Marley made a discovery before our morning run. She was playing on my bed while I stretched. As I raised my head from between my legs I heard the faint but distinctive sound of hard candy clacking against small teeth. She'd found a heart-shaped lollipop somewhere in the tangle of sheets. (I always love to see what little surprises await me when I pull back the covers.)

She had quietly taken the wrapper off and crawled to the far corner of the bed so as to enjoy her treasure in peace. I left her to it while I finished stretching. She was on Eric's side anyway.

Sometime later I put her sticky arms into her purple coat, strapped her into the jogging stroller and away we went, lollipop still in her hand. She would suck for a moment, take it out, contemplate its sugary goodness, then suck some more. Repeated, until half-way through the run I looked down to see that she was sound asleep, her little fist still curled tightly around the lollipop stick.

It made me think. What a happy surprise it must have been for her to discover the existence of lollipops. Not unlike the joy I felt at discovering the existence of her, and all that comes with her: painting a room pink, shopping for babydolls.

Never mind the sticky drool and cavities. Hold on to your lollipop, baby girl.


Dear Valentine,

You are so very, very easy to love. It seem like years ago that I wondered at the squirming lump in my belly and tried to imagine a real person. I think about you and my stewardship of your sweet, wild spirit. As I guide and shape you, you do the same to me. I love the way that you and I can be together, not saying anything, looking where we please, thinking what we please. Do you think we can hold on to that? I hope so.

Dear Valentine,

You and I are peas in a pod. Loving you helps me learn to love myself. I love your quirkiness, the way you have of doing your own thing, oblivious to others' presence. I love to watch your face contort while you have imaginary conversations in your head. I love your penchant for finding hidden treasures- in the gutter, on the floor of the checkout lane, under a pile of leaves. You are my treasure.

Dear Valentine,

You and I are trailblazers. You see my flaws most clearly-my jagged edges are still sharp enough to cut you. I know there is pain in this, but I like to think there's a special bond too. I think of us, faces smudged with dirt, machetes in hand, hacking our way through the jungle together. You turn to me for reassurance and I kiss you on the head. Then we plunge ahead. Oh how I love you.

Dear Valentine,

Do you sometimes get tired while building this house of a life with me? It's still covered in dust and construction debris, and maybe it will be for some time, but underneath I think it's shaping up to be a solid, beautiful structure. Thanks for holding the ladder steady for me.


9 P.M. Tuesday

*Picture from a year ago, since I was too lazy to take one last night.

Kids across America were in bed, except for those who live on Tobacco Road. We split ways last night, Eric taking Marley with him to little Eric's basketball game and me taking Brigham with me to the Church. When we converged at home I was met with fierce bedtime resistance from both Erics, who felt the strong need to watch the Duke/ Carolina game, even though tip-off was after the younger one's bedtime. I tried suggesting that he listen to the game on the radio in his bed, but I could tell I just wasn't going to win this one. So they settled in to watch, while I put Marley to bed and Briggie fell asleep on the couch.

I took the opportunity to paint my nails teal (keeping those New Year's resolutions!) and watch Mansfield Park so that we can move on with our Netflix queue. EXCELLENT movie, by the way. And Duke won.

This morning I entered to kitchen to find Big Eric giving little Eric a lesson in gloating, that he was no doubt planning to put to use with all the little Carolina fans at school this morning. I interjected- I'll concede bedtime, but not manners- to remind the boys about being gracious winners.

Only in North Carolina...


Morning thoughts.

I'm much more of a night owl than a morning person. But after I've gotten over the shock of the alarm clock going off, had some orange juice and checked my email, I actually do like mornings with my kids. The boys usually wake up before me, but they know not to EVER come in my room when I'm sleeping unless it's to SILENTLY climb into bed with me. SILENTLY. They will busy themselves with some quiet activity in the living room like lego building or randomly clicking around on the computer screen until something fun pops up. This morning they continued last night's pre-bedtime activity: designing their own chucks on the converse website. I like their designs, but $45 for shoes? For my kids? Who don't even wear shoes?

At exactly 8:20, I emerge from my room and start issuing orders to get dressed, tell me what they want for breakfast, put socks on (you would think this would be part of getting dressed, but no), get glasses, backpacks, show-and-tell objects, etc. While they're doing all this I'm usually in the kitchen making breakfast (always one of three selections: toast, cheerios or oatmeal) and packing lunches. This morning Eric was eating his oatmeal while I made his sandwich. He informed me that yesterday I put his sandwich in Brigham's lunch. Eric likes a whole sandwich with peanut butter and jam, cut diagonally. Brigham likes a half-sandwich, just peanut butter, FOLDED IN HALF, not cut.

