12 Years

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary! Some days I can't believe it's been twelve years already and some days it seems much longer :)

We always sit down to watch our amateur videos, filmed by two friend's dads. We laugh at how skinny, young, silly, hairy we all were. We bitch about the fact that they both forgot to tape us coming down the isle or dancing our first dance. We crack up at some of the dance moves (the weed-eater, anyone?), the way one of our friends forgot her name and introduced herself on camera as "Mark's wife", and how my little cousin looked into the camera to find "Jenny the Princess".

We roll our eyes as the one dad takes up an inordinate amount of camera time flirting with the waitress and filming butts and boobs. And avert our eyes to avoid motion sickness when the other dad begins to dance while still holding the camera.

We laughed and cried, danced and sang...it was a truly great day.


Mama Bear

Some of you may or may not know I suffer from multiple personality disorder. Fortunately, I have only one other personality and her name is "Mama Bear". You mess with my kids and I'll mess you up, is her motto. You can be family, friends, or a stranger at the playground, she doesn't discriminate. She is fierce and loyal and a bit scary. I wouldn't try to find her if I were you...

I was thinking about when and how "Mama" came to be and began thinking about my favorite poem/prayer I used to read during the later part of my pregnancy:

These Last Few Hours

It is important to me that I spend a part of the next few hours here alone with you in the darkness.

You and I will never be this close again.

By morning, you will be a tiny person all your own.

No longer the kicking, demanding bulge in my body that I have grown to love so well.

I pray God will safely guide you on your journey tonight,

And I ask him for the strength to help you all I can.

Again you signal,
You're impatient to be free,

It's time now...

I still can't read that without a catch in my throat and it was that night Mama Bear was also born.

I struggled through the night of my first child's birth with a wistful fear tinged with curiosity. I wasn't sure what this abstract idea of "baby" was going to be like and not sure I was ready to go there, but I was going - ready or not.

That night was a blur as were the next few days. I looked at my son with wonder and shock, we had made this person. I just couldn't believe it!

We spent the last morning in the hospital getting a diaper, sleeper, snowsuit, and hat on him (literally, ALL morning). Then we spent the afternoon trying to buckle him into his car seat, cover him, take him out, comfort him, put him back in... (ALL afternoon) and then we were off...reluctantly... and veeerrryyy sllllooowwwllllyyyy pulled into traffic from the parking lot. It was as if we'd forgotten how to drive, so careful were we of our precious cargo.

As we stopped at a red light about 100 yards away I was overwhelmed with emotion and this is what occurred to me: "I would jump in front of that truck over there for him." I said to my husband. He looked at me with tears and agreed and Mama Bear began to grow inside me.

She has been growing ever since and I still would take a bullet, lift a car, or stop a train for my boys. They were the best decision I've ever made.

Why all of this baby talk suddenly? I've be working with a customer who is decorating her nursery for her own baby and as I work on her frame I'm touched by my own memories and stories. I just love the quote she chose and I can relate to it as it's summarized in a way I couldn't express on that day in the car.


Open Thank You Letter to my Kickboxing Classmates

Thank you to the girl in the front row who exercises like she's on too much Zanex while underwater. I'm not sure what soundtrack is playing in your head, but it provides me with some comic relief. And to "kickboxer dude" who looks as though he's in a street fight during the routine, thank you for giving me that odd mixture of fear and amusement.

To the woman who grimaces and lunges as if she's fighting off the devil himself, and the rebel who continues to bend at the waist when the instructor is screaming "Get your BUTT down!"

To the big girls and skinny girls who show me that fitness comes in all shapes and sizes. To the ones with boobs that have me thanking God I don't have them and to the one's who don't that make me feel normal.

To the drop-ins that have no idea what's going on but still try anyway, and to the regulars that call me out when I've missed class too many times.

To the two beautiful older ladies who keep up with the rest of us and inspire me to kick higher and punch harder. And to the 19 year old who pisses me off by her impossibly flat abs. If only I could tell her how wonderful she will think this body is when she looks back in 5, 10, 20 years or after a few kids, but she'll never believe it - none of us did.

To the ones dragging screaming kids to the childcare center with steely resolve for "my time" and to the ones who skip class because those same kids won't let go of mom's leg.

To the instructors who inspire us with their energy even though they are teaching their 2nd or 3rd class that day.

