Snow Day

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Texas has delivered us a little gift this week.  Monday and Tuesday, the kids and Josh were all home due to an "ice storm."  

Which is basically code for having an inch of ice on every road and sidewalk, for which the city does nothing.  No plows, no salt, no nothing.

Which then makes for a pretty dangerous world, especially with all the Texans who have no clue how to drive in it.  We hunkered down.  The kids walked to Target for snacks and supplies as needed.  I spent my days in sweat pants cooking chicken noodle soup, sitting by the fire, and taking nap after nap after nap.

It was heaven.  Heaven that sadly melted when temperatures climbed back up to normal.

It seems that our heaven gets extended by a few more days.  

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Snow is quite the novelty here.  The last time Texas had it was two-and-a-half years ago, long before we made the move to the Lone Star State, and that was a one-day fluke. People here are not prepared to deal with the snow.  We do not even own a snow shovel.  

The school district was adamantly not canceling or closing early today, in spite of several hoaxes on Twitter to the contrary.  It seemed ridiculous to spend the last few hours of a Friday sitting in a near-empty classroom, so I joined the throngs of parents who waited in line to check my kids out early.  

After all, if 75 percent of the student population goes home, teachers are obviously not doing much teaching, and why not win mom of the year award in their eyes, right?

So Right.  Worth it for this face alone.  

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That, my friends, is pure, unadulterated happiness.

It's hilarious to watch the little brown girl enjoy her first snow.  She didn't know what to make of it at first.  Biting each flake maniacally, skidding and jumping with joy, trying to catch everything she could.  She is a kid in a candy store.  She rings the bell to go outside constantly and comes bounding in a few minutes later, looking at us with eyes that beg for company in the backyard.

Which do not remotely have any power over me.

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Especially not when the temperatures are below freezing.

McKay was home sick this morning anyway, and his brother has happily taken up the post of keeping him company at the X-Box.

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It's going to be a glorious weekend.  Hygge*.

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*Hygge is a Danish word which means relaxing, cozy family time together with the ones you love.  It is my favorite word and motto.  

She's definitely not a year wiser

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This little brown-faced ball of energy turns one today.

We'd like to say she's one year wiser, but that'd be, well, lying.  She's pretty much every bit as insane as the day we brought her home.  

My kids all begged for me to write a birthday post similar to the ones I do for them.  Seeing as I am her primary caregiver - and, therefore - the only person who deals with her neuroses, energy, and naughtiness on a daily basis, I couldn't quite bring myself to do it.

But I sure do love her.

In spite of her mad, maniacal self.

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She and I walk every day for about 45 minutes to an hour.  It is a time I have truly come to enjoy.  I put the headphones in my ears and off we go in the early morning hours.  Sometimes she does really well and heels when I ask, her eager tail wagging as we make our way down the street.  

Other times, I am prying her jaws open to pull out cigarette butts, dead rabbits, and, often, her own feces.

Those are not my favorite days.

But once in a while, she follows me in and sits at my feet while I work.  Or she eagerly tags along as I clean and straighten the house.  She fixes her big brown eyes on me as though I'm the most fascinating creature she's ever beheld.  She obeys my every command and cannot wait to ride in the car when it's time to pick up the kids.

The best is when I catch her in a sleepy mood, and she'll love on me with all the affection that hides secretly beneath her wild and crazy exterior.  She'll smile and stretch and my heart just melts at the sight of her.  I scratch her ears, rub her belly, and I'm positive that she knows just how much I love her.

Those are my favorite days.   

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Happy birthday, Indiana.   You crazy, ding-dong weirdo.

Anyone know a good mumu store?

This year has been a tough one for a variety of reasons.  Top of that list are several annoying health issues that have plagued my life and used up all the dollars in our flexible spending account.  One of these little issues is something I feel compelled to share here, even though it is gross and probably oversteps the sharing boundaries.

Last June, I was sitting poolside in our backyard.  I had a diet coke by my side (natch) and was chatting happily with the Husband.  I felt a small bump on the back of my thigh, and looked to see what it was.

