am glad to have a new one.

me and my jacket on the island of Orkney, Scotland  
(also pictured: favorite pair of earrings that have gone missing)  

What about you?  I’m sure I’m not the only one to ever have a hard time parting with a worn-out piece of clothing.  I would love to hear about yours!   

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I have spent the past couple of months adjusting to the idea of my family growing from two children to three. They have been months of dry heaving and exhaustion punctuated by The Buster and Miss Meatball's steadily increasing penchant for getting into things they shouldn't.  Miss Meatball is part monkey and The Buster is the brute squad; they are a mischief match made in heaven (or possibly somewhere a bit warmer...I'm not actually sure which).  Just when I felt like I'd started to get a handle on things, it is time for more adjustment.      

I went to the doctor on Friday for what was supposed to be a routine visit, a welcome-to-my-second-trimester-of-pregnancy with my weight measured, blood pressure taken, and the opportunity to listen to baby's heartbeat.  Except when the doctor pressed the Doppler device to my stomach, the only sound it picked up was the rushing of my own blood.  She sent me in for an ultrasound.  I could see the baby on the screen, see its tiny head and spine, but I didn't see a heartbeat.  I didn't see a heartbeat and the ultrasound technician didn't say any of the normal "and here is baby's head" types of things.  She didn't say anything.  And I knew exactly what was going on, that pretty soon I would be sitting back in the exam room waiting to hear about Options and Procedures because sometime in the last few days, the heart of my unborn child stopped beating.  

The doctor was kind.  The nurses were kind.  Everyone was kind.  You want people to be kind in situations like this.  You expect them to say sympathetic things and to give half-smiles in that sort of you-poor-thing way.  

The doctor called it a “tragedy.”  Her word choice pulled me away from my search for another tissue.  Tragedy is one of those words I don't like to hear tossed around.  Tragedy means Anitigone's punishment for burying her dead brother, Oedipus gouging out his own eyes, Horatio left alone at the play's end.  I feel that tragedy, at its very core, carries with it a degree of hopelessness and futility that does not apply to me right now.  Tragedy is the wrong word.  I'm not sure what the right word is, though.  Loss, perhaps.  Or a kind of acute, almost quantum grief where I mourn for possibilities and might-have-beens.  My heart hurts, and although I know it will mend, right now I feel raw, exposed.   

I need to adjust.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bedtime Story Essentials

A couple of months ago, I wrote about going to the public library and was struck by a friend’s comment that “it’s so good to hear you talk about books again.”  While I haven’t ever stopped thinking about books, I definitely don’t share what we’re reading here at Family O often enough.  Since we read so much (too much?), and because I really do love to talk about books and reading, you can expect a lot more posts in this vein.   

Reading together is important.  When we read to young children, they cuddle close to see the pictures, snuggling into our arms and into the magic of a well-told story.  The words and pictures become an integral part of our relationships; my childhood memories of my favorite picture books are recorded in the voices of my parents.   Even now as I read some of these familiar stories aloud, I find myself reading them the same way my mom does…the same inflections, pauses, the same rhythm of the page turns.  Stories connect us.

While I share many stories with my kids throughout the day, bedtime is one of my favorite times for reading together. The following are the five bedtime stories that I consider essential for babies and young toddlers; these are books that both The Buster and Miss Meatball have consistently adored.   An added bonus, they are good enough to engage older children (think 3-6) as well.   

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
I know everyone always touts Brown’s Goodnight Moon as the quintessential bedtime story, but  I’m going to go ahead and risk heresy here and say that I like her Big Red Barn waaaaaay better.  The story is simple; we meet a variety of farm animals that, at the story’s end, go to sleep in the big red barn.  The Buster and Miss Meatball love pointing to the illustrations of familiar animals and making animal sounds as we read.  Like Goodnight Moon, the text has a soothing, easy rhythm and simple rhyme.  Unlike Goodnight Moon, it does not have any confusing pages that say “Goodnight nobody.”    
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
If you haven’t read this book, go out and get it right now.  With its all-too familiar situation (baby llama wants mama to come back upstairs after being tucked in) and catchy rhymes, you will likely find yourself quoting the text.  In fact, you may find yourself quoting the text when you wish you didn’t need to quote the text.  Example:  “Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama!”