To the "loud count-er" who keeps me simultaneously on track and annoyed, and to the "creeper" that is always infringing on my personal space but keeps me on my toes.

To great sound tracks we can sing along to...or is that just me? The strange mix of Britney Spears, The Romantics, and Fergie on speed always cracks me up!

To the girl who smells like flowers and the stinky ones who make me rethink elements of my own hygiene. To the ones who put on make up and those that don't for taking the time or not, and to the crazy outfits some of us show up in (seriously, how did you fit into those short shorts?)

Thanks to all of you for entertaining and inspiring and making me look forward to my Monday and Wednesday mornings...Remember, "Don't give up on you!"



Wearing Bugels witch fingers
Fluffernutter sandwiches
Raisins in little boxes
Beetle Cookies
PB & J


A Rundown of my Oddities

It occurs to me sometimes, usually when I'm talking with a new friend, that some of my quirks are really oddities. Luckily, my friends seem to accept them as something that goes along with the package. I'm going to bare myself to the world and embrace them...

1. While most people are said to have a "fight or flight" reflex, I ended up with a fall down reflex. If my husband should surprise me unexpectedly, I usually end up in a ball on the ground for some reason. I think my brain has it confused with "stop drop and roll".

2. While I love to cook, I could live the rest of my life on eggs, Fruity Pebbles, and cake.

3. I'm obsessive compulsive with "projects" I have to have immediate gratification and will work obsessively until something is done, be it mulch, painting, or a book. If I've started something "important" (that term is relative) the house is a mess, there's no dinner, and I forget to go the baseball practice while I finish. I often get texts or phone calls that start with, "Okay, what new project are you up to? I haven't seen or heard from you in days!"

4. I am the best hide and seek player. If the kids want to play I usually force my husband to look for all of us and the whole game disintegrates around everyone searching for Mommy. Not to brag, but I can fit in some pretty weird places and get myself in this Zen state so I don't move or make a sound.

5. I'm obsessed with the color green that is the background for this blog, hence my love of moss and all other things I can find with this color. I have a friend that feeds this obsession with little gifts now and then of fantastic green things (place mats, artificial moss, beautiful pieces of glass).

6. I seriously pretend I'm in the movie Kill Bill during kickboxing class. I think my husband would fall on the floor laughing if he ever watched me.

7. I suffer from "the crazies" at night. At least once a week I wake up my husband in utter terror, convinced that I see something in our room. It could be a man coming to murder me, a spider lowering itself down from the ceiling toward my face, a bunny hopping along the floor (don't ask)... I scare the s$#t out of him when I panic because my eyes are wide open and I still see it!

8. I sing almost all day. When I get in the car the only time I'm not singing is when I'm on the phone, I have music on all the time in the house with speakers all over (including the garage and the deck) and even when the music isn't on I usually sing under my breath. Helper Munchkin takes after me and my husband laughs when he will sing his Happy Meal request or a song about having to go to the bathroom.

9. I don't drink coffee in the morning. Enough said.

10. I love to play pranks and practical jokes. Just ask all my neighbors. My particular favorite was this one:

I strung giant ladies underpants with skid marks (ingenious use of a Hershey's Kiss) across my neighbor's driveway the first morning of the neighborhood garage sale last summer. They were still sleeping and all the garage sale ladies were driving by slowly with the most curious expressions. I should mention that this particular neighbor is PERFECT! She is an interior decorator and he keeps the yard immaculately groomed!
Those underwear have been the cornerstone of many good pranks over the years. I will have to devote a whole post to all the pranks one day.


Hope is the thing with feathers...

I wanted to show off my latest photograph to go into my Etsy shop. This little nest is a work of art in strength and form. Each bit of mud and piece of grass is placed with precision. I can't believe this little bird is so talented! It was blown to the ground in a recent storm and I've held onto it for my bird's nest collection.

While on my tree crusade yesterday Helper Munchkin and I stumbled upon this freshly hatched robin's egg. I have a friend who spots four leaf clovers with some built in radar and I spot robin's eggs. I have little collections of them each spring that I save in spots here and there. I love the tiny, fragile shells in shades of blue I could never duplicate.

Well, the two beauties go together perfectly and posed for a photo on a chilly spring day in Pittsburgh.