It looked relatively harmless, like many of the dark freckles that adorn my Scandinavian-skinned body.  But something told me this one was different.  I looked up at the husband and said, "I think I have a melanoma on my leg."

It seemed like a stupid thing to say at the time, because a) my incessant googling of any and all ailments does not make me a doctor, in spite of how I'll tell you otherwise; and b) it was really not all that different from the other 9,390,423 freckles that cover every inch of my cellulite-riden body.

But something told me to make an appointment and get that dreaded skin check.  Call it what you like.  Intuition.  Fear.  Paranoia.  I call it an intervention from above.

This is the "freckle."

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Truth be told, it looks more like a tick than a freckle.  Ew.

So I made an appointment with a dermatologist, and felt that I had done my part.  The day of the appointment came, and she felt we should, indeed, biopsy it, along with a couple other concerning spots.  She reassured me that they were probably nothing, but did not want to chance it just in case.

About two days later, she called back.  The "freckle" I had found was melanoma.  It was only on the top skin layer, but they would need to cut it out to prevent further spread.

That fun surgery resulted in this lovely vision: 

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Yeah.  Gross.  Happy Fourth of July to me.

Here's the thing:  Once you have a melanoma, the cancer cells will spread to other tissues.  That is how melanoma is made.  It's what melanoma was born to do.  It's not a question of if, but when.  It's only a matter of how fast it spreads (or metastasizes).  She said it can spread to other parts of your body in a few days, or take years.

You. Never. Know.

Which is why they cut it all out, and a pretty wide margin around it.

Thankfully, my margins came back clean.  I figured this would be the end of it.  Skin checks every few months, but nothing to ever deal with again.

At my three-month check up last week, I pointed out a new mole.  It was not remotely like the other one -- it was much lighter, even bordered, but slightly raised.  I honestly figured it was nothing, but, again, felt prompted to point it out.  This one was on my inner thigh, pretty high up, and not a super fun area to be examined in.

To be safe, she sent it in for biopsy.

Annnddd.... you can guess where this story is going.  Yep.  Another cancer.  Squamous cell carcinoma this time.  Had the surgery to remove it about five days ago.  

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My friends, I share this gross story for one reason, and one reason only:


Though squamous cell carcinoma does not usually spread like melanoma, it can.  

And for reasons I will never know, I was prompted both times to seek medical attention for things that otherwise would have escaped my notice or been shaken off as nothing.  And both times, these "freckles" came back malignant.  Please see a dermatologist.  Stand there naked for a few minutes and make sure you are okay.  It is so worth it.

Don't you want to be around to see your grandkids?  I know I do.   

Things to also take notice of:  New moles are concerning.  Moles that change are concerning.  Irregular borders, raised or dark moles are concerning.  And if you can't tell enough if they are concerning, let your dermatologist do it for you.  Please, please, please!  Get your skin checked.

Turns out?  What our fathers told us back in the 80s was true:  Laying out in the back yard with baby oil covering every inch of your body is a very bad thing.  

So, from now until the end of time, you will find me under the umbrella.  Covered head to toe in sunscreen, a big hat, and a mumu.  

With a diet coke in hand (natch).

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Office Space

New year, new goals, new me.  Right?  


So not interested in any of that right now.

I figure if I'm not keeping good on my health and fitness resolutions, time to look in areas where I'm capable of making change.  And since writing is much easier than giving up cookie dough, I thought I'd give it a crack here again.  I miss writing.  I miss documenting.  I miss this little corner of the world.  And watching all three of my kids each pull out the old blog books over Christmas break tells me this is the place to start.

Plus, the Husband spent his holiday break doing something oh so productive, and it's a perfect kick-off to a new year.

I give you:  My new office.  [Insert me jumping with glee to show you.]

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It's pretty much the same office, just revamped and tweaked.  I desperately needed some shelving in here and the Husband was more than willing to oblige.  Oh, what a valuable commodity it is to have a husband who likes to build stuff!  You want to ignore us all day and build me furniture?  Knock. Yourself. Out.  Believe me when I tell you that I absolutely recognize his mad sweet skillz, and my luck in benefitting from them.  

