Category Archives: Uncategorized

Give our Regards to Death Valley …

It’s that time of year again. The time when I slack off managing the kiddos and the household, and instead focus exclusively on an incredible test of endurance three time zones away: The Badwater 135 Ultramarathon.

Granted, I have an ulterior motive. Last year, my primary objective was to ascertain that the father of my children was still alive safe. However, as the hours passed and I logically realized he was functioning at full capacity (since he was crewing the runner, not the race participant himself) my personal motives evolved to witnessing — and promoting — the success of a local running legend and (now) someone I call friend: Mr. Harvey Lewis.

Anyone who followed my Facebook or Twitter feed last July can attest: I was glued to those race updates. For over 24 hours. Really. I’m not sure what my kids had for dinner or who changed the diapers; what I remember most was being riveted to my phone and iPad, truly making use of the mobility of my laptop, and continually delaying and eventually canceling (or, rain-checking?) a previously scheduled play date.*

Folks, consider this your warning: This year, I have permission from said participant/friend to post Facebook updates on his behalf.

My apologies in advance. I will be posting, updating and tagging information about Tri-state runners competing in Badwater 2013 next week — nearly 20 of them, counting racers and crew members. The race begins in Death Valley Monday morning, July 15. (For his loyal local fans, Harvey’s 10 a.m. PDT wave start = 1 p.m. EDT.) I will continue posting through the finish at the Mt. Whitney portal on Tuesday.

I will be doing all of this from the comfort of my air-conditioned home, but there is one small chance we local Cincinnatians might get an even better story. Carrie Cochran, a Gannett photojournalist with The Cincinnati Enquirer, has expressed an interest in attending the race to document the trials, the camaraderie, and some of “what it takes” to get there, and be competitive.

Last Friday, I emailed Carolyn Washburn, editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer a 2,000 word letter citing all the reasons I think our local paper should send Carrie to Death Valley to cover Harvey, Iain Hughes, and Emily and Todd Bello as they compete in the world’s toughest endurance race. In retrospect, I probably should have cut a few pages paragraphs.

If you agree that our impressive roster of local runners should be highlighted in an upcoming issue of The Cincinnati Enquirer, please politely request that Ms. Washburn send Carrie Cochran to Badwater. If you are an endurance athlete; or, if you are married to, living with or in some other way related to an endurance athlete; or, if you simply found yourself wrapped up and riveted by Harvey’s journey to a hard-fought 4th place finish last year, please let our hometown editor know how much you’d like to see this story covered fully. Email her at, or tweet @CarolynWashburn #sendcarrietobadwater

If The Enquirer does send Carrie to Badwater, they have a chance of capturing a charismatic, dedicated and delightful athlete accomplish a major and inspiring feat; simultaneously honoring an impressive sport with a strong and talented local following. If they don’t, you can check the Badwater site, Facebook (follow Badwater Ultramarathon and AdventureCORPS, twitter, Tweetdeck (#bw135) Instagram and whatever other social media platforms you find yourself glued to next Monday and Tuesday.

You’ll know where to find me.

Sincerely yours,
A Fan

* No children were harmed or endangered during Badwater 2012.

Laughing over Spilled Milk on St. Paddy’s Day

You’ve probably seen the comedy sketches featuring some clueless soul who is about to unintentionally hurt themselves or make a huge mess; though everyone else can see what’s about to happen, but not in enough time to prevent it. Let’s “say” that person follows the directions on every container — such as, Shake Well Before Use — especially of some particularly difficult-to-clean liquid, NOT REMEMBERING SHE HAD ALREADY OPENED IT, only to spill the contents all over themselves, the walls, and everyone/thing around them?


If you’ve spent any time with me, you’ve probably witnessed me doing it.

I don’t consider myself too much of a space-cadet, except when it comes to shaking already open containers and spilling their contents all over the floor. Seriously, I can think of at least a half dozen occasions in which I’ve accomplished this. But yesterday, I crossed the line. I enlisted a 3-year-old accomplice.

The first time it happened was the biggest and the best. It was St. Patrick’s Day weekend many, many years ago. (Actually, hmm … perhaps I’ve unlocked a clue… It might just be this holiday which prompts my insanity! I did have a half a beer the night before…) It was seven years ago, I think. Because my dog was one year old. And the precursor to said occasion was that my dog was locked in a bathroom of a friend’s rented apartment the night before. And bored while her owner was at the bar down the street with her two best friends, who were celebrating St. Paddy’s Day. Clearly, I should have brought the crate instead.

