Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not to you, but I'm glad you're reading.

Dear Mom.

In some ways, I want to believe you know all this stuff already. Either you knew it before you left or you’ve still got some sort of line in and know what’s going on. But, just in case you weren’t paying attention, I thought you should know these things.

  1. Suzy likes milk chocolate better than dark chocolate. This makes no sense to me.
  2. Sleeping Beauty is Suzy’s favorite princess. She’s declared that pink princesses are the prettiest. She now owns three princess dresses (Rapunzel, Aurora and Snow White) and usually manages to put them each on, at least once a day.
  3. Harry still has a song. Wherever he goes. The piano lessons are coming along nicely – he usually sings the song as he plays it.

And me. Well, I miss you like crazy. I wait for you to call. I talk to you in the car. And I look for you. Most of the time I find you. Sometimes it’s a memory, sometimes it’s just me, but I’m always glad when I find you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A pile of boxes

Last Friday, we were in Target doing some shopping for the babies. Look, I know they aren't babies any more. But I like calling them Larson babies. Even if they really are kids. Or rodents.

It's important to remember that there are two of them for the remainder of this post (which will doubtless be too long, but you're here already so you might as well stick around). Anyway. We're in Target buying something called Skylanders, which I don't get but the dudes in the video game section assure me that it's the coolest thing this year. From the looks of it, I'm certain Harry will appreciate it even though it's not made of Legos. There are already a number of pink and princess shaped things in the cart when the following conversation happens:

Cindy: 'So, I think we're pretty much done with Suzy but need a few more things for Harry.'
Pete: 'That boy already has everything. He doesn't need anything else.'

I make a face but don't press the issue. We return home, I go to the super secret closet and sort out the piles. To Harry, from Suzy. To Suzy, from Harry. From Papa. From Santa. Wait. let's look at those from Santa piles again:

Suzy: an enormous pile of dollhouse princess dress pink love. 12 boxes. One giant box.
Harry: 3 boxes. 1 pair of socks. (look, I already know socks are a lame present, but these have Perry the platypus on them. they are cool. Yes, I know, they are still socks.)

I carefully broach the subject with Pete. I suggest items that Pete in fact wants for himself. The motion is approved. The to Harry and Dad from Santa labels are rejected. After all, the boy has friends with power. You have to be careful.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We took a trip

I know, it was a while ago. Early November, even. We went to the Happiest Place on Earth. (Honestly, who decided that? I mean, listen, some of my favorite movies are Stripes and Caddyshack and I read all four of the ridiculous twilight 'novels', I like chocolate frosting from a can and I'll happily go to a magically created vacation and plan a trip back, but sort of like all those other embarrassing things, I kind of feel like I should know better. But anyhoo, how did we get here?)

But, at the happiest place on earth (really, I can't give it title case again. It's just silly) girls watch shows in front of a giant castle and yell 'Dreams Come True' and just want to walk through a castle. Boys show up for pirate rides and then report about 'unexpected drops and turns' on Space Mountain. (seriously? who's 7 year old talks about 'unexpected drops and turns' on a roller coaster?) And moms get pineapple soft serve ice cream. In pineapple juice. With fresh pineapple. Wait, maybe it is the happiest place on earth...

Did I tell you my dad came with us? No, it's awesome, like having your own private tour guide. Ask him anywhere in the four parks for the nearest bathroom or best food offering, and he will deliver. This is handier than you'd think. We spent a day at Legoland without him and I was not amused at the need to search. But, back to DisneyWorld. Where else but a place called the Magic Kingdom can you get a bunch of boys to do this?
Or find a gorilla in the mist at the Animal Kingdom before eating the most amazing banana butterscotch bread pudding at Boma?

Or help your girl pick out her favorite princess? (It's Princess Aurora -- Sleeping Beauty in case you're wondering what color dress Papa will be leaving under the tree for a certain small girl this year)

But, most importantly, if you get to help your dad celebrate nearly 40 years of magic, it doesn't hurt to have these two along to dry some of the tears that may leak out along the way.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Saying yes

My mom liked funny dates; things like October 4, she would say, '10-4, good buddy', not oddly shaped dried figs or having dinner with a comedian. Today's date is all ones and it got me thinking about all of the ones in my life. The one life that we get, of which I'm reminded every Sunday is 'a wild and precious life'. The one mom we get, the one marriage I have, the one boy and the one girl. Sometimes our choices leave us with one alternative. Sometimes our inability to make one choice leave us with no alternatives.

