Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Laugh, Then I Cry. It Must Be Christmastime. . .

The Smiles:
1. Starbuck's peppermint mocha. And it tastes even better in the little red cup.
2. Playing A Charlie Brown Christmas on the stereo while decorating. And seeing Nate learn that crazy Peanuts shoulder-shrug dance from his dad, the master.
3. Watching Liv and Nate sing in the choir; I sure wish my mom could see them.
4. And a smile soon to come: seeing Mark and our brother-in-law, Dan, play wisemen at the Christmas Eve service. Complete with headdress and robes. Excellent.
5. Opening all the cards from faraway friends and seeing how their kids have grown.

The Tears:
1. Knowing that this will likely be the last year we have two firm Santa-believers in the house.
2. Sitting in the coffee shop recently, I saw a 60-ish woman with her daughter at a nearby table. At one point the daughter pulled a red sweater out of one of her shopping bags and held it up to the mom, admiringly. The mom reached over and brushed a crumb off her daughter's chin, as natural as breathing. I had to leave before I started blubbering into my mint mocha.
3. Finding Zoe's little empty stocking in a box of decorations.
4. Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas---yes, the CD is on the "smiles" list, but I just can't take seeing that sad little Christmas tree! And yet, I can't look away. . .:o)

I've been shown so much love and mercy in '08, not the least of which has come from my friends and family. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday and may '09 be the year that we all resolve anything we've struggled with in the past year. Merry Christmas, y'all!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 08: The Good, The Bad, The Turkey

UUUUUGH. I'm still recovering from stuffing myself stoopid last night, but I wanted to go ahead and list the faves and raves that made last night so special. Oh, and there were one or two items that I'll definitely vote "no" on if theyre on the Thanksgiving ballot next year.

The Good:
1. Uncle Dan's turkey---roasted to perfection for hours, scarfed down in nanoseconds, as it should be.
2. The creamy brussells sprouts. A new twist for me this year, but surprisingly easy and especially enjoyed by our resident veg head Liv.
3. The company---my sweet MIL, sis-and-bro-in-law and their kiddos can't be beat.
4. The after-dinner-offer: My sis-in-law temporarily lost her mind and invited Liv and Nate to spend the night, so I didn't have to break up the Wii party that was still raging at 7 p.m.
5. The Thanksgiving night selection on cable. Moonstruck for the grown-ups, and Home Alone being DVR'd for the kidlets.

The Bad:
1. The stinking, rotten cold/flu virus that wouldn't go away. Mark relapsed just in time for Turkey Day, leaving him home with nothing to look forward to other than a Nyquil-indused coma. He did resort to the Afrin so he could taste the big plate of food I brought home for him.
2. My attempt to crisp-up the graham cracker crust for my pumpkin cheesecake backfired. I pre-baked it about 5 minutes too long and it was hard as a rock. The filling was yummy, though, so I wasn't completely mortified.
3. The distance, illnesses and financial strains that kept some people we love away, and we from them. Next year will be better.
4. That second- -or third- -loaded plate of food, that left me having to sleep propped up on three pillows. What? Was? I? Thinking??!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Et Tu, October?

I haven't stopped to journal anything going on in awhile; there's been a lot going on but not much I can really put out there on the innernets.

Let's just say October, which is normally one of my favorite months of the year, was not very kind to Casa Pellin in the year 2008.

But, moving forward, we still have our health, our children, our home, and our slightly intact minds, so we're soldiering onward. And November, which is already almost over, gives us lots of good excuses to get our eat on, among other wonderful things.

So, my mind has gratefully turned toward food. Isn't it great how food is always there to comfort us? Um, I guess that's a good thing, right? This year for Thanksgiving I'm thinking of trying something different with sides; I've seen a recipe for creamy brussels sprouts with bacon and another for cauliflower au gratin that I want to try. And I'll give Mr. Nate $5 if he tries even just a taste of them!

Other random, POSITIVE updates:
1. Liv is taking an "Acro-dance" class this year and really enjoying it. She was getting bored with the tap/ballet routine but didn't want to stop going to her regular studio. This was just the shot in the arm she needed to stay interested. The format is all floorwork, with the kids mainly doing handstands, somersaults and other tumbling exercises to music. Fun for Liv, fun for me to watch.
2. Nate has two best-buds, Rowan and Jake, that he talks about all the time. And get this---he always uses their first and last names whenever he refers to them. Very formal. Like we don't know WHICH Rowan he means, after he's told us the story about how he and Rowan planted pumpkin seeds in egg cartons for the 99th time?
He also made his first phone call to his friend Elena yesterday after school. Hi-larious. Mark and I tried not to die of cuteness overload when he said, "Hello. This is Nafaniel Pellin. May I speak to Elena please?"
3. My dad has two invitations to Thanksgiving dinner back home. One pre-Thanksgiving meal at my aunt's the night before and then a restaurant buffet lunch the next day with another aunt's family. I am super relieved about this and also a tad jealous!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Happy Thirty-Everything Day To Me!