I'm going to use part of my favorite Emily Dickinson poem as the title. Look for it soon at http://www.HopeStudios.Etsy.com


The Mulch

After "mulching" for about 3 hours yesterday I felt pretty sore as I dragged myself out of bed this morning. I looked out the window at my pretty beds admiring my hard work and got dressed to finish up. I walked out into the driveway and this is what I saw:

Either I wasn't as productive the day before (though my muscles would beg to differ) or it reproduced like little mulch rabbits overnight.
I think mulching is like childbirth, you forget the pain as soon as it's over. You look at the beautiful fruits of your labor and fool yourself into believing it wasn't so bad and set out to do it all over again. Your body just accepts this as punishment for not getting the brain in line.

Damn that pretty Double-Shredded-Dyed-Brown vixen! I'm up to my armpits in mulch again this year...but it's just so pretty!


I'm Officially a Tree-Hugger

I just spent all afternoon plotting and scheming against the neighbor who owns the property butting up against mine in the back. We noticed a few weeks ago several trees back there had been spray painted or had orange survey tape wrapped around them. I called the township and there were no permits so I let it rest...

Well, lo and behold, we noticed this week that about 100 trees are marked and some of those are about 20 feet from our tree house! (okay, to clarify, it's just a platform right now, but someday it will be a great tree house! I only hope the boys aren't too old to enjoy it.) These trees were well into my property line.

What to do? I made another phone call and there were a lot of what are your going to do's and I better check with my supervisor's and not a lot of resolution. So, I guess there is something you should know about me, I hate the male run around. I'm not a nagging wife, I hate to ask for help and if I get to the point of asking twice. I just figure out how to do it myself, I don't need you! If I can find directions, I can usually do it. I have 15 yards of mulch sitting in my driveway because my husband took too long to get it ordered and when he went out of town I just did it. It may not be done the way my husband would like it done, but next time he'll jump to it if it bothers him that much. In other words, I did what any other person with my particular issues would do...

I brought my bucket and brush down to the woods and Helper Munchkin and I proceeded to scrub all the marks off our trees and all those in the conservation zone. ( The logging company is going to be pissed since they were all marked with a board foot estimate)

Then we went to Lowe's and bought 1000 feet of caution tape and taped all trees in question. :)

I'm satisfied for now, but I'm sure this isn't the end of the story.


Check it out!

I came across one of those rare, wonderful customers who let me have free reign over her custom frame order this week. She requested a Bible quote and when it was finished she wished it looked more "joyful". I offered to re-do it and she offered a suggestion of a multi-font design to emphasize certain key words.

Once I started, it just took off and this is what we ended up with:

I do think it looks joyful but I would have never thought of creating such a frame from a Bible quote! Maybe it's the Catholic upbringing, but I always think of anything related to religion as serious, somber, quiet...lots of tradition. Does it have to be that way?

One of the last times I attended service (it isn't often now that we are outnumbered by kids...shhh...) there was some occasion for us to clap. Well, you would've thought he asked us all to stand on our heads or something. We all kind of looked around and moved our hands like they weren't part of our bodies. Quiet pats of hands were heard here and there while we all had an expression like, "is this okay?" The visiting priest said "Come on!" and slowly the applause grew a bit louder, and the smiles were bashful.

I like the idea of being "joyful" about religion, but I don't know if I have it in me, not while in a church anyway. For the meantime, I have this photo of my newest frame as a reminder that life doesn't have to be so serious. And maybe I can open my kids up to something that wasn't common when I was growing up. Can we have "fun" in church? Time will tell.

To view this frame and other Heartsongs Memory Frames visit my etsy shop
at www.HopeStudios.etsy.com



Well, it's shaping up to be a good day. I busted my hump to get my house clean so that I could reward myself with lunch with my girlfriend at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Mad Mex. We both always get the same order: Chicken Chickpea Chili Burrito! It has all the rice and beans and cheese and meat tucked inside and they paint a cactus on the top with some chipotle mayo. LOVE IT!

While we were there we exchanged goodies from our Etsy shops, I gave her an "M" Typewriter Key Necklace www.hopestudios.etsy.com and she gave me a cool new ring she is going to debut in her shop soon www.joybeadworks.etsy.com:

This weekend, we are expecting some more rain and cool weather, so I have the perfect Sunday dinner for you. Pork loin roast with cranberry orange sauce, mashed potatoes with pork gravy and green beans. I made this last week and it was a huge hit.