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault
While not strictly a bedtime story, this is the perfect book for the evenings we need to get extra wiggles out before saying goodnight.  My kids love the drum-like rhythm of the text and the bold illustrations of alphabet letters.  A good first introduction to the alphabet, the illustrations show both lower and uppercase letters.      

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
This may just be the perfect bedtime story.  The premise is simple: a group of zoo animals, aided by a key-stealing gorilla, follow the zookeeper home at bedtime.  The simple text and bright, engaging pictures make for a wonderful read-aloud, allowing room for the reader to add their own dialogue and descriptions.  This is Miss Meatball’s current favorite, which means we read it at least half a dozen times a day.  I’m not sick of it yet.  No, really, I’m not. It’s that good. 

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen  
I like all of the “How do Dinosaurs” series, but How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight is my favorite.  With its illustrations of misbehaving dinosaurs and rhyming text, this book is a big hit with The Buster and Miss Meatball.  What’s not to love about a T-rex puckering up his lips for a goodnight kiss?  Because the dinosaurs do the same things that children do at bedtime, the pictures are full of familiar actions and objects.

How about you?  What bedtime books do you find your family grabbing night after night?         

Thursday, September 27, 2012

That Post where I Rant about Education (also why I built a cell model)

I spent yesterday afternoon and evening helping my neighbor, Fatima, make a model of a cell. She came to my apartment armed with a Hobby Lobby bag full of things her mom and she guessed she might need to make a model (Styrofoam balls, pom-poms, pipe cleaners, paint, paint brushes, a glue gun) and full of questions: Did I know what a cell was? Could I help her make one? Did I have a computer with internet? A printer?

Fatima is in the seventh grade. She is bright, enthusiastic, and responsible. However, she was given an assignment that was beyond her capability to complete on her own. I remember plenty of projects like that in middle school and high school. You remember those, right? The kind of projects that I’m pretty sure our moms did most of (thanks again for all those dioramas, Mom).

Fatima’s family immigrated to the United States from Honduras. Her parents speak only limited English. They do not have internet or a working computer in their home. She told me she had asked her mom for help with her project, but that her mom didn’t know what a cell was. She doesn’t have her own science textbook, because text books are required to remain in the classroom. All she had was a grading rubric stating how many points the project was worth. The expectation was that the students could look up any information they needed on the internet.

Hey, I have a good idea! Let’s give a twelve year old a list of really big words like endoplasmic reticulum and phospholipids and say hey, go build a model of all these things with no picture to follow. Don’t worry; it’s only worth most of your grade for the quarter.

I’m not placing all the blame on the teacher (although there is a part of me that wants to march down to the middle school and complain about the lack of clear instructions or any kind of diagram to follow). I know that teaching middle school science is, in the best of circumstances, a hard job. We don’t have the best circumstances. Here in small-town Georgia, literacy estimates for our county show 21% of the adult population as illiterate, meaning as many as 6 students in an average-sized class come from homes with illiterate parents. That’s as many as six kids in EVERY class whose parents can’t help them with their homework.

I guess what I’m trying to say from up here on my soapbox is that if we want our communities to thrive, the education of children—ALL children—needs to be a priority. Even really great teachers cannot do it all alone, and in cases where the parents cannot fill in the gaps, we have a responsibility to step in and help out where we can. Give your time. There are kids in each of our communities who need extra help in order to succeed.

