Sunday, November 30, 2008

the finale

If I weren't posting daily, I'd skip writing this today, and I'd come back after the words had been simmering on low for a spell. But it's the last day of NaBloPoMo and so you get me in the middle of a migraine.

It's not the recipe for writing well.

I should have known it was coming this morning, carrying over from the night before, when simple Christmas carols at church did me in. My left eye kept discreetly crying quiet tears that I could not rein in. Even my daughter teased me; I didn't know her class had crept up on the balcony, with the adults during the Advent season. I love that she heard about the wells being drilled in Liberia. I love that she heard it from more than my mouth. But as we left she did a perfect imitation of my tear blotting, on the left side only, and I had to laugh. My girl had me pegged.

(I'll try to fill you in on Living Water International this week - the group my church has partnered with - and the work we are entering into with the city of Portland for high school drop-outs, as I get to it this week. But I'm in bad shape right now.)

So I opted for a nap this afternoon or at least to rest a bit (still can't lie/lay down) while my kids kept asking if I was ready to decorate our tree. How about now? Um, now?

I finally gave up.

I'm up. My head hurts and my heart hurts but in a good way. The way that reminds me how rich and sweet my life is; how fortunate I am.

And I guess that's how we'll sum up this month of posts: Grateful and teary and little worn out but ready for good things to come.

I'm waiting, arms open wide.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

in a blur

I woke up, feeling like last night's Christmas tree. Or Greg's interpretation anyway.

Where oh where did the year go?

December is right around the corner. If you need me, I will practicing deep breathing exercises in a corner. I've got a brown paper bag handy, just in case.

At least we snapped a picture this year, without some punks ruining all the fun.

Friday, November 28, 2008


While many Americans warmed up their engines in the dark this morning - in search of bargains and shopping nirvana - and I turned off my alarm clock, my household at rest.

My kids, camping in our spare room.

Greg, not on the road.

I never have understood Black Friday.

I hosted my first Thanksgiving yesterday; the bird was fine, the company finer. Everything seemed as it should, well, except for my pie.

I tried my hand at Nora's Shoo-Fly Pie featured recently at BeanPlate, but all my crumbs settled deep into the goo - why, crumbs, why - dashing any hopes I had at resurrecting the dead and solving murders in whimical clothes.

(All my hopes have been dashed. Drat!)

A pie-maker I am not. Not yet anyway.

But I think I'll savor the moments with Zack in the kitchen, sprinkling those disobedient crumbs; Lexi listening to the radio and performing surgeries on sickly stuffed creatures along side us.

These will remain.

No sale or show can compete with these short hours before time and demands pull us back and apart, leaving us with little to show for.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

thankful thankful thankful

Lexi and Zack with their cousins, Austin and Caden. Lincoln City, Oregon

Need I say more?

The best to you all, dear reader. May your life be full, and blessed.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

space chimps

Sometimes my maternal instinct allows me to rent movies that my better self frowns at, and then I invite family over, as to ruin them all in one big swoop.

ItalicItalic Not that they seemed to mind, plied with macaroni and cheese, and blankies and special stuffed animals.

The littlest chimp came wandering up the stairs, near the end of the movie, while I was adjusting my DVR to record the additional 8 minutes of House, proclaiming in his thick 3 year-old accent that he didn't 'yike dat moky movie' - code for 'when is my Mom coming back to get me'.

So we burrowed in my bed and giggled while he told me things about his house and his bed and he explained to me that my lack of 'weenus' means I am a girl.

He covered the color of his eyes and the fact that Uncle Gweg is the only one with bwue eyes, and that my iron isn't a boy.

(There was a distinct penis theme emerging; imagine that.)

And out of the blue, he looked up - searching for the right words - and adamantly assured me that he has 'a neck. I rweally do'.

I love the random words he shares, the things that cross his mind.

I spent the next 10 minutes chasing him around, my head hunched in the no-neck posture while he squealed, enduring smooches and begging for more until the doorbell rang and he rushed to greet his Mommy.

I may have been neck-less, but Caden, rest assured, you'll always have Aunt Sissy's heart.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

bundle up and head to library; I'll make tea

Frightful weather looming? It's time for some recommendations:

I picked up Turning Angel last week, an audio to clean to. It's a little gritty - as murder mysteries tend to be - but Iles is a master of spinning creepy Southern tales. (I love Dick Hill's southern accent on CD, deep and low.)

Zack picked this one up at his school's book fair and inhaled it over the next 2 days. Not bad for a 7 year old. Little Artie is based on Arthurian legend, and we can't wait for more in the series.

