Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Dear Olive,

In pursuit of this thing called work-life balance, I often hunt for older women who seem to have done it well.  Rare is the experience of stumbling upon someone in the profession with the rare gift of decisive problem-solving and constant social interaction without insecurity.

Women; in particular, are metacognitive.  We constantly self analyze, which can frequently become a veil between us and the big picture.  Sometimes, one will come across an individual with that spark of passion, governed by wisdom, fueled by charisma, and capable of dreaming big.  On occasion, I imagine that I am putting out a homing device to seek that sage colleague, who is poised to bestow her lessons onto me.

A few years ago, I curated a friendship with an amazing nurse prior to her retirement.  She was confident, knowledgable, engaging, and lovely.  She spoke of her 30 year romance as though it were a new bright flame and sought lessons and travel as though she were just getting to know the world.  She stood up for those who needed advocation, but required much of those who sought her.  I loved hearing about her new enthusiasms.  I relished that she was successful at everything she approached because of the stamina she applied to each task.

When she moved away at the end of the summer to a new adventure, I understood the rarity of her perspective: hopeful realism.  I often miss the constant exposure of the model she set for me, but this reminded me of her.

"...a young woman should enter a workplace and, upon looking around, see lots and lots and lots of established, successful females from which to collate a vision of herself: the loner, the sycophant, the ass-kicker, the honest broker, the backstabber, the flirt, the wheedler, the warm hug, the cold fish, the brainiac, the yeller, the whisperer, the diplomat, the hoop-jumper, the straight-A student, the zealot, the do-gooder. Role models don’t have to be superheroes, in other words, or even necessarily exemplary; there just have enough of them, and they have to have made it work."

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Dear Olive,

When baby #2 came along, one of the things that made me anxious about parenting was what to do with my toddler while my baby was nursing.  If experience had been any predictor, I knew that the older kid would smell blood in the water when I most needed him to self-entertain.

In anticipation of the carnage, I made several "busy bags" to be secreted away until they were most needed.  As the kids have gotten older, we still pull out these independent activity pouches during an important phone call or in the company of guests.  I also take them out for long car visits or doctors office trips.  They only took a few minutes to make each one, and have been a life saver over the years.

In the next few months, I'm going to start mailing you some of our busy bags to borrow.  Just in case you want to make your own, here are the contents:

The jeans road bag is one of my favorites.  I just cut up an old pair of jeans into road, including crossings and curves, painted some yellow lines and added in a few matchbox cars.  

The string wall art is a great fine motor task for pincer grasp.  Cut up bungee cord and Ikea brush holders rounded this one up easily.  

Ella was entertained by this for at least one phone call and 4 work emails.

I wish you scream free mommy-tasking this month!

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Dear Olive,

Lately I've been dreaming of making a folding lemonade stand for the kids to sell neighborhood wares.

They could use it to sell our garden vegetables, ice cream, unused toys, or even as a temporary tattoo parlor.

This one that I found takes the cake.

Now to brave the power saw. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Dear Olive,

Do you remember our End of Summer Popsicle party that we hosted for the neighborhood last year?

It ended up being such a great way to meet the neighbors.  We had lived here for so many years but never really got to talk with the familes down the street beyond a passing hello.  

A popsicle / cocktail hour was the perfect fit.  We had bomb pops for the kids and margaritas for the adults.

The kids made these popsicle puppets and played in the play house as a theater. 

It was a lovely end to the summer. 

This year, we are planning a back to school breakfast the Saturday before classes start.  Kind of a dry run for Kindergarten!

Friday, August 7, 2015


Dear Olive, 

While we were at the lake, I realized my personal comfort limitations.  I've always lamented that I never had the opportunity to go on an overseas medical mission or join the Peace Corps.  I seriously thought that to be my alternative path.  But after two days of sweating it out in an un-air conditioned communal family space, I became fully aware of what an ungracious person I am while overheated.  If I can't handle first world heat, I likely have no business in a Malaria-zone... which genuinely made me sad.  Regardless, I was ready for some chill.  As such, I decided to put this tutorial to work and try to make my own air conditioner.   

I had a fan, a pool noodle, and an insulated bag.  I cut a hole in the cooler bag, taped them all together...

Added some ice, and aimed that bag at my sleeping corner for the night.

I'm not sure if it was the heat exhaustion or my science project, but I slept like a baby.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Dear Olive,

This weekend we met some extended family at a Lake Erie for a few nights.  We go every year and it there is something about being on the water that slows everything down.  We ate steak, floated in the lake, and took long naps.

Ella wore her swimsuit all day and ate pie for lunch.

Gabriel learned to "swim."

One afternoon we made foil boats and launched them into the lake to see which would float.

Pap was kind enough to recover the vessels so that we didn't leave any litter behind.

And we ended each night with an amazing sunset.

Since we visit Geneva on the Lake every year, we've zeroed in on the best sites and rentals.  Here are my recommendations:


Stay in one of these cottages with your small family

Lakefront on the Strip

Tiny Cedar Cabins at the State Park

Acorn Cottage: Tucked Away with a Hot Tub

Or this one with an extended crew.

Lakefront with Private Beach Sleeps 13


We dine at home most nights but the following eats on the strip are a must:

Eddie's Grill for lemonade and fries

Madsen Donuts

The Old Firehouse Winery