So my dog — a very smart and much-loved (despite the massive amounts of shedding) Siberian Husky — figured out if she jumped up on the door and hit the doorknob the right way, she could manage to either jar the door (or actually twist the knob?) open, because when we returned from the bar, she was at the front door to greet us. (Guess I was lucky she didn’t figure out that door, as well.) Clearly, persistence was her friend, because based on the gouges in the door frame and the lack of paint on the frame and bathroom door, she made many attempts at this before she was successful.

I don’t remember at which point the three of us swore ourselves to secrecy — when we discovered the damage, or when I created more, the following day. Did I mention all of our husbands/fiances/boyfriends (whatever they were, at the time) were out of town together for the weekend? And that the husband who was also renting the apartment surely would be pretty upset to discover the damage created by my dog?

For our girls’ weekend, we had planned on following up our big night out with running errands together and then watching movies the following day. So, we simply added “buy paint” to the list of errands, and considered ourselves fortunate, for as we were shopping for table decorations for one of our weddings, we found little cans of paint (a pint? a quart? not sure) for sale in the adjacent shop. Paint for furniture, we assumed, so we grabbed the best color match and a couple of other necessities and ran back to my friend’s place.

After some debate, we chose to paint first, and then watch movies. Later, we were very, very glad of that decision.

I’ve already given away the ending (something no good writer does!) but I will still spell out the details. We were standing in a very large kitchen, down the hall from the bathroom in question. We were all chatting. I can’t remember if I opened the can of paint myself, or if one of my friends did … but some time passed while we finished a story, and then I grandly announced I was off to work, picked up the can of paint on which the lid gently rested, and as I turned to walk down the hall (out of habit? thinking I’d better shake it just a little more so the contents hadn’t settled? I don’t know why!) I started shaking the can again. Not just a little wrist wiggle, mind you; a full-arm shake, from my belly out with my arm fully extended.

I didn’t even see it. I felt the paint sliding down my hand and arm, and saw the looks of horror on my friends’ faces as I then noticed the paint spilling in a rainbow arc splatter at least 10 feet in front of me, and then back again. I know I was still completing the motion even though I realized what was happening. Paint landed all over the garbage can, my friends, my own clothes and shoes and face and hair, and who knows what else. At least half the can of paint. So much that I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to get one coat of paint on all the necessary spots, much less finish the job. But that wasn’t my first reaction.

Fortunately, my friends started laughing. Because I can only imagine the look on my face … it must have mirrored the look I see on Ava’s face when she’s just beginning to recognize the pain she just inflicted upon herself, as her mouth turns down and her bottom lip quivers and the tears spill over before she even realizes she is crying. I’m fairly certain I did cry (again, if you know me…) but I definitely remember laughing. Though, it was something I had to choose. I wanted to curse and stomp my feet and rewind time and run away all at the same time (and I might have done just about all of those things still) but I CHOSE to laugh.

The spill wasn’t easy to clean up; one of us finally looked at that blasted can and read the label for the first time. Oil-based. The paint was oil-based.

This was a whole different level of clean-up, now. Off to Home Depot we went, buying turpentine, rags, a new garbage can. I can only imagine what the sales guy said to his coworkers after we left, since I was covered in oil-based paint as we listened to his very safety-based tirade about the dangerous chemical we were about to use. We listened and carried out his directions as best we could. And I painted that damn door. And we cleaned that darn mess.

Much — much — later that night, we finally watched Good Night and Good Luck. Well, the first five minutes of it, anyway. (So there’s another coincidence, with George Clooney in the news this weekend.)

For the record, they got their deposit back when they moved out, years later. And the story wasn’t nearly as funny or surprising to the boys, as we thought it might be.

But now, back to the three-year-old, whose almond milk I was helping her get today while her mama was busy with one of the other five children in her house. Because, as three-year-olds are wont to do, S- was exerting her independence a little; so I, as mamas are wont to do, distracted her by asking if she wanted to shake the milk while I fetched a glass. I thought I checked the pop-up lid to be sure it was secure, but perhaps in checking it, I loosened it by mistake? Since little S- was by my side as I reached into the cabinet, again I didn’t see it happen. But I heard her shake it, and I heard the milk splatter onto the floor, and I heard her stop.

When I turned to see her face, she had the most perfectly shaped open mouth, jaw dropped, with equally wide eyes pleading with my own. “I’m in big trouble, aren’t I?” her expression seemed to say.

I crouched down to her level, just in time to give her the gift my friends gave me. I laughed. And I hugged her. And she laughed, too. As she dashed upstairs to change her clothes, I wiped up the mess (considerably easier clean-up than oil-based paint, just in case there was any speculation about that).

And since, as conversations at play-dates with six kiddos go, there was no opportunity to share this story then, I wrote it out now.

