100% smile guarantee

In my list of greatest faults, uploading videos falls in the #2 spot (directly behind sending snail mail).  This morning, before I make breakfast, before I pack for a camping trip, before I distract myself, I'm following my sister's lead and sharing some gems I've been holding on to.

Mostly for my mom and dad, but if they make you smile too... well that's the cherry on top for me :)

*3 hours full of "deleted/ overwritten/ lost files/ panic" later, I have successfully restored the videos and saved them in 2 seperate places.  For the record, I am VERY satisifed with FlipVideos Live Chat!  I'm also dreadfully behind schedule for the day :(

"When you're smiling, when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you.  When you're laughing, when you're laughing, the sun comes shining through..."

And, if giggling babies and goofy grandpas don't warm your cold, cold heart... here's a little medley of Hazel's hits :)

The first lullaby was taken on the night when she surprised me by singing along with my/her favorite lullaby.  She's heard it almost daily, but never joined in before.  I shot the video on the 3rd time through the song... she was kinda "over it" by then, but my heart was bursting with love and I wanted to capture it on video.  She starts with retelling the story she just heard, about her sheep "BaBa" and a little girl.  She now sings it all by herself and gets many more words!

For the record, if you've lived a sordid past, no worries, "Jesus loves me this I know.  For the Bible KNOW ME, HO!"

*my apologies for not editing the video to cut out the fluff and add cute captions.  This quick project needs to end so that I can smile again ;)

Mom, hope this cheered and energized you.  Dad, we love you and miss you!  Now, get back to work making healthy white blood cells and killing those diseased cells :)  (clearly, I still have a rudimentary understanding of leukemia.)


neurons firing

Last night while reading "Goodnight Moon", Hazel correctly identified a "full moon" and a "crescent moon".   She also noted that the doll house didn't have a door knob.  Full on genius, right?  Of course, as she was telling me how you have to have TWO mittens and TWO socks, she let it slip that she had no idea where one would actually wear mittens.

As parents, I figure we've earned an A for encouraging out-of-the-box creativity (noticing the missing door knob) and an A+ for teaching her advanced things like phases of the moon.  However, we're at a C average for obvious things like telling her what the contraptions we put on her hands a thousand times a day in the winter are called ;)

As for Heidi, if you listen very carefully, you'll discover that she's really talking.  "Shoes", "Eye", "Nose", "Mou... (th)".  I tend to rush through the day, throwing cheerios her way and giving kisses anytime she ambles near me.  Yesterday, I was shocked when I slowed down and realized that she was pointing (with her feet) to my facial features and naming them!

My girls thoroughly enjoying our weekly campfire meals!

As for me, I'm trying to get back into the writing zone.  Having a loved one fighting such a horrific disease makes it hard for my neurons to fire at all.  In fact, I prefer keeping those neurons dull so that I don't start thinking too hard.  However, my dad is doing AMAZING.  So far, it seems his luck has changed and he's leaning towards the best case scenario regarding chemo effects.  He's now off chemo for a week and may or may not need another 5 days of the stuff.  After that, good bye diseased white blood cells, HELLO HEALING.

Though that last sentence is totally possible, I am begging you for constant prayers.  We believe in the power of prayer and need it regardless of the path his disease takes.  (if you happen to not believe in prayer, well knock it off.  I have no patience for that.  There is a God and he's waiting for you to get over yourself and allow him in.)

May the odds be ever in your favor,


Handle With Care :: Communication

If writing is my therapy, does that make you my therapist?  Nah.  I'll let you off the hook and in fact, I struggle to let anyone "in", so please be available, but not insistent.

I've written about my father many times before.  He brags that he's always in my blog.  If that's the case, it's his fault for raising two daughters who adore and respect him.

My father has begun the fight for his life.  He has acute myeloid leukeumia and is embarking on a month (plus) intensive chemo regime which will be followed by a bone marrow transplant.  Those two things will lead to a cure... or kill him.  Thankfully, I have a sneaking suspicion, that my dad fights dirty... so look out white blood cells!

