Thursday, June 18, 2015

Summer Bucket List

I have a friend with 7 kids (yes, feel free to gasp) and every year her family does a summer bucket list.  Year after year I think, ‘We really need to do something like that,’ and year after year we don’t do it.  So this year I decided it was time.  We’re going to do our own summer bucket list.  Ella and I sat down and talked about several activities that she wanted to do and things I thought would be a lot of fun for her.  We created a list, colored, cut and taped it to the wall, and here we are.  Tomorrow is Ella’s last day of school and summer break officially begins!

I suggested that for the last day of school we hit up Sugar Shack for dinner (it’s an awesome doughnut place).  Ella, being the logical one, said that they are having doughnuts at school so she thinks it would be a better idea to eat something else for dinner.  2 doughnuts in 1 day is a lot for a kid.  In her exact words, “It would be crazy town in our house!”  We’ve decided to order Chinese food instead.

As you can see, most of the activities involve learning how to cook something.  Since cooking is Ella’s latest passion, she has a lot of items she wants to learn to cook.  The problem is that most of these items are beyond my cooking level.  Crème Brulee…really?  Madeleines…you want me to cook a French cake?  Homemade lemonade…sounds easy, but is it?  Don't worry, I've got Root Beer Floats covered.

The Butterfinger Pie was my addition.  I had one at a restaurant in Maryland and it was heaven on a plate.

This first week of break will be spent at home.  I'm sure we'll check a couple of things off the list and it will get the summer started on the right track.   Today we're heading to Target to pick out a 500 piece puzzle and some Silly String.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Power of words

I learned at an early age that words have power.  My mom was a communication professor and my dad was a vocal music professor.  Both made their living with words and the power and emotion that comes from them.  So it’s no surprise that early on I learned to use words and inflection in my speech.

I’m not sure what has happened, but somewhere in the past several years, this skill seems to have gone by the wayside.  Bullying has become stronger than ever.  Either the kids don’t see the implications of their words, or they simply don’t care.
I will be the first to admit that there are times I have diarrhea of the mouth.  Words start pouring out of me before my brain can comprehend what I’m saying.  As soon as it registers what I’m saying, I try to shut up.  Instead I often just keep talking as I try to cover up and make excuses for what I just said.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Age has played into my favor and I feel I am getting better as I get older.  I am getting a grip on managing my mouth and am learning the importance of thinking before I speak.

That said, I can say with certainty that I have never been a bully.  I was never known as someone who said unkind things to others.  People have feelings, and I have tried very hard to be nice to everyone.

The other day Ella and I were having a conversation about the importance of her always telling me and daddy the truth.  I wanted her to know that she can come to us with anything and when we ask a question it’s important for her to tell us the truth.  I emphasized that she always needs to tell us if someone makes her feel uncomfortable or acts in a way she thinks is inappropriate toward either her or her brother, and I especially emphasized how important it is for her to tell us if someone says something unkind or is mean.

After I said my little speech I could see the wheels turning.  Finally she said, “Mommy, something happened awhile ago that I forgot to tell you about.  I was going to tell you, but I forgot and just now remembered.”  I braced myself.  This could either be something really big that needed action, or something really minor that was only important in her 7 year old mind…either way, how I responded to this was going to set the tone for the future.

Ella: “A few weeks ago a kid called me a name.”

Me: “What did he call you?”

Ella: “He called me a monster.”

Insert complete heartbreak.  I choked back the tears.  How could someone say something so cruel to my beautiful, sweet, kind daughter?  Ella would never hurt a fly…I know she wouldn’t do anything to prompt such a harsh word.  And where were his parents?  Why didn’t they correct this behavior?

I stopped and looked Ella directly in the eye.

Me: “You are not a monster.  You are my beautiful, sweet girl who is kind and loving.  Monsters are in movies and are ugly and mean and scary.  You are NOT a monster.  You know that, right?”

Ella: “Yes, I know.”

We talked about the situation a bit more, then I thanked her profusely for telling me and told her how proud I am of her and what an amazing and loving girl she is.

I realize that this boy is someone we don’t know.  Ella didn’t know his name and says she hasn’t seen him since.  We don’t know his parents and the likelihood that they read this blog is slim to none.  But I wanted to write this for one main reason…to ask all of you to please talk to your kids and grandkids (and anyone else who will listen) about the power of words.  This incident happened several weeks ago, yet the power of that word…monster…has remained with Ella.  It has been buried deep in her heart.  When she hears the word in a book or sees a monster in a movie, she goes back to that interaction and sees herself on the same level as the horrible creature being displayed.

They say that it takes 10 positive words to cancel out 1 negative word.  Teach your children to focus on the positive.  Show them how to be one of the 10 positives because you never know how many negatives a child is hearing.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I’m a Virginian

A little over 12 years ago I moved to Northern Virginia.  I had been living and working in the Boston area when an opportunity opened up to move here and work for a Senator from Wyoming.  My plan was to move down here and stay for a year or 2, then get a good job in Colorado and move back out west.  That way I could marry a good western man, have western kids, and live a western life.

1 ½ years after moving here my colleague asked if she could set me up on a blind date.  I agreed, and 2 weeks later I was introduced to Joe.  After a whirlwind romance we were engaged and planning a wedding.  Choosing where to have the wedding was a no-brainer for me.  I wanted to get married here, in Virginia.  And so it was.

