Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Fleas Navidad

December 31st, 2014 · Comments Off


My Mother-in-Law hosts a themed cookie exchange every year, and as I was too busy/sick with the flu before Christmas to create costumes, I let the girls have a go. AND-A-GO they did! Their favorite scene from “A Shrek Christmas” apparently involves the cat getting fleas and saying, “Great, now it will be a Fleas Navidad”. They just giggle and giggle whenever they say it. Super. Easy. 10 minutes on Zazzle placing a cat in a sombrero on a t-shirt with the words “Fleas Navidad”, add female Bullfighter names on the back (Kelly was “Chonchita”…so cute), 10 minutes at Party City, along with hot gluing some old Christmas balls to the Sombreros, AND….we’re done. Not my cheapest costumes, but certainly my fastest. We won for “Group Costume”, but we didn’t take the “Tackiest Costume” Grand Prize. You have to plan all year to win at my In-Laws. People came lit from head-to-toe, covered in tinsel, and the winner was a full-out elf.

Don’t worry, no one has fleas, but we do have cats on the brain. In fact, morning, noon, and night, it’s pretty much our entire existence. Who has the kitties? Is it time to feed the kitties? Can I have a turn with the kitties? The answer is always NO. I wait for the girls to go to bed, and I take the 9pm to midnight shift, just so I can play a bit with these 1-lb wonders.



You’ll be seeing A LOT of these guys. Please meet Rufus (orange), and Penny (black). They are named from “The Rescuers”, and big hugs to my children for choosing names from my own childhood. I’m sure nicknames will come, but Kelly would like us to know they are HER NICKNAMES! I like to call little gal “Penny Money” and “Penny Moon”, but Kelly is having none of it. She calls her Pen-Pen. IMG_3544

I have taken exactly 5 bajillion pictures of these precious babies, but you have to meet them to fully appreciate how stinkin’ amazing they are. They want one thing and one thing only: to spend their every moment right next to, or on top of, Sara and Kelly. The girls carry them around in cradles all day long, and these 2 are just as content as can be. They fell asleep on top of Greg last night, but otherwise, they love their Mommas. Rescued at about a week under a bare bush in a snowstorm (I think they are now about 7 weeks old), these 2 may have some learning to do. Thus far we still give formula and baths, and I’m hoping Cy and Syd start to pick up some slack and become teachers.

Gotta run…the babies are calling (ALL of them….)….Happy New Year everyone! What adventures await us in 2015?!

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Christmas 2014

December 28th, 2014 · 1 Comment


I hope you had a lovely Christmas. We spent 7 days in Northern Virginia with family, and while it was very busy, it was a lovely holiday indeed. We carried out our usual traditions: Candlelight service on Christmas Eve following a family dinner of Chicken and Dumpling soup, nights out with friends and family (sans le children! YES!), lunch at our favorite sushi joint in the mall because we never tire of mediocre sushi rolling by on a conveyor belt, play dates and parties with themes involving A LOT of sugar, family movie nights with 10 of us tucked in tight watching Hallmark Christmas movies and things like “Willow” (don’t ask me why we love this stuff), a trip to the theater on Christmas Day, sticky buns after presents, and OH MY GOODNESS…THE EATING. There was just so much of the eating, and I probably drank my body weight in champagne. It felt amazing.

I love the holiday season, but I’m not always a fan of the actual day of Christmas. It comes with expectations and phone calls from my family which almost never come. It comes with reminders that my “now” looks nothing like my “what once was”. Lonely memories are hard to bury, and when I look around at the beautiful decorations and warm homes full of people who seem to cherish my presence, I’m almost breathless at how lucky I am; how blessed I am. Every Christmas, the world asks me to walk one step further into the skin I now inhabit. It takes courage. It takes a willingness to embrace a life I don’t always understand. Sometimes I fear I’ve fallen into a picture, and just like in Mary Poppins, it will rain, and I’ll have to pop out again.

I’m not the only person with fleeting feelings of dissonance at the holidays. In fact, I think most of us are just trying to do our best to make worthy memories, no matter what our background or current circumstances. But if you are one of those people trying to forge a new story for yourself, this year, I want you to know you are not alone. Hope is everywhere. Love and family might be just around the corner. As I put away the decorations, I wondered, “What will my life look like this time next year?” It’s always so hard to say, but if it looks anything like right now, I will be the luckiest lady on earth. My cup runneth over.

Godspeed my dear friends. Godspeed.