Lexi picked up A Crooked Kind of Perfect at the Scholastic book fair too, and unlike her recent book cast offs - she really loses interest fast, it seems - she finished this in days and has been begging me to read it too.

Got a little one underfoot? A scad of little children? This is one of my favorite little books about faith and hope, one my children memorized and read to me until the board book fell apart.
(I can't deny it gives me a little boost too.)

And I'm off this morning to pick up this gem from my library, from one of my favorite authors, Haven Kimmel. (I'm picking it up in both forms so I can read before bed and listen to it while make cranberry sauce tomorrow. I can't wait.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

of turkey trots and rambling


That's how I would characterize November and all this striving is exhausting. This trying and falling short has made me nervous too, and insecure, and there's nothing I like less than when I'm dwelling on whether or not I'm measuring up.

But I'm still posting every day and writing - although I've decided that 30 days just isn't enough for me to crank out a novel. I hate admitting that aloud, but the twists and turns writing this month have moved my story along, and for that I am grateful.

I am also hosting Thanksgiving this year, and there isn't enough wine in the world to ward off my Grandma's criticisms. Knowing she will be hovering, asking why I did this and why I didn't do that doesn't exactly relax my mind or build my confidence, but in the end, it is dinner and there will be food and fun and family. And if I'm honest, that's really all I care about: Down time with my husband for four days, lots of food and remembering just how fortunate we really are, even if I 'do it wrong' by a certain matriarch's standards.

(There will be no nasty Jell-o salads offered up. Oh the scorn! Oh the drama to be heaped upon my head.)

I had mentioned to Greg some weeks ago that we should also host a big turkey trot, down by the lake. We would gather at the shore and get our blood pumping before the big feast.

After clarifying that I wanted to go for an early morning hike in November, most likely in the rain, when we could sleep in like sane people, he said he would support ME doing anything I like that morning, as long as he could stay in bed and watch football.

I can't say that I blame him. He's always up early, traveling, running on fumes.

But like most things I took on this month, I'm itching to give it a try even if it's just the kids and I and a lonely lake.

Sometimes you have to keep moving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

as I live and breathe

Vancouver bloggers: Miss Burrows, me, Shana, Holly & Stephanie.
(Still invisible: Jen the entourage)

I start too many sentences with stories about bloggers; anecdotes of friends across the miles.

It's all the better, when we get to meet up...

Friday, November 21, 2008

ALARM! Snooze?

My cell phone has been sitting in for my vacationing alarm clock.

The chime? Gentle.

The methodology? Perfect.

I have to pick up the phone and read to hit snooze; the Atari era bell graphics always amuse me, even when I'm saying 'yes, please' to more sleep.

My reader is full; I've been away from my computer. I will be by soon...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

wishful thinking

The pencil that scandalized a household. (We don't say 'shut up' at our house - foul words, yes - but not 'shut up'. It's rude.)

I picked this up at Wordstock. It makes me smile every time I see it.

(And it sure beats the 'shut-up-and-clean-your-house-on-the-market-that-hasn't-seen-a-buyer-in-weeks-after-another-field-trip-in-the-pouring-rain' pencil.)

(And at the risk of filling my parentheses quota for the month, I must say that I have been surprised by all the field trips too, but I guess we are fitting in our science requirements for our state's standardized testing early in the year, requirements that used to be fed by the recently cancelled outdoor school. This one's artsy, right up my alley: The fourth and fifth grade classes are marching down the road, to our high school's production of Witches this afternoon. I can't wait.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

mid-life crisis looming

I spent my day on the banks of the mighty Columbia River yesterday with 22 fifth graders; the one in the curls giggling with her friends was mine.

We tested the river's ph and wrote hypotheses and conclusions - well, they did, I made sure they came home intact, and handed out the goggles - and tried our hands at being scientists.

And there I was, in the sand, approaching 38 thinking: Why didn't I become a science teacher? Followed by: This must be a taste of mid-life lunancy, the questioning of lost possibilities that never occurred to me before.

My husband? He could be a muckety-muck in Scienceland, he who chooses documentaries about black holes over perfectly good new House episodes.

But besides that Biology student of the year thing in 9th grade, earned by my goody-good nature over anything seriously academic, I've always been an artsy girl. Chasing after the wind.

Chasing a ministry degree, in a program for men only


I'm a dreamer in the worst sort of way.

But I liked the feel of wet mud in my hands, the freckles on the nose of a boy paying attention to the thermometer in the earth. There was something solid to be found in those scattered leaves, collecting data and listening to a 11 year old boy recount his first breakup.

(I did not let on to my opinion of such drama. My eyes did not roll even once.)