While waxing poetic about this post over the past few hours, I've mostly thought about the choices that I'm so glad I made and most of them involved saying yes to something. Sometimes it was a terrible idea to say yes. I stand there wondering how exactly I got myself into such a spot. Sometimes it's even worse than I could have imagined.

But, then, sometimes, when I'm standing there, I can't imagine what I did right to be able to say yes to so many things and have so many people say yes to me. So thank you. Whether it's something seemingly simple, like 'can we dig up all the bushes in front of the house and plant tomatoes and sunflowers?' or something complicated and hard like 'will you love me as long as we both shall live?', I'm so glad that all of you have said yes, and let me say yes.

Mostly I'm glad because all of that allowed me to say yes to Suzy when she wanted to pick all the 'tomateys' off the vines as I pulled them out of the ground (leaving a ridiculous patch of dirt in front of the house). And I didn't even say no as she ran around the yard tossing the sweet bites of heaven on the grass for the skunks to eat.

But I did say, no, I couldn't help her if the skunks didn't come when she called.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cold soup

When I came upstairs from my 6 am call this morning, Pete said to me, 'I had gazpacho this morning.' I responded dumbly, 'Cold soup?' completely forgetting that our sweet girl is known as Soupy around here. And I know Soupy is a terrible nickname for a girl. I mean, my mom was nice enough to call me 'Cupcake'. I even went so far as to make Soupy a cupcake dress (well, I sort of cut it out, sewed the easy parts and then took something called 'interfacing' and 'puffed sleeves' over to my mom for help) that she refused to wear on her birthday. Aren't they sweet? It's probably for the best since Aunt Feather played cake with her and stuff her full of ice cream and frosting. But, honestly, when you look this good doing it, why would you stop?
Wait. This is someone else's birthday. And I know there are a lot of candles on there. Harry said we had to use them all because the birthday girl was so old. I managed to not kick him.

But, I'm a little worried about what might happen to this unsuspecting pile of fur. I bet if he runs down the steps at 9 pm and yells, 'Daddy! You're home!' he won't get sent right back to bed, either.

So, confess here. When I was tucking this bowl of soup into bed she said, 'I yuv you too, Mom. I make you happy. Will you read one more book? Yast one?' I read two more. How can you not?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I made soup

Monday was early and tested my ability to be gentle, kind, caring and unselfish. Tuesday was busy, and filled with tears. Wednesday seemed insurmountable. Thursday Dan came home and, thank goodness, Sarah, too. Friday was a birthday party for our little cupcake and I may have threatened Dad's cousin Karl until he came over and ate cake.

Saturday. I will borrow words from a friend:

These are gentle, kind people of the highest order. They give of their souls without thought of themselves. Even in the midst of their greatest loss, they take the time to inquire of the well being and health of each person that approached them. Strength. Goodness. Love. This group represents the best that mankind can conjure. We can all hope to be this blessed in life. This assembly of people was truly touched by their departed matriarch for they now display the same 'magic' that she represented in her life.

It's a tall order. And my legs are not as long as her's. Just get in the driver's seat of her car and wonder where on earth she kept all of those legs.

Sunday we attempted to decompress and ate too much breakfast with our Aunt Feather. Monday the sun shone and we said our last goodbye, forever knowing that it wasn't really goodbye. It's just a different kind of hello from now on. But honestly, nobody likes change!

Yesterday I made soup. Because tomato soup and grilled cheese is one of the small pleasures in life. And you should make this soup. Really, it will let you float on a cloud of fall heaven. And I try not to tell you what to do, but really, you must. (There's that line about doing what you're good at - I know, I know.)