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Teacher Gifts 2014

December 19th, 2014 · 4 Comments


At first, I thought, “Oh no! A year without bags! What was I thinking?” I wasn’t sure I could walk into the school on the last day before Holiday Break without my bags. But I have to mix it up because boredom is the death of creativity. Sara’s teacher’s favorite color is purple. PURPLE. Wonderful, delicious purple. Moi aussi. I won’t detail for you the hours I spent imagining these designs in my head. They are so simple, I’m embarrassed to admit it took me a couple of months to gel on one idea.


The purple boxes were my favorite to make, but around the holidays, my black/charcoal grey/pearl/red combos are always such a hit. As parents passed me in the hallways, the standard Christmas colors caught the most attention. These pictures don’t do the red justice, as those black swirls are coated in black glitter. YES. You had me at “sparkly”.


Kelly designed this box, because she wanted something “contemporary” for one of her teachers (each child of mine has four, and I have fun trying to secretly discover what design and colors they might like). The “contemporary” teacher has a daughter just out of college which Sara and Kelly not-so-secretly worship (Hi Meredith!), so a part of me wonders if they didn’t design this box for her. The teals and hot pinks were a stretch, but I think they work.


The grouping of 8 boxes shows that while they are all very similar, they are also different. You might guess the brown was for a male teacher. I hope he liked it. Inside the boxes I tucked a box of mint chocolate penguin candies, my bark cookies, a bouquet of brightly colored felt tip pens, and a menu on parchment paper. I requested each teacher choose a meal and email me their meal of choice, and choice of days sometime between January and February. On that day, I will deliver their dinner to the fridge in the Teacher’s Lounge, giving them a night off from cooking. I hope they like it, because we certainly are enamored with their talents.

I just love putting together surprises for teachers. No one could be more cherished, considering how deeply they care for Sara and Kelly. Every year I think maybe I’ll give something more commercial, but I just can’t. My hands MUST make them something. I must pour my heart into it so I can can express gratitude in my own voice. It thrills me to make things because I’ve never been a coordinated person (don’t get me started on sports). I don’t even have strong fine motor coordination. But when my soul is in the game, my hands never fail me. It’s such a surprise every time my plans come together.

Please share any fun ideas you have for teachers gifts. I’m always on the prowl for exciting and original inspiration! Merry Christmas to ALL of our teachers everywhere. You are so, so loved by Mommas and children everywhere.


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Come and Dine at “Troisine”

December 17th, 2014 · Comments Off


Despite my best efforts to fall miserably behind in Holiday Elfing tasks, things seem to be coming together for me. Clean attic = clean mind. Last summer I hired Fiverr to design a logo around a game the girls and I play. Whenever we cook together in the kitchen, we take on French accents and refer to ourselves as “the three -ines”. I am Sabine, Sara is Isabine, and Kelly is Opaline. Clearly, our restaurant would HAVE to be named Troisine. (Trois is French for “3” in case you took a useful language in high school, which I did not. No regrets. French is gorgeous.)

Before “Troisine”, when the food was fake, and the girls served it to me on tiny plates in their playroom, the game was “Strawberry Cafe”. They had a menu, and took their strawberry theme quite seriously, so I asked the graphic designer to add an element of “strawberry” to the design. I wasn’t sure of my plans, but I knew by Christmas, I’d think of something. Aprons are the obvious choice, but we don’t wear them. I had it printed on a canvas to hang in the kitchen, but that’s not very “kid-like”. So what’s the one thing my daughters ALWAYS want, at every store, no matter how many they already own?


Blankets. The cozier, the better. They haul them around the house like Linus, which is funny, because they never nap. If I had a blanket pile around me at all times, I’d be asleep all day. Above is a picture of the corner of their newest fuzzy lovey. I’m thinking rather than pjs this Christmas Eve, they are getting these. The logo cost me 5 bucks (Fiverr…get it?), and the blankets were bought with Black Friday coupons. All in all, my favorite gifts were by far my least expensive. Isn’t that always the way? I huge thanks and shout out to Village Embroidery for creating the embroidery file and stitching these in time for Christmas. I’m a bit of an embroidery-aholic, so they know me there. Great gals.

Back to wrapping. I hit the halfway point at lunch, which was made possible by last night’s cold beer and midnight Hallmark movie. So…tired…today. A little something to keep us going:


Rufus wanted to stop by and say hello. As you can see, he’s about a whopping pound in this picture, but now he’s a strapping 6 weeks old, so I’m sure he’s at least 1 lb and 3 oz. It might be possible that I keep moving up the “coming home to live with us date” as the hours pass by. I just want my babies home with me, so we can get on with it…the process of turning this house into a home.

Happy Elfing Everyone! May your coffee be hot and plentiful, and may your own pets stay out of the ribbon pile.