Dad, if this blog post makes you die of embarrasment, well, you're welcome.  I figure that's a hell of a lot more pleasant then dying of leukemia.

I'd like to share some thoughts and reflections about my dad.  Things I might say after he's gone, things I want to share before that happens... may it be many many years away.  'Cause that's the curse of life.  You bury your loved ones or they bury you.  There's no escaping it.  While tempting, you cannot live life without relationships, you must face losing and being lost.  The thought of losing a parent makes me shrivel, convulse, vomit & sob, yet that is the natural way of things.  While I want to protect MY daughters from any and all pain, I know that they will survive my death... I could not survive theirs.  God willing, that is the way life should work.

My dad and I share similarities that go past our thin lips, bird legs and warped sense of humor.  Today I want to talk about our communication:  We can be SILENT.  But in that silence, my dad and I communicate.  We can be silent in joy, sadness, apprehension, day dreams, concentration, fatigue, annoyance, hunger and more often than not, simply because we're engrossed in books.  I understand his silence and feel comfortable with it.  In turn, he respects mine, though probably wishes I'd channel that gift more often.

In the absolute terror I feel regarding the prospect of losing my dad, I feel silence.  He, more than anyone else, understands that.

Rarely socially acceptable, silence is an art.  I have learned to use my acting skills and most often, I "act" sociable.  From him, I've learned how to be the life of the party, how to make people laugh and how to converse.  As he ages and struggles with his health, I've seen my dad slip into silence more often.  I know that this is often misinterpreted, but fortunatley, he doesn't seek the approval of others.

He's got a firmer grip on understanding others and communication than any expert I've ever come across.  For example, my father understands the lasting impact of words.  Not that he never says a cross word, I'm not talking about being cross.  Hell, it's a proven fact that no friend of mine was ever a houseguest without being "corrected" by my father.  There are correct ways of doing things and of being and he isn't shy about reteaching those things.  Just leave a tool out on his toolbench... I double dog dare you!

In particular, my husband and I were recently talking about how my dad (and mom) are extremely careful never to say anything that will cause a fissure in our relationships with them.  Sure, they give us advice and gentle nudges, but never ever ultimatums or controversial opinions.  This trait used to tick me off when they would share concerns about exboyfriends (could have saved me so much time!), but they never say anything that would cause me to feel judged/uncomfortable in the future.  So, if I had married one of those boyfriends, they wouldn't have to hope I forgot their condemning words.  They would simply support me and pray for me.

My dad is a natural guide.  Not a counselor, not a fortune teller, but a planter of seeds.  He has incredible insight, but is so nonchalant about how he shares it, it takes an "A HA!" moment to realize he guided me.  I can't think of a single major decision I've made without first fishing around for his insights.  The beauty of his gift is that he is adaptable.  If I don't follow his lead, he is still there to walk my path with me and continue to clear the way.  He's not too proud or opinionated to let me make my own way.  I can't think of a better gift to give your child.

While part of me has a firm understanding of my father and could write a multi-volume set of his life stories (oh wait, the movie "Big Fish" was already written... perhaps I'll write the sequel?), part of me wants to quiz him and question him.  About what?  I'm not sure, but I have so much more to learn from him.

So that is what I want to leave you with today:
TRY SILENCE.  Spend sometime within yourself.  Think, reflect, observe.  Do it somewhere where you usually carry the conversation.  How does it affect the dynamics in that setting?  Silence is a gift and requires a hefty self-confidence (anyone else guilty of always jumping in to fill awkward pauses?  I've simply got to stop doing that!  I could be rushing past something profound.).

TRY SILENCE.  When the words forming in your mouth will cut someone down, anger them, make them feel judged or alienate them... try silence.  Sometimes we do need to be controversial or voice our anger, but rarely.  Very rarely.  Words are permanent.  Perhaps not tangible, but permanent none the less.  When we take away someone's option for independent decision making, we teach them that they are incapable.  Use gentle nudges, open arms, acceptance & even