Flowers, compliments of Cousin Holly. Variety-slice cake, by Harris Teeter. Plastic fireman hat that magically appears on kitchen table every night, compliments of Nate.

My Thirties In Review Thus Far, A Prayer List of Thanks

1. Thank you for my babies---I wanted them much earlier, but the timing, when it came, couldn't have been more perfect.

2. Thank you for letting me turn thirty-nine. I haven't been taking care of myself lately, and I rush around through life all too often not thinking or looking or stopping nearly as often as I should---I'm amazed I've made it this far!

3. Thank you for my sweet H, and for helping us become homeowners (twice), and for somehow allowing us to continue to listen and hear eachother over life's everyday noise.

4. Thank you for my dear friends and exended family---the Daddy who sent me a sweet card and called me after the kids were in bed, the mother-in-law who knows the greatest gift of all is to keep the kids overnight once in awhile (thanks again!), the uncle who e-mails beautiful photos of butterflies, bears and riverfront views that make me homesick, the cousin who never forgets to send me a silly card, the other cousin who sent me gorgeous, autumn-colored roses. They inspire and sustain me.

5. Thank you for all the other people in my little speck of an orbit that make my world keep spinning around: my hilarious co-workers, our kind, ever-generous neighbors and fellow church members.

6. And, oh, thank you for my big cup of coffee every morning. Of which I'm gonna need a double dose of if I don't get to bed.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Happy School Year!

My resolutions for Aug. 2008- June 2009:

1. I will make sure that each child's bookbag is thoroughly checked for forms that need signing each night.

2. I will NOT give in to last-minute requests of a packed lunch as I'm heading out the door to work. The school menu is on the fridge and is discussed approximately eleventy times per day. It is not my fault if you decide at 7:59 a.m. that, although you're not sure what dumplings are, the thought of them makes you heave.

3. I will allow enough time each morning to get two kids adequately prepared for their school day before I head to work. Whatever amount of time I think that will be, add another 25 minutes.

4. I will ensure that there is a breakfast alternative to Pop-Tarts available each morning. I'm just over the Pop-Tarts in general and they leave the kiddos hopped up and starving 30 minutes later. I don't mean to hate on the Tarts, and we may very well resort to them later, but for now I've gotta try to do better.

5. I will start preparations for bedtime at least a half-hour prior to the actual bedtime, thus allowing time for a relaxed storytime and toothbrushing routine, instead of turning into Mrs. Yeller McYellington from Yellville.

6. I will graciously thank my husband each day (or at least weekly) for agreeing to be the Bus Stop Dad on our corner for the second year in a row!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bye-Bye Bobby: The End of an Era

It all started at around 10 a.m. July 2,2003. That's when my sweet sister-in-law, Beth, came into the hospital room where I was snuggling with Nate, who was just under sixteen hours old.

She placed a 12x12-inch square of velvety,baby-blue fabric in his hospital bassinet. It was a brand-new "lovie" blanket; her daughter had one as a baby and as comfort objects go, she assured me it was the best. Because of its size, it was totally portable and could easily be stuffed into a diaper bag, and the material was so silky and soothing that it had an almost magical effect on a cranky baby.

She encouraged me to cuddle with it a bit so Nate would pick up my scent on the blanket. When I did, I could see what she meant- - -I remember all too well the calming sensation of the satin trim of my childhood blanket between my finger and thumb, how it made the world just slip away. I gently laid the lovie on Nate's chest.

Here was our first sign: he clutched it right away, and fluttered his tiny eyelids as if in recognition of an old friend. Newborns are so between two worlds anyway, so maybe that blanket just reminded his soul of its previous heavenly home. Who knows, but from that moment on they were darned near inseperable.

That blanket, named "Bobby" by two-year-old Liv (we still don't know why) was dragged everywhere with Nate and got him through the transition from crib to big-boy bed. I hate to admit it, but we relied on ol' Bobby as much as he did at times. Concerned about how Nate will handle sleeping over at Grandpa's for the first time? No worries, we've got Bobby. Afraid the baby will get restless on the five-hour road trip? Pack that Bobby. NOW.

Nate referred to Bobby as a "him," a living, breathing best bud. Bobby couldn't be left outside because he might get cold. Bobby can't be left in the hamper all night because he might get scared. Bobby's dirty and needs a bath. Bobby was almost part of the family, and eventually became a permanent fixture on Nate's pillow, ready for nighttime duty.