So, I plan to turn to what I know best, and I will wrap up these memories for safe keeping, to be savored in the words I will write, captured in stories I will tell, and stories I will keep, when my field trip days are through.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

a case for chaste characters

My poor characters will be living the upright, nay, uptight life, with no rest in sight because I can never keep these straight.

(Lexi and I just returned from a field trip to the Columbia River and I am beginning to thaw out, get dinner on the table. Days like these make me wonder why I didn't become a teacher. And no, I'm not being a sass mouth.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

the recession post, take two

I started writing a post about the recession this morning - and let's face it: it's here - and it became this rambling rant, one part fear and despair and two parts pep talk and false optimism.

I don't know if I can do better, the second time around, but let me try.

I feel like I am forever flinching when I turn on the news or read a paper. I am waiting for the other foot to drop.

And this waiting, even though we are just fine today - and I am thankful - motivates me to do something, to prepare for harder times to come, but I'm not exactly sure what I should be doing.

I am applying for part-time jobs, to return to work to provide some cushion in our bank accounts. (My husband is in sales, after all.)

I am volunteering more than ever at the school because our volunteering pool is feeling the pinch as many stay at home parents are returning to work and our resources are tapped out.

I am budgeting, using a calculator at the grocery store like my Mom used to do in lean times, leaving us enough to buy extra for the canned food drive, because the need is greater this year.

And though I am nervous, I try to remember we made it through some tough times before. Greg worked for two companies after 9/11 that went belly up in a 10 month period; I resorted to cleaning puppy delivery rooms for my Grandma's kennel, to get us through.

It was miserable, make no mistake, but we got through it.

What about you, dear reader? I've heard the pundits; I want to hear from my people. Is this recession hype or are you hunkering down with me, plotting your escape to the woods, Thoreau style?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

my people

When my Mom called out sick Friday, I knew I was going to have to dig deep for alternatives.

Zack was particularly glum, losing a weekend with his grandparents, so he invited one of his very best friends over to play Saturday morning, while I cleaned the house and applied for menial jobs online.

(More on that later.)

It seemed like a just solution, especially considering he tromped around IKEA for hours with four generations of his women kin the weekend before.

They played Star Wars, the video game, and Star Wars, pretend like I am choking you ala Vader, and ran around the backyard yipping and yowling.

When it came time for lunch, they walked in, arm in arm, and Zack wished aloud that Dominic was his cousin, cousin being top billing in Zack's world. (Just ask Austin.)

Dominic stopped and said something that really sums up how I feel whenever I turn to my Google Reader or walk into church or stop by for a cocktail on a late Friday afternoon at my friends' house:

You are my people.

And that really makes life sweet indeed.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


all my memories
sad and happy, become one
without a context
all things might be beautiful
some day my sorrow will be too

Friday, November 14, 2008


I was last week's mystery reader in Zack's second grade class and I was treated like a rock star when I read Beware of the Storybook Wolves, by Lauren Child.

Rock. Star.


Zack told everyone I am a writer and I answered earnest questions posed by earnest 7 year old boys and girls, about my life as such.

And while I was riding high on the Second Grade Adoration Express, Zack decided to mention that one time, I 'said the 's' word at him because I was being a BAD MOMMY'. To the entire class. And his teacher.

With that, I was deflated but bounced back with record speed, proving I could too have a career in politics, as I steered this press core back to books and reading and literacy and I AM TOO A GOOD MOMMY except for the times when I am not and I say bad words about messy rooms.

That'll teach me.

Thankfully, they didn't hold my imperfect ways against me and Zack brought me 23 thank you notes, on orange paper to suit my pumpkin-loving fancy.

I'm keeping these handy. It should help quell my foul mouth.

Here's some of my favorites:

Dear Mrs. Lisa,
Thank you for coming and reading to us. I hope that Zach loves you and you love him. That book that you read us, I think I sort of like the book. Love, O

Or how about:

Dear Mom,
Thank you for reading us that wolf book. You are very nice! Thank you so much! I hope you come back with a better book! Your son, Zack
(We're clearly going to have to work on that exclamation point addiction he is developing. *sigh*)

On that note, I'm off to remedy what some people - I'm looking at you, son - consider to be my iffy judgment in the book picking department. It's nothing an afternoon at the library can't fix.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

all that drama for nothing

Everything is just fine. The kind people at Epic Imaging made the mammogram and ultrasound not a bit scary; my Mom drove me there as Greg was out of town and my kids were in good, loving hands.

I'm supposed to keep an eye on the area - or a finger, like my funny tech said.

I'm so relieved.