I ordered three 20x20 canvases of my three favorite offspring to fill the space on one wall.  Super Texas-sized walls call for super-sized wall hangings.  These fit the bill nicely and make me so happy to look at.  Please note also that we painted the ceiling the same color as the walls.  It looks darker here, but it's really the same color.  

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Also important and needed was a comfy chair for when I want to hide away with a good book and pretend that I can't hear anyone calling my name.  This little beauty doubles as a recliner and was even comfortable enough to earn the Husband's stamp of approval (which is an honor quite rare, I can tell you).  

I know, I know.  The Keep Calm thing has been played to death.  I had it on my wall long before it was trendy, and I love the story behind it.  I refuse to give it up, even though it's quite possibly the most overdone phrase in the history of mankind.

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This room literally completes me.  I am giddy with joy every time I walk by.  It inspires me to want to create and be productive.  It just begs to have creativity and inspiration and ideas bouncing around in here.  Surely, great things can only come from someplace so beautiful, right?

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For those who care:

Wall & ceiling color:  Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter (literally, the best color ever invented)

Desk:  Pottery Barn Bedford desk sets (this is a corner desk and a regular desk fitted together)

Chairs (all three):  Home Goods

Rug:  TJ Maxx (I think?  It's been a while)

Storage Containers:  Container Store and Ikea

Framed bulletin board:  Custom made for me by the Husband

My three lanyards

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I love Mother's Day.  

Maybe because I'm lucky enough to have a husband and kids who seem to get it right every year.  Maybe it's because I know just how lucky I am to have them all in my life.  Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for breakfast in bed, flowers, and handmade cards.

Whatever the reason, it's one of my favorite Sundays of the year.

Today, I'm reflecting and feeling especially poignant on this beautiful Sunday in May.  I'm so thankful to have been given the privilege of raising these three kids.  They light up my world and make every day have purpose.  They are flesh of my flesh and each carry a piece of me with them.  I would not trade them for anything or anyone else.

I cherish every messy, quirky, crazy, beautiful day I get to spend with them.

One of my favorite poems in the whole world is Billy Collins' The Lanyard.  It sums up so perfectly the beauty of the mother/child relationship and makes me smile and laugh every time I read it.  

The Lanyard, by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Don't worry, my beautiful, crazy little lanyards.  We are more than even.

How to raise a happy teen

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I occasionally get asked by mothers of young children what the secret is to raising great teenagers.

My initial response is that I have absolutely no clue.  My kids are who they are IN SPITE of having me as a mother.

[The young moms don't find that answer too helpful.]

My kids are pretty amazing, but I am also fairly confident that I had a teensy bit to do with it.  (A very teensy bit, mind you).

And just yesterday, on Instagram, I was asked once again what the secret was.  I thought about it all day long, and could not get it out of my head.

The first thing that I will tell you is to disbelieve the myth that teenagers are sullen, angry creatures who slam doors and hate their parents.  Some do that, but the overwhelming majority do not.

Every one of my kids' friends are just as happy and fun as they are, so I know that it's not just us.

Teenagers are incredible.  They are funny, smart, eager to please, and up for just about anything as long as food is involved.  They have the most generous hearts and want desperately to be loved and validated.  They are quirky, and messy, and have the best sense of humor.

So, here is my list of rules.  These are the secrets we have found to be successful:

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Number one:  I would say my number one rule is to love them fiercely.  Love everything about them, even the annoying stuff.  Love them for their actions AND their intentions.  Let them know in word and deed how much you adore them.  Daily.  Love their wrinkled shirts and Axe-body-spray-covered selves.  Love their bad handwriting and pimpled cheeks.  Love their scattered brains and long limbs.  All these seemingly insignificant details are an amazing, magic process at work.  It's like being witness to the miracle of a diamond mid-formation.  All this imperfection is going to one day yield a responsible, serious adult.  A loving husband and father.  Or a wonderful wife and mother.  It's a privilege to be witness to such glorious growth.

