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Lessons from my Mom

2015 November 25
by Mia

In the spirit of gratitude, I wanted to share some of the big lessons my Mom has taught me over the years.

Be grateful

Hands down, the number one lesson from my Mom was to give gratitude each day and”Aren’t we lucky…” was one of her favorite sayings.  Aren’t we lucky to have a quiet hour together?,  Aren’t we lucky for this beautiful sunny day?; Aren’t we lucky for each other?  Oh yes, yes indeed.

Take your time

There is nobody more important that the person in front of you; no destination more important than where you are now. You are where you are supposed to be. Be mindful of that.

My Mom moved at her own pace.  The words “we’re running late” were never uttered from her mouth.  As a child, it drove me nuts to be sitting curbside at the dentist office for 45 minutes, knowing Mom was chatting up a storm with someone in the grocery store.  Yet as an adult, I see that she gave everyone her full 100% attention.  All of the time.  I’ll never shake the need to be on time (and honestly, always early), but I am trying to be more mindful of the people right in front of me.

Order dessert before your entree

How else to justify the chocolate souffle unless you order the salad?


Go outside

Mom was not your typical outdoor enthusiast — she probably never stepped foot in an REI store nor ever slept in a tent.  Yet she loved the outdoors.  A stroll down her neighborhood street, a siesta on the back patio, a long look out the window.  She noticed the wind, the clouds, the light, the squirrels..she appreciated God’s outdoor gifts and always felt buoyed by it.

Make the effort

Set a nice table, serve a salad, make the bed, drop off cookies, pick some flowers…do these little things to show people you care.

Wear what makes you happy

My mom was fond of color, especially pink, and always stood out in the crowd of black and gray in San Francisco.  She always looked elegant and styled, but clearly wasn’t “on trend”.  Yet her beauty came from her confidence as she wore things that brought her happiness — like midi “horse” skirt.

Ice Cream for the win

One of the most touching gifts received after she passed away was from her favorite friend of 50 years.  A box of 6 pints of ice cream arrived at the front door with the note “Your Mother taught me that ice cream makes everything better.  Think of your dear mother with every bite”.  Pretty much every friend who reached out after her death had a story of visiting an ice cream shop with Mom — and in once case a story of visiting three ice cream parlors in one day!

Family is your greatest gift

Be grateful for your family.  They may be full of oddballs, pessimists, narcissists — but they are yours.  Celebrate them, nurture them, step back if necessary — but always let them know you are waiting in the wings with arms full of love.

2004-07-05 18.38.17One of her favorite skirts – if you look closely, you will see horse heads at the bottom.  


Losing my Light

2015 November 23
by Mia


Photo of my Mom who always had a smile– even when sitting by herself

Oh, how I miss the days of this past summer. The early morning runs in the humid air. The stringy chlorine hair that indicated a day well spent at the pool. The daily ice cream treats where the biggest decision was sprinkles or not. And the last few months I would ever spend with my dear Mom.  I remember our last swim, our last ice cream, our last look at the sky.

For my North Star, my beautiful and illuminate Mom, passed away on October 24th. It’s been a painful and emotionally charged five weeks as my world became instantly dark.

As one friend wrote, “Nobody loves you like a mother.” Nobody will pray for me each night, or offers daily compliments on my mothering, or lights up with glee she catches my eye. A Mother’s love is truly unconditional and sees only goodness in her children.

I have a lot of thoughts, reflections and lessons floating around my head which I hope to take the time and document. For now, I cling to my phone, my lifeline to her, and listen to old voicemails, stare at familiar photos, and give thanks for the 43 years of love that my Mom gifted me.

Is it really mid-July?

2015 July 17
by Mia

It’s 7:32 on Thursday night. Our girls are outside with the neighborhood kids playing jackpot in our backyard. The evening light is low and captures the smiles and laughter on their faces. The smell of jasmine permeates the air. Our bellies are full from the afternoon ice cream run. Summer is in full swing around here.

There is not much to report. We have found our rhythm this summer with ease. Pool hair and tan lines. BBQs and summer friends. Dahlias and hydrangeas. Thunderstorms and sticky days. Dirty feet and painted toes.