Until two weeks ago. That's when Nate decided that as bonafide five-year-old, he didn't need Bobby anymore. He instructed Mark to "take it to the Goodwill store so another baby can buy it." Mark nodded in agreement, then came downstairs and gingerly handed the tattered piece of blanket-trocity over to me and said "We're supposed to be taking this to 'Goodwill.'" He used air quotes. I love it when he uses air quotes.
"I think Goodwill will ban us from ever donating anything again if we drop that thing off." I said. We decided the top shelf of the guestroom closet, waaay in the back, would do for now.

It hasn't been an ultra-smooth transition. Nate has asked for an extra hug or two at bedtime "Because I miss Bobby," but for the most part he's really moved on. But this means that our baby has taken one more giant step to big-boyhood. Maybe it's us, the parents, who aren't truly ready.

I want my Bobby.

A real summer beauty

. . .and the sunflower's kinda pretty too.

Note: mini pottery vase handmade with love by Dawn

Monday, July 28, 2008

I want some cheese with my whine.

Monday at my desk, 3 p.m.

OK, it totally should be 5 by now. . .

Wishing I was on vacation like last week, visiting my dad and other extended fam.

I miss my babies and wonder what they're doing right now. Husband included.

I don't want to cook when I get home, but that would mean succombing to pizza, fast food or subs and I dropped $109 at the bright, shiny overpriced grocery store yesterday so I know I gotta.

Nate is currently on restriction from TV until at least Wednesday (too much emulating what he sees on Spongebob---don't ask). Must shoo children outside while I cook. Maybe I can throw a bag of Skittles under a shrub and start a scavenger hunt? Hmmmm. . .

I want to play with the kids but dinner is top priority when we walk in the door at 6, so play comes later. Also, N just got a super cool set of plastic handcuffs (they click open with no key, my mama didn't raise no fool) complete with police badge and ticket book from the dollar store, the retailer of shame. It was his treat for being good at the dentist last week. We've certainly gotten our money's worth out of it, though; he's played with little else since he got it. But dinner preparation will be quite prolonged unless I get him out of the kitchen, or else I will be placed "under arrest" about 49 times. Olivia, Mark and I have all been dragged in to jail (which is currently located in the laundry room) by Deputy Nate at least twice a day each in the past week.

That dentist trip reminds me: No Skittles. I wonder if they'll go after a bag of Baked Cheetos. . .

Monday, July 14, 2008

Homemade pizza, an experiment in budgeting

I use the term "homemade" very, very recklessly here; this pizza was homemade in a very Sandra Lee-inspired way. Frequently when I'm visiting my good friends the innernets I come across a lot of budget-smart blogger moms who make their own pizza at home and rave about the "tremendous money savings" and how much "fun" it is to do with their kids.

Dadgum it, they're right again.

Now, most of the recipes I've found use the real deal when it comes to dough, starting from scratch. There's a lot of covering and waiting for dough to rise for an hour or so and then punching it down and blah, blah, blah. But some of us had a loooong rainy Sunday evening yesterday and couldn't be arsed with such nonsense.

I started hunting for a recipe shortly after the last time we called our local Papa Domino's Hut. For a large pizza for our family of four, it was close to $25 with tip. But my time is very precious to me too; I mean, all that time in the kitchen jabbing at dough and such could be spent sprawled in the beanbag chair eating Pirate's Booty crumbs off my t-shirt. Anyway.

After I perused a few recipes I realized I had most of the stuff I needed already on hand: parmesan cheese, some leftover bolognese sauce from Friday night,ricotta cheese, and olive oil. So, not counting the stuff I already had in my pantry and freezer, I ended up spending only about $14, and there's still lots of ingredients remaining for future pizzas.

A quick roundup of my grocery list:
Two bags of Martha White pizza crust mix, $2(This was the real time saver! My home girl Martha always comes through for biscuits, cornbread and now pizza crust. That chick is something else. )

One jar of Ragu Pizza Quick sauce, $2.89 --Please don't judge me. I've tried a lot of fancier pizza sauces over the years and they were either cloyingly sweet or just tasted like plain tomato puree. This one fit the budget, doesn't have a lot of added sugar, and has a good blend of spices.

Small can of black olives, $1.89 - Maybe it's because it's part of her name, but our Liv loves her some black olives. We let her mark her territory with a ton of them when we were adding the toppings.

Turkey pepperoni, $3.79

Mozzerella cheese, $3.19 --sliced, not shredded

The process was so stoopidly simple, but much more fun than wringing our hands waiting for the pizza delivery guy.
First, I used my two packs of dough mix and followed the package directions, which just calls for adding about a cup of hot water and mixing with a fork. And the covering and wait time? Five minutes, people. I told you Martha's my kinda gal.

The dough turned out very pliable and stretchy enough to cover a fairly large square jelly roll pan, and I pinched the edges to make a lip for the sauce. Next we brushed a thin layer of olive oil on the dough to keep the sauce from seeping through and to help crisp up the edges. Then we spread only about four or five tablespoons of sauce so the crust wouldn't get soggy.

