Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rite of Passage

My Mom- The best woman I know. My friend- who I have watched work miracles by sheer force of will. Me.

Sometimes as a mom, I get it all wrong (like this). Lots of times actually. But just like EVERY mom who loves her kids, I have moments that are brilliant. If you're a mom, acknowledge to yourself that sometimes you are BRILLIANT! You are doing the hardest job on earth and sometimes you get it right! On the heels of my parent teacher conference debacle, I thought I'd share an idea that worked out well. I have a degree in Human Development. I love every stage of growth in children. I find it amazing. When my oldest daughter reached age 11 it dawned on me that her childhood was rapidly coming to a close. Soon she would be a teen, then a woman. There are cultures that assist in the transition from childhood to adulthood in powerful, effective ways. These cultures are filled with capable, confident teens that don't manifest the angst and turmoil we accept as a normal part of development in our culture (read this to find out more - changed how I parent). I was unwilling to join a primitive society to create this for my teens. I needed another way. I wanted to create a rite of passage into adulthood. The beginning of menstruation was a logical time to do it. I wanted something more meaningful than taking my daughter shopping and out for lunch when she started her period. I wanted something that acknowledged the dramatic change she was making from child to adult. I wanted it to be inspiring, to offer guidance. 
My Daughter- age 11
My life is FULL of amazing, capable, gifted women. They are strong. They are tender. They are wise. They are silly. They are beautiful. I emailed these women- my mom, grandmas, aunts, friends and some of my daughters youth leaders. I asked them each to write my daughter a letter. I said, "Your letter could include advice or memories from your teenage years, what you learned or wish you had known when you were a teen. You could send a favorite quote or thought that has been uplifting for you.  If you’d like to share what womanhood means to you, that would also be great. I hope to make this a celebration for her. I want it to provide the guidance and inspiration that our society sometimes fails to deliver at this intense time of change. You are each women I admire and look up to and I am grateful that both Madelyn and I have you as friends and examples."
My daughters box of letters

It took awhile to collect the letters. I tucked them all away in a photo box and waited. When the time arrived, we spent an afternoon together reading the letters. They were everything the women who created them were - tender, wise, funny; in a word BRILLIANT! Teens don't always let you know in the moment how much you or the things you do actually mean to them, but I could tell my daughter loved the letters. It has been over a year now since I gave the letters to my daughter. A few weeks ago, we came home from church and my daughter said, "I am going to my room to read all my letters again." That is teenager for: "These letters are amazing! I love them! They are so helpful to me!" 
My daughter now
PS. Here are some excerpts from the letters my daughter received:

". . . don't confuse pretty with hot. Beauty is something that comes from within. It is confidence in your divine heritage and values. That kind of beauty is inspiring to others and draws people to you for the right reasons. Hot, on the other hand is a commodity. Our society today elevates an 'ideal' look that is not always in line with what is right. Many of your friends will try to be hot instead of pretty. Don't sell yourself short, by changing who you are and what you believe to get the attention of others."

"You were not only born on the brink of a new century, you were born at the dawn of a new millennium. And what an amazing millennium it promises to be for any girl willing to work and dream, which you are. You are fortunate. Many have been the times in this planet's history that women have been excluded from politics, business, career opportunities and an education. In fact, women have often been denied the most basic of personal and human rights. Yet through the ages, women have still managed to harness the powers of heaven and the mysteries of nature to create incredible human beings, hearty meals, sturdy clothes, life lessons, warm homes and love-filled families. That is because we are amazing."

"A few thoughts about friends and dating: I thought dating was fun in high school. But looking back the most fun that I had was hanging out with my group of friends. I had way more fun having us all there than I did for the short months I had a serious boyfriend. If I could change it, I would never have had a boyfriend in high school. Have fun with good friends who make you laugh. If boys are too shy to ask you out OR they are all punks (which most high school boys are) - don't worry because you are beautiful and you will have lots of opportunities to date in college."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

Photography - autumn Wallpaper
Photo Credit:
Who doesn't love autumn? “Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile" (William Bryant). I love the sweaters and scarves, the trees bursting with color and the bite in the air, but above all the food. Quintessential fall fair is soup and you can't be truer to the season then with a warm, smooth, earthy butternut squash soup. This recipe is adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe that I got in a store. I substitute fresh butternut squash for canned. This is so comforting and the salty contrast of the pancetta to the soup is divine.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Parent Teacher Conferences

Today I attended a parent teacher conference . My opinion on parent teacher conferences is simply this: either your kid is doing just fine or they are not. If the its the former, why waste the time going in? If it's the latter- well, honestly call me when its a crisis, and I'll worry then. My daughter is doing just fine (2nd grade) although she is a little slow on her math facts. The teachers advice, "when you come to a stop light, have her add up or subtract the numbers on the license plate of the car in front of you." Advice I immediately filed in the "Ya Right, When Pigs Fly" folder of my brain while I smiled and nodded. Turns out the joke is on me. After discussing math, we moved on to writing. They are working on writing a true story, something from their life. They had to map out a beginning, middle and end to their story. My daughter's started like this, "My mom went crazy." Her teacher smiled at me and said, "nothing is a secret in 2nd grade." As fate would have it, this summer we went on a road trip. On our l-o-n-g drive home I was exhausted from a week of not enough sleep. I was agitated with my husband. I was trapped in a car with him (and four kids). I'd tell you what his crime was, but it would only make me look worse. Anyone who knows my husband would tell you he is a saint. Sometimes an aggravating, irritating saint, but a saint nonetheless. At any rate, I was mad and the more we I "talked" the angrier I got. Finally, he pulled off the freeway in the middle-of-nowhere-Idaho so I could take a turn driving. He got out, I climbed over into the drivers seat and sped off, leaving my husband standing on the side of the road in middle-of-nowhere-Idaho. This is the true story my 2nd grader had decided to write about. Perhaps I'm off the hook for driving on field trips? As for my husband, well, I took a little drive that lasted all of 1 minute and then went back for him. I felt like I had adequately made my point. Today, my husband had his revenge.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Where in the World?