*There were no goods or services exchanged for this post, although I’m not too proud to turn down a $5 paycheck. Rufus didn’t get paid either, which is kind of a rip-off, because he’s clearly got the cheekbones to be a model. I did offer him room and board forever if he’d give me a smile. I’m a SUCKER for a cute guy with orange fur and blue eyes. Hey! Maybe the Universe pays me in KITTENS! That doesn’t suck, you’all.*

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The Attic, Drafts 1 & 2

December 15th, 2014 · 1 Comment


Title of this draft? MOVE-IN &…YUCK.

Greg and I have always dreamed of a finished attic space. We investigated the possibility at our last house, but the beams just wouldn’t cooperate. Our new home had the option of a finished attic, and we jumped on it without even putting much thought into what it would be. We’ve long called it “The Bonus Room”, but it wasn’t until we moved in that we realized we had VERY DIFFERENT plans for this space. With so much going on elsewhere in the house, we never really had the time or energy to disagree about it. It has a cute little landing at its entrance and steps¬† down into it, so every time we got frustrated with the mess, we couldn’t help but say, “But it’s so wonderful! It’s such an amazing space! What should it be? It’s clearly going to be EVERYTHING AT ONCE.”


Draft 1: A little work, a lot of play.

I always envisioned the attic to be a space for desks (homework), my writing desk, the books, sewing, and project/crafting space; a place for Science Fair exhibit work, diorama creation, Christmas card making, sewing, puzzles, and just all things “doing”. Greg had thought it would easily double as a playroom for the girls. My gut told me “no way can homework space and play space coexist peacefully”, but as the movers brought in loads, “just stick it in the bonus room” became my go-to phrase.

It was SUCH a mess for the first 2 weeks we lived here. Multi-use cacophony doesn’t begin to describe it. Just trying to organize it helped Greg warm to my plan for desks. Luckily, Goomommy and Goodaddy liked the idea of “desks for Christmas”, and my room plan came together quickly. When Greg assembled the desks, I loved the education he received about how the girls “play”. “Lori! Did you know there is TRASH in here? There is just…GARBAGE! There are toys piled on ponytails, lying on top of pencils, and there is….JUNK EVERYWHERE!” He’s never cleaned their playroom. He didn’t know, and now he can never un-know. Bless his heart. I did the deep cleaning (and throwing out of the junk kids accumulate) while he did the assembly. By the end, we had very similar ideas for how this space would work.


Draft 2: More work than play!

Greg got the fun bookshelf from a photographer who bought it for a shoot and didn’t use it. Score! We found desks to coordinate, and with Greg’s mighty muscles, the toy armoire (in reality, it was a piece of furniture from the nursery, but it’s too cute to sell), and the toy chests all made it to the basement. I promised the girls I’d find a great space for “Calico Critter World”, and in the back corner is a shelf neatly organized next to a large area for the imaginary play which occurs with their favorite toys (in perpetuity). The craft supplies have been organized into the attic’s closet, and it looks almost exactly like The Art Closet from our old house. The only change is that the play-dough bucket is now a duct tape bucket, almost making me tear up at how fast childhood is flying by. All other toys have made it to the basement, and the girls seem giddy to have them where they used to be. They are equally giddy with their super cool desks, and for one entire day, I didn’t have to ask them to do homework. If only I could bottle the excitement that comes from a new, spotless work space…


Panoramic View of Draft #2.

I unpacked my sewing “area” along the back wall, and for now, my writing corner is near the window. There is also a couch on the far side of the bookshelf for reading and bugging Mommy while she’s trying to write. I call this a draft, because it’s not done. All rooms in this house will see several drafts-in-motion as we spend many years settling into our home. This.will.not.be.fast. Next I hope to find coordinating white desks for me and Daddy, and then I’ll paint the walls grey. I will attempt to turn the accents cobalt blue and tangerine orange, but don’t hold your breath. This room wants for color. The last phase will involve a rebuild of The Beast around the windows with a window seat, and then a removal of the old bookshelf on the right wall. The girls have asked for bulletin boards between their desks, and I foresee a larger project table in our future. Oh yeah…and there’s that issue of the girls needing desk chairs. Apparently they not only want desks, but they want to SIT THERE too. Jeez.


The room has been in its current state for about 6 hours. The girls and I have already started a large puzzle. It’s so awesome to be able to walk across this room.


Calico Critter World has been blessed by the Calico Critter Priestess (Sara). They said it was too pretty to disrupt (just yet). This will be a tornado soon, I promise.


And Christmas teacher gifts have begun. This week’s projects include so much Christmas packaging, you’ll be over me and my wild wrapping by Saturday morning.

Alrighty gang, we have a new crafting space, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time for me to make a mess SO BIG, you’ll wonder if I have magic cleaning elves. I do not, but there’s no stopping us now! Grab the hot glue gun, STAT! (1st drawer below the doors, left side, front half). I look forward to sharing my new space with you!