Thanks for all your warm comments, thoughts and prayers.

You are the best.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

moving forward and sitting still

I wrote this yesterday. I am committed to raising my word count today before my mammogram this afternoon. Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. *L


I am watching my 4 year old neighbor glide down the wet pavement in his red boots, grinding what wet leaves are left into paste while his dad patiently strides behind him.

That Eddie, is a good father. It's not even 4 pm, and daylight is fading and up and down, he follows his boy while I actively avoid writing.

I've been busy, active, on the move. Parades, plays and literary festivals. When I am moving, I don't worry.

Sitting at the computer gives me time to dwell on tomorrow's appointment and my google fingers get twitchy.

At least until now. Today, I'm feeling calm and I'm able to get back to my never neverland, a fictional town found only in my mind's eye. A private map.

I hear Lincoln logs clinking above me - a reprieve from the day's bickering - and there's tea on the stove.

I might be behind, but I've decided to stay with this nano pledge and see it through, chasing behind a story ten steps ahead of me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

veterans day parade

We weren't alone in the rain, honoring our vets.
To the men and women, who have served and continue to serve: Thank you.

And to those who make our lives sweeter, serving here too.
(Bad Mom clapped for every single entry in the pouring rain. She likes the street cred afforded by the title of being Bad and all, but between us, she's got a heart of gold. Shhh.)

wordstock part 2: strippers and halloween candy

I had a dilemma: Either take the kids to the Wordstock Festival with me - after our pilgrimage to IKEA with my Mom and Grandma - and have them sit through an author reading or let them miss out on the whole thing, staying home with Greg, watching football.

Because, in this instance, I could have left them at home.

But I wanted them to wonder around and see the hundreds of people, swarming tables full of books, wearing t-shirts and pens, admonishing us to write, and read.

I wanted them to pick up a water bottle and take home a Powell's book bag.

And there's no denying my belief that if I just expose them to this writer's life, it will stick. That they will find the power in words, the comfort in writing.

So, they sat with their own books in hand and a stash of leftover Halloween candy, as Andre Dubus III started to read from his new book, The Garden of Last Days.

Dubus, signing books after his reading. I'm kicking myself for missing out on his writing workshop yesterday. I always have regrets, post-Wordstock. (I missed Jane Hamilton last year. She's one of my favorites.)

Would I have changed my plans if I knew that Dubus would be reading from the point of view of a stripper, and a would-be terrorist?

I don't think so. I struggle with what is appropriate for my kids and I believe as parents we have to screen what our kids are exposed to - on TV, in our communities - even miscommunication on the playground.

(Zack came home with some really *interesting* ideas about the candidates in last week's election. Oh the crazy!)

I err on the side of communication. Whether we are discussing homeless Veterans at a parade, or gay marriage, or if my kids were to bring up what they heard at the reading, although they didn't seem to be paying attention, frankly - these were all things we talked about over just this past weekend - I delight in the conversation and the way it makes them stretch their hearts and their minds.

Some mornings, I want to wrap my sweet babes in bubble wrap and call it good.

Stick my head in the sand.

My kids are bombarded with information every day.

My peace of mind comes from walking beside them, ready to listen, while they tromp through the leaves on a rainy fall afternoon, book bags slung over their shoulders.

Zack whistles as we go and Lexi stops talking about bedspreads for once, and brings up writing her own blog.

Mission feels accomplished. At least for today.

wordstock...is for word lovers

Day one with Stephanie.
Day two with my kids.

I love Portland.

(I'll fill you in tomorrow. I owe my hungry family some promised enchiladas and kidritas. Classy.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Columbia Gorge field trip

Columbia Gorge, October '08
Where salmon spawn and bears hide when the 5th graders arrive.

lisa & lexi on field trip, multnomah falls
The silly self-portrait at Multnomah Falls, October 2008.
(Lexi and Lisa)

Friday, November 07, 2008


I was planning to write an update about our math curriculum, but I am wholly distracted.

I tell myself not to worry; I'm an optimistic by nature. I'm always looking for the silver lining.

But I had to schedule a diagnostic mammogram for next Wednesday, after discovering a lump last week and seeing the doctor Tuesday.

I had expected the naturopath to poo-poo my concern, given my age, and my low risk rate, based on family history. I didn't expect the referral.

I didn't expect the spiel I received, over the phone, when I made the appointment.

It just hit me hard. I found myself startled when the words 'ultrasound' and 'biopsy' were mentioned during my intake interview; the implication sinking in. I met Greg at the door, weepy and nervous.

I feel less shaky this morning. I do better with facts than speculation so I vowed not to google anything else until I get this thing over with. I'd gladly step up to the machine this very hour, if I could.

