Tag: Happying


Bobblehead Crossing

I am a bobblehead doll today, skull packed tightly with rubber, earlobes dragging me off-balance. It’s preferable to the tire treads across my forehead yesterday or the jackhammers in my eardrums the day before, but something tells me I’m sicker than I realize. Standing up really isn’t ideal right now. Neither is sitting up, but I’m determined not to sleep away a wonderfully wide-open morning; better to spend the hours staring at my computer screen through a groggy haze than losing them to oblivion, yes?

I am absolutely, positively, 100% not ready for December yet. The last half of this year has been dragging me along by my toenails, and I’m suddenly tangled in a string of colorful, glowing Christmas tasks wondering where summer went…though that could just be the bobblehead talking. I shouldn’t try to wax poetic about the changing of the seasons when I’m having trouble locating my own neck.

In lieu of more incoherent mumblings from me, I’d love to hear about you.
What do you see outside your window?
What are you listening to?
What are you looking forward to today?
What’s making you tick, making you smile, inspiring, warming, filling you right now?

I’ll start:
I’m watching hundreds if not thousands of birds perform a frenzied ballet on the winds whipping our sky into a froth. I’m listening to Ella Fitzgerald in an attempt to absorb some of her nutmeg-sweet Decemberly vibes. I’m looking forward to reading Farmer Boy with the girls before naptime and some new Christmas storybooks before bed; snuggling up and sinking into the literary world together is one of my very favorite privileges of parenthood.  And for the final question, I think the mug of cinnamon apple spice tea in my hand pretty much covers it all.

Your turn!


Buttered and True

Despite hailstorms, car trouble, the natural disaster zone that is the girls’ room, and my ongoing husbandlessness, I can end today with my wholehearted endorsement of the following happy-making activities:

  • Dancing in pajamas to this song (bonus points if joined by giggling daughters)
  • Sneaking a leftover pecan pie bar before breakfast
  • Mailing off a little care package
  • Re-reading this blog entry (bonus points if laughter is accompanied by snorts and/or tears)
  • Tucking strawberry plants in for the winter
  • Stumbling across this quote
  • Indulging in a few minutes of “Buttered Mashed Potatoes” candle
  • Catching up on a guilty pleasure
  • Hosting a soup-and-baguette picnic on the living room rug
  • Soaking in a good, old-fashioned bubble bath

What are some of your tried and true gloom-chasers?



I love the spices of October, the layers in her wardrobe, her moonrises and fogbanks, her apple-cheeks and smoky curls. However, my favorite trait of October, the one that endlessly flirts with my imagination and wins me over year after year, is a color.


How does October enamor you?


Highland Fling – Part 2

(Part 1)

I feel like the next part of this tale doesn’t exactly warrant telling, but it was a near-spiritual experience for me, so… I’ll try to make it quick. On our way out of Cambridge to the wilds of northern England, we stopped by a Tesco Extra. Tesco, I was already familiar with from our grocery trips in Ireland. The Extra, however, was new to me; it wasn’t until I was standing in the store’s entryway with my jaw somewhere under the cart that I realized it stood for Everything That Can Be Sold Inside a Building And Then Some. Over the past three years, I’ve grown accustomed to small specialized stores that don’t worry themselves unnecessarily with options. I don’t mind the Italian way of shopping, really; once you learn where to go, when, and for what, it’s a simple process. But stepping into that multi-story metropolis with its book store and baking aisles (multiple!!) and 24-hour pharmacy made me want simultaneously to cry and to start groping the merchandise. I went with the latter. It took us an hour to get the four grocery items on our list and twenty not on our list (we’re lucky your dad forbade me from so much as peeking into the baking section), and back in the car, you girls fell promptly to sleep.

Magellan's seen plenty of naptimes by now If I had not felt the need to ask your dad important questions like, “Did you see the blueberry muffins, did you? The big ones? With blueberries in them? And individual packaging? Next to that other brand of blueberry muffins? Weren’t they beautiful?” steadily for the next three hours, I would have passed out too.

Had we realized that Cambridge would be our last brush with civilization for almost a week, we could have spent our time at Tesco stocking up on salt pork and hardtack, but we were too excited about hitting the trail… and I do mean “trail” literally. Our next stop was a section of Hadrian’s Wall with little around besides wind-whipped skies and a vague path shoeprinted into the grass. That is our absolute favorite kind of place to end up—enough remaining history to fuel our imaginations and enough nature to let us off our leashes. You girls didn’t need instructions. While your dad and I goofed off in Milecastle 42 pretending to be the ancient Roman IRS faced with unruly Scotsmen, you skipped off together toward the rolling green.

Girls on a missionNot even Tesco Extra tempts me to live in the UK as strongly as this scene does.