In case you were wondering, Fatima’s model turned out great.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to Normal

It hardly seems possible that August is over. Mr. O has started a new semester, piano lessons are back in full swing, and The Buster, Miss Meatball and I are easing into our school year schedule. It’s funny to me—even though my kids are way too tiny young (there’s nothing tiny about The Buster) for school, there is definitely a change to the rhythm of our days as school recommences for everyone who goes to school. With the approach of autumn, my summertime laziness disappears. Maybe it is because I’m an autumn girl—my birthday falls in early October, my favorite time of year. The weather here is still summertime hot, but I’m full of hope for a beautiful fall.

One of the mental challenges I have with writing this blog is that I feel like I should have some kind of “topic,” like it’s a paper that I’m writing and that if posts don’t form a cohesive or consistent theme that maybe I’m going to be docked points on the final or something. But then I remember that the theme of this blog is “what my family and I do that makes us happy/frustrated/crazy.” And also maybe “here’s my family and what they do/how they cope while I’m being happy/frustrated/crazy.” The topic is my life, and I’ve got a lot going on. Some of those goings on are going to be getting more blog-time. As we return to a more consistent schedule for our family, I am excited to dedicate more time to writing, both in this space and for myself.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Summer, in pictures

After a wonderful summer, we're back to the delightful whirlwind of regular life.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

In Memoriam

My grandmother passed away early last Monday morning.  She was 90 years old.

My grandmother, called Gram, and I were never very close.  Part of this definitely had to do with distance—my family lived in Texas, then Alaska, then Washington.  Meanwhile, Gram lived mostly in Montana, with some lengthy stints abroad; she accompanied my granddad to Yemen where he did some sort of agricultural work.   Later the two of them traveled as missionaries to Europe.   After Grandad’s death, she spent some more time as a missionary in the southern United States.  In my pre-internet, pre-cellphone childhood, letters came infrequently and phone calls were expensive.  There were visits, but they were always short.  Too short.

I do remember her coming to stay with us when my mother had surgery.  It was right after my eighth birthday, and she took me to Fred Meyers to spend the birthday money she had given me—a dollar for each year.  I bought a package of Lip Smackers chap sticks. 

On another visit, she went on a walk with my dad and me.  We passed a section of sidewalk that had a footprint of a dog in the cement, and she made up a story about the people chasing after the naughty puppy that had gotten away.  I still think about that story every time I walk or drive past that spot. 

It isn’t that there weren’t other visits, there were.  She came along on a family vacation to the seashore once, and we visited her a handful of times in Montana.  Eventually, she moved to Utah while I was there attending BYU, and we saw each other more frequently.  It’s just that we didn’t know each other.  We spent the past four years trying to build the relationship that should have already been there.

I often wished she had been a greater presence in my life—that she had been there to applaud at my school plays, to bake cookies, to have sleepovers.  I realize now that the problem with that wish is that I wanted her to be my idea of what a grandma should be, rather than understanding who she actually was.  I didn’t understand the years of hard work, of poverty, of generous service to others.  I didn’t understand the loneliness of her motherless childhood, the loneliness of being widowed, the loneliness of growing old.  I didn’t often think about what I could do for her, but instead about what she hadn’t done for me.

But you know what?  She loved me anyway. 

I think she knew I loved her anyway, too.  

my last visit with Gram, late June of this year 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tonight, Miss Meatball wouldn't (or couldn't) go to sleep.  

Children that do not go to bed when they are supposed to are one of my pet peeves.  Sometimes it makes me so frustrated I could swear.  Sometimes it makes me so frustrated that I actually swear. 

Tonight was different. When I picked up my screaming baby and she looked at me with her big eyes, I felt an overwhelming sense of contentment.  

We walked outside in the evening quiet, up one side of the street and then down the other. The stillness was like my favorite Wordsworth sonnet: "It is a beauteous evening, calm and free / The holy time is quiet as a Nun / Breathless with adoration."  I stood on the front lawn, watching the pencil-line of moon brighten until I felt Miss Meatball's tightfisted grip on my t-shirt loosen.  She was asleep.  

