Home.

This afternoon The Schmidtlets scampered around the backyard while St.Matt worked on their sandbox, the puggles napped in the shade of a maple tree, and I picked blueberries.
I dropped handfuls of them into their little sand pails. They washed them in their octopus sprinkler between trips down their slide and visits to watch Dada shovel. The Pip Squeak helpfully pointed out the worms wriggling in freshly turned dirt while The Wild Imp stole berries from his bucket.
Afterward we traded swimsuits and work gloves for shorts and sneakers, plopped them in their stroller, and ran to our favorite ice cream shop. We traded bites on the walk home and I kissed their sticky cheeks before plopping them in the bath.
The past month has been chaotic: I was up in NYC for BEA and Teen Author Carnival, then down in the Carolinas for vacation and visiting old friends. They were wonderful experiences and adventures, but…
Today it was good to feel HOME. 
Even though not a single blueberry made it into the house and I didn’t take a single photograph, it was the perfect afternoon. Not extraordinary. Probably not a day that I’ll remember in a decade, a year, maybe even a month – but perfect nonetheless. Full of those simple moments that are saturated with comfort and contentment.
I wish you all such days.

Hearts and Halos

Baby hands by The Pip Squeak, Sign by Landee on Etsey
This, found on Pinterest and bought on Etsy, is part of St. Matt’s Valentine’s Day present. Don’t tell him, I haven’t given it to him yet.
And, while our story will always be my favorite, I know there are so many other lovely love stories out there too. In fact, why don’t you skip on over to the Apocalypsies site and check out some fabulous Who Do We Love shout outs.
No worries, St. Matt’s on there, halo and all.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Prince Edward Island – A Photo Perspective

Growing up, I summered in the land of Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert *heart-a-flutter* Blythe.

As a grown up, I don’t get up there nearly as often as I’d like. For one thing, I now live six hours farther from the island. That’s six hours on top of the TWELVE hour drive from my parents’ house in Massachusetts — where I’m sitting right now typing this post-vacation.

Our last trip was two years ago — and what a difference those years have made:

Beach naps:
 2009

 2011

 Hammock Time
 2009

 2011

Beach Walks
2009
2011
2011

Packing:

Packing the car 2009

Actually, I don’t have a picture of the car all packed this year. Probably because I was too busy holding two babies and checking off All The Important Items on our many, many travel lists while St.Matt scrambled around like a packing genius and got All The Important Items to fit. 

Just picture mounds of stuff strategically packed. And me sitting in the backseat between two carseats singing songs, waving toys, and being generally entertaining while St.Matt chauffeurs and navigates. For. Twelve. Hours.

Is it next summer yet? I can’t wait to go back…

Procrasti-baking

These are too fun to be the product of Stress-Baking.  
Rice Krispie Cake Batter Treats – recipe found HERE
Maybe they’re Procrastination Treats? We leave for two weeks of vacation tomorrow –- a working vacation for me, since my revision is due at the end of the month – and I’m not packed. I haven’t packed for the boys yet either.
Every time I look around our house, I can’t help but feel like they twins need All The Things. And then I look at our car and panic.
Did I mention we’ll be spending about 20 hours in that car over the next few days?
*panics*
And my head is totally in the Revision Cave and doesn’t want to stop and think about whether or not we’ve packed the boys’ sound machine or laundry detergent.
It’s such a good thing I’m married to a saint. He not only remembers these things, but also that I have library books due before we get back, the boys’ vitamin prescriptions needs to be refilled, and the memory card on the camera needs to be emptied.
AND, he went and photocopied my line edits last night. Because, let’s face it, it’s me – things just happen, and a backup copy never hurt.
So, nope, I’m changing my mind again. They’re not Stress-Baking, or Procrastination Treats, they’re Gratitude Goodies. I am so grateful his head’s on straight when mine isn’t.
***Also, I’m noticing a decidedly sugar-y theme to my posts lately – I swear I eat vegetables, too. Pinky promise***

Maybe I Should do the Laundry…

Meet Churchill.