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There Are No Cats In The Champagne Room

December 10th, 2014 · 3 Comments


Sorry I flat out disappeared after that last post, but it was followed by the Respiratory Flu (from hell). I’ve learned in this new world, no one gets “the flu” anymore. You have to know what kind of flu you have, or it doesn’t count. The moment it was mentioned I had the flu, the questions started pouring in: “Do you have the H1N1?” “Do you have the H3N2?” “Did you get the flu shot? Did you get the pneumonia shot?” Um…I’m a NURSE not currently working in a HOSPITAL, ipso facto, I TOOK NO SHOTS, NOR WILL I GO TO A DOCTOR. It’s in our oath. Thou shalt only crawl into a doctor’s office under the threat of death and/or already be, in fact, dead. Thou shalt NOT partake of any reasonable preventative care, as we have seen the outliers and know in the end…it’s all hogwash. Everyone dies. Even nurses. Suck it up and cough it out.

After the fevers passed, the fatigue set in, and after days upon days of sleeping, Greg took a lovely picture of Cyrus’ position since I became a 95 year old woman and “took to my bed”. The cats are too smart to sleep with me, so here the poor buddy waits.

But today was my day! I got up! I showered! I went to school to try and be of use! I wasn’t, but it felt great to be around people. While hanging around, trying to look natural, it came to my attention a staff member was in the process of rescuing 2 very tiny kittens. She was bringing them to school so they could be bottle fed during the day, and HEY! Would I like to meet these homeless little muffins?

Where are pictures, you may be asking? Of itsy-bitsy 4-week old furry bears who both weigh less than a pound? I can’t show them. If I did, you’d jump through the screen and try to grab them. I can prove it. One of my closest friends is a very NON-CAT person, and after taking one look at these cats, she offered to whip out a boob and suckle these kittens. No joke…they are THAT cute. Another friend of mine is deathly allergic to cats, and she admitted even she wanted these cats. A third friend’s response: “Yes. Whatever this cat wants. YES!” Pictures were sent to Greg with his reply, “Are you playing with our future cats?” They passed the “choose Mom” test, and then they passed the “choose the girls” test.

NEXT, we had to talk through the THING which often comes between us and cats: THE NAMING. Upon telling Greg it was time to allow the girls to name cats, he added in, “NO STRIPPER NAMES. No Sparkle, no Rainbow, no Mermaid Fairy Barbie Unicorn name.” I agreed wholeheartedly. I’m not committing 18 years to any creature named Diamond Glitter. Here’s how the naming conversation went:

In the car:

Kelly: Clearly, they want to be named Bubbles and Tickles.

Sara: Agreed.

Mommy: Um…well….Daddy was kind of hoping you would lean towards more historical important figures. Maybe Winston? Call her Winnie?

Kelly: No way. Tickles. Or Doreen.

Mommy: DOREEN?



Mommy: (Chanting to myself, “Don’t say the word stripper, don’t say the word stripper”): Well…there are just SOME names, which…well? Are sometimes INACCURATELY, but nonetheless, TIED TO…the image of things less than academic. (Don’t say STRIPPER…whatever you do, DO NOT SAY STRIPPER.)

Kelly: Do you mean when people add second names to Tiffany? Like Tiffany Ann? Or Tiffany Lynn?

Mommy: How did you know that?

Kelly: I don’t know. I just…felt it.

Mommy: So…Daddy would like a name like Lincoln, or Patton. We could call them Link and Georgie.

Sara: That’s just awful.

Mommy: OK. It’s kind of awful. But we’re going to have to find names I think we can all at least like.

Kelly: Don’t worry Mommy. I got it. We’ll name one of them MISTER Tickles. Done.

Mommy: I think that might be worse.

Upon arriving home:

Daddy (after hearing Sara’s submission of the name “Rufus”): Sara, your choice of Rufus is approved. Love it, perfect. Rufus for sure. Kelly, why don’t you make a list of 10 names, none goofy or sparkly, and we’ll try to find one we all like.

Kelly’s List: Cookie, Ruby, Sapphire, Topaz, Tickles, Lily, Penny (her current favorite upon which she is a little fixated), Sprinkles, Kiki, and Grace.

Mommy: So Penny it is. Penny and Rufus, from “The Rescuers”. Very fitting.

Daddy: I don’t like the name Penny.

Mommy: Well I don’t like the name Rufus.

Sara: So we’re back to Bubbles and Mr. Tickles.

Mommy and Daddy: NO!