And, I miss my mom. So, I get to tell you what to do. Just for a little bit. And, just in case you, like me, are crying now, just remember that Suzy makes you happy. Just ask her. She'll tell you so.
And don't ever forget just how loved you are. It's not any more or less than you need, but if you're as lucky as I am, it's slightly more than you deserve.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


That boy. What would I do without that boy? He came home and said, 'Mom, I think it's good, right?' and then pulled this out of his backpack:

And when I hauled him in there for the picture and handed him the shirt and jacket he said, 'I'm just going to put this on because the picture is for you, right?'

Sigh. What did I ever do without that boy?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It melts away

As some of you know, it's been a difficult summer for us. My mom is once again battling cancer - this is her fourth time around if you're counting. If you know my mom, you know she is magic. She always has enough for whatever you need - an extra place at the table, a tissue in her pocket, a bed to sleep in, a ride to spare, but mostly love.

So, as our summer melts away, as it always does too quickly this time of year, I find myself thinking of love. And magic. And hoping that it's enough to get through whatever may come next.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Working on the railroad

Harry and Suzy sing all the time. The sing when they are in the car, running around the yard, at bedtime, while they are in the bath (individually these days - the joint baths are over after the 'no Suzy, my tail is in front' conversation), while they are in the bathroom doing other things. Suzy names songs with colors: Inch by Inch is the green song, All through the night is the beautiful pink song, Goodnight sweetheart is the blue song and so on. Some of Harry's favorites are 'I've been working on the railroad'. He sings it a little off tune and never gets the words right, so when we were headed to Chicago for some fun a couple weeks back, I couldn't resist this shot.

See, he's not really a morning guy. He's a complete and total grouch and moves about as fast as lead. But, he's easy. You just say, if you hide a smile it only gets bigger. And he can't stand it.

Now, our girl is another story. She pops up, happy to be awake and demands chocolate milk and cartoons because, hooray! it's another day! You might even be able to put on a penguin suit after your train ride while you're at the Shedd Aquarium. Have you ever seen a cuter penguin?
Not to worry though, after you are cruelly stripped of your penguin costume, there's a boat ride over to Navy Pier and more fun on the (oddly expensive) rides with your cousin Liam.
And just when you think it couldn't get any better, your Aunt Sarah takes you and your cousin Eddie (I really sort of love that my kids have a cousin Eddie and almost hope that he gets an RV) for a ride on the carousel.

It's no wonder you've always got a song.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


One of Suzy's favorite songs is 'Happy Birthday'. She usually wants someone to sing it to her before bed, or 'the beautiful pink song' a.k.a. 'All Through the Night'. The 4th of July is a sort of birthday and I usually have to work really hard to resist the urge to have a giant party with loads of kids and too much Jell-o. The one year I didn't successfully resist the urge wound up with 100 people and a tent. Pete's still not talking to me. The last few years, we've scaled things back a bit (and stayed out of divorce court) and just had a few friends over for the fireworks.

Call it American ingenuity, but s'mores must be made, even if you can't reasonably start a campfire in your yard. So, we improvise. And it works. And kids garbage up on the chocolate bars because it takes so long to cook a marshmallow over open flames.
But I'm glad for the slow cook time. Because while he waits for the marshmallow to turn the perfect golden brown, he slides his hand into his pocket and looks at you. It's a new look, but you can see yourself in it - and he asks, 'Mom, do I have to eat this?'

But you forgive him after you scrape the pictures off the camera and find this one. Just for a second you feel a little bit bad that your hazel eyes won the genetic race over your husband's lovely blue eyes.

Only for a second, though.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Daddy, I want a pony

I never had pony fever. Don't get me wrong, I liked plenty of girl things; stickers and Hello Kitty and Barbies and Strawberry Shortcakes and the like. But horses? Ponies? They just seemed like it would be a bit of a mess and you might get stepped on. Lucky of us, Aunt Kathy has the pony fever. So we took a ride to celebrate an anniversary and got a pony ride to boot.