Rub the pork loin with Cajun spice mix and sear on all sides then stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 mins. Add some butter and diced scallions to the pan drippings then deglaze with some chicken broth, scraping up all the yummy bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let that simmer with a bit of flour and -BAM- gravy!

Next, mix together about 1/4 cup of cranberry sauce, 1 Tbsp. orange juice, and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon in a small pan and let reduce until its smooth and a bit thickened-BAM-sauce!

Pop out the roast and drizzle sauce over slices of meat and a bit of gravy over potatoes, add some green beans...you're super wife-mom again. You're welcome. :)


My Poor Blog...

Always the first to get bumped, this poor blog has been neglected since last week! I haven't forgotten about you, but these Mother's Day orders really had me jumping. I was beginning to think I'd bitten off more than I could chew when, suddenly, a light at the end of the tunnel. I will send off my last Mother's Day order today (a bit late, but you kids need to plan ahead and not order the week of the holiday! :)

Anyway, we got some new neighbors yesterday! Two families with 5 kids between them moved in on the same day and we are so excited! Helper Munchkin and I went on a baking spree to welcome them and here are the fruits of our labor:

Snickerdoodles (who doesn't love those?), Black and White cookies, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip!

I found this peanut butter recipe online when I was blog-hopping a few weeks ago and I was intrigued...cookies with no flour! I have had the recipe sitting on the counter since then because I couldn't believe it. They taste of peanut butter and molasses since there is so much brown sugar, and I think the eggs bind them enough to make a proper cookie. So, if you have a friend who is gluten intolerant this may be the recipe for you:

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir together brown sugar and baking soda then add peanut butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in chips and bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 mins.

In other news, Wacky Wednesday hits Pittsburgh in a big way resulting in teachers with their clothes inside out, children wearing several hats at once, girls' hair sticking out at odd angles and this:


Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday today and that always reminds me of something my mom used to say to me on my birthday every year. "I wish on your birthday, I could choose an age to have you for just one day." I always thought that was curious and was always like, "ooookay, whatever." but now that I have my own children I really understand what she meant.

Imagine being able to hold your child as an infant once more, to smell that baby breath and feel his soft cheek. Or, maybe to hear that toddler giggle and get a sticky kiss and a hug around the neck. It makes me feel sentimental and get choked up and I really understand what she was trying to say and I wish for the same with my boys.

She's recovering from yesterday's lumpectomy today and I'm sure I will get a phone call later with that wistful wish thrown in at the end of the conversation. I understand now, Mom, and I love you, too.


Mother's Day Tea at Preschool

Helper Munchkin invited me to Mother's Day Tea at preschool today. The kids decorated the room for us, drew us pictures,

and made us gifts, (a stepping stone I can put in my new shade garden we planted this spring) and sang and danced for us.

Their teacher interviewed the kids prior to the tea and wrote down their answers to read to the group.

Here are Munchkins's answers:

My mother's name is- Mom.(Maybe he's a little slow...)
My father's name is- Dad.(At least he didn't say dumbass)
My mother is - 60 years old. (Now, we all know I tell them I'm 28...again!)
My father is- 62 years old. (that one is funny since it's not me)
Mom's favorite food is- salad (um...okay, as long as it's covered with cheese and chicken and french fries and ranch)
Dad's favorite food is- steak (He knows this but not our names?!)
When I'm as school my mom- makes picture frames (Bingo!)
and my dad- goes to work
My mom likes to- make frames (hmmm, too much frame time?)
My dad likes to- catch fish (yes dear, daddy can't come to your game because he's fishing...again!)
I love my mom because- she gives me hugs. (he's sucking up at this point)
I love my dad because- he gives me hugs.(ditto, I swear he winked at me as the teacher read this)

Now, there was a time when I worked for Pampered Chef, about 2 years ago, and my middle son participated in this same tea with the same teacher. We all sat there tearing up as the teacher read each child's answers: for fun my mom likes to hug me, or play with me, or give me treats...and then it was my turn. The teacher looked around the room and said, "Ben said, when I'm at school my mom likes to watch TV, and for fun my mom likes to go to parties!" I never felt like such an ass in my life! I shrunk into my chair and weakly said "He means Pampered Chef Parties...it's my job...I really never go out any other time...heh, heh..."

So, needless to say, I was cringing as she read the answers this year but it came out okay. You'd think I'd have some compassion for the mom who's kid said she was 100 years old and that for fun she likes to go shopping and spend money while daddy goes to work to make money, but I laughed right along with everyone else. I did her a favor, you gotta have a thick skin for this mom stuff.