Today there are groceries to buy, and a writing commitment that's flagging. Bathrooms to clean.

Maybe those distractions will bring me back into the present, where there is nothing to do but wait and hope.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

ravioli lasagna, as I race out the door

When we staged our place last summer, we rearranged our furniture and with the move, our TV lost touch with the cable socket/connector. The two considered carrying on a long distance relationship, but we all know how that usually turns out, so they made a clean break and I haven't had cable downstairs, leaving me more time to write ridiculous run on sentences.

At the time, the sun was shining and I was all la-di-dah, we don't need no stinkin' TV, we just need sunshine and swimming lessons and green, green grass.

(I was high on sunlight. And a bit of a moron.)

But times change, and now I am all, I need my TV to keep me company - wah wah wah - until my Dad said he would set me up, just in time for the election coverage.

I decided to make something like our friends had served us recently, a cheeky lasagna, made with raviolis.

I would have preferred to assemble dinner before my Grandma loomed nearby, asking me why I wasn't measuring things, or wondering if I had the Thanksgiving menu figured out yet.

(Um, no.)

But it came together just fine, unlike this sorry fast post, and it got rave reviews, all around.

Ravioli Lasagna, mama milton style

2 family size bags of raviolis (we chose simple cheese, because my kids like that best.)
1 jar of vodka marinara sauce (I lurve, yes, lurve - don't judge - Trader Joe's brand)
a couple of cups of mozzarella cheese
a couple of cups of chicken (or spinach or tofu, if you swing veggie)

See? Easy.

  • Boil up those tender raviolis and put to the side as you heat your oven at 375.
  • Run your knife through cooked chicken, until you have bite sized pieces. I did the same to a cup of artichoke hearts, because everything is better with a little heart.
  • Layer your lasagna: Sauce, raviolis, meat or spinach mixture, cheese. Repeat 3x in a large casserole dish.
  • I sprinkled a little oregano and basil and Parmesan cheese on mine and slapped it in the oven for 15 minutes, heating it through.
  • I served it with salad and garlic bread. It's always a marvel when my Grandma and kids want seconds of the same dish. I think this easy meal is a winner.
I've off to the school for coffee talk with our principal, where the conversation always seems to come back to our crazy math curriculum.

And then I have leaves to rake and words - OH THE MANY WORDS I OWE NANO - to write.

Rosalind Joffe wrote a guest post at Much to My Sjogren today. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I love her small hands, her keen eyes. She cares for the smallest of creatures.
I want a heart, after my daughter's own.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

sensible center

I heard the phrase a couple of weeks ago, another term for us independents, often scoffed at and silly in such a hot race.

I don't belong to either party. I'm egregiously liberal in some respects; surprisingly conservative in others, and though neither party has captured my allegiance, democracy makes me heart race.

I believe that leadership may be crucial, but action begins in my backyard.

I believe in being the people and the country I want my kids to inherit. I believe our finest years are ahead of us because despite all the crap, we can be an amazing, good people.

I am heading to the drop off early this morning, our ballots in hand, hopeful we will get it right, right about now, when it counts.

Monday, November 03, 2008

this november writing season brought to you by the Monkees

'Well, hello there. It's so nice of you to stop by. We here at mama milton are working hard to produce posts and prose and...'

You're not really going to go along with her little speech, are you? She delivered us from her mother's toy chest - a relic from childhood? that's a nice how do you do - and then proceeded to stuff us in a basket all summer. Blog fodder? She's lazy.

She's been busy is all. We've been safe there, with her stationary. Protected from the kids.
Is that what she tells you? Look who's nipping your arse, right now. She doesn't even have our names straight. She was referring to us as Monkee #1, and Monkee #2 this morning, when she was directing her puppeteer*.
And then Monkee #1 and Monkee #2 (also known as the naughty Monkee) began swinging and a Monkee melee ensued until they were escorted back to basket storage, next to my fancy author stationary and Christmas list, spared from our storage unit last July.

Stay tuned for more Monkee adventures while I go ape, writing a book this month.

(I say that frequently and aloud, so it sinks in. And then I pass out.)

*The Milton Puppeteers are well compensated under the Halloween Candy Act of 2008, a provision they fought for when they formed a union, just today.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

in for a penny, in for a pound

Of flesh, that is. Painful, carpal tunnel inducing flesh, pounding the keys, all month long.

And I'm terribly excited.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

mental illness runs in my family

I took the plunge. I have no idea how to use their word count yet, so I think this means I'm officially behind on the first day, at 9 am.

But this feels like the kick in the pants I need.