Megali - adjective, noun - adjective 1. great or big in Greek -noun 1.. A nickname derived from my first and middle names

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tabula Rasa at Rosh Hashanah

Dear Me,

Once upon a time, a high school English teacher discussed the theory of Tabula Rasa and ever since, it's resonated with you (and, hey, it was even the name of an episode of your beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)  While it's not the philosphical concept, but rather the accepted translation of the phrase, know it's an amazing gift you've received today: a clean slate!

Make it a good and sweet year/life.  So many new things and second chances have opened up for you recently.  Now it's time for you to live boldly!

Super excited but will kick your heinie if you squander this opportunity

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday

I implore you: take care of your family photos.  Also?  Label them with date, location and the names of people in them.  Future generations of your family will greatly appreciate your efforts!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Root Candles

BzzAgent is a word-of-mouth marketing firm and they "love helping awesome people try awesome products and share their awesome opinions about them."  They've launched a new feature called The Daily Bzz, in which you prove you deserve a spot in an upcoming campaign by doing something, well, awesome!  Today's Daily Bzz is one I'd love to be in on: Root Candles

"Since 1869, Root Candles of Medina, Ohio, has been an industry-leading, family-owned company renowned for innovative ideas, aesthetic enhancements and the highest standards of quality. Now in its fifth generation, the Root family continues to extol the virtues of honesty, integrity, and diligent craftsmanship. These qualities were exemplified by Root Candles founding father and American original, Amos Ives Root.
His tradition of excellence, along with a genuine commitment to customer satisfaction and service, defines and fuels Root’s strong brand loyalty today. Root Candles devotion to purity, honesty and quality is renowned. Each Root candle is carefully handcrafted using processes mastered through five generations of craftsmanship combined with the latest in manufacturing technologies. The results are pure and simple: Root Candles are highly regarded for complex bouquets of subtle fragrances and sophisticated color palettes, important factors for discerning candle lovers.

Today, Root Candles can confidently lay claim to making 'The Best Candles in America, Made in America Since 1869.' " - Root Candles History

I'm jonesing for the Root Candles campaign because for a little while I lived in Medina, Ohio, where Root Candles are made. Their flagship store and factory outlet are spectacular! In fact, if you received a present from me in 2008, odds are it came from either the flagship store or factory outlet.  I take great pride in whatever town I've been able to call home, even if it is only temporarily, and the town and people of Medina are still held fondly in my heart.  While I can find Root products in area stores, it's not quite the same.  Earning a spot would be like a little piece of my old home delivered right to my door. I have yet to attain a Daily Bzz campaign, so my fingers are crossed for this one!

Amos Ives (A.I.) Root, the founder of Root Candles, left an indelible print on Earth.  The Medina City School District's mascot is the Battling Bees, in honor of A.I. Root's affinity for bee keeping and subsequent moniker in fifteen languages, "the bee man."  Were we still living there when the boys reached middle school age, they would have walked to a school named after him.  The company continues to promote the science of bee keeping via Bee Culture.  Given concerns like colony collapse disorder, such a resource is incredibly important.  I was surprised to learn that A.I. Root influenced people from the history books, like Helen Keller and the Wright Brothers.  As quoted above, starting with the company's founding father, Root Candles is still a family-owned and operated American business, in its fifth generation!

As one can see straight from their What's New page, Bzz Agent and Root Candles go hand in hand: "We love our Social Media Busy Bees, and we show that love by letting you know about new innovations first!"

What makes your current or previous town special?  Are there any products you associate with the place you call or called home?

Monday, September 26, 2011


A short little post dedicated to a warm weather phenomenon.  Given that the temperatures in my part of the world have dropped from the 100s and 90s to the 70s and 60s this September, I don't imagine we'll be seeing him again until next year.

I'm talking about the ice cream man.

When we last heard the tell-tale melody announcing his arrival, the boys sprung up and out the door.  Slim did an amusing little dance on our lawn; he wanted to be sure he caught the driver's attention!

I remember when my Dad and I chased down the ice cream man for several blocks when I was around Slim's age.  Did we get into the car?  I'm not certain, but even 20-odd years later, a warm, fuzzy, loving feeling surrounds that particular memory.  One thing my parents taught me is that life is better when you have a good time - and bring others along for the ride!
The memories enhance this experience with my own children.