Next we slapped on the cheese and got down to the businesses of adding our individual toppings. Olivia chose the top right-hand section for her olive-palooza. I picked the left section for sort of a lasagna-esque deal with the meat sauce and ricotta. I added a few pepperoni slices too. The picky boy child, well, he went a little crazy and added some extra cheese to his section.

The baking time was only about 15 minutes, but about halfway through I noticed the cheese on the right-hand side was browning faster than the rest, so I tented it with some foil. This turned out super yummy, and the kids were very impressed with their efforts. This is definitely something we'll work into the regular rotation because it offered a fun activity plus a dinner that pleased everyone's individual tastes. Ah, success- - it smells a lot like garlic. And olives.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Impulse buy, forgiven

Hello, BOGO Planters Peanuts from the Wal-Marts!! Nice to see ya.

Friday evening I walked in the door after work to find these guys on the little side table in my kitchen. They are the epitome of what sometimes happens when I sent my hubby to the store. But, given that they are cute and they bear a ton of crunchy salty goodness, they are more than welcome at Casa Crazy. Plus, they made me smile at the end of a long day when they greeted me at the back door- - - said hubby and children were glued in front of Animal Planet. I think I'll go see if my new nutty pals want to talk about the coming week's menu plan. A peanut sauce is definitely in the picture somewhere.

I was also quite grateful for all the things H did remember to pick up at the store, not the least of which was this new cereal I've been wanting to try: Kashi Honey Sunshine. It looks and tastes kinda like Corn Pops but with a lot more fiber and a lot less sugar. While he was waiting for dinner, my youngest managed to tear himself away from observing Meerkat Manor on AP to forage for a snack. Then something amazing happened.The little stinker managed to scarf down two little dry cups of it before I put the kibosh on his munching so he'd actually eat some dinner. I tried to play it all cool on the outside, but inside? Inside? Inside, I was joyously screaming "HE'S EATING CEREAL OUT OF A BOX THAT DOESN'T HAVE A PICTURE OF A TIGER, A TOUCAN OR AN OBNOXIOUS LEPRACAUN ANYWHERE IN SIGHT!!" Thanks, Kashi---y'all are miracle workers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

You Gotta Try This!

My cheap-o camera doesn't do this justice!

Last night I was suffering from FMG, or Farmers Market Guilt. It's what happens when you have leftover, slightly shriveled produce in your fridge that was picked at the height of its deliciousness by someone's loving hands and simply Must. Not. Be. Wasted. The modest cast of characters included: A few small pods of okra, one ripe tomato, two ears of sweet corn and half a vidalia onion. So, I searched my good friends the innernets and came up with a slight variation on something I found on
Here's what I did: I chopped up a few slices of bacon and threw it in a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil, then sauteed until it was just turning crisp. Then I added the diced up onion and stirred it around until it wasn't brown but just translucent. Then I added the corn (after scraping it off the cob and supplementing with a small bag of frozen white kernels) and the okra, chopped up. I stirred it around for a minute or two, just until the okra started giving up some of its lusciousness, which more unappreciative folk might call "slime." Then I added the cored, chopped tomato and gave it a few more stirs until it was just softened. A little course salt and pepper and voila! Summer in a skillet.

This was Soooo good, y'all, and so darned pretty you almost don't want to shove giant spoonfuls of it in your mouth while standing over the sink. But, maybe you can't help yourself after sitting in traffic in a thunderstorm with panicky kids and a growling tummy. Or, maybe that's just me. Anyway.

I kept thinking how excellent it would be as a side with some grilled fish, chicken or maybe some shrimp skewers. But last night, since the tiny punks needed to be fed too, I found it paired beautifully with Gordon's fish sticks and red grapes.
Try this sometime this summer. Okra lovers rule!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Forgive me, but this is cheaper than therapy. Cooking also helps.

The other day marked the anniversary of my mom's sudden, untimely death. My dad and I sent eachother our usual daily e-mails, never once mentioning it. Then, at around lunchtime he called me at work and said, "Uh, Honey?"
"Yeah, Daddy?" I responded.
"Never mind," he said. "You're at work."
"It's OK, Dad---what? Are you OK?"
"Yeah. But, you know what today is, don't you?"

I knew. But, unlike Dad, I have the luxury of a full-time job, two jacked-up little kids and a husband to occupy my time and my mind. So, we chatted for a few minutes about how we couldn't believe it'd been three years and how, for him, it still feels as recent as last week. I so wish I could change that for him. For me, mercifully, it doesn't feel that way anymore, but it still smarts.