And here is where we leave off…as when it comes to naming, you can’t always push these things. I know when the right 2 names come along (one boy, one girl), we’ll know. All 4 of us will know, just as we knew about this house. Just as we knew about the adoption of Cy and Max. Dagny’s name was changed 3x, so we should have known he wasn’t going to stay. The kittens won’t be ready for adoption for weeks, so we have time to sleep on these plans, but I have a feeling the time has come. The hole Max left has needed to be filled for many moons. Syd needs a purpose and Cy WANTS to play. 2 little puffballs with energy and love might just be the right choice at the right time for us. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I wrote a little something over at Indy’s Child yesterday you might enjoy: I’m Not Winning Christmas. And of course, all of your naming suggestions are always welcome here!

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It’s Permanent

November 30th, 2014 · 8 Comments



My phrase this fall has been “mourn and move on”. How valiantly flippant of me. As some friends and I sat in Support Group (Parents of Twice-Exceptional Kids), we heard the latest and greatest pertaining to language processing disorders, dysgraphia, dyslexia…yum…give us more! As a few of us realized our kids may be grappling with a tad more than ADHD, my “2e Partner in Crime Gal Pal” and I gave each other the “Well Hell…just one more thing” look. She and I can have entire conversations with just our eyes. “Having a 2e morning?” “Have you been in the School Psychologist’s office already?” “Are you thinking tutor switch, therapist switch, or med switch?” All of it, just with our eyebrows across a PTA meeting room.

We’ve got the whole “been there, done that” routine down pat. We like to pretend mourning is a luxury we can no longer afford. Who has that kind of time? It’s an innocent lie we like to tell ourselves, because escaping the reality of Special Needs children requires emotional blinders from time to time. But a few weeks ago, I had to face that lie right in its ugly face. Mourning, for me, goes down easiest in tiny bites. Tiny, itsy-bitsy, microscopic bites.

It usually starts with a downhill slide for Sara, when I watch her mood crumble around the edges, ending with a grand implosion. It comes in the form of refusal to do homework, migraines, refusal to walk into school, random guessing on tests, and even after studying and exhibiting complete mastery…a total failure to perform at school. Time to wrestle the most current demon, whatever it may be. Test anxiety? Math tutoring? ADHD meds not working? Autoimmune disorder flaring up? BEEN THERE. DONE THAT. As we never get to fight the same demon twice, I took my first line of action and met with Sara’s teacher.


Oh yes, it was academic this time around, merely masquerading as headaches. (Trying a new approach to those nasty headaches tomorrow…if it works, I’ll share it here.) Thank God for amazing and gifted teachers who never stop learning, because she came armed with DATA. Sara’s LD in Math is rare, focal in nature, and yet quite a wall considering it’s math dyslexia. Sara cannot memorize math facts. She understands addition, subtraction, etc, but she cannot commit them to memory. We’ve done drills, tutors, and years upon years of daily practice. The time has come to accept Dyscalculia’s ugly truth: Sara may never be able to memorize 2+2=4. She can set up 5th grade level pre-algebra problems. She has the logic capabilities of kids 2 years beyond her age. She can dissect a shark, and tell me a better analogy to Chiropractic care is rather than a stabilizing rod, she thinks it’s more of a pulley with uneven balance. But she cannot tell you from memory that 5-3=2. She understands it, but she cannot consistently RECALL it.

So the unmentionable has finally been said: Sara needs to have a calculator with her at all times. Sara will always need a calculator. Sara will not be able to go onto Middle School, High School, or College without the accommodation of a calculator. She will no longer be required to take math tests without them, and she is no longer doing conventional math fact drills at home. She’s still doing easier variations of math drills, as we’re hoping to strengthen her number sense (and protect her ability to understand quantity), but she will no longer take tests without manipulatives in her hands. If she can’t SEE it, she can’t CALCULATE it.

It was a happy meeting. It was lead by an amazing educator who has read everything she can find on Dyscalculia. It takes courage to lead a child down a new path, one not yet encountered at her school. It takes guts to tell a family to give up on conventional expectations, and go forward with assistance. We were, and are, extremely grateful. We walked out relieved. Sara was SO relieved. No more of her trying to hide these challenges…she can BE Sara, and that is a good thing. We quickly ordered a blingy calculator, put her name on it, and dubbed it her new best friend. To quote Einstein, we’re no longer trying to teach this fish to climb a tree. (Unless that tree is fully submerged in water, and then CLIMB little fish, CLIMB MY GIRL!)


AND THEN, and only then, did I begin to grieve. It always starts as a dark, nagging and vague feeling, in my gut. The Universe had changed direction, but the periphery wasn’t clear. My mood worsens until I begin to take it out on those around me. Greg’s does too, but he refuses to acknowledge he’s sad. HE LOVES HIS SARA! SHE IS PERFECT! HER TEACHERS ARE WONDERFUL! WE ARE SO LUCKY! And we are. But we’re a bit sad too. If we don’t eventually own up to our sadness at these bends in the road, it will eat us alive.