The frog, not the baby – that’s Brad.
 Here’s his brother, Winston.
Hippo = Winston, Baby= Asher
The pictures above represent approximately 0.5% of my photo collection of Schmidtlets with Winston and Churchill. The babies are Very Attached To Them.
Naptime isn’t naptime without Churchill tucked under the chin. And tummy time doesn’t work well unless Winston is within reach.
W & C are exposed to much loving and drooling, so last night unbeknownst to me, St.Matt decided to throw them in with the baby laundry.
This morning I went on the Great Churchill Hunt – called St.Matt – and eventually located both of them In The Dryer.
Winston is fine.
Churchill is crispy.
He must’ve gotten stuck to the vent, because he is definitely dryer-fried.
I took this pretty calmly – much calmer than overdue-for-his-nap Brad. I figured I could order a replacement and have it in a few days. Naptime until then might be a little rough, but it was a short term problem.
I even thought I’d be SMART and order a Back-up Winston and Back-up Churchill.
BUT.
Churchill has been discontinued.
I can order as many Winstons as I want.
BUT.
Churchill – crunchy, need-a-replacement Churchill – is discontinued.
And I can’t even find another one on Ebay.  I thought you could find ANYTHING on Ebay.
A much-chagrined St.Matt called Pottery Barn Kids customer service.  I bet he was calm and steady. The e-mail I sent them included lots of !!!!’s and HELP! and the line: Please save my naptime.
BUT.
Even as I have this Mommy Crisis, I also have perspective.
It’s a toy. He’s 4 months old. This is more upsetting for ME than it is for HIM.
I know this moment is heightened by having sent my finished manuscript to Agent Extrordinaire, Joe Monti, this morning. Because everything seems more panicked after pressing *send*.
I know that even if Crispy-Churchill can’t be salvaged. Even if Pottery Barn Kids can’t hunt down a leftover Green Frog Thumbie, and even if one never appears on Ebay, Brad will be fine and I haven’t failed as a mother.
Even if it feels like it every time his lip quivers.
 You’ll let me know if you come across a Churchill, right?
***UPDATE*** We have a Replacement Churchill being shipped from Ohio and a Backup Replacement Churchill coming from Florida. Thank you so much, Awesome Pottery Barn Customer Service! *exhales*

Almost equally exciting – my cousin-in-law told me about the wash-in-a-pillowcase secret (thanks, Melissa!) now St.Matt can continue laundry-duties without fear!

St. Mohawk

So, I have haircut issues. I have other issues, too, but today’s post is about my haircuts.

I don’t like them. I mean, I like them fine when I’m the one getting my haircut.  Other people? Sure, cut it off, perm it up, straighten, highlight, dye it stripey, shave in swoops.
I guess I should clarify, I have St. Matt Haircut Issues.
This is not a new thing. It harkens back to the first summer we were dating, when he’d gotten a haircut before coming to visit me in MA. Only, he didn’t warn me first.
I should clarify some more. St. Matt only really has three hairstyles:
  1. Short on the sides, a little longer on top. Generic boy. 
  2. The I’m-too-lazy-to-get-a-haircut stage that drives him crazy, but I openly encourage because it leads to Option 3: 
  3. Curls! Which drive him more crazy, but which I love, Love, LOVE.
Okay, back to summer 2000.
So, this boy shows up on my parents’ doorstep and wants to hug and kiss me. Granted I’m loopy on pain meds because I just had ankle surgery, but I nearly fall off my crutches trying to back away from him. *Stranger Danger!* Where was my curly-headed boyfriend? Who was this guy with ears?
This is where the haircut issues originated.  They haven’t abated. Since then we’ve come up with a coping method: I require multiple reminders of any forthcoming haircuts; I’m also allowed a moment to *absorb* my husband’s new appearance before he approaches.
And he doesn’t take it personally when my reaction is always, “I’m not quite sure I like it.”
Friday was haircut day. I walked in the house and he did the required *freeze in place* so I could examine and adjust.
And since he knows my haircut history and has only ever had the three hairstyles, he took it in stride when I said, “I don’t know, you look different.”
“I’m still me.” This was offered with a Saintly grin and arms extended for a hug.
“No, something’s different. It’s not right.” I continued to circle him.
Saintly sigh. “You always say that. Wait until tomorrow when I shower and style it. It’s fine.”
I gave him a wary nod of agreement and tried my best not to study him all night.
Saturday morning things did not look “fine.” They were still different.
“What did you tell the barber?”
St. Matt frowned at the mirror; even he could see something wasn’t quite right. “I said, The usual. Short on the sides, longer on top.”
It is short on the sides and longer on top. That much I have to agree with. But, the sides are shorter than usual short. The top is longer than usual long. And the sides climb higher on his head than normal. They climb SO high that they’re invading the top’s territory.
This is when we realized the truth about his haircut: it’s an Accidental Mohawk.
 