Getting an ice cream sandwich for the last time this season was the simplest of things.  But sometimes it feels good to show love simply.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

School on the Steps

Since Slim is not currently enrolled in preschool, I've started doing some structured schooling at home.  Yet, I'm reticent to call it homeschooling.  I've even named my favorites folder School at "Home (but not homeschool)"  I'm not anti-homeschool.  And before I sound like a stupid bigot and spout, "I have friends who homeschool", I'll just stop there.  Except I didn't.  I said it anyway, didn't I?  Well, I'm genuinely not anti-homeschool and if pressed, couldn't answer why I'm reluctant to say I'm doing a homeschool preschool for the boys.  It's all in the semantics.  Ask R - I'm big on semantics. 

I have a school area set up at the bottom of the stairs in our finished basement.  Thanks to where we're doing the learning, I've titled our school at home homeschool school at home oh, just get over it already and figure out what the hangup is school, School on the Steps

I'm trying to have movement, literacy, science, and math.  Our first lessons were about the letter A

- We sang the ABCs
- Talked about the sound the letter A makes
- What animals start with the letter A?  Slim immediately shouted, "Ape"  Other A animals he came up with were, ants, antelope, alligator
- What foods start with the letter A?  apple
- What family member has a name that starts with the letter A?  Auntie A
- What transportation starts with A?  Airplane
- Drew the letter A with sidewalk chalk on our back patio
- Wrote some words and had Slim identify and circle the letter A
- Made an alligator craft with clothes pins, green glitter paint and googly eyes and then sang about teasing monkeys and sneaky alligators
- Brain Quest tracing writing A
- Manipulated our fingers and stretched our bodies into the shape of the letter A

I've made a felt board and am eager to incorporate that into our lessons.  I'm taking a lot of ideas from Slim's old Montessori preschool and the handy dandy internet.

Here's some of the sites I imagine I'll be resourcing most:

- Montessori for Everyone free downloads

- The Artful Parent

- Counting Coconuts

- Preschool Alphabet

- Midwest Homeschoolers Kansas City area field trip ideas

- 1+1+1=1 ... Tot Trays

- home is wherever I'm with you

Make new friends, but keep the old ...

As you know, we recently moved out of state and I miss my friends terribly!  Thankfully, the Midwest is proving to be wonderful - I truly love it here, but as I said in a text to a treasured Florida friend, "I miss ... friends.  We're in that blah stage where we've met people, but no real friends yet." I am desperately seeking interaction for me and the boys, adult conversation, friendship.

The push pedal tractors were a huge hit with the boys!
It is SO hard to move to a new area where I don't know ANYONE and it takes a great deal of courage for this self-described homebody to venture out and meet other moms, attempt to have a conversation that goes beyond small talk, approach an existent circle of friends in a moms' group.  But I do it.  For my sons, I do it.  And for me too.

I didn't like who I was in Florida that much.  Most of our time there, I was rather depressed.  I relish the opportunity for a fresh start, to be a new me, the real me.

I have a method of making new friends down pat at this point.  Googling local mommy groups, Meetup, Big Tent, volunteer work, PTA/PTOs, Gymboree Play & Music classes are all great resources for meeting people.  In fact, my treasured Florida friend and I met at Gymboree.  Well, actually, we met after dropping our older ones off at a Gymboree sports class, walking our younger ones down the shopping center to a little consignment shop, then (I promise I wasn't stalking you J!) heading in to a coffee shop, where we ended up talking and were blown away by our similarities.  Our sons are both around the same age.  We were both new to the area.  Her family is Jewish, as are my husband and sons.  We enjoy running and working out, although neither of us is in the shape that we currently wish to be in.  In short, she is awesome and it's a situation that I don't know if I'll ever replicate.  But I'll try.

Barns and gardens galore

I've been making sure that I've been proactive in forging relationships out here.  I invited a mom whose company I enjoyed to a gem of an attraction in our town called Deanna Rose Childrens Farmstead earlier this week.  I'm having difficulty uploading pictures of the fun time we had there, but I've included a couple pictures straight from the web site.  Another mom asked us to lunch after a Music with Mar class.  As we drove there in our separate minivans, her daughter asked, "Mom, where's my boyfriends?"  :)  Apparently, she'd never said such a thing.  Supercute.

Here's a challenge for you: the next time you are somewhere other moms congregate (the park, a museum, your child's school), start a conversation with a mom you don't know.  If you hit it off, whip out your phone and add their phone number and email to your contacts.  Be like me, if you're the forgetful type, and add their kiddos' names and a description of where you were when you met them to the notes.  Are you part of a MOMS Club or other playgroup?  Give them that information!  Be welcoming. Be kind.  A simple hello may turn into a lifelong friendship.  I love you J - thank you for teaching me so much about friendship!  And for introducing me to K - I want to be 60-something years old and still doing girls' weekends!

An old-fashioned General Store

Monday, September 19, 2011

There is no Us and Them. There is only we.

Can you remember when your innocence was shattered?  I don't know if I do, because, for most people, I think it happens piecemeal as you advance towards adulthood.  But there are moments in life, like September 11, 2001, that may not shatter innocence, but rip away false notions of what the world is like as swiftly and shockingly as pulling off a band-aid.

When I was in middle school and high school, my family lived in a townhouse.  I hated it there; I missed my old home.  I called it, "The Townhouse", perhaps so that qualifier in its name would signify that it was less of a house, that it wasn't my home.  I may have been determined to loath the place, but I cannot deny the memories built there.  One such memory came when I was in the downstairs family room, alone, watching TV.  I happened upon a documentary about the Civil Rights Movement.  Of course, I knew about it.  Every Black History Month, it was a part of the curriculum.  The text of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech was printed on a poster displayed near the circle time area in my Kindergarten or first grade class, I can't recall which.  So, yes I had learned about the Civil Right Movement, taught facts about inequality and Rosa Parks and peaceful protest by many teachers over the years.  But their lessons never captured my attention or emotions the way this documentary did.  That's the thing about facts - they have the tendency to be cold and hard and yet somehow, not feel real.  Sometimes it takes pictures and video and hearing individual experiences to "get it."

Charles Moore's "They Fight a Fire That Won't Go Out" appeared in Life

Watching the water hoses turned on protesters ( the water pressure strong enough to "peel bark off a tree or separate bricks from mortar") horrified me.  The victims were protesters, innocent bystanders, children ... our fellow human beings for God's sake!  It took being witness, about forty years later, to understand how Americans were capable of relegating people to Other, second-class status.  It wasn't just to an intangible them or in other parts of the world that this happened.  I don't know why I was surprised, but I know that I was naive deluded to think that those things didn't happen here.  See: slavery, the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment ...  America, while beautiful, isn't perfect.  The United States and her people and government are not separate from Tank Man in Tiananmen Square or the Egyptian protesters earlier this year, nor so far removed from the perpetrators of the Holocaust or the Khmer Rouge regime.  All humans have the capacity to want the world to change and be a better place and to commit evil.  There is no Us and Them. There is only we.

Similar to my epiphany, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, set during the Civil Rights era and evoking reprehensible acts of racism, has opened others' eyes to injustice.  The novel has been a runaway hit, popular with book clubs and given readers, especially those who haven't experienced that time in our nation's history firsthand, "access to a more personal, intimate look inside race relations than could ever be gleaned from most history texts." I adore historical fiction.  From the books I gobbled up as a girl, like Number the Stars, The Devil's Arithmetic, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sign of the Beaver, and oh! how I could go on and on, to what I'm reading now, The Historian, historical fiction comprised/s a significant chunk of my reading history.  Today's Daily Bzz, is The Help.  It has been on my "to read" list, but frequently checked out at the local library.  Regardless of whether BzzAgent selects me to spread word of mouth about the book, I will eventually read it to fulfill Gran's legacy.

Have you read or seen The Help?  What do you think about the divisive book and movie?  I'd also love if you shared the events that eroded your innocence.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Chronicles of a Nursing Mama

I am more than just a mother.  I am more than just a former breastfeeding mother.  I soak books up like a sponge and will read anything I can get my hands on: trashy crime novels, classic literature, even the junk ads stuffed in my mailbox.  I try to encourage my family in healthier eating and fitness habits after having spent a lifetime battling an unhealthy relationship with food.  I started running in 2010 and fell in love with it; I've run in several races and anticipate (once I figure out which area half marathon I'm going to register for) several more.  I enjoy camping and travel, although I don’t get to do either as often as I’d like.  My favorite place in the entire world is a family friend’s home and multiple acre property in New Hampshire.  I left the workforce to become a stay at home mom, and still question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

I am a mother.  I have two wacky and amazing sons.  Slim is nearly five! (oh my God, how and when did that happen?) years old and Curly is two.  Slim is so funny - intentionally and accidentally, he has an admirable sense of empathy, and is incredibly strong-willed.  Curly is adventurous, bordering just this side of reckless at times, is loud like his mommy, and gives some of the greatest hugs in the world.  My greatest goal is to raise two intelligent, happy, well adjusted, and contributing members of society.  A favorite quote of mine is, If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do matters very much.” – Jackie Kennedy

I was a breastfeeding mother.  6/13/08 and 5/29/11 are memorable, bittersweet dates for me, as they mark when each boy weaned.  I love this stage of momhood, but I sure miss nursing.  Breastfeeding defined me not only as a mother, but as a woman.  From the time I developed breasts, I have been large chested, which has caused both wardrobe hassles and physical pain.  When I was seventeen, I had the opportunity to have a breast reduction.  During the consultation with the surgeon, I asked how the procedure would impact my future ability to breastfeed.  Looking back, I don’t recall a time when I had decisively concluded that nursing my babies was important to me, but when the doctor explained that a breast reduction might interfere with milk production, I immediately knew I’d decline the surgery.  That was my defining moment as a nursing mom, nine years before Slim was born.  Breastfeeding is a big part of who I am; it transformed me into the mother that I have become.   How?  Nursing hugely influenced my parental philosophy, helped me appreciate my breasts for the first time ever, changed my perspective on life and love, introduced me to like-minded mothers, and allowed me to simply be in the moment, enjoying the oxytocin fueled awesome serenity in a life that was not always calm.

I want to be good at not letting motherhood define me as a person, but I am glad that I can define myself as a mother who chose to breastfeed and allowed it to change my life. 

There are two pieces of advice I offer my friends and family when they become parents.  One: only you know what is best for your family.   Ultimately what matters is that you love your kids.  Two: find a support group of some sort.  I want to be part of an organization that helps support moms, new and seasoned, when it comes to helping them when they choose to breastfeed.  One of my life’s most rewarding ventures was volunteering with a crisis hotline in college; helping others in their time of need was incredibly fulfilling. I want to be a La Leche League Leader to encourage and assist mothers in reaching their breastfeeding goals, whatever those might be. 

I was a La Leche League Leader applicant until life started falling down around us this Spring.  Now that we've settled into our new world and we're no longer (please, please, please don't me be tempting fate in saying this) victims of Murphy's Law, I'm eager to resume that path again.  The problem is I don't know how!  I'm no longer a nursing mom and despite an unexpected resurgence of baby fever about a week ago on my part, we are done having kids.  So how do I integrate myself into the local breastfeeding community?  Here's to hoping I get it figured out. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In the land of make-believe

An apron makes a fantastic cape

I love watching the boys play pretend.  As a dear friend was kind enough to say about them, "we love Slim's and Curly's beautiful, unique and creative spirits."

Before we moved, Slim would hold a white piece of printer paper over his toy animals.  His narrative went like this:
"It's snowing!"  Seeing as though snow was how we sold him on the move, I wasn't surprised to see him incorporate the white stuff into his play.
Pointing to the animals under the paper, "this is Kansas City"
Indicating the floor, "out here it's Florida"

Curly is getting in on the fun too.  Lately he has enjoyed pretending he's one of the family members, be they of the fur or human persuasion.  Typically, the conversation involves his new sentence structures with the word because.  ("Curly, please put on your shoes/use an inside voice/stop kissing the cat ..."
An emphatic, "No"
"Why not?"
"Because no." 
Or, my favorite, "Curly, do you love Daddy?"
An emphatic, "Yes"
"Because because." :D) 
Just this morning, we were discussing names.  The boys have a long name, a nickname that they go by, familial nicknames like Slim and Curly, and a Hebrew name.  So I asked Curly if he was his long name.  I assumed he answered no because he was accustomed to going by his nickname and doesn't always associate himself with his long name.  But kids are always surprising you. "Because I Mommy and you Curly!" he replied with an impish grin.  We proceeded to pretend that I was indeed Curly and he got quite a kick out of my imitation of him.

When other children are using their imaginations simultaneously, it doesn't always go the way they want or I expect.  Earlier this week, we visited the Kansas City Zoo.  While there, we made a pit stop at the playground on site.  A little girl, who was around Slim's age, was as exuberant and outgoing as my guys and quickly engaged them both.  Although they had an overall fun time, the conflict came from each wanting to play a different way.  The girl wanted to pretend that the boys were the bad guys with guns and she was going to save the day and put them in jail.  Slim's imagination rarely puts him in the role of villain and despite having a pirate's and knight's foam sword, seldom does he make believe with weapons.  Instead of her scenario, Slim wanted to pretend they were acorns growing into tall, strong trees.  Admitedly different and not as fun, given that trees have the propensity to be rooted in one spot, not move around like active children.  Curly simply channeled Big Bird's temporary adoptive siblings, Donny and Marie Dodo, in that he only wanted to pretend to be himself.

I'll admit, part of the reason I'm a fan of imaginative play is because it's stimulating for me too.  I enjoy playing pretend with them just as much as I do sitting back and observing quietly.  Plus, the land of make-believe builds important skills necessary in adulthood, like confidence, problem solving, creative thinking, and healthy self-expression.  R and I are making a point to ensure their holiday gifts include some dress up clothes and other things that facilitate play for hours without structure or instructions.  This versatile cape is one of the items we've been eyeing.

What was your favorite thing to play pretend as a child?  And what has your child made believe recently?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gran's Legacy

Gran loved (her) babies!
My grandmother was and is my hero.

She died nine years ago today, September 7, 2002 and I miss her.  But I've decided to make sure that I honor my memory of her. 

You might ask yourself how could a woman with no famous outstanding achievments or feats of skill and courage be a hero?  Yet she is; she was a champion of reading.  As Fred Rogers remarked, "Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me." Gran's my hero because she instilled in me a love of books and to honor her, I've been reigniting that passion.

Gran was a very dedicated woman who loved her family.  Her love was evident in her giving nature and all she did.  She always wanted to be helpful (in many ways because she couldn't keep still!) and was incredibly generous with her time.  My sister became deathly ill in her first year and spent a fair amount of time in the hospital recuperating.  During this period, my grandmother took me in so that my Mom could devote her time to my sister.  Unfortunately, there was a wave of chicken pox going around and I had to be kept virtually quarantined so that no illnesses could be passed on to my immunocompromised sibling via my Mom in the snippets of togetherness we had when she wasn't at the hospital.  The only time Gran and I left the house was to go to the local library, where we would check out ten books at a time.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Cuddling up with a good book as a favored pastime was a natural progression from cuddling up with one of my favorite people as she read me stories.

In the last several years, I went from being an avid reader who would devour every word available, from the back of a cereal box to a classic novel, to being lucky to leaf through a magazine at the doctor's office.  Thanks to marrying a man who prefers watching tv to fall asleep and two young boys who keep me so busy that I seldom had time to myself, reading fell by the wayside.  However, in the last two months I've read four books!  I think I can officially call myself a reader again.

BzzAgent, a product testing network I've mentioned before, has launched a new feature called The Daily Bzz, in which you prove you deserve a spot in an upcoming campaign by doing something cool.  They are opening a campaign for the Kindle 3.  "The Kindle 3 is ingeniously designed to be everything the iPad will never be: small, light and inexpensive… Now, the Kindle is almost ridiculously lightweight; at 8.5 ounces, it’s a third the weight of the iPad.  And with a wi-fi connection you’re just seconds away from close to a million books. It’s like having access to an entire library from the comforts of your couch"  Sounds nice to me!

I don't own an e-book reader.  Until this past summer, I was convinced I'd never own one!  As a bibliophile, I cherish the smell of libraries and used book stores and turned my nose up at the notion of reading without actually cracking open a book.  But when my cousin's husband showed me his Barnes & Noble Nook, I thought to myself, "Someday ..."  I filled in that sentence with, "... when I'm reading enough to justify the expense" and "... maybe I'll receive one as a gift."

My grandmother taught me an invaluable lesson.  And I'm eager to get back to applying that lesson, no matter what form the books come in.

The last picture of me and Gran together.

For the record, this blog was ready to go today without the information about BzzAgent and the Kindle.  But when the opportunity to apply for the campaign came out this morning, the timing was too perfect and I had to tweak it!