Some favorite photos from the halfway point…

2015-06-30 16.36.55


First swim meet!  The girls opt for ballet classes over soccer during the school year — so this is my one and only chance to stand from the sidelines and cheer loudly! 2015-07-04 21.38.47

Our town fireworks were spectacular.  This year we ventured to the park to see them up close and it was worth the crowds.

2015-07-05 10.09.24

This one is for E.S. — my bike saw the light of day again!  Hit the road solo on a quiet and gorgeous Sunday morning.  Even passed a field of cows and wildflowers.

2015-07-07 13.32.33

Swim team snack break.  Smart food popcorn is the snack of choice these days.

2015-07-07 19.29.09

Once or twice a week we will venture out as a family on an evening walk.  This particular evening we went to the local swimming hole.  The girls didn’t let a little thing like NO BATHING SUIT stop them!

2015-07-07 18.10.04Caught Oldest cloud gazing one late afternoon.  She is my day dreamer.  (And checkout my hydrangeas this year…would have thought the brutal winter would have killed any chances of blooms, but just the opposite has happened).

Happy halfway point!

Snapshot of June 5th

2015 June 5
by Mia


What I’m reading:  

My bedside table has a pile of books just waiting for a good read by the pool!  Our book club selected The Boston Girl by Anita Diamond and I just loved this story of the author’s grandmother and her upbringing in Boston (oh, the relationship with her mother had me seething!). The generation from 1920s is so full of stories — heartfelt and tough stories that explain how the trajectory of their lives was changed forever.

What I’m wearing:

Sunscreen, and lots of it!  I’m trying this new powder sunscreen in an effort to be more diligent about re-applying sunscreen throughout the day.

What I’m eating:

We’ve had weeks of 80 degree temps so our summer salads made their appearance a month earlier than usual.  My favorites are watermelon/feta and quinoa/corn/avocado medley.  We also enjoyed our first ice cream from the ice cream truck…a true sign of summer around here.

What I’m doing:

Scheduling all doctor appointments for the first week after school so we can get the “must dos” out of the way early in the summer.  Optometrist, dermatologist, pediatrician…we will see you in a few weeks.

What makes sense to me:

David Brooks article about The Small Happy Life resonated deeply with me.  I struggle with the feeling that I need to be doing more — creating, working, producing, suceeding.  Yet this article reminds me that my place in life right now is right where I need to be….celebrating the small daily joys —  evening walks with my husband, morning snuggles with my daughters, family dinners, lively discussions with friends — and not needing anything more.

What I’m thinking:

I’m thinking it can’t be June again.  Weren’t we just saying goodbye to 1st and 3rd grade and now here we are approaching 3rd and 5th grade?!  I’m holding this summer close to my heart as next year holds a lot of changes for us.  Most notably is that Big Sister is off to a different school with a longer day schedule than Little Sister.  I’m sad to think they won’t be together anymore….and possibly never again.  AM trying to determine how I can align their schedules for next year so that even if they don’t have parallel school schedules, there will still be plenty of together time.

Happy Friday!


2015 June 3
by Mia

After 8 years of living in this house, I finally have managed to create a garden that blooms every few weeks. Lilacs kick off the growing season with a sweet fragrance that dances around our backdoor. Just as I’m mourning the end of my lilac tree, the azaleas explode in pinks and whites, providing visual delight when I’m washing dishes from the kitchen window. Shorty afterwards my roses and rhodies start to awaken to the early summer days which leads to the main event….the row of hydrangeas that will dance under the summer sun. It’s a symphony of flowers and I celebrate each movement.

The parallel between my garden and my life is not lost on me. This time of year is so bittersweet to those of us who are sensitive to the passage of time. We mourn the “as is” state of our little people who are now taller and smarter. We are sad to say goodbye to the established routines of the school year. We will miss the teachers that have so kindly and empathetically nurtured our children’s brains and character. And we will miss the snapshot of time that captures the life of a 2nd and 4th grader.

And similar to how I mourn the loss of my lilacs only to be excited by the azaleas — I also mourn the goodbyes to my 2nd and 4th graders, only to be excited by the 3rd and 5th graders who will occupy my heart for the next year.

pic flower

The New Summer Schedule

2015 May 20
by Mia

Life around here is about to change with only 17 school days left in the calendar.