Since reaching this epiphany, I haven’t even attempted to hide my glee.
First, the sight of a mohawked St. Matt is enough to reduce me to instant gigglefits.
Second, I know someone who’ll be reluctant to head back to the barber anytime soon.
Say hello to a curl-headed winter!

The Saint and Sensibility at the Austen Exhibit

Like many of the important things in my life, Jane Austen is something I learned from my sister. Unlike Lip Smackers, New Kids on the Block, and training bras, Austen is not something I’ve outgrown.

I stumbled on Austen accidentally; my sister’s anthology of Jane was the thickest book on her bookshelf. I was at a middle school age when big books = better, so I smuggled it out of her room while she was at a cross country meet and probably would’ve have gotten away with reading and returning it… if I hadn’t gushed how much I adored Jane Austen and Elizabeth Bennet and Oh-My-Darcy, in front of the owner of the book.

“Your sister is sense, and you, Tiffers, are pure sensibility,” my father said with a laugh. This might be the most profound and truest statement he has ever uttered and I grilled him about it while we drove to the bookstore to purchase my own copies of the books. I hadn’t gotten to Elinor and Marianne yet and was trying to determine if Dad was complimenting or insulting me.

Neither. He was stating a fact.

Another true fact, my sister may have recovered her anthology, but Austen was firmly entrenched in my life.

How disappointing it is, however, that The Jane has never been able to infiltrate St. Matt’s heart. He’s accepted that she pre-dates him in mine. He knows he’ll have to see every film version of each of her novels. {Let’s pause for a moment and offer a sigh to Mr. Colin Darcy-Firth} He even took the initiative and came to me when Becoming Jane arrived in our little town theater and asked, “So, 7:00 show or 9:00 show?”

Even proofreading each draft of my college thesis: Conjugal versus Consanguineal: Relationships in Austen* did nothing to spark an interest in his saintly heart. Finally, after I made him watch The Jane Austen Book Club and pointed out how Grigg was my very-most-favorite character and he was a boy and read Austen and wouldn’t-he-at-least-try-reading-one, St. Matt relented. VICTORY! I must say, my pout was exceptionally adorable that day.

Not one to waste a moment, I scrambled for my copy of Northanger Abbey. “It’s got danger and excitement and it’s in this creepy gothic setting,” I gushed as he nodded and got leashes to take the dogs out.

This would not do. He’d said he’d try reading Austen. I wanted him to try reading Austen now!

So, I waited inside the door with the book in my hand and as soon as it opened and the puggles-bounded in, I began: “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be a heroine…”

I continued reading as he walked around the downstairs turning off all the lights, while he climbed upstairs, brushed his teeth, put on pajamas, and climbed into bed.

“One more chapter?”

He turned off the lights.

Yet, king among men that he is, he voluntarily spent Saturday squiring me to the Morgan Museum to see A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy .

I swooned and drooled over each of the display cases, pausing between contented sighs to admire a photograph of Mr. Colin Darcy-Firth, and staring open-mouthed at the drawings of Isabel Bishop who captured the characters exactly as they look in my head.

St. Matt patiently studied the drawing of her contemporaries and amused himself by trying to decipher Miss Austen’s handwriting – he was disappointed to discover the first five lines he decoded were informing her sister, Cassandra, about a lovely piece of lace.

I left the exhibit all smiles and spinning. St. Matt left with a saintly grin.

Now do you want to read her?” I asked, as I skipped out to the sidewalk.

St. Matt tugged me out of the path of speed-walking pedestrian and laughed. “No. Thank you, but no. Not at all.”

But before my lip could quiver or fold downward into a pout, St. Matt had twirled me round and added, “But, that exhibit was not nearly as bad as I expected. I enjoyed it.”

A girl can hope. And dream. And plot.

I’m sure St. Matt’s already working on his counter-strategy. I may be sensibility, but he is sense, down the very logical core of his Austen-free heart.