The graciousness and goodness of people still amazes me every day---our neighbor brought cookies with a note that said, "Thinking of you this weekend," and several of my co-workers came by my desk that day with hugs. I also got e-mails from friends and family. I don't know why that date sticks in people's memory; perhaps it was because it was over a holiday weekend.

Over the last few days I've taken comfort in all the nice folks we know. I've also found solace in my good friends Ben and Jerry, so I need to watch it 'cause those guys are bad, bad influences.

Yesterday the kidlets, H and I went to one of our local farmer's markets and my haul included some yellow squash, zucchini, vidalia onions as large as softballs, dark red cherries, tomatoes (both ripe and green) and sweet corn. I came home and threw myself into cooking every bit of it the best way I knew how, with a few twists. I threw some parmesan and cream into the sauteed squash and onions. I added horseradish to the dipping sauce for the fried green tomatoes. The corn was so sweet and juicy it needed nothing but a quick dip in some boiling water and a shake or two of salt. And, yes, we can say we had "just veggies" for dinner even though there was cheese, cream and frying involved. Hey, this is the south. We're allowed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

First Day of Five-ness

Another installment of "Abuse of Blog as Baby Book."

Our resident five-year-old really loves:

1. Doughnuts. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime--who cares when, just bring 'em on in bulk. He'd rather have Krispy Kremes than any other treat, including ice cream. I'm seriously thinking about ditching the birthday cake for next year (he just licks the icing off anyway) and picking up a couple dozen chocolate-glazed KK's with sprinkles and call it a day.

2. Fire trucks. Since he could walk, this kid has made woooo-woooo siren noises that made our windows rattle and our dog head for under the bed. He once came down our stairs dressed for preschool in last year's shorts (which were now short-shorts), a plastic fireman's helmet and cowboy boots. In February. He totally looked like a tiny Chippendale's dancer. I should've booked him for a bachelorette party and put some cash in the college fund.

3. His grandpa (my dad). They have been tight since day one, and one of the first "real" sentences out of his mouth at two years old was "My pa-pa is my best friend." My dad happened to be within earshot at the time, so I'm pretty sure that kid is getting a new car one day.

4. His sister's nail polish, jewelry and ballet outfits. We have pictures that will one day surely get him to do my bidding lest I show them to his friends.

5. Going to Pinetown to visit. He's a displaced country kid, for sure.

6. Going to Ohio. He's only been once, but frequently asks when we're going to "The Ohio" again to see Uncle Dew, Aunt Ro and Pam.

7. Watching the "Here Comes a Fire Truck!" DVD. See #2.

8. Playing with Anna Marie, our little eight-year-old neighbor. She's a lanky blonde beauty, but Nate loves her for her video game collection and acrobatics on the swing set. Technically she's more his sister's friend, but don't tell him that.

9. Swimming in grandma's community pool. He just made it to the other side of it without water wings the other day! It wasn't a pretty sight---a lot of flailing and splashing but he got there.

10. His grandma. For her generosity, constant gentle sweetness and, like any good grandma, she ALWAYS has gum.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Maybe I'm Amazed

June 28: "Is it here yet, Mama?"
"No, not yet. Today's your party, though."

June 29: "Is it today?"
"No,not yet."

June 30: "I'm never gonna be five. Only four all the time.
Everybody's five but me."

"Sighhhh. . ."

July 1: "Mama?" (Pointing at the calendar)

"Yes, it's finally here!"

Happy birthday, little Tater. Today's your day! Tonight it's hot dogs and cupcakes and some serious pinata bustin'. I can't believe you're five! I know for you it's been an excruciating wait, but for me and your dad it feels like we were just smelling your feathery, chocolate-brown newborn hair and then we blinked and now we're here! We love you---you'll be our Baby Nate 'til you're 80.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Things that suck, things that don't

The rear section of my dad's current, and my former, backyard. Yep, that's a cornfield back there.

I visited Dad last weekend for Father's Day with the kiddos in tow. Part of the visit entailed having scary, albeit necessary conversations about doctors, legal documents and what the future may hold for him and for us.
Put that in the "what sucks" file. But in the blessed, in-between times, there were many, many gracious gifts.
O.K.--I can't fight it. I was gonna avoid putting everything into lists, but I cannot help myself.

What Sucks Lately
1. Having scary, necessary conversations about your one remaining parent's health and what he wants for his future.
2. Thinking "Someone else should handle this--someone you know, grown up"- and then you realize that grown up is you.
3. Having to leave people you love, all the time. . .whether its leaving the kids at day camp to go to work, or leaving Dad to return to my real-life grown-up home. Sometimes it just bites.
4. Having to explain to a new, inexperienced supervisor all the ways you have your duties covered while you take one day off out of your humongous amount of saved vacation time to visit an ailing family member. Then having to re-explain it.