Thank you, S-, for reminding me of the importance of laughing over Spilled Anything.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day, everyone!

When Irish eyes are smiling,
Tis like a morn in spring.
With a lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing
When Irish hearts are happy
All the world is bright and gay
When Irish eyes are smiling
Sure, they steal your heart away.

It’s that time, again…

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who fell madly in love, and decided someday, she wanted four children.

Many years and tears later, that same girl fell insanely in love for REAL — this time with the right partner — was married, and had two beautiful daughters. Because by now she was much older and wiser, and because sometimes money matters, one day our heroine, in a moment of flaky, weary weakness, admitted to her dashingly handsome husband (who works very hard to feed his very happy albeit hungry family on a much-appreciated single-income) that perhaps their family was “supposed to” consist of two healthy and smiling daughters, that’s it. They were perfect, as a family of four.

About one year after their youngest daughter was born, however … after that beautiful baby grin revealed teeth, and that round baby belly held the same food everyone else at the table ate, and those chunky baby legs started taking Frankenstein steps, and that bald little head grew hair, and those amazing baby gurgles transformed into words with purpose … well then, the idea of having (just two!) more babies started floating around again.

Because, you see … not to give away the storyline or anything .. for me, it’s all about even numbers. I was one of three, and there was always an odd-girl-out. I love both of my sisters and I will do anything for them, but I think it might have been a little easier on all parties if my youngest sister had a twin. Or if we’d had more than one bathroom. So for me, the magic numbers have always have been: two, or four. And since I was over 30 when I was pregnant with my first, I knew the chances of four were slim.

You know the new car phenomenon? The one where you drive off the lot with a new car, and suddenly you’re seeing all of the other identical cars on the road, when you hadn’t noticed them before? Or, similar to your sixth-grade Friday vocab quiz — forgetting the definition of one word, but then suddenly seeing the word everywhere — in the newspaper, in the novel you were assigned, overhearing random conversations? Well, that’s the way I start feeling about babies once mine have reached the year-mark. Friends are having babies, other friends are pregnant again, and I’m suddenly wanting two more. Even the random 20-something with four (or was it five?) kiddos in tow at the library last week was saying, “‘They’ say when you’re done, you just know…” I don’t KNOW. I KNEW when I was ready to have kids, so by extension, then I will also KNOW when I am finished.

Unfortunately, the “everybody else is doing it” reasoning isn’t getting very far with my incredibly logical husband. (And I’m grateful for that. Really.) I am instead reminded of the landscaping/remodeling/vacations we have been putting off “until we can afford it.” We would have to buy a new car. The world is over-populated as it is. And while the romantic in me believes that the size of our family shouldn’t be decided by money, the responsible part of me acknowledges that unless I can home-school a bachelor’s degree, it must.

But … these arguments don’t seem to have any weight when I’m comforting my 1-year-old who has stumbled into my arms calling “Ma-ma” … or when I’m listening to my 3-year-old sound out words in her book. I acknowledge that we have been very blessed. But I love everything about this — the pregnancy, the delivery, the late-night feedings (OK, maybe not those so much), the amazing transformations that take place in just 12 months, helping these babes grow into incredible little people … and I’d like to think I’m good at it, and I would like an opportunity to be good at it for a couple more kids.


Or maybe I delve into other (exciting! but a little time-consuming…) opportunities for now and put baby-making on the shelf. I DON’T know.

What about you? If your family is complete, how did you know when to say “when?” Did you and your spouse disagree? How did you resolve it?

I would love your comments.
Until next time,


PS — A friend of mine also has a blog where she contemplates life and refuses to be pigeon-holed, and I love her for it (her stance, and her blog) but I’m so jealous because she has over 200 (check that, nearly 300!) more subscribers/followers than me. True, she is clever and can turn a phrase like … an Allen wrench? a carousel? a hand mixer? a spin master? (I got nothin’.) She’s a great writer. And she posts consistently. So I’ll make you a deal, all in the name of a little healthy competition: if I can get new email subscribers (that’s you!) with each post, I’ll keep writing. Consistently. If not, well then, I’ll probably still keep writing. I’ll just be bitter that my folks didn’t give me 199 more siblings.

What DO I do?

What DO I do?