Feel that way.  See your teenagers as a privilege.  Don't see them as a burden.  They're more perceptive than you can imagine.  How you feel about them will be no secret.  So just love 'em.

Number two:  Listen and pay attention.  When they walk in the door after school, you have a precious few minutes that they will divulge the secrets of their day with you.  Be excited to see them.  Put down that cell phone.  Don't waste this time making dinner or taking a phone call.  Look them in the eye and hear what they are saying.  Make their victories your victories.  Be empathetic.  It is really hard to navigate high school and middle school.  Don't offer advice at this time unless they ask for it.  Don't lecture.  Just listen.  It makes them feel important and valued. We all need to feel that way.

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Number three:  Say yes more than you say no.  The world is forever going to tell them no.  For the rest of their lives, they will be swimming in a stormy sea with wave-after-wave of you're not good enough and you can't do this crashing down on their heads.  If nothing else, I want to be the opposite voice in their lives for as long as I can.  I want to instill in them the belief that they are not limited, and that they can do anything if they're willing to work hard enough for it.  I want to be the YES, YOU CAN in their life.  I want them to leave my house every day feeling invincible.

Number four:  Say no often.  You need to say no to experiences and situations that will set your child up for harm or unhappiness.  Don't let them go to the parties where they will be forced to make a choice at age 16 in front of their peers about alcohol.  Don't let them stay out until three in the morning with a member of the opposite sex.  Be the parent.  Set up rules for their safety, both physical and moral.  You would think this rule goes without saying, but we have known a shockingly large number of parents who don't.  

Number five:  Feed them.  A lot.  And not only them, but their friends, too.  These bodies are growing and developing at an astonishing rate, and need fuel to do so - most of which they prefer to be loaded with processed sugar and hydrogenated-something-or-others.  When their friends know your pantry is stocked to the gills with treats, they will beg your kid to hang out at your place.  This allows you to, not only meet and know their friends, but to keep an eye on your teen, as well.  Make your house the fun house.  Buy that ping-pong table.  Get the newest gaming system.  Put in a pool.  Or a basketball hoop.  Your return on investment will be greater than any other options out there.

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Number Six:  Don't sweat the small stuff.  When living with teenagers, it can be so easy to see the backpack dropped in the middle of the living room as laziness.  Or the bedroom scattered with dirty clothes as irresponsible.  Instead, and before you open your mouth to yell at them, put yourself in their shoes.  Find out about their day first.  Maybe they are feeling beaten down, and they just need to unwind for a minute and tell you about it.  Maybe they're tired from all that growing, learning, working, and hormone-ing.  If you waste your chance and yell at them about the backpack or shoes or [insert every other possession they own], they will not open up to you.  Breathe.  Ignore it for a bit and put your arms around that big, sweaty kid and give him a hug.  Talk to him about his world.  Find out what he did, wants to do, and dreams of doing.  THEN, and only then, ask him to pick it up and put it away.

That being said, do I completely ignore the state of my boys' bedrooms all the time?  No, I do not.  But I pick my battles, and I pick the appropriate time to fight them.  Once every seven to ten days or so, I tell them their bedrooms need to be picked up.  Which they do happily, because it's not the running loop of a nagging mom.  They know when I ask, it needs to be done. 

I will not have a bad relationship with my kid over a pile of clothes on the floor.  It's. Not. Worth. It.   I love my kid more than I love a clean house.  I am confident that I am raising humans capable of picking up after themselves, and I know as they mature and grow up, these things will sort themselves out.  I have taught them how to do it.  They will not be in college and literally unaware of how to bend down and pick up their socks.  

Number Seven:  Last, but not least, is to stand back and watch the magic happen.  If you let them, these glorious creatures will open their hearts and love you more fiercely than you could possibly imagine.  They are brilliant, capable, strong spirits who bring with them a flurry of happiness.  They are hilarious and clever.  They are thoughtful and sensitive.  They want us to adore them.  They need us to adore them.  They love deeply and are keenly in touch with the feelings of others.

They are just about the greatest gift that god gave to parents.

And I'm beyond lucky to call this crazy group mine.

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