Crescent Moon & Treetop by CmdrGravy 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer at the Library

our library books for the week 

I am a big fan of public libraries.  To me, summertime and the public library belong together.  Just like watermelon or running through the sprinkler, frequent trips to the library are an important part of summer.  Growing up, my mom would take my brothers and me to the library often during our summer break; I remember the feeling of my chin pressed against my towering armful of books, trying to balance them all as we walked out of the cool library into the over-bright parking lot.

Our local library here is small--it's a branch library.  And if it does have an out-dated collection of records (Barbara Streisand circa 1970, anyone?) and too many romance novels, it also has a pretty decent selection of books.  Even though neither The Buster or Miss Meatball are big enough to read to themselves yet, we are all loving the library's summer reading program.  For the program, we're doing lots of simple activities like reading picture books together and learning nursery rhymes.  It's a lot of fun.

Warning:  This is where I climb on my soapbox for a minute.  I have pretty really strong feelings about the importance of childhood literacy, and firmly believe that one of the best things we can do for our kids is to teach them to love books.  Have you heard about emergent literacy? It's important.  Read to your kids!  Take them to the library!

Anyway, we're loving the summer reading program here, especially the library-sponsored activities.  For such a small library, the activities they have really are impressive.  Today's activity had The Buster near hyperventilation out of excitement.  Several large trucks, including a drilling rig, a fire engine, and a tow truck, all parked in the library parking lot and the kids got to see them up close.  We're talking sit-in-the-driver's seat-touch-the-controls close.  The Buster was in heaven.          

The Buster takes the wheel
checking out the drilling rig with its friendly driver
fire engine controls
Anybody else signed up for their summer reading program?  I hope you are, even if your kids can't read to themselves yet.  I'd love to hear what kind of special activities your library hosting this summer!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Savannah, Georgia (with lots of pictures!)

In a burst of spontanaity, we went to the beach!  That's right folks, I have now seen the Atlantic Ocean.  We spent two fun-filled days in Savannah, hitting the beach, checking out some historical sites, and enjoying the Southern charm of this beautiful city.  

Of course we all loved the beach.  I am still amazed at how warm the water was.  Prior to this trip, the only beaches I'd been to were pretty cold (the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Scotland).  Or really cold, now that I think about it.  

Miss Meatball was born to go to the beach.  From the moment we plopped her down on the wet sand, she sat splashing in the little waves and giggling.  Much to my relief, she showed no interest in eating sand, although she did taste a seashell or two.  The waves made The Buster a little bit nervous, but it didn't take long for him to start running in the waves with Mr. O.  Mostly The Buster spent his time digging for sharks, which he claimed were "hiding" in the sand.  

digging for sharks

all of us after our happy day at the beach 
We spent the evening hanging out at in historic downtown, where we snacked on some yummy gelato and then listened rocked out to some live music.  The Buster is a dancing machine.  I was a little disappointed in the popular Vinnie VanGoGo's pizza,  but then, I have very definite opinions about pizza sauce.    

The next day, we visited Fort Pulaski, which was pretty cool.  Aside from its interesting history and musket-firing demonstration (which we skipped due to The Buster's already keen interest in firearms), the fort provided The Buster and Miss Meatball tons of open space to explore.  The Buster went from cannon to cannon, checking for cannon balls and yelling "BOOM."    
she makes ME smile


one day this child WILL look directly at the camera  

 me and my girl Meatball : )  

One of my favorite places we visited was Forsythe Park.  Located in Savannah's Victorian District, the park looked just like I imagined Savannah would look like: wide, shaded sidewalks, trees dripping in Spanish moss, a massive Civil War monument, and an absolutely gorgeous fountain.

Spanish moss!  