What Decidedly Does Not Suck
1. Stumbling upon my Late Great Aunt Polly's neglected, overgrown flower garden. Liv and I crept back there when we saw the nodding blooms of a few deep blue French Hydrangeas peeking out from the side of her house across the road. We discovered about six of the shrubs, all with dinnerplate-size blossoms hanging low and heavy, in shades of indigo, lavender and baby blue. There were also gardenia bushes with blossoms glowing white in the dim light of dusk. We greedily clipped as many of the beauties as we could hold and put them in little vases and jelly jars in nearly every room at my dad's house.

2. Watching Nate and Liv splash in the wading pool in the backyard. I can almost hear the time ticking away the moments when they'll be just too big and waaay too cool to play in that thing.

3. Immersing myself in the stack of Southern Livings bestowed on me by a co-worker before I left on my roadtrip. While sitting "poolside," of course.

4. Watching the kids gleefully careen around with their older cousins on a homemade slip-n-slide (big, wet plastic tarp) while Holly controlled the hose action.

5. Tossing bread crumbs to the swarm of turtles living in the Pamlico's estuary marsh at sundown every night. It's just something you don't see everyday in the big city.

6. Coming home to the other super dad in our family, and telling him all about it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream

Dear Mama-
I finally, finally dreamed about you last night. Remember how I used to have little "dream visits" with Granny---she would be doing nothing special, just being herself, and it was like I was with her again, just for a fleeting, fuzzy moment. Last night was sort of like that. I couldn't sleep at all at first; work is really stressful right now and I eventually came downstairs to get some water and then went back up to read for awhile instead of tossing and turning. I finally put my book down and drifted off at around 1 a.m., and before I knew it, there you were.
We were in a rented car, flying down the highway together and I was trying to figure out where the cruise control was located. The car was packed with luggage and Dixie, our long gone oldie-goldie dog, was in the back seat panting away.

I was able to piece together that we were headed to a vacation house at the beach, and Daddy and Mark were coming later. You were clutching an envelope in your lap that contained the keys to the place--I could even hear them jingling around when you moved it. We didn't say much in the dream, but there was that glorious, palpable excitement of the first day of vacation--there's nothing like it. Even though virtually no words were spoken, I knew our plan for the day: We'd arrive and get settled before heading out to the store so we could stock the fridge. When we drove up to the house, we walked around the back to check out the pier. That was it, or at least, that's all I can remember. Thanks for the visit, Mama. I needed that. xxoo

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Happy Anniversary to ME! I mean, us.

Exactly eleven years ago today, Hubs vowed to keep me in coffee(both hot and iced), Diet Dr. Pepper and Burt's Bees lip balm forever. And he's done a mighty fine job. In addition he managed to have a couple babies with me, maintain steady employment, and listen to every single one of my whines about work, traffic, my weight, the pimple on my chin and the tepid temperature of my morning latte at the StarMegaBucks without once donating me to the Goodwill or committing me. Thanks, Honey. Tonight Grandma's got the kiddos. Thanks, Grandma! Life as a married lady is sometimes too good to be true.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Little Woman

Dear Olivia--
Last Sunday you shocked us all by turning seven. Seven! I gotta sit down.
Five minutes ago you were all chunky arms and legs,riding on my hip like an adorable chimp. Now, you're sporting all kinds of Hannah Montana gear and your limbs are lanky and slender; willowy even!

Monday morning while you were getting ready for school, I noticed you were a little bummed. The day after your birthday can seem a bit like the day after Christmas, huh? So, I took a minute in between helping you comb the back of your hair and chasing your brother into the bathroom to interview the new seven-year-old you.

Me: So, now that you're seven, what's your favorite thing to do when you're not in school?
You: I like to play with Anna (our neighbor) and Emma. And go to Chuck E. Cheese (the scene of your party---only your second time there ever).
Me: What's your favorite food?
You: Macaroni and cheese, tomatoes and strawberries. But not mixed up together.
Me: Describe your brother.
You: He annoys me. But he's fun until he has to go in time out.
Me: How would you describe Mommy? (I cannot help myself. I am an insecure quivering mass).
You: She smiles a lot and has two big teeth in the front. She smells nice. She's always in a hurry. (Owwwwwwwch. That's me. Conking myself in the head V-8 style)
Me: How would you describe Daddy?
You: He likes to play games and take us places. He's funny and kind of gross like when he burps.
Me: OK, Thanks for talking with me. How does it feel to be seven?
You: The same, I guess. You're welcome.

Here's some other stuff I already know about you:
-Your favorite color is purple. Blue is still for boys in your opinion.
-You like reminding me, and everyone we know, that I am thirty-eight.
-You love capturing bugs and observing them, even the creepiest ones, which is decidedly un-girly. But I won't tell anyone.
-When you were two, you used to tell me you loved me no matter what I'd say to you. For instance:
Me: "What do you want to drink?"
You: "I wuv you, Mama."
Me: "Milk or orange juice?"
You: "I wuv you, Mama."
Me: "Which book do we want to read tonight?"
You: "I wuv you, Mama."