You were the height of adorable, holding hands and racing away on your own little adventure. Just before you left earshot, your dad and I saw you point to the obviously bovine creatures in the distance and exclaim, “What could those be? Cows? Horses? Wolves? We don’t know!” So adorable. Your dad and I were still chuckling about it when we realized you girls were much faster than we gave you credit for… and that you had gotten alarmingly close to the cows/horses/wolves/wedon’tknow while we were preoccupied with your adorableness. Parents of the year! We caught up just as you, Natalie, were remarking, “Yep, they’re cows.” It would have been hard not to identify them, seeing as how several had planted themselves squarely in your path.

Attack of the cows 1 - Copia “Moove it, bipedals; this is our turf.”

The black cow in front had a decidedly unfriendly gleam in her eyes. The other cows shifted their hooves, glanced at her, and muttered to each other in moo, but the black one stood as rigidly as a block of ice freezing us with her glare. Apparently, we didn’t take the hint. With no warning (other than the daggers shooting from her eyes, of course), she sounded the charge. Her posse began advancing on us. We began backing away. They stepped up the pace. We began to run. A few seconds later, we looked back to discover that cows are more agile creatures than we knew. They were galloping full-throttle at our backs, and the black one may or may not have been shooting flames from her muzzle. We scooped up you girls and bolted for the far end of the field, shrieking with laughter. There was something absurdly funny about escaping from a bovine lynch mob, and once we made it through the safety gate, we collapsed more from the hilarity of it all than from exhaustion. Well, three of us did. You, Natalie, surprised us by bursting into tears. “I’m scared of the cows,” you cried. “What did they want?” Your dad quickly tried to comfort you. “It’s okay, honey; the cows probably just wanted to eat.” Your cry immediately grew into a full-fledged wail. “THEY WANTED TO EAT MEEEEEEEEEEE?”

Survivors! Parents of the year!

Plenty of hugs (and a few parental giggling fits) later, we headed back to the campground. This one didn’t have a playground, but what it lacked in plastic slides it made up for in wildlife. We socialized with the resident puppies, made fascinating discoveries about chicken’s sense of hygiene (as in, they don’t have one), and followed a rather important looking mallard giving his two ducktweens a tour of the grounds. Your favorite part, though, was the pond. Safe in a circle of bullrushes, a mama duck clucked soft goodnights to each of her dozen babies, caressed their fluffy heads, and tucked them underneath her feathers for the night. You watched spellbound, even as the daddy duck hissed ineffectual curses in our direction, and other campers gathered around to watch you. By the way, there’s something truly special about the little communities that form between people at campgrounds, even if it’s only during an overnight stay. Sleeping outdoors enhances one’s capacity for wonder, and our campground acquaintances tend to notice small joys—puddles ripe for splashing, pink-tinged clouds, little faces lit up over ducklings’ bedtime rituals. Just by being yourselves, you inspired joy and camaraderie… and it was perfectly natural for us to stay long past checkout time the next morning so you could fly kites with the girl-next-tent, Evi, while your dad and I swapped funny travel stories with her parents. It’s just what you do when small joys win over boring old farts like standoffishness and punctuality.

The kite flyer 2 This is the kind of thing that makes souls breathe deep.
Well, this and being attacked by ravenous cows.


On to Part 3…


Happiness Upgrade

Happiness v. 09.2010:

Midnight blue nail polish
Pounding bass lines
The smell of leaf fires in the mornings
Glee (I can’t help it!)
Shiny floors
Running in the park over lunch break
The circus camels hanging out there
Richard Scarry
Crockpot meals that last a week
Short hair
Good old-fashioned e-mail
The return of the comforter
Settling Catan
After-school snacks
Monkey hugs

What’s your latest version?


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ September 2010

September 1st – Listening to our new little reader entertain her sister with a Seuss classic.

Natalie trying out her new reading skillz on her sister

September 2nd – Getting treated to an exclusive performance of The Best Circus Show EVER!!! with the world-famous ringmasters (and tightrope walkers and clowns and trapeze artists and magicians and unicyclists) Natalie and Sophie.

September 3rd – Watching the follow-up to the circus show: The Best Puppet Show EVER!!! (It was.)

September 4th – Finally checking out the local library that looks like a pink spaceship—to the girls’ delight—and bringing home a stack of storytimes.

September 5th – Appreciating how this week’s preacher included the Sunday-schoolless kids in the sermon and kept it short and relevant… as opposed to last week’s long droning discourse about Tamar and Judah. (The mind, it boggles.)

September 6th – Getting a fresh burst of excitement about this fall when Sophie exclaimed, “Natalie and I are about to go to school, and Mommy’s going to write and write and write! And make lunch!”

September 7th – Trying very, very hard not to giggle at the dinner table as the girls seriously discussed the perils of pooping.

September 8th – The usually horrible Festa dell’Unità playing Stevie Wonder through our open windows just when I needed a dose of happy.

September 9th – Watching a marathon of the girls’ baby videos with them, no matter how desperately it makes me want to cry.

September 10th – Introducing the girls to the magic of Totoro.

September 11th – Ending a full day of shopping with… more shopping, and speculating about all the fun memories the girls will make in their new fall clothes.