I think most of these decorative/atmospheric elements escaped The Buster's notice, but there was also a toddler-friendly playground, a splash fountain for The Buster to soak himself in, and a guy selling snow cones.  Miss Meatball really liked the snow cones.  All in all, we had a great little trip and are already gearing up for our next adventure.  What did you do over Memorial Day weekend?  Hopefully you had as much fun as we did!   


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mr. O

Mr. O and The Buster at about this time last year.  

Today is a pretty important day here at the Family O:  It's Mr. O's birthday.

Mr. O and I met at a museum lecture about printing presses.  I was late, and as fate would have it, the only empty seat was next to Mr. O.   He smiled at me, I smiled at him.  I wish that I could say that it was love at first sight, but it wasn't.  I don't think we said more than a dozen words to each other: "Is this seat taken?"  "No, go ahead."      
We were formally introduced a few months later, and the possibility of love should have been crushed when I yelled something at him about being obnoxious (yes, I really did).  An ordinary man would have run.  But for some reason that I still don't fully understand, he fell in love with me instead.     

Mr. O is one of the most patient people that I know--even though sometimes I accuse him of being otherwise.  He tolerates my anxiety and insecurities, believing in me when I don't believe in myself.  I will be the first to admit that being married to me cannot possibly be a cakewalk, yet he keeps on loving me through all my ups and downs.  He is the best husband, the best dad, and my best friend.  So, Happy Birthday, Mr. O.   I love you the most.      


Monday, May 21, 2012


Miss Meatball taking a dip in our makeshift swimming pool.  

It actually feels like summer has been here for awhile.  It is already so darn hot!  It feels like we skipped spring altogether, or had it back in February.  I didn't understand what people meant when they said "at least it's a dry heat" until we moved to the South.  If you have never experienced humidity, believe me.  It's brutal.  I would happily take a dry 95 degrees over a humid 82 degrees any day of the week.

With the arrival of summer, I still get that school's-out-let's-play feeling, even though 1.) I completed my degree 3 years ago 2.) The Buster and Miss Meatball still have awhile before they are big enough to go to school, and 3.) Summer doesn't really mean no school for Mr. O.  In spite of this, I find myself getting really excited for all of the possible fun to do summertime things.  As I'm gearing up to put together my summertime wish-list of things to do and places to visit, I've been thinking a lot about this series of posts from Design Mom.

Basically, they are a reminder to get out and to explore where you are living, finding fun things to do in your own backyard (granted, Design Mom's backyard is France and my back yard is the rural South, but still...). This is an idea that really resonates with me.  Maybe it is in part because more often than I like to admit, I don't love the place I live.  Because of Mr. O's schooling, where we live has a very temporary feeling to it.  This time next year, we will probably be neck-deep in moving boxes and gearing up for the next leg of our adventure. Sometimes it is really easy to fixate on that "next leg" before we get there.  The days when it is too hot to play outside, the kids are cranky, I am frustrated with our town's lack of bookstores and a restaurant that isn't Chick-Fil-A, or Mr. O needs the car yet again because there isn't any public transportation...those are the days that I find myself dreaming of a fully-funded doctoral program someplace perfect.  The problem with these daydreams is that they take the place of actually getting out and doing something. Comparison is the enemy of contentment, even if the comparison being made is between the present reality and unrealistic possibility.  For me, there is an active, decisive component to loving the place where I live.  And not just the geographical place, but the stage of life I'm in as well.  I'm talking embracing life as it is, right here and now (that's right, Mr. O,  I just went all existential).    

There are a lot of things that I want to do, and a lot of places I would love to see around the South.  I'm thinking some Civil War battle grounds, possibly the beach (I've never seen the Atlantic Ocean), and some big-city attractions as well as some local berry-picking, trips to the public library, and an unprecedented amount of popsicle-eating.  I'm feeling inspired by this chalkboard chalkboard checklist and this family list project, even though my list is more likely to land on the back of a used envelope.

What's on your list this summer?  Will you make a giant to-do list for the whole family?  Will your adventures focus on things close-to-home, or will you travel far away?  