Riding a pony is serious stuff. My favorite part of the picture is her little fingers on the grabber thingie (look, I said I didn't have pony fever, did you really expect that I would know the proper names for parts of the saddle?) perfectly laced together. She looks so sweetly happy up there. Like she would never yell at a poor, helpless teenager who stepped on her pile of dirt and then demand he help her fix it while pointing with her insistent little index finger. Or, never, ever, would she climb up on your lap and steal your cookie; not that you would mind if she did because you're the Dad who buys her a second pony ride every time we go to the zoo.

No, not our girl. She'd never be so sassy. She just looks at you and says, 'Mama, you bein' a punk.'

Monday, July 11, 2011

The first season

We've made it through our first year of Little League. This is no small accomplishment - we spent May freezing our hinders off wondering if summer would ever come. Then June, we were still cold and wondering why on earth we would have signed up for such fun and then we were sweating out the innings and then *poof* it was over. And our Mariner was walking around in his hat and shirt with shorts and talking about tennis lessons.

He hit, he ran, he scored, he RBI'd, he hit the cut off man, he won, he lost (a lot), he wore his sunglasses and then took them off and couldn't figure out how to hold them and his glove and thrown the ball (2 runs scored, too late, too late) and he had a great time. Is there anything better than baseball?

You can bring your baby sister (I know, she's not really a baby anymore, but she'll be his baby sister forever) and she'll do her super hero pose and cheer you on while happily filling the role of 'dirtiest baby at Little League Park'.
But the best part is sitting with your team and having an Orange Fanta and a hot dog after the game. Because your mom never buys Fanta and you're a boy. A magical, American boy chasing down ground balls and looking impossibly grown up. Sniff.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How to have a pool party

Why is it that we cram so much fun into a holiday weekend? Cook out? Date night? Friends over for drinks in the kitchen (with a headache the next morning)? Yard work? Bathroom remodeling? Parade? Yes, yes, yes, YES! Oh, wait, also a pool party. Well, more like a wading pool party, but it's just as fun. Really, keep reading, it's just as fun.

To start with, you need to go to the parade and then bring a friend home. And not just any friend, but an awesome friend who is taller than you and will call your baby sister 'Soupy' just like you do. She's even game to put on your board shorts and rash-guard shirt (honestly, why don't kids just have swimsuits like the rest of us?) and rock the look with her pony tail.

Meanwhile, you continue to fill the pool, play with water balloons provided by the neighbor, find a slip n' slide on which your pony-tailed friend demonstrates a head first slide worthy of the major leagues forcing you ask your mom for advice to complete same. Of course, your mom spent too many summer nursing scraped knees and ankles to be considered any sort of authority on sliding so you are stuck standing there trying to sort it while your friend pushes Soupy down the stretch.

While you are trying to logic out how to slide and not lose any teeth, your sister gets a hold of the hose and manages some fine motor coordination to get the sprayer going, which you have inconveniently left set to 'jet'. And the water isn't getting any warmer even though the temperature will not stop going up and your mom has retreated to the house to make decaf virgin Arnold Palmer's because that's what grown ups are forced to do after too much fun.

But not to worry, after your sister chases you down like the dog you are, your mom arrives with lemonade. And your sweet baby sister just can't help herself. She doesn't want lemonade. She doesn't even want chocolate milk. Or a Popsicle. Or the boat for the slip n slide. All she wants is a target.

And it's hard to hold the camera steady when there's this much fun to be had. Want to come over?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A sink

One of my earliest memories is taking a bath in the kitchen sink. It seems as though immediately after I took the bath, I was informed that I was too big to do such things anymore. Sink baths somehow hang in my memory filled with longing and fuzzy around the edges. Harry was in the kitchen sink all the time. He would just strip down and climb in. It seems to me that Suzy got her first sink bath a couple days ago while Pete was fighting with drywall in the bathroom. The floor tiles arrived this week, so hopefully we'll be put back together again soon.

And we'll be this happy:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Good night!