We are definitely in the minority in that we don’t sign up the kids for summer camps. Partly because I want them to slow down and enjoy the childhood summer days that I remember in the seventies; and partly because all of the local camps are five days a week without a part-time option.

So effective Monday, June 15th — the “Camp of Mama” begins. Roughly, our days will look like:

- 8:30am: Morning workbooks (I really like the Summer Bridge Books and BrainQuest books…surprise girls, you each get both for the summer!)

- 10ish:  Head out for some fun.  Swim, bike, picnic, tennis lessons, playdates, nature exploring, berry picking, farmer’s market…it’s all on our summer fun list.

- late afternoonish:  Home for some downtime. Typically this involves reading on the hammock and some TV time.

- 5pm:  This summer, each girl will be in charge of dinner for one night (Oldest has Mondays, Youngest has Thursdays).  There are many things I am doing well as a mother — but teaching the kids basic kitchen skills has not been one of them!  Time that they learn how to measure a teaspoon, boil some water and use a paring knife.

- Evening chores:  This is a hot topic in our house.  The girls are itching for every item under the Calico Critter umbrella.  They have a mason jar of dollar bills from odd jobs around the house with the goal to reach $50.  I figured the time after dinner would be a good time for them to earn some dollars by watering the plants, weeding, changing sheets, and folding and putting clothes away.   Any other idea of age-appropriate things to do around the house?

My favorite month is June.  I love the anticipation of summer and BBQs, the picnics with friends before everyone heads off for the summer, the end-of-year celebrations.  And mostly, I love that summer is just beginning — the first bike ride to the ice cream store, the first pajama morning on the hammock, the first swim of the season — all are still novelties in June.

Seventeen days left.


What a Difference a Year Makes

2015 May 5
by Mia

May 5, 2014. The date was etched in my memory for over a year. It was the date of a final work project. Every email, PowerPoint slide, meeting and analysis was driven by this date.

I remember carefully selecting my slim fitting black pants, a white eyelet blouse and my turquoise necklace — I wanted to be professional but comfortable. I arrived at work around 7am before everyone else to be available for any last minute mishaps. I was mentally ready for this day — the finish lined was about to be crossed and I was ready to celebrate.

Except I never made it to the celebration. Around 9:30am, the school nurse called to ask that I pick up my then 6-year old who had thrown up in the classroom (or as the nurse so delicately stated, “all over the classroom”). With a husband traveling for work, I was the only available parent and the one who had to yet again, leave my work responsibilities behind while I tended to my little people.

My memory of the rest of the day was chaos. Cleaning vomit between conference calls and snuggling a limp little one while typing with one hand. It was this day that I realized this ongoing juggle was too great for our family of four and that it was time for me to consider being at home full time.

Fast forward a year. May 5th, 2015. And someone started throwing up again last night. That same daughter, now 7, had once again contacted a May stomach bug. Our day was full of snuggles, coloring, gatorade, naps and a whole lot of love. No stress. No juggle. No feeling of failing.

It is not lost on me that I am having a Groundhog Day experience from a year ago. Same 80 degree temps. Same flu bug. Same daughter. Same day.  And yet something is significantly different….ME. I strongly believe that a Higher Power is sending me a powerful reminder. And I’m so grateful for that reminder.

2015-04-28 11.17.33 HDR

Love Notes from Paradise…

2015 April 2
by Wendy

…and other miscellany.

So, this happened.

worst day ever2

You’ve probably been there, so I won’t bore you with the details. If you have kids and haven’t been there yet, just wait. It’s awesome.

In other news, I have a new girl crush. Eireann Dolan and her boyfriend, Oakland A’s pitcher Sean Doolittle, promised to buy empty seats for LGBT Night in Oakland this June. She has two “hella gay” moms, is incredibly funny, seems very real, and she sucked me into her blog and insta feed for a good few hours tonight. She’s a badass.

And, one last, unrelated topic. The books on my nightstand would have an inch layer of dust if not for my excessive cleanliness. But, I have found a few good things to read here and there. These articles all have a common parenting theme, which I clearly need given my 8 year old’s love note from last night.