I prepare. I plan. I cook. I pour. I grab utensils. I feed. I nurse. I explore and adapt new and healthy recipes. I clean up. I wash dishes.
I teach. I entertain. I play. I listen. I speak. I read. I sign. I observe. I read out loud. I repeat. I encourage. I explain. I question. I ask questions I already know the answers to.
I do laundry. I fold clothes. I put clothes away. I retain single socks hoping their missing mate will one day reappear.
I dress baby. I dress toddler. I watch toddler put the outfit on the floor and pick out her own clothes instead. I comb hair. I sometimes attempt to comb hair but then give up. (It is clean, and I am not perfect.)
Sometimes I shower.
I grab all the hats, mittens, coats and boots I can haul around in one diaper bag.
Or, I pack all the swimsuits, towels, goggles, noodles, flip-flops and pool toys I can attach anywhere on my body along with my two kids.
I grocery shop. I look for good deals. I clip coupons. I sigh every time the cashier rings us out.
I change diapers. I potty train. I wipe little butts. I wipe noses. I suck out boogies (with an aspirator, of course!) I clean up big messes.
I chauffeur. I bribe. I plead. I barter. I pack snacks. Lots of snacks. I drive a messy car.
I have become an amateur-expert guide at the Zoo, the museums, the YMCA, the libraries, and most of the local parks.
I schedule play-dates. I make doctors’ and dentists’ appointments. I take them to said appointments and then report back to all the powers-that-be (The Grandmas) within a reasonable amount of time.
I clean our home. I brush/feed/walk and clean up after our dog.
I pick up or clean up endless streams of 5-second toy/food/poop explosions.
I drink lots of coffee. And tea. And hot chocolate. And sometimes wine.
I allow frustration to get the better of me. I cry. I sometimes raise my voice. I regret. I worry. I fear. I wonder. I doubt. I speculate. I compare. (I admit it.)

But I also smile. A lot. I laugh out loud, many times a day. I dance. I act silly. I run around. I get dizzy. I sing. I get creative. I make strange noises or pretend to fall down simply to get a laugh. I carry. I hold. I hug. I kiss. I make memories.
I love my job.

And here’s what I don’t do:
I don’t sleep much anymore. And I don’t get much time to myself. And we don’t go on luxurious vacations, not right now.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(An important sidebar: I should mention here how much respect I have for those parents who do all of what I mentioned above either a) on top of a 40-hour work week, or b) by yourself. My hat goes off to you. Seriously.)

I am a mother. I am a mama. I am a (middle of the night) “Mawww-aahhhhhhm??”
I am a woman. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am also a grand-daughter, a niece, a cousin, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law.
I am a friend. I am a neighbor. I am a former roommate. I am a former classmate. I am a former co-worker.

In short: I am a full-time mom, and a part-time, well … a part-time “everything else.”

Grammar Gal, too

First, I must be upfront. In this post, I’m stepping away from my traditional Mommy Tales to indulge another passion: writing and editing.

Next, I must confess my love for Grammar Girl and her aptly-chosen name, which I obviously can’t get out of my head while attempting a suitable title for this post. My apologies, with utmost respect.

But there is more than one “grammar person” out there, of that I am certain (excluding/including my own mother, to whom I owe so much). Otherwise there wouldn’t be so many writing blogs I keep getting sucked into each time I try to write. I have no idea how, but I stumbled upon this article the other day about a fellow grammarian’s secret desire and I wanted to shout, “Yes! Someone else!”

You see, you have no idea that I copy edit every. thing. I. read. everything I read.

Menus. Novels. Signs. Instructions. Newspaper articles. Magazine advertisements.

When I speak, I make mistakes. (I’ve even developed a stutter when I’m nervous, where did that come from?) When I write, I split infinitives. I change my tenses. I even (gasp!) end my sentences with a preposition, on occasion. (Which is more accepted than I once believed, I’m learning. But I will ALWAYS physically cringe anytime I hear, “Where’s the car at?” Argh.) I use the first-person voice when I blog, way. too. much.

But I really pride myself on finding typos. I admit, I have submitted comments on websites so the author can correct spelling errors (OK just once did I have that much nerve, but it was a professional article misspelling Procter & Gamble — any true Cincinnatian would have done the same).

I corrected the handout I received at a training session the other day, when someone typed, “Sunday, December 10” followed immediately by, “Sunday, December 11” — only one of those dates can be Sunday, right? Literally, scratched out the first “Sunday” and scribbled next to it “Saturday” for no one’s benefit but my own.

Also recently, I rewrote one of those dastardly facebook trends, correcting all the typos I could find before re-posting to my profile (which I “never” do, except in regards to my esteemed, late father). Speaking of … is “re-post” the correct spelling? Or is “repost” the preferred/accepted spelling now? Anyone?