September 12th – Turning a failed picnic into an afternoon of games and relaxed conversation with one of our favorite families.

September 13th – Sending two thrilled little girls straight into the arms of their favorite teacher at school.

First day of school! 2

September 14th – Meeting the words I’ve been trying to find for years as they tumbled out of my fingers onto the page; mornings like this are why I write.

September 15th – Seeing evidence of my sweet girls’ care for our family and each other in action.

September 16th – Enjoying roasted tomato soup with a supersized helping of friendship.

September 17th – Snuggling up for a movie night with my favorite husband.

September 18th – Taking Natalie out for a mom-daughter shopping date and chatting up a storm.

September 19th – Indulging my inner heathen and taking a much-needed day to relax and watch the clouds blow by.

Vivid - 4

September 20th – Squelching my fear of failure and utter hatred for running to complete nearly three kilometers with my longsuffering Dan.

September 21st – Easing back into teaching English and remembering how much I really do enjoy it.

September 22nd – Accepting a last-minute playdate invitation and getting to know the warm and bubbly woman who is Natalie’s future mother-in-law.

September 23rd – Kissing my girls goodbye and watching them gallop hand-in-hand to their classroom, giggling all the way.

September 24th – Discovering an entire group of friends who share my background and are working together to forge a future full ofhope.

September 25th – Baking illegal chocolate cake with plenty of sticky-fingered help.

September 26th – Cracking up with the rest of the church band after an increasingly awkward list of song selections, including the same one called twice in a row.

September 27th – Being treated to the most delicious pretend picnic of all time by my dear Sophie who came home sick from school.

September 28th – Having a little dance party with myself to this song while putting on my makeup.


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ August 2010

August 1st – Playing piano for church without the perspiring palms or misplayed notes that usually plague me.

August 2nd – Giving Natalie my pink pen and encouraging her to go to town on letters; this teaching process is making my English-nerdy heart so happy.

August 3rd – Compensating for the lack in stores by making bread and butter pickles from scratch (with coriander picked from our balcony, no less!).

August 4th – Spending a family evening at the park to breathe fresh air and recharge.

August 5th – Catching a mesmerizing sunrise mere seconds before the day turned overcast.

August 6th – Chilling with my brother-in-law over lunch, grateful for family who are also friends.

August 7th – Deciding on the spur of the moment to pack our lunch and go camping near Pitigliano.

August 8th – Spending the most delightfully lazy Sunday swimming in the pond, picking fruit, and relaxing as a family in the great outdoors.

August 9th – Indulging the compulsion to write despite a jillion-long to-do list.

August 10th – Appreciating and clinging to my dear husband all the more in light of a friend’s divorce.

August 11th – Cracking up over the girls’ lyrical interpretation of a light saber fight.

'Let's play Star Wars; I'll be Yoga'August 12th – Waking up to the first morning of Dan’s unexpected mini-vacation.

August 13th – Getting a free jazz dance performance by Natalie in front of the Duomo in Orvieto.

August 14th – Introducing our house guests to the magical, laughter-producing power of the Wii.

August 15th –Slurping up homemade Nutella malt milkshakes—with cherries and chocolate sprinkles, of course—in  four-part harmony.

Nutella malt milkshake

August 16th – Spending the last day of Dan’s work vacation doing nothing, glorious nothing.

August 17th – Finding a wiggly tooth in my five-year-old’s mouth and cheering together for the fantastic process of growing up.

August 18th – Watching my husband step up and offer unconditional love and support to friends in need.

August 19th – Hiding safely inside while Dan and his brother played a hilarious version of tennis with the bees infesting our balcony.

August 20th – Baking cherry chocolate cupcakes with Sophie, who kept smiling up with a chocolate-smeared face to exclaim, “We are the best bakers!”

August 21st – Giving some family TLC to our balcony garden; home improvement projects always make me happy.

August 22nd – Unexpectedly not having to play piano for church, performance pressure dissolved instantly.

August 23rd – Taking myself out to shop for clothes in  luxurious solitude.

August 24th – Enjoying our typical summer evening of freshly-baked baguette slathered in stracchino and a side of ripe, red watermelon, eaten together on our balcony while the sun melts out of sight.

August 25th – Journaling through some tangles in my brain and gaining perspective in the process.

August 26th – Scanning approximately 50,000 pages of the girls’ artwork from the last month, like taking a vacation  in their funny, colorful worlds.

August 27th – Rising above a heavy rejection letter to work on a story and finding I still have the capacity to enjoy writing after all.

August 28th – Taking a spontaneous trip with friends to Isola Polvese for a day of ferrying, picnicking, and playing on the beach.

Sophie opts not to get in the lake

August 29th – Watching and trying out circus acts with the girls at the children’s festival in the park below our house.

August 30th – Being blown away once again by the brilliant, saturated colors in the evening sky.

August 31st – Falling even more in love with my creative Miss Natalie upon reading her color chart.

Mommy [saying 'Masr'], Sophie, and me with colors


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