What’s going on with you? Can you top my love letter? Any thoughts on these articles, or others I have missed?

Here’s hoping you don’t have the worst day ever.

Ten Things About Me

2015 March 25
by Mia

1. I sleep with green ear plugs from Walgreens. Occasionally they cling to my pajamas and will find new homes all over the house — at which time a disgusted yelp will be heard from the other members of the family.

2. I had a six month spree where I called 911 monthly. Saw a stumbling drunk woman trying to get into her car; noted a wheel loose on an 18-wheeler; smelled gas by the neighbor’s house…if I was slightly suspicious, I called.

3. I didn’t start flossing until age 40. My husband was not a big flosser which resulted in a painful deep cleaning — I’ve been flossing every day since.

4. I’m a classic introvert and need solo time each day. In the winter, this most likely means 30 minutes in the bathtub to warm up before bedtime; in the summer, I grab a good book and enjoy a quiet 30 minute of reading before making dinner.

5. I was in the Los Angeles riots. I was attending University of Southern California and living in an off-campus apartment – blocks away from where local business were being looted and burned to the ground. I didn’t feel fear until my Dad showed up with a gun to whisk me away to safety (didn’t even know he owned one).

6. I still don’t carry recycling bags to the grocery store and feel a need to make up a story — “Oops, I forgot them”; “Oops, we are using them for library bags”; and “Oops, I wasn’t planning on stopping at the store and didn’t bring them”.

7. I am no longer a natural redhead. After years of highlights to hide the grey, I finally bit the bullet and started to go the single process hair route in September.

8. Turbulence makes me nervous. I’ve been known to assume the emergency position on more than a few occasions.

9. I feel very protective of Friday nights. While I’d love to be the type to have impromptu dinners with other families or grab a date night with my husband — I find that by Friday night, all I want to do is to re-connect with my family of four.

10. I’m much happier at 42 than I was at 32. My frantic pace has slowed and my gratitude has grown. I can only imagine and hope this will continue with each decade.


Digging Out

2015 March 23
by Wendy


No, not digging out of snow like Mia and all of our friends and family in Boston. Rather, more like digging out of a bunch of little rock slides that piled up over the course of a few weeks.

It all started with minimum days at school for my boys. Seems rather innocuous, but having only 8:25-12:20 sans boys for an entire week-plus really rocks my world. Productivity hits an all-time low during minimum days, and this time was no exception.

Then, my sweet dog experienced a health setback that caused some more disruption in our schedule. For a week, she would only eat if it was out of my hand. Sweet, but with boys only at school four hours, 30 minutes of hand-feeding a day put a serious kink in the schedule. She is getting back on track, I think, so that is a start.

On the heels of that was a trip to Arizona and a baseball tournament for my husband and oldest son. They had a great time, but the prep and packing was crazy and the aftermath of that included a ton of laundry and the stomach flu for my oldest (which, in turn, caused more laundry). Of course, the illness was over the two days my husband was in Seattle.

Just when I was getting back together, I lost my house key on Thursday. I actually think I left it in the door (!) and after a few deliveries it was no where to be found. I booby-trapped all of our doors that night, didn’t sleep a wink, and was so thankful for the locksmith who arrived at 10am on Friday.

This weekend was consumed with more baseball and the dreaded science fair project. You know the funny quotes and write-ups about how awful the science fair is that you see on Facebook? All true. My son conducted his experiments all in a timely manner, created a fantastic report, but the seemingly simple task of creating a trifold presentation board was nothing short of challenging. I wouldn’t call some of our interactions over the weekend my best parenting moments.

However, it is now Monday and – aside from my dog falling down and skinning her cute little nose today on a walk – I think I have dug out of the rubble and am back on top of things. Looking forward to this new week with full days of school and a few more hours a day to get things done.

Before I get to my to-do list, though, there were a few bright spots amidst the rock slides:

A peaceful walk at night before Bloomy's vertigo came back.

A peaceful walk at night before Bloomy’s vertigo came back.


Amazing night sky after a baseball game.


One of many trips to ice cream over the “weekend of yes” when my husband and older son were in Arizona.


My husband pawing through (and getting excited by) a yummy new cookbook sent by a dear friend.