"My lunchbox is tall and black and Brigham's is short and black."

[short pause]

"And I'm the kid without the glasses."

Then I take them to school, come home and have a wrestling match with Marley that sometimes, but not always, ends with one or more clips residing in her hair for up to fifteen minutes. So I take pictures of her to document my efforts.

Then we're ready to face the day!



Thanks to my new calling at church, I get to spend my Sundays with teenage girls for the foreseeable future. The boys laughed when I told them I get to teach the "beehives", which is what the 12- and 13-year-olds are called, especially when Eric told them that if I did a good job I would be promoted to the "wasp's nest" (he made that up).

Yesterday was my first day. I went to the Young Women's room after Sunday school and was given a phone list (almost every girl has her own cell phone, I was amazed to see), a birthday list and a calendar full of fun activities for the month of February. As I looked at the calendar I felt a familiar twinge of excitement. I joined the Mormon church when I was 16, so I participated in the youth program for about a year-and-a-half. I remember I would painstakingly transfer each scheduled activity into my day-planner and draw little pictures around them in marker. These goings-on were the highlights of my life. I looked forward to them so much. The little seeds of testimony that have grown and supported me throughout the last 12 years were sewn during those times. And now I get to help create those experiences for these girls.

The best part is something that I had totally forgotten about- Young Women's is all about building up. During our lesson yesterday we were given a treat with a little reminder to:

Forget your "worldly" value- Remember your true "werth". You are an "original" and unique daughter of God! He loves you!

(Can you guess what the candy was? So creative!)

Even now, my eyes fill with tears at that beautiful, simple message. I think we all need frequent reminders of our true worth.

Then I learned that I need to be able to text and be on Facebook in order to keep up with my girls. I think I can learn how to text, but Facebook...I just can't. Sorry girls.

*I awoke to these little critters yesterday morning...little Eric rediscovered this book that my very fun and creative aunt and uncle gave him a few years ago.


Snow: FAIL

Does this look like a happy face to you?...

Or this?
If you could see this one, it would not be happy either...
It turns out that we're not snow people. We had nine inches here on Saturday and there's still enough of it hanging around that school has been out all week and they have tomorrow off. We spent the weekend hunkered down at home- church was even cancelled on Sunday. We played monopoly, ate homemade pizza and soup with friends and watched movies.

Saturday morning we spent a good twenty minutes padding everyone out, but when we reached the front yard Brigham took a snowball to the eye right off the bat and started to cry. Marley refused to let me put her down, and you saw for yourself what was on the dog's mind. Eric and Eric are the most cold-hardy among us and even they were happy to go in after about fifteen minutes. In our defense, we own a total of two real winter coats, three pairs of hand-knitted mittens (not warm, but very cute!), and zero pairs of boots.

The kids and I basically spent yesterday and today inside our house. Removing all the magnets from the fridge and scattering them around the house. Dribbling the basketball in the living room. Attempting to microwave rocks. We've also had some lovely moments. We've read books, done projects, snuggled, baked and just talked. But we're all starting to feel a little cooped-up, you know?

I reached my boiling point this afternoon while waiting for Eric to come home from school. He walked in at five o'clock sharp and I took off with the dog for a chilly run. At one point I was navigating a patch of ice when I saw two off-leash dogs up the road. They saw us coming toward them and started to trot over. I just started yelling like a mad-woman. They got the hint and veered off in another direction. The last thing I needed was my stir-crazy dog taking off on a joy romp through the neighborhood, dragging me behind him through the slush and ice.

I averted that disaster, came home, showered, ate dinner and escaped again to Target, where I bought lollipops, valentine-making supplies and a Hello Kitty toothbrush for Marley. She has an obsession with toothbrushes:

She gets it from me and I get it from my mom, who gets it from my grandmother. We really like to brush our teeth. I brush mine at least three times a day. I take a long time to brush, and I get bored staring at myself in the mirror, so I wander around the house talking to people while trying not to dribble toothpaste slobber on myself. It drives Eric crazy, but I can't help it- it's genetic. I mean, look at this:
Basically, we're ready for the rest of the week. Bring it, school system! Call me again- go on, do it. Tell me school is cancelled another day, and another, and another. We have stuff to do anyway- 46 pipecleaner bees to make and attach to valentines (bee mine- get it?)...yellow snow to make...toothbrushes to collect...