Thursday, March 15, 2012

TV Time

Every once and awhile, I'll stumble across a blog post or an article or some real-life mom that champions the benefits of a television-free lifestyle. Don't let the kids watch TV, engage their minds instead! Create craft projects! Read stories! Sing songs! Go outside!

These encounters result in bouts of mom-guilt. I experience a gnawing fear somewhere in my intestines that my children are going to grow up deficient. While kids with good moms are putting on puppet shows and going on nature walks, my wee ones' brains are going to atrophy into some horrible grey sludge and they will never have any friends and they won't go to college and they will probably never get a job. And it will all be because I let them watch TV.

I then vow that there will be No More TV In Our House. We will have one TV-free day, my conscience is soothed, and the next day life returns to normal.

I made it from Monday night all the way to 6:00 this evening with no TV for the kids. In the past three days, we have been to the park, to playgroup, and to the public library. We have read 38 picture books. We sat and watched some construction workers tear up a strip of parking lot with their bulldozer. We have done art projects and educational activities. Quite frankly, I am exhausted. The Buster may feel enriched, but I didn't do the laundry and our dinners have been pretty lack-luster (another PB&J sandwich, anyone?). The living room floor needs to be vacuumed.

The past three days have reminded me that I have no desire to be a fully TV-free home. I need some time to do the laundry and unload the dishwasher in peace. For me, television is a necessary evil. I'm not even sure that I can call it evil. We LOVE Sesame Street and Dinosaur Train at our house. Even so, turning off the TV has prompted me to reevaluate our TV habits. The important thing (for me at least) is to think before I switch on the TV, to ask myself why I am turning it on. Is there a specific program we want to watch? Do I have a specific task to complete that I need the Buster to be entertained during? Or am I just turning it on because I haven't thought of anything else to do? I'm hoping that asking myself these questions will help me find the right balance of what is the "right" amount of TV for us.

What do you think? What are your policies/ideas about TV time?


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Going to the Zoo (and an adventure in breastfeeding!)

I read a magazine article yesterday that pointed out the average child only has 940 Saturdays between the time they are born and the time they leave for college. Special moments and activities with children are important, they won't stay little forever, etc. The author went so far as to suggest that every time you find yourself getting frustrated by your children, you should picture your house as completely clean and quiet and remember that someday it will be that way, and then you will learn to more fully appreciate each minute with your kids. In my case, rather than sending me into a quiet "I love my children" state-of-mind, this technique would probably result in a hyperventilating, sobbing fit during which I would hug the kids strangle-tight and the Buster would start screaming that he was trapped and he would probably think his mama had gone crazy.

Right this minute, Miss Meatball is happily tearing said magazine to shreds.

Normally, I wait to go to the zoo until Mr. O can come too. It's just easier. But as Mr. O had other obligations, and because there are only 940 Saturdays, I decided to take the Buster and Miss Meatball to the zoo all by myself. It was so much fun! Miss Meatball happily rode in the baby-sling, cooing from her perch on my hip. The Buster willingly sat in his stroller, getting in and out without fuss even when it meant leaving the tiger exhibit. During the three hours we were at the zoo, the only time the Buster cried was when we rode the little zoo train. It turns out that while the Buster loves the idea of trains and tunnels, he is terrified of tunnels. He literally SOBBED the entire 7 minutes we were on the ride and then promptly asked to go again. Go figure.

I left the zoo feeling empowered. We did the zoo without Mr. O, and it was fine. It was more than fine- it was great.

Here is where things got dodgy (or at least felt dodgy). I should have just found a bench at the zoo and sat down there to feed Miss Meatball. But, as she is highly distractable, I thought that it would be easier to find an out-of-the-way park bench or picnic table to feed her, so I did just that. I was less than five-minutes away from finishing feeding Miss Meatball when this Rastafarian-looking man started towards my table. As he came closer, it became obvious that he was stoned out of his mind. He picked up an old bottle of Poweraid that he found on the ground and started drinking it (major eww). He was walking all around the picnic table, piking up half-smoked cigarettes and checking the trash can for any left-over goodies. I seriously thought he was going to get down on his hands and knees and start collecting the cheerios the Buster had thrown on the ground for the "quirrels."