By Friday evening, I forced the issue with ‘ole Math-Expert Daddy. It’s OK to nab a perfect math SAT score, and be a little concerned about your daughter not being able to ADD. NOPE! PERFECT! His Sara-Bear can go through life not being able to compute in her head, and it’s nothing to worry about! She’s AMAZING, just as she is! And she is. He’s right. She’s Sara, and she was meant to be this way, at this time, with us at her side. We know this. But it’s OK to be a bit sad too. He finally blurted out I was way too passionate about decorating the guest room and it was getting on his nerves. To which we both had a good laugh, because well? That’s just silly.

We hung our heads for a moment. We agreed…a little sad is OK. Even if we’ve been there, done that. Even if we’re the masters of mourn and move on. Sad is a reasonable response to the worry our child will need to go forward in life learning to advocate that even smart kids can’t all multiply. Put that on a tshirt. From there, I thought I was OK. I thought I’d processed it, even though I’m still holding my breath as we await our first formal accommodation meeting, and await Sara’s first test-taking adventure within her new world.


But as I mentioned earlier, my grief is best eaten one bite at a time. I stopped by Goodwill last night to buy a costume for Sara’s Hero Report, and as I was checking out, I noticed the cashier was wearing a thumb splint.

Me: Did you injure your hand? I have that same splint for my thumb.

Cashier: No, this is a birth injury. It’s permanent.

Me: Oh, I’m sorry…I didn’t realize it wasn’t a Spica splint.

Cashier (with such a quiet voice and forlorn expression): It’s OK. I’ve worn it since birth. This injury is PERMANENT.

I was suddenly unable to speak. It was like the air was wicked from my lungs, and my usual casual ability to be chatty in all situations was a distant memory. I’m not even sure I managed a smile as I said “thank you”. I quickly drove home and collapsed onto the couch, and retold the story to Greg, barely able to keep my voice from cracking.

Me: She said the words “It’s permanent”, Greg. It’s permanent. It’s never going to go away.

Greg: No, it’s probably not.

Finally, those stubborn, far-too-easily avoided tears fell. I kept them at bay through all of Thanksgiving, even after my Dad asked if Sara was OK. Even after he asked if I was worried about the future. Even after I told my friends (who, bless their patient hearts, can no more comprehend the pernicious nature of a math LD than I can, leaving them to do their best at nodding and smiling). Crying always comes later, when I least expect it.

Letting go of the hope she’ll outgrow this? Harder than I anticipated, but then again…it’s forcing me to get real with my own coping mechanisms surrounding her attitude. I’d better learn to calm down and pace this out, because her academic road is no longer a marathon; it’s going to be an Ironman instead. It’s healthier and more productive for us to move forward with this mindset, looking for long-term solutions, as opposed to banging our heads against a wall, trying to fix that which may never change. It was worth every ounce of effort to teach her to knock down the wall, and to a great extent, she has. She can compute, after all. She just can’t remember where she put answers. Sometimes, she tosses one out, and for a second, the hope rises up. But then, in a blink, it’s gone again. Thank God for the teachers who at least got the answers in there! Because of them, she can WORK the calculator!

Sara has Dyscalculia. She’s always had it. She will always have it. It’s permanent. I’m supposed to insert some quippy Doogie-Howser-esque piece of wisdom here that makes us all feel better about Learning Differences, ADHD, and parenthood in general. But life isn’t a sitcom, and Doogie Howser didn’t have Dyscalculia. Wicked sense of comedic timing and a profoundly gifted actor, but I’m guessing he can do things like…DIVIDE SMALL NUMBERS FROM MEMORY.

So here’s what I’ve got: Parenthood isn’t for wimps, so this is no time to be a pussy. Now we adapt. Now we man-up. We go into the unknown armed with the one thing we’ll need: our love and acceptance of Sara is permanent. Or, in a more succinct summary from Greg, “She’s totally normal in the grand scheme of life, and we have every reason to believe she’ll grow up to have a normal life. Everything she’ll ever need has already been covered by technology. Lori, she’s not an asshole. Assholes have miserable lives, and they don’t know why. You can give a kid a calculator, a thousand Apps, and an iPhone that tells her the time, but you can’t fix an asshole.”