*I think this was the title of my thesis. It was lost in The Great Un-Backed-Up Laptop Meltdown of 2005 and I have not gone back to Lehigh to search down the bound copy. Do they have a bound copy? *sobs*

Falls and Marks

I fell during my run today. One stride I was rushing forward, chattering to St. Matt about an amazing book I’d read yesterday and admiring the foliage; then I was launched into sideways Superman dive, grating over leaves, roots and twigs. I’m sure it was very graceful.

I popped up, shook my limbs, shrugged at a suddenly pale St. Matt, and resumed my run and the conversation: And it was so consuming; I couldn’t turn pages–

He interrupted to point out that I’d given him yet another heart attack and to repeat: “Don’t look at your leg. No. Don’t. I said DON’T look at it.”

I have a weensy issue with blood. Okay, it’s a major issue. Bruises, however, inspire macabre fascination. My new hobby is watching my legs turn purple.

But it isn’t painful; it isn’t even unexpected. I fall A LOT, especially on a trail run – and trail runs in the autumn are their own brand of treachery: tree roots and holes stay hidden under a layer of leaves, just waiting for their opportunity to send me sprawling.

Yet, despite four (is it five?) sprained ankles, countless scrapes, and bruises from indigo to lilac, there’s no keeping me off the trails.

A straight out, straight back road run? One where I’ll know each step that takes me away and brings me back to the start? Boring.

I prefer runs just like how I prefer my books: full of the unexpected. They’ll have a start, they’ll have a conclusion, but the moments in between should be an adventure.

I want my heroine to dare to turn left at the fallen log, just to see if it is a real path. I want her to start running up a hill whose peak is hidden by trees – not knowing if she’ll have the stamina to reach the top, or even how far away it is. I want split second decisions: stay by the stream or turn toward the covered bridge. And challenges: fording puddles, striding through mud, sliding up a rain-slick hill. She should stop short to avoid spider webs that appear inches from her face, pause to pat the occasional dog sharing her path, and be willing to get her feet wet and her legs muddy. Scratches from that pricker-bush incident should be worn with pride.

It’s these books that stay with me; the ones where I can’t predict what the hero or heroine will do next. The ones whose characters take risks, do the unexpected, but never forget to notice the beauty along the way. They fall, get back up, continue their adventures.

These books fill my head with questions and what-if’s. They linger in my mind and are book-bullied into others’ hands. These are the books that leave marks on me long after The End.

But unlike trail runs… the marks don’t require band-aids.

Twitter-cation Comes with Umbrella-Drinks, Right?

It feels weird not to check Twitter before bed.

This the tweet I almost posted last night – before I remembered that in order to do so, I’d have to log-in to Twitter.

Immediately afterward I debated whether I was allowed to read e-mail notifications of DM’s. (Can I?)

This could be a long week.

When I saw Nova Ren Suma discussing a Twitter-cation last week, I thought, how sad! I’ll miss her and Tiffany Trent’s commentary. Then others climbed aboard and I thought, how brave.

Last night Tye and Victoria asked me if I was in, and, demonstrating my absolute inability to resist peer-pressure, I caved.

It feels weird.

My mind automatically forms sub-140 character soundbites:

Who was the idiot who decided orange and cranberry belong in the same muffin?

Confession: I have officially eaten more Revision Skittles than we distributed to trick-or-treaters.

Has anyone read GIRL IN THE ARENA? I like the story, but am struggling with the lack of “”marks.

How will I share my excitement about the new Jesse McCartney song “Body Language”? Or confess my St. Matt-mocked crush on him? Or share how I caught St. Matt humming the tune after I played it on repeat for an hour. *gigglefit*

The worst part, however, will be not knowing what’s going on with everyone else. So if you could all e-mail me regular updates of your day, that’d be great. I won’t even limit you to 140 characters.

Why I Don’t Watch Scary Movies

I was driving by myself to meet friends after school one day this week. As I neared a normally-busy intersection, I was startled to realize my car was the only one in sight in all four directions. In the ninety seconds between this stop sign and my arrival at the next intersection – a five points crossroad with traffic lights – I’d convinced myself there was one explanation for why I hadn’t passed a single person or vehicle….

The zombie apocalypse had started.

I locked my car doors, gripped my steering wheel with white knuckles and tried to persuade myself not to run the red light. Peering out my windshield at the sidewalks, I found apocalyptic proof in the windowboxes of mums, the cornstalks tied to porches, and pumpkins on front steps.