So, there I was, trying to get Miss Meatball to finish eating as fast as possible so we can leave. Here I should probably mention that I breastfeed. While I use a nursing cover for modesty's sake, I am not particularly prudish about the whole process. Someone catches a glimpse of my chest while my babe's latched on? No big deal. With one exception. This man. If this crazy-stoned/potentially homeless guy catches a glimpse of my naked breast, I think I might die. It is at this moment that the Buster reaches out and grabs my nursing cover. I am trying to keep myself covered, trying to keep Miss Meatball from falling off of my lap, and trying to yank the nursing cover out of the Buster's fist. The man is about five feet away from us, staring blankly at me. Societal norms do not apply when you are that drugged, so the man sat down at the picnic table. I detached Miss Meatball, straightened my shirt, and threw our stuff into the bottom of the stroller in record time. Which is a good thing, because the man was getting ready to smoke another joint.

Just in case you are worried that I was actually in any danger (Mom, I know you're reading this), my "out-of-the-way" table was only twenty feet away from the walking path where twenty or thirty people were going to and from the zoo at any given time. And the man was most likely harmless, albeit not the kind of person with whom I wanted to hang out with while breastfeeding.

We made it back to the car, and I loaded the kids in, (a painstakingly slow process made to feel even slower because some lady was waiting for my parking spot and glaring at me because I wasn't leaving fast enough). The kids fell asleep the minute we pulled out of the parking lot and slept the whole drive home. And even if the Buster and Miss Meatball don't remember this Saturday, it's okay. I'll remember for them.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rhino Returns

It took me forever to mend the Buster's stuffed rhino. The poor toy has been sitting in the laundry closet with a gaping hole in his side. The Buster would see the rhino sitting on top of the dryer and beg to hold it. He would kiss his horn and gingerly pat the hole. When I told him it was time to put rhino back because he was "sick", the Buster would ask to give "mores kisses" to his friend.

This has been happening at least once a week for the past two months. I know. I'm basically mom-of-the-year. But, I finally fixed the rhino.

The Buster couldn't be happier.


Thursday, February 23, 2012


In my pre-parenting days, I assumed that if a child is up in the middle of the night screaming, sick, and miserable, the next day the child would want to sleep and take it easy. How little I knew then.

When he is sick, the Buster develops a kind of superpower. He can scream and cry for hours in the middle of the night and still be full of energy the next morning. Extra-energetic, even. The amount of energy he has the morning after a nighttime illness seems to directly correlate to the amount of energy I do not have. Example: I am so tired that I try to feed Miss Meatball without taking the pacifier out of her mouth. The Buster is running laps around the couch, shouting out the names of different animals and begging for a cup of milk.

This energy spike pushes the Buster's ability for mischief into overdrive. In the time it took me to transfer one load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, he had amassed a collection of items including (but not limited to) my hairdryer, one chopstick, the kitchen scissors, a large metal spatula, and a candy thermometer. When he saw me coming, he dove behind the couch cushions, clutching the pair of scissors. "NO! MINES!" he screamed as I removed them from his chubby fist. He is exhausting and I started the day with an energy deficit.

Mercifully, by the evening he is worn out. He cuddles, telling me about his trip to the doctor's office. He reminds me of the important details so that I wouldn't forget that his ear hurt and that he got a sticker. He even suggests that his stuffed rhinoceros should go to the doctor to get his "ouch" fixed. I make a mental note to move the rhino to the top of my mending pile. The Buster gets one more hug, one more kiss, and a lullaby from Mr. O. When all is said and done, we have had better days, but we have also had worse.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Valentine's Day

This year marks the first time I've ever really decorated for Valentine's Day. I have always loved the idea of Valentine's decorations, but we have never really had a good spot to display them until now. Some of those Pinterest projects I've been eyeing finally came to life! The Buster has been pretty excited about all the "sharks" (Buster-speak for heart). Between the framed hearts and the mini-heart garland, we have been talking about sharks a lot.