(Actually, don’t even get me started on spelling and facebook. I still don’t know how I stop myself — especially those first couple months — from correcting grammar and/or spelling errors. I guess I realize on some level it would be just plain rude. Still I disappoint myself by allowing our unique English language to be manipulated like that. Just as I cringe — a little bit — each time I witness my very own thumbs texting “r u ok” instead of spelling out the words and ending my sentence with the correct punctuation. I hate to think of all the variations of our language that will take place in the next 20, 50, 100 years, all in the name of speed.)

The fact is, in a former life (to which I will affectionately refer as “BC: Before Children” — my tribute to you, Dad) I was paid (very little) to have a red pen in hand. I was paid to tighten content, correct grammar and circle misspellings. And I loved it.

I also learned the hard way — from our adviser, who read our college paper AFTER it was published each week, and pointed out any errors in reporting or editing. “Buses are not kisses, Kara,” he once wrote in red scrawl, for the whole staff to see. I remember that sting each time I pass a billboard on I-74 for a restaurant that advertises parking for “busses”. (And my poor husband probably hears about it each time, too. But our children will know!)

Garner vs. garnish. Ouch, that was an embarrassing lesson, also.

There were more. There are more. It’s tough to catch them all. That’s why magazines and papers have editors. That’s why “they” say to write one day, and edit the next. I hope someday to again be in a position where the focus is on tightening my own content, and correcting my grammar or misspellings. I hope to one day be in a position to help others, too.

Red pen-wielder or no, if you enjoyed the linked article above, then you might also like another gem I found when I was googling the correct spelling of misspelling, just to be sure.

Because I’m not perfect. But I do try.

I promise: I won’t judge you for your grammar, if you won’t judge me for my instinctual red pen quick-draw.

How many stuffed animals does one family need?

In a mega-frenzy of cleaning last week, I attempted to straighten up the “Stuffed Animal Corner” in the baby’s room.

Yes, my in-laws were coming for the weekend.
No, they didn’t say anything about the Stuffed Animal Corner.
Yes, the pyramid of animals in the corner has survived intact for almost six days.
Yes, this is quite amazing!

Which leads me to the following conclusion: maybe I don’t need to put a toy hammock on our Christmas list. Instead, maybe I need to start sneaking the plush lions and tigers and teddy bears out of the house, one by one, until we have a more manageable number of stuffed animals. Say, 20.

In the past, we have tried to reduce our stuffing. But either through nostalgia tempered with guilt (Aawwwwwww, this was her first bison…) or poor tactics (toddler witnessing the event, Yikes!) I haven’t been able to pull it off just yet.

In fact, when I was dusting off the wagon for trick-or-treating last night, I found a bag in the garage I had completely forgotten. It contained about a half dozen random stuffed animals we had previously removed from the playroom and girls’ rooms. I smirked to myself as I remembered stealthily retrieving “just a few” of the animals from the nearly full bag, until only the ones that had no emotional significance to either me or my children remained.

Yes, my name is Mama, and when it comes to repeated failed efforts to de-clutter our stuffed animals, I am the problem.

But I HAVE been able to slow the influx of our plushy doll and animal kingdom.

When well-intentioned friends and family travel to exotic locales, and consequently would like to bring us knick-knacks and soft toys from these incredible destinations, I request children’s books instead.

(Sidebar: we appreciate any time anyone thinks of us when you are away from home. But books are better than “dust-collectors” (as my aunt would say) or stuffed toys, of which we have too many!)

In fact, books are the perfect souvenir. The child receives a book they would not otherwise be exposed to — for example, Don’t Call Me Pig! A Javelina Story (Arizona), or Maddy: the Alaskan Moose (Alaska) or Deep in the Swamp (Louisiana).

A book (or two, or three) is the perfect size to fit in your suitcase. A book brings joy and with it, a love of learning new information about an otherwise unknown locale, to its recipient. (Seriously, javelinas? I learned so much.) And a book belongs on a bookshelf — so mama knows precisely where to put it.

If you’re looking for gift ideas for little ones (my apologies, but it is almost that season) bring them a book from a region to which you’ve traveled (or lived, if you’re traveling to bring the gift).

And now, if you’ll excuse me … I must go rearrange my kids’ plush toys … in alphabetical order.

PS — this post is incomplete without the teeny-tiniest of disclaimers. A certain retailer has nailed the market by selling a stuffed animal to ACCOMPANY the book, and donating the money to kids’ education. In my opinion, this is nothing short of awesome, and I completely support it. Personally, I will never get rid of our Lorax, our Cat (whom we gave a Cupcake), etc. (the stuffed animals, or the books).

PPS — For the record, we already have the On the Night You Were Born Tillman book (two copies, actually — one upstairs, one downstairs) but no polar bears. The book is outstanding. We don’t have any of her other books. Now if only said retailer also could provide a storage system for both!