Sigh. I miss those days. But you find other ways to tell me, and even better, to show me and the rest of us, all the time. Even that annoying brother.
Tuesday night, when we all got home from school and work, I was cleaning up in the kitchen when Nate said he had a tummy ache. You informed me that you would handle it. You took him over to the couch, propped him up on a pillow and brought him some ginger ale, then came back to the kitchen to report "He's feeling a little better now. I think we should let him rest until storytime." I had to document this because the next time you're ready to kill your brother, I'll have to show it to you. And, when you're a teenager and you hate me, or when you've grown up and moved away, I can read this and know how profoundly lucky I was to share every day with you.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Zoe's Story

So I should explain how Zoe came into my life, or rather, I came into hers. She started out as Hubs' dog, back in our early courtin' days. He decided, after living in a river town for a couple of years(my hometown, BTW) that he should own a black lab like each and every one of the other inhabitants. Except he thought he'd go a little wild and get a yellow one.

One Saturday we perused the place where EVERYBODY goes looking for a pet, the hunting supply store, of course. This particular store was known for posting the names and numbers of beagle, lab and various hound dog breeders. After jotting down a few phone numbers we heard the sound of irresistible cuteness coming from behind the register. A mixed-up jumble of whimpers, soft grunts and smacks that could only come from a pile of puppies. The guy at the counter proudly pointed to a big wooden box and said the adorable babies inside were all spoken for except for one, and he 'spected she'd be gone before the day was out.

The dude behind the counter was big, but I nearly leveled him to get back there and scoop up Ms. Available. The pups were English Setter/Brittany Spaniel mix, but the end result was sort of a lanky, dainty Springer. The one in my arms was black and white, with freckles on her nose, back and belly. She had a sweet, newborn-baby smell and deep, navy blue eyes. When I rolled her on her back, she yawned, stretched and gently licked my thumb, no matter how long I held her there.

"Fifty bucks." said counter guy. "Just to cover the first shots."

"Nah." said Hubs. "I really wanna lab." I made him smell the pup's head. He obliged. Then he winced and said, "I gotta go to work in an hour. Let me think about it."

This would not do. I knew as soon as we left some hunter would claim her. He'd probably make her sleep outside. In the cold. Probably keep her chained up at night. Probably make her earn her keep chasing squirrels. Or fetching dead ducks. Or something.

On the way back to H's neighborhood, my mind raced. Somehow, over the next several hours, I had to get that sweet bundle of awesomeness into my life. And I had to convince Boyfriend that it was his idea. But the magic of puppy love was already at work.

About ten minutes after I dropped H back at our place of business, The Daily News, he called me up and said, "If you come by and let me give you fifty bucks, will you go get me that little speckled pup?" Victory.

I wish I could say that her name was the result of some well-thought-out process, but we actually saw it on some Lenny Kravitz liner notes and thought it was cool. It was a song called "Flowers for Zoe," which Lenny write for his daughter.

We played her the song on her first night at H's apartment. She liked it. She also REALLY loved The Grateful Dead, and bites of grilled hamburger tossed her way, and having her belly scratched. And most of all, she loved us.

Over the years she's endured four moves and the humiliation of sharing her home with two human babies who took years to potty train and occasionally yanked her lovely, fringed tail. But she loved them for their perpetual trail of crumbs and because they loved her. She also enjoyed their lullaby CD's, and would often drift off to sleep at my feet while I rocked them.

Another song she liked was an excruciatingly corny ditty that I used to twang to her in the mornings:
"Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you, Honey---everything will bring a chain of looooo-ove. In the morning when I rise, bring a tear of joy to my eyes and tell me everything's gonna be all right."

And that is what I whispered to her in the vet's office today, as she left this world with H and I by her side. I loved that damn dog. We all did.

Goodbye, sweet girl. You were the best.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Cutest President and running mate ever

A few weeks ago I was performing one of 1,000 nightly rituals, cleaning out the kids' bookbags, when I found a note from Liv's teacher. "You should congratulate Olivia," she wrote. "She was elected president of our first grade class today."

She hadn't even said a word about it.

After I congratulated her, I asked her why she hadn't told us the good news herself."Well, it's not what I was expecting," she said. "I don't actually get to make any rules or anything, Mommy."

I'd wager that 100% of our U.S. presidents have woken up a few months after the innaugural ball with those exact same sentiments: "It's not what I was expecting."

Regardless, we are proud of Olivia. And, in so many ways, she's not what I was expecting. I had expected, at 29, to get pregnant. I did, almost immediately. Then, I expected to have a blissfully perfect pregnancy. It wasn't, and it was very short-lived. It ended in about ten weeks. Eighteen months and two more miscarriages later, I expected that my husband and I would begin learning a little about the adoption process and maybe give it a try in a year or so.