Typewriter Key Necklace!

Look at these cool typewriter key inspired beads I stumbled upon today! I love the vintage look and bought them before I knew what to do with them. I got home and decided to turn them into initial necklaces to sell in my shop.

I strung each bead on a black coated cotton rope (8 mm) and they fasten with a lobster clasp. It's just the type of jewelry I'd wear, simple and unique.

You'll notice the lovely moss I photographed with it which was a gift from a good friend who acknowledges my quirks (such as the love of moss) and feeds them.

I only have a limited supply of these keys, so it's first come first served. I have 2 of some of the letters and only 1 of others. I think I'm going to keep the "J" for me. I listed them just today at $10 apiece and they come in a unique gift box.

If you'd like to order one from my shop click here: http://www.hopestudios.etsy.com


A Boy and His Team

I snapped this photo at the end of this weekend's football game. I love the body language of the team all 'taking a knee' and listening to Coach. Munchkin #1 is playing flag one more season to prepare him for his first season of tackle in the fall. I hate to see all those kids taking down my own, but I guess it's right of passage in a boy's life to try out for the football team. And, I suppose, it's my duty to sit on the sideline cringing and praying.


My Paper Making Project

I know a few weeks ago I wrote about my to-do list for the week and on it was to learn how to make seed paper. Well, it took some time to get to it, but I tried it this week and it turned out pretty cool!

First, I gathered my supplies. In this case, that was a blender, some leftover tulle, scissors, 2-3 homework pages from my kids' folders, some newspaper, some dryer lint, wildflower seeds, and an old towel.

Then, I ripped up the paper into about 2 inch pieces and added it to the blender along with the dryer lint and warm water. I blended it for a bit then poured the whole mess onto the tulle I had lining the sink. After that, I sprinkled seeds and forget-me-nots into the top and transferred the whole thing to a towel. I folded the towel over the top and stood on top of it to really squeeze out the extra water and flatten it out.

Here is the finished paper! A friend of mine mentioned getting a flower die cut and making them into little tags or decorations. They will really sprout if placed into soil and watered!

Well, that's my "Martha" moment for the week. In other news, the frame business is taking off like wildfire in the past month. I'm very busy, but really loving making something of this little business of mine. I got my Etsy statement this week and I made 22 sales in April and May seems to be following suit with 5 sales already. I'm feeling a little Mary Tyler Moore right now..."You're going to make it after aaaaaaaaaalllllll!" Check me out: http://www.HopeStudios.Etsy.com


Remember Pillow Forts?

I was in the basement cleaning the "kid zone" (it looked like a bomb went off down there!) and when I came upstairs Helper Munchkin had created this:

He was very proud and it did give me a few minutes of peace so I didn't even mention the $100 Mega-fort building kit downstairs. Like they say, kids will throw away the toy and play with the box.


An Odd Little Tidbit About Myself

I'm just going to come right out and say it... I'm obsessed with organizing my house with shoe pocket organizers that fit on the back of doors! I'm not sure how or why this started, but I included some photos for you to see. I'm slowly running out of doors, but I will never run out of things to put in those cute little pockets!

My latest addition is in my pantry. My three boys seem to collect every cup from every restaurant and amusement park we've ever been to along with water bottles for all the many sports. Add to that my husband's obsession with beer cozies and I had a pile of random cups and cozies all over the floor of the pantry all the time. Shoe pocket organizer's saved the day. Look at this, I'm so proud of it I open the pantry doors to show anyone who comes over. It doesn't occur to me that everyone wouldn't just LOVE this until they nod in a confused way and offer to take my temperature.

I use one for my kids' craft organizer, too. And, believe it or not, I actually use them for shoes, too. Some of my shoe pocket organizers even came from the dollar store, so this doesn't have to be expensive. Maybe this is TMI, but I just had to share.

In other news, the girls' coffee group met again and it was so great to complain about our husbands, eat fantastic cookies and breads at 9 am (see Marzipan Mom's blog link to the right), and inspect our dream car that one of the girls just bought (Acadia, woo hoo!) Life isn't what it used to be, but that 2 hours over coffee and sweets does a body good. Thank you, friend!

Organize and Decorate Everything

Your Skin Fix, December Edition