By the time I reached the restaurant my breath was coming in hiccups and my pounding pulse had turned my face and neck all sorts of splotchy red. When my friends asked if I was okay, I took a deep breath, looked around at the street – now milling with people pushing strollers and carrying briefcases and shopping bags – and nodded. How could I begin to explain that I’d envisioned zombies overtaking our sleepy town at 4:00 on a sunny Tuesday afternoon?

My imagination is overactive. Like Max’s in Where the Wild Things Are or Harold’s in The Purple Crayon. This isn’t such a bad thing when dreaming of princesses or unicorns, but a mere mention of those things that lurk once the lights go off and they become tangible and terrifying.

I’ve always been this way. My father taught me a passage from Dune while I was in elementary school and each night as I took our dog out before heading up to bed, I’d whisper into the darkness:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past
I will turn my inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain

Halloween is a challenge for children like me. We pick the friendly costumes –- I believe I was a puppy on four separate years. We skirt the houses with spooky décor and haunted music – no candy bar is worth the trauma. We seek out friends who won’t laugh if we scream, or cry, or want to go home early. And despite all of these preparations, there’s always that older kid hiding in the bushes with the bloody mask, or the parent who’s cut a hole in the bottom of the candy bowl, so when you reach in to take a Tootsie Pop, she reaches up and grabs your hand. The bowls I sent flying with candy scattered everywhere, were so not my fault.

Family stories debate whether it was Child’s Play the movie or just a preview I happened across early one morning when I was seven and up too early for my own good. It doesn’t really matter if it was a two-minute ad or the whole film, because the result was the same: my younger brother’s My Buddy doll made me hyperventilate. We had to get rid of it.

In middle school I watched Poltergeist at a Halloween party. I have slept with my closet door shut every single night since then.

For the most part, as long as I avoid scary situations, everything goes well, but some times scary sneaks in. In high school, scary was suddenly “cool.” Despite parental warnings and don’t-you-complain-when-you-can’t-sleep threats, I went with a group of friends to see Scream.

I didn’t complain to my parents, but after they went to bed, I turned on every light in the house and waited for my older sister to come home from her date. Then I begged to sleep on the floor of her room. And whined further until she let me turn her closet light on too – of course the closet door had to be shut.

And scary movie DATES? Disaster. Guys tended to love that I gripped their hands with all the strength in mine. The fact that I flinched against their shoulders, buried my face in their shirts, and shrieked – that was ‘adorable.’

But afterward? Linger in a car for post-movie conversation and kisses? Had they seen the same movie I had? Cars are not monster-proof. And when they walked me to my door, all I could think about was getting safely on the other side of it and throwing the deadbolt. And, if I’m going to admit I’m a wimp to the level of infinity, I might as well confess the ultimate scary movie date blunder.

Um, I bit someone. Not like a vampire. It was just that my hand was being held and I needed it to cover my eyes. My frantic tugging was interpreted a sign to hold my fingers tighter. On the screen a knife had been unsheathed; blood was imminent. I was in a state of panic where words were not an option, and in this state, applying my teeth to the back of his hand seemed completely logical.

There was not a second date.

St. Matt and I have seen one scary movie together. Make that ½ a scary movie. Less than an hour into the film, I decided I’d had enough. I told him I needed a breather, released his hand from my circulation-stopping death grip, and ran for the lobby.

I headed for the cardboard marquis of a Disney movie, planning to stare at cartooned innocence until the credits played. Before I reached it, someone grabbed my arm from behind. I screamed. As every patron in the lobby turned toward the white-face teen in front of The Tigger Movie display, I turned and found St. Matt suppressing a grin.

“You’re scared. Let’s go back to campus,” he said – holding out his hand. How could I not kiss him right there in the lobby? (And marry him four years later).

So, I read scary stories during daylight hours. My jack o’lanterns have smiles. My Halloween decorations are cute instead of creepy. The only Stephen King I’ve read is On Writing and you can cross Zombieland off the list of places you’ll run into me.

If, by some miracle, you manage to drag me to a scary movie someday and I bite you, please keep in mind that this isn’t a sign of the zombie apocalypse. Just let me cover my eyes and no one will get hurt.

Better yet, meet me in the lobby after it’s over. I’ll be the one hiding behind the G-rated marquis and repeating I must not fear in a voice that’s slightly quivery.

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