So there you have it: Don’t be a pussy. Don’t be an asshole. You may find more eloquent parenting advice, but it will be no less accurate, or permanent. Hang in there with me, my friends. This ride only gets more interesting evra’-single-DAY…

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Postcards from the Cottage, Vol. 3

November 25th, 2014 · 2 Comments


The winds knock them over, I set them back up. The winds knock them over, I set them back up. Repeat. Again. Tell myself I must weight them down with something, and that’s what I get for buying them on clearance at Big Lots. Get lazy and decide maybe they look kind of cute on their sides. Curse the wind and the early snow. Repeat.

Ideas for weighting down outdoor decorations? Please don’t tell Greg I need to do it. He’ll attach concrete blocks to the bases and try to convince me it looks just fine.

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Sara’s Textured Guest Room

November 21st, 2014 · 6 Comments


Greg’s parents are coming for Thanksgiving, and while the Guest Room was nowhere on the “moving budget” priority list, I couldn’t help but want to fix it up a bit. I went to “the bank” (aka GREG), and inquired about the balance remaining in la budget de moving. The automated recording (which sounded a whole lot like a dude I know named GREG) said, “Zero dollars AND zero cents”. Huh. I could have sworn I started out with way more than that? So I decided to shake my penny bank (also, it looks suspiciously like someone named Greg), and I did manage to find a few dollars and a few cents. “Few” being the key words in this project.

I then went to my in-residence decorator, aka Sara. She quickly pulled out her Franck accent from “Father of the Bride” and said, “That’s NOT MUCH, but we do it anyway, and it will be FABOOLUS.”


The girls and I sat in this room, awaiting inspiration. And we sat. And we sat. Finally, I dozed off, and Kelly put a duck on my head. I woke up with a 32 year old stuffed animal on my face. Pleasant. We took stock of what we had: 2 gallons of clay beige paint, left over from the first floor, and one old duck. Huh. Not much. Sara said, “I GOT IT! Textures. This room should be nothing but layers of textures. Not entirely monochromatic, but close.” Kelly said, “BORING”, and stomped out, taking my duck with her. But I immediately knew Sara was on the right track.


The word “texture” was the inspiration we needed. I’ve noticed that while many things from the old house just doesn’t match the new house, some of it DOES fit, just not in its original order. Sara and I took our little budget and headed to Target, because they sell a lot of wood, and white, and “textured” things. We rummaged through the house and gathered what we had. We felt like we were on HGTV, but that show doesn’t lie: we did have some things to use: a mirror, a bureau, a lamp, curtains, and grasses.


Primarily, we had plenty of this fabric. This heavy, horrible, almost-ended-my-marriage fabric (kidding, but I still don’t think Greg’s forgiven me for not finishing the old curtain project). I saved for months to buy just a ridiculous amount of this extremely thick decorator fabric to make curtains for our old home. I lined them and I sewed and sewed and sewed. I didn’t even get through half the project before I nearly blew out my thumb joint, which to this day, has yet to fully heal. But I’ll be darned if this isn’t the prettiest brown textured fabric…and bonus, I think it’s bullet-proof. The curtains came with us, so 2 panels went up on a new rod.


I had plenty still on the bolt, and after brainstorming with Greg, we designed a faux¬† fabric headboard. Greg created a sliding system using 45 degree angles and wood, so essentially, the headboard just slides onto the wall. It doesn’t have legs. and my wild plan to glue it to the wall wasn’t so great. I’m kidding…I wouldn’t have really glued it to the wall (but pre-marriage, I TOTALLY would have glued it to the wall).


Making fabric headboards is not rocket-sewing. One large piece of plywood, 4 boards cut at corresponding angles, and a staple gun. I used 3 layers of batting, wrapped the middle with the contrasting cream fabric (also bought many years ago and never used…ugh). and then made my design on the front with my brown fabric. I had to sew the edges by hand in a few places, but luckily, I still own the “world’s largest needle”, which one needs to get through this fabric. It’s less like a needle, and more like a steak knife.

Did I re-injure my hand? Of course I did.


Was it worth it? Oh yeah! The mirror was a gift from my Grandparents when I bought my first home. The bedding we bought at Target, along with the wreath and the tree pictures. The light I scored at Lowe’s, on sale, plus I used a coupon. I ordered $7 worth of risers to lift the bed. I always, always lift beds: A) you can fit things underneath them, and B) beds just look prettier lifted.


The bedside tables also came from Target, again, on sale and I had a coupon. The trays I picked up for $6 at Home Goods, because to quote my friend Sumi, “EVERYONE needs little silver bedside trays with reindeer heads”. Even though parts of this room have a winter/Xmas theme, I’m leaving it up year ’round. Antlers are a year-rounder in cold weather climates; it’s written into our state laws.