Fast forward 12 years and we have established roots.  Virginia is not only where we were married, it is where both of our children were born.  It is where we bought our first home (or rather, where the bank owns our first home).  It is where we have built a life together.  While there are days that I get annoyed with the traffic, or get frustrated with the high cost of everything…at the end of the day, living in Northern Virginia just feels right.  A lot of people don’t understand it.  Most of my own family members don’t understand it.  But it all comes down to one thing…after 12 years, Virginia is home.

Recently there have been 2 events that happened that proved to me that it is official…I am a Virginian.

1) A woman and I were talking.  During the conversation she asked me, “Where’s home?”  My first thought…HERE!  When I responded she looked confused, “So you grew up in Virginia?”  My response, “I grew up in Wyoming, but Virginia is my home.”

2) I was talking to a family that is living here temporarily.  In our conversation they mentioned that they haven’t really enjoyed living in Northern Virginia.  I tried to be understanding and hear where they were coming from, but inside I was completely offended.  How could you NOT love it here?  What’s not to love?  Look at all the awesome things around you!  Of course I didn’t say any of that, those were just the thoughts in my head.  But it was another sign that Virginia is where my heart is.  Of course a piece of me will always love the west, but I know that Virginia is where we are supposed to be.

12 years is a long time.  Our townhouse is exactly 2 miles from the apartment I lived in when I first moved to the area.  We are 1 mile from the apartment we lived in when we got married and 2 blocks from the townhouse we rented when Ella was born.  Everything I need is within a 3 mile radius.  I can get to the mall, grocery store, favorite restaurants, doctor and church all in under 10 minutes.  Ella attends the neighborhood school just 3 blocks from our house.  I love our street and know all of our neighbors.  I can tell you the best place for Mexican food, Hibachi, Chinese food, Italian food and hamburgers.  I know the quickest route to the movie theatre and can tell you where to avoid during rush hour.  This is my neighborhood.  My home.  Virginia.

Friday, May 8, 2015


There is something you need to know about me…I love cake.  I pretty much have a sweet tooth in general (I’ve never met a dessert that I didn’t like), but for me, cake is taken to a whole new level.  I love it!  While I definitely have my favorite flavors (strawberry, red velvet, plain white, and this awesome coconut cake that my friend makes), I will pretty much eat any cake set in front of me.  If you ever think something is a bit off and you wonder if my body has been overtaken by aliens, set a piece of cake in front of me and see how I respond.  If it’s eaten within 3 minutes, you know everything is ok.

My love isn't just with the cake, though.  I love...I mean LOVE frosting.  Joe's mom has this fantastic frosting recipe and she used to always bring me a big container of it whenever she would come visit.  Finally she just gave me the recipe, so now I always keep a container of it in the freezer.  If I'm having a rough day and need a little pick-me-up I scoop some frosting into a bowl and eat it with a spoon spread it on graham crackers.

Several months ago, long before our Christmas trip to Disney World, I read an article about must have foods in Disney World.  On the list was a Cake Cup from the Cheshire Cat Café.  The second I saw the picture I knew I had to have this cake.  Thus began my quest…eat this, and any other cake I happen to find while visiting the Disney World Theme parks.

The list begins with our first cake in Magic Kingdom…The Be Our Guest Restaurant cupcake topped with “the gray stuff.”

 When planning our trip, lunch at this restaurant was at the top of Ella’s list of “must-do’s.”  We waited in line for nearly 2 hours to finally get in for lunch, so we were definitely going to make the most of it.  We ate in the Castle Gallery.  The cupcake was divine and as Ella says, "Mom, the gray stuff really IS delicious!"

Next we hit up the Cheshire Cat Café.  I want to be very clear about something.  This is NOT a cupcake.  It is a cake cup.  A large plastic cup filled with alternating layers of cake and icing.  To make this cake cup even better…it had strawberry icing and strawberry gel filling.  Please note that strawberry is my absolute favorite kind of cake.  Heaven. In. A. Cup.  I gave Ella a couple of bites, but other than that I ate the entire thing.  Even the fondant rose on top.  Sometimes I find myself dreaming of this cake cup.  I will definitely hit up this Cafe the next time we head to Magic Kingdom.  And next time I'll get the chocolate flavor too, just for good measure.

We spent our 3rd day at Hollywood Studios and ate lunch at the Backlot Express Restaurant.  While there I spotted a sign advertising 2 special cupcakes.  A carrot cake cupcake topped with Olaf, and a gingerbread cupcake topped with Mickey ears and a Santa hat.  I couldn’t decide which one I wanted, so I did the only logical thing…I ordered both.  These cupcakes were huge!  Even with 3 of us eating them we still weren’t able to finish.  While I enjoyed the gingerbread cupcake, I was really partial to the carrot cake.  It took me back to my Boston days when I had this awesome roommate who made amazing cakes.  She made a carrot cake that was beyond delicious.

There you have it, my Disney vacation in cake.  I’m sure there is more cake out there that I didn’t get to try.  The next time we go I will make it my mission to try every kind of cake in the parks.  It’s my commitment to you to keep you informed.  I’m a giver like that.

I realize that I did not mention any cake from Epcot.  Either I didn’t visit the right places in Epcot, or they do not offer the delectable cake options the other two parks offered.  Also, I have recently seen a commercial that features a Darth Vader cupcake that will be offered during Star Wars week at Disney World.  I am jealous that I don't get to try this cake.  Chocolate and peanut butter...YUMMY!  Our next visit must be during Star Wars week.