See the lightbulb? That's what I gave Mr. O this year for Valentine's Day. It turns out that it is a lot harder to hollow out an old light bulb than the internet claims it is. Confession: I made Mr. O do it because I was afraid of shattered glass all over the kitchen floor. He basically made all the hard parts of his own gift and still acted surprised and thrilled with the final result. I love that man.

Our favorite B-horror film posters got a dose of Valentine's Day cheer as well.

We postponed our Valentine's Day dinner until Friday night. Totally worth the wait. Since we no longer live near our favorite pizza place, we made pizza and roasted asparagus for dinner. Definitely not the same as cooked in a wood-burning brick oven, but pretty yummy all the same. I am certain that even if we had gone out for pizza, they wouldn't have cut our pepperoni into hearts.

We finished our meal off with some strawberry cupcakes and then hauled the Buster upstairs to shampoo the frosting out of his hair.

I love Valentine's Day.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Family O

Because it's been so long since I've regularly posted to this space, I thought I would fill everyone in on some Family O basics.

We live in a small town in the rural South. It is the kind of place where you find roadside stands that sell "hot boiled peanuts," and Civil War reinactors march in the Fourth of July parade. People here are for the most part friendly, chatty, and unhurried.

Mr. O is attending graduate school. When he is not cramming his brains full of more knowledge, he is interested in comic books, horror films, and hanging out with the kids and me.

I am a stay-at-home mom. I do many stay-at-home mom things. I read to the kids; sometimes I even read to myself. I do play-dates and grocery trips. I attempt all sorts of craftable projects. I make dinners and lunches and snacks and a shocking number of cookies. Aside from the typical stuff, I also teach piano lessons.

Of course, you can't meet the Family O without meeting the Buster.

bust•er /ˈbəstər/
1. A person or thing that breaks, destroys, or overpowers something
2. Used as a mildly humorous form of address, esp. to a man or boy
3. An unusually sturdy child
4. A busy, much-loved redhead belonging to the Family O (see above photograph)

Our newest family member is the sunny Miss Meatball.

What do you think she has stashed in those adorable, fat cheeks? Mr. O thinks it might be meatballs.

Hopefully this nickname doesn't cause any permanent emotional damage or social awkwardness in later life. At present, she doesn't seem to mind.

That's the cliff-notes version of my family. I hope you all had a wonderful, love-filled February fourteenth. We are celebrating Valentine's Day a day late because Mr. O had a crazy class schedule. Check back later for some of our postponed holiday fun!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Back Again

Once upon a time two years ago, I decided to write a blog. I wrote half a dozen posts, then stopped writing. In part, this is because I am a painfully slow writer. The I-have-a-degree-in-English part of me takes over and I turn into a self-editing nightmare. I over-think. The over-thinking is followed by frustration; e.g. I have just spent an entire hour writing three paragraphs, and I don't even have some nifty tutorial to show for it.

And I worried about my little blog not being one of those fancy-schmancy blogs that strangers read and like. I mean, if I was writing a blog, I felt that I should probably become one of those bloggers. You know the ones I'm talking about. The bloggers who somehow manage to present their lives in a way that makes you wish that you were more like them. They have time to make stacks of darling, stylish handmade clothing for their darling, stylish children. These same women are also gourmet cooks, consummate party-planners, and have homes full of their chic DIY projects. Sounds like me, right? Wrong.

The past two years have seen a major shift in my goals and priorities. I am not looking to be perfect. I am looking to be happy.

Welcome to the blog where I write about the crazy hodgepodge of things that are my life.