Usually by 8 pm, my ability to be a mom has expired. I need a good 3 hours on couch to pretend to work, watch tv, sleep and have a glass of ice water that I don't have to share with anyone. Except Pete, but he's good about not backwashing and getting refills. Lately, they like to read together. And it's hard not to like them when they do this:

However, 12 hours later, this is even better.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Easter Dress

Our girl wore this dress for Easter. We call her Soupy these days - a hanger on from her Super-everyone days. But this dress. My mom made it for me back when I was this size. The material was left over from a dress Mom made for my granny. There are 3 ducks on the front, which Suzy insists are chickens. I'm not sure what we'll do when she is big enough to wear my yellow chicken dress.

There's a very sweet puffed-sleeve jacket to go along with it, but by the time we got around to photos, I had to make Harry change back into these clothes and the jacket was no where to be seen.

Happy Spring, all!

We've been busy

With things like a 7th birthday party. Or maybe a couple 7th birthday parties. At least 2 cakes and 50 cupcakes, but who's counting?

Important tip: if you frost a ninja cake, don't leave it on the kitchen table for the birthday boy's sister to devour red swiss buttercream ninja face (although she sent her compliments to the baker) resulting in huge tears dripping down the birthday boy's face (that's looking much more angular and much less round these days). whew. how about another run-on sentence?

Tractor season has arrived. For best results, put your sister in the back with bubbles before heading around the block. No need to tell Mom or Dad where you're going.

And carrots. Have I told you that thanks to the slightly annoying folks over at America's Test Kitchen we now make the most perfect roasted carrots?

Oven at 450, peel and quarter carrots, toss with 2 t olive oil, cover with foil, 15 minutes, remove foil, cook 15 minutes longer. You'll never go back.

But don't make carrots on the night of the spring concert. A boy shouldn't have to make this face twice in one night. Really, he picked the bow tie.

Monday, February 28, 2011


My dad always kept his keys on his belt, connected with one of those magic spring chain jobs. I loved pulling it; it was down at eye level for what seemed like forever. Pull, spring! 'Ow!' or, more often, 'goddammit Cynthia!'. (I blame this for the incident at the lunch table two weeks ago where someone named Harry supposedly said 'damn!' and then initiated a discussion about proper spelling of same.)

My dad worked a long blend of shop and office hours when I was kid. He was gone before I was awake and then we waited and waited for him to get home so we could have dinner. We would wait for the call saying he was leaving and then count down the 30 minutes until he arrived. In the summer, I remember him walking up the back sidewalk singing, 'come along home, Cindy, Cindy' while I hung on a monkey bar on the backyard swing set. I also remember how clever I thought my mom was with the spiral tape and blue and white paint. (In the winter I remember watching through the patio door that I was not supposed to touch even though Harry and Suzy can put stickers on it, just saying.) Mostly I remember pulling that key string as he walked by.

We don't have key strings at our house, we have slippers. 70 and 30 pound slippers. Some of us like them more than others.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A ride

We finally got over to the Harley Davidson Museum. It's a very cool space and also has some fun dress up items. Is it my fault she spent so much time riding her bike that she feel asleep before we got to the gift shop?

Harry, on the other hand, was awake. It seems like he's always awake lately. He hides with his night light reading books and building smuggled lego contraptions. But back to the Harley Museum. Just when you think he's clever and has really figured a few things out he asks, after looking thoughtfully at several photos, 'Dad, in the olden days were people just really black and white like that?'

Sort of. But not exactly.

hello, again

We've been busy. We made a lot of babka. It was good, but a little messy. But don't worry, we've switched to unbleached all purpose flour because it has a higher protein content. I don't think it makes the babka any better for us, but it does help make our cookies a little taller. Plus, I think it does a better job clinging to noses and eyelashes.

We also lost all sorts of teeth. 4 to be exact. The top two managed to be a little disgusting with a lot of blood (which, as I am lately informed, is just 'mostly water with a little red in it'), I'm just proud that I managed to stay calm while he was freaking out. It was gross. Really gross.

And there was some snow. Which turned out to be just some warm up for the real deal. We also had a serious battle about wearing 'gwoves'. Eventually I won, but it wasn't pretty. Although, it wasn't near as disgusting as the bloody tooth. Ew.

Finally, we've got some serious style going on over here on Pine Street. I mean, who knew you could use archival t-bands to hold your hair back? You can just barely see the floral rainboots - it was quite the getup.