What actually happened was that within eight months of our first baby steps into the process, we found ourselves on a plane to Ukraine, where we were told to expect to bring home a little boy.

Not only did we not expect a sweet baby girl, but we didn't expect her to toddle right to us after only a few visits.
We didn't expect her to somehow, incredibly, have my mother's eyes, Mark's cousin Pam's smile, my cousin Holly's complexion and my dad's silly sense of humor.

We had given up on finding a miracle, but then she found us.

The other day she told us this president thing has turned out pretty great, because she gets to announce when it's time to line up for lunch AND she gets to help with role call in the morning. See? Sometimes what you least expected turns out to be better than you could've ever imagined.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What I'm reading and admiring so far in '08

I like winter---in small doses. (I have to add that because if I don't I will wake to seven feet of snow blocking the front door, which will cause me to turn into that guy from The Shining quicklike).

So, suffice it to say that I appreciate some seasonal chilliness once in awhile, I mean it IS January, for Al Gore's sake. (Love you, Al! Call me!) Also, it gives me the perfect excuse to curl up with a book and my $29 down-alternative throw from Cosco. Both are best enjoyed while making sweet love to a huge mug of sugar-free Swiss Miss.

We're a happy library family here at Casa Pellin, although sometimes I find the trip a tad frustrating. Much like wandering the video store aisles, an aimless search among the stacks can often prove overwhelming for me. It must've been all those nights in the early 00's reading "Here Comes The Truck!" and "How A Princess Gets Dressed"---for a while there I wasn't sure what the grown-up me liked to read anymore.

But now I get the pleasure of finding out all over again.

Don't get me wrong. I still love to read to my kids. Ramona Quimby, Junie B. Jones and that blessed farting dog, whatshisname, are alive and kickin' around here. But, since most of my friends have little ones too, I needed some suggestions on some good hibernation material that doesn't include colorful illustrations or an accompanying sing-along CD.

Recently I was flipping through a "Good Housekeeping" magazine while waiting for my oil change. It was the ONLY remotely female mag in the tiny little waiting area. The guys there already know I don't know nothin' 'bout fixin' no cars, so I'm not about to put on any airs by thumbing through Car and Driver, OK? Anyway--so not the point! GH has a piece in every issue now called "A Good Read" with a list of books recommended by their staffers. Guidance! I obediently marched down to our local branch that afternoon (um, well, this is Charlotte, so I zoomed over in my mini-van, found a killer space, THEN I marched). Here's what I found:

"Here If You Need Me" by Kate Braestrup. I found myself reading aloud to Hubs a lot from this book, which he usually hates, but he forgave me for this one. That's how good it is! This is an autobiography of a young widow and mom of four who also happens to be a chaplain for the Maine Wildlife service. She brings home the bacon, fries it up in a pan, and then gets called out to encourage, console and pray with the families of people and children lost in the Maine woods. Yes, we do need you, Kate!

"The Myth of You and Me" by Leah Stewart. This one was written by a Carolina girl, and if that's not reason enough to go out and grab it, it's won a couple of fancy awards, too. Because it's so effin' good. For anyone who's ever had a bestest friend who totally crapped on you once or twice but you loved them anyway, not in a pathetic co-dependent way, but an unconditional, kill-or-die,love-you-even-if-you-write-run-on-sentences way, this is for you. She also published a mystery called "Body of a Girl" that's currently on request at my library; I think I'm fourth on the wait list, so get in line, ladeeez!

Those are the only ones I've had time for so far, and GH is two-for-two on their picks!

I just adore books. Growing up in a three-channel-TV house (and one of those was fuzzy), books were of grave importance to me. If I can just get all personal-growthy for a minute, they became part of who I am. It's such a treat getting to see my kids discover what they love to read and have read to them. I can proudly say I know every word to "Here Comes The Truck" by heart because I read it eleventy-seven times to one Nathaniel Pellin from the time he was one year old until oh, about two months ago. That's when he discovered "Here Comes The Fire Truck!" Sigh. I sense a pattern.

As for Liv, she's actually started asking to cut our nightly storytime short so she can read a little of her favorites by herself in her room. This makes me want to beam with pride and burst into tears all at once. It's the gradual end of an era, of snuggling with her in bed and reading and re-reading "Dora In The Lost City," and "Bear Stays Up For Christmas" (even in August).

She's got new pals like American Girl Stories and A to Z Mysteries. I swear, she is like a garden. Every single day, every minute, there's something new and amazing there that you didn't notice before. Like little crocus shoots breaking through frozen soil. Or the first, finger-shaped daffodil bud, destined to be a yellow beauty.

Or a girl becoming a reader.