The grasses used to sit on the mantel at the old house, and after much looking around for a table to sit them on, I found this candle holder in the back of the clearance section at Home Goods. I took out the insert and turned it into a vase, because with cats, these grassed needed to be IN something (unless I want to see them in liquid form on my living room carpet).


The lamp will eventually be replaced with a white lamp, but I have always loved the one which sits there now. Greg got a good laugh when I sat it on my cutting board shaped like Nantucket, but tradition is tradition: all rooms have one antique (my Great Aunt Mildred’s bureau), and one inspiration from Nantucket (my other home). The eggs in the bowl I bought in a dead lady’s basement many moons ago. Different from the dead lady’s basement where I bought the base of Sara’s Halloween costume. Do I LIKE estate sales? In the same way everyone needs antler heads in their guest rooms!


NOW I’m ready for Thanksgiving. I’m excited about Sara’s potential should she choose to go into interior design. Sara sees colors and combinations in a way similar to her Aunt Jenny, meaning, she just “gets it”. Last week I was dressing for an event, and knew my ensemble wasn’t working. I asked for Sara’s help, to which I received, “Well, if you were trying to go ALL 80’s, just got there, that’s for sure. Take out those hot pink earrings because the embroidered sleeves of that sweater are the focal point. Put in your brown crystal earrings and switch out the hot pink shoes for your brown and black leather wedges. But keep the hot pink Chanel crossover bag. That just works. NOW you’re ready.”

DUDE. We cannot lose Sara. We NEED her MIND! (Again, “Father of the Bride”, because those quotes work everywhere.) Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you are anticipating guests, good food, time spent near a hearth with a nice glass of wine, and days full of good times. Godspeed, my friends. Godspeed.


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By Hook Or Crook, We Have A Winner!

November 19th, 2014 · 3 Comments


I chose this picture because it was taken moments after Sara ate her very first Bark Cookie. She swears she remembers this moment, as it was one of the best days of her life. I quickly realized I’d given her a form of Kiddie-Crack, because she picked up this stack of wrapping paper and told me she was going to wrap all the presents. And decorate the tree. And call Santa. And, “HEY! Boppa! Tam I hab nover chocy tookie? I NEEB IT. PWEEESSE.” (“Hey! Momma! Can I have another chocolate cookie? I NEED IT! Please.”) Kelly was in her exersaucer, watching Sara dash from one end of the living room to the other, chanting, “Chock-ee Tookie, Chock-ee Tookie”. Ah yes, the Bark Cookies. I’ve seen them have this effect on adults as well. The recipe can be found here, and they are deceptively easy to make. I have no idea why they push people over the edge into pure joy (as I’ve never tasted them due to my chocolate allergy), but they are my most requested item. I’ve literally made thousands in my lifetime.

NOW…let’s get to the naming! While I enjoyed the many, many names which rolled in, one reminded me so much of the theme of this house and my naming conventions, that it stuck:

SO, our WINNER IS!….M3 with “Hook and Crook!!!

Hook and Crook are the ovens’ nicknames, as they are now collectively known as “The Brotherhood of Thieves”. The name dates back to 1844 when a Nantucket Native wrote a pamphlet, raging against the atrocities of slavery. Nantucket, at that time (and since its inception), was where one lived if he or she had a spirit independent of the current American standards. The name was the inspiration for a restaurant which opened the year of my birth named “The Brotherhood of Thieves”, a restaurant still open to this day. I have whiled away many happy hours there, eating chowder and cheeseburgers, drinking cider, and laughing with my friends. As Nantucket is a fishing island, Hook and Crook paired with The Brotherhood of Thieves felt right. My cars have always had Nantucket-themed names (The Grey Lady, The Chicken Box), and because I built this house to remind me of a Nantucket Cottage, this collection of names matches my decorating!

The entries were great. I long thought the ovens WOULD be named Julie and Julia, or something French (more on why closer to the holidays). I considered naming them after my favorite chefs, but Colicchio and Voltaggio are a mouthful. Certainly naming them after my favorite restaurants would be fun too, but again, “Black Eye Susans” and “The Cru Cafe” are too long. Meshach and Shadrach were so great, and ironic, and Biblical. And well…Brian? I know you wanted it most. Don’t worry…I won’t forget Team Barth this holiday season. Old people names match my cats, and Smoky and the Bandit was so cute. I loved ALL of the ideas! For whatever reason, the girls voted for John Henry! They are such good Americans. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone for having fun with me this week.

By Hook & Crook, we’ll have another contest soon, I’m sure! And M3, I’ll be in touch! I’d tell you to gift these to the twins’ teachers, but I know you love chocolate. I’m so happy a famous chocoholic is going to get a box of Bark Cookies this Christmas! It’s officially Holiday Baking Season! GO! GO! GO!




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