Italy 2004
I've been telling everyone who will listen that I want to move my family abroad for a year. Most people smirk a bit and humor my insanity. They are used to it, my insanity. It is purposeful, the broadcasting of my audacious plan. It is my form of insurance. I REALLY want this to happen! The more people I tell, the harder it will be for me to back out when it gets hard. I anticipate there will be a hundred moments when I will think, "this is crazy, how can we do this?" When those moments come, I want my reputation on the line so that I will figure it out instead of backing out.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thank You

Three weeks into the new school year I was combing out my daughters hair when she said, "My head itches." Those words strike dread in a mothers heart. I immediately starting plowing through her hair and sure enough- lice! Panic attack setting in. I grabbed my other daughter and. . . lice! Full blown panic happening. I immediately called a friend, mother of six, hoping she'd know what to do. Sure enough she empathized, calmed me down and gave me solid advice on how to handle this crisis. Thanks to her advice, that was the last day I saw lice. As my daughter said, "you went gang-busters." And I did. It was all out war at our house that day, but the lice lost and I won. That same friend showed up that evening with pizza, salad and Oreo's. It had been a very long day of laundry, treatments, combing and cleaning. Pizza and Oreo's never tasted so good. Today we made caramel apples for her family as a thank you. I've used this recipe for years, ever since I discovered it on It is simple and delicious. I don't fuss with the nuts and I use whatever apples I have on hand. As for the puddles, well frankly who would ever complain about a puddle of caramel? Not me!
I think you could prevent the caramel puddles if you are patient, but patient I am not.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Brene Brown's Daring Greatly
I just started Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I hope you know that name, but if not, rush over to Watch and then watch /brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html. I love smart people with great ideas! I loved her TED talks, I will let you know what I think of her book when I finish.

Update: I like a person who normalizes all my foibles. I love a person who normalizes them and then shows me a better way. Brene gets the job done. I definitely recommend this book, however, if I were to do it over, I would read Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection first. Either way, you'll be gratified by her down to earth, insightful wisdom. Specifically, this book addresses the salient issues of shame, scarcity mentality and disengagement. Her solutions resonate and are backed by solid research.

Cookies (for Christmas)

 Do you know what your kids are wearing for Halloween? Me neither. I am, however, thinking of Christmas goodies. I like baking more then scheming up Halloween costumes that won't take too much time or cost too much money. I have my priorities- primarily food. Today I started my holiday baking. I like to start early and get some cookies in the freezer. It makes last minute cookie plate assembly more manageable. I take my Christmas cookies very seriously. I want everything to be divine. I want that divineness sitting in my freezer where I have easy access to it while the kids are at school. Today's yummy: Ginger Cookies!

When The Sun Shines

The morning started out foggy- love a foggy morning.
 Every Seattle-lite knows, when the sun shines, seize the moment. When it shines in October. . . seize it NOW. Soon it will start raining and it won't stop for months and months. Friday was a no school day for us, the forecast: sunny and 60 degrees. I wanted to hike, I love to hike. My kids don't, but I persevere. My mom said to me once, "all my kids complained about hiking, all my kids have grown up to be hikers." So I hold out hope that my forced marches up mountainsides will transform them into cheerful hikers someday. I mentioned wanting to hike on Friday to my husband and he got the day off work. I have been hankering to hike Mount Pilchuck ( for years. My 14 year old doesn't love watching the kids, but given the choice between a 6 mile hike and babysitting, well. . . So, magically, Friday morning found my husband and I hiking up Mount Pilchuck ALONE! Well, not alone, it was sunny in Seattle after all. But no one complained to us or called us "Mom" or "Dad". It was a glorious day and a gorgeous hike.

Climb these craggy boulders and you are there, with 360 degree views.
View from the top.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pivotal Moment

I crave adventure. The best adventures, in my experience, are motherhood (or fatherhood) and travel. I spent six months living in China before I married and had kids. That experience transformed me and  I have dreamed of living abroad, in another culture, with my family for a year ever since. This fall something shocking happened. I dropped my oldest child off for her first day of high school. When I dropped her off for her first day of kindergarten nine years earlier I was thrilled, elated, overjoyed. She was too. We weren't enough for each other any more and we both new it. She didn't cry, she shooed me out the door. I didn't cry, I skipped out the door. High school was an entirely different matter. High school doesn't scare me, I wasn't worried about her, but I felt as if part of my soul departed that morning. Somehow it seemed to mark the beginning of the end of my journey raising her and it has been a magnificent journey. If it had slipped by this quickly with her, then my other three kids would be gone before I knew it too. What was I going to do with the four short years I had left with all my kids still home? Something grand! A year abroad!! If I am going to make it happen, I had better do it soon. Summer 2015 seems right. It gives me two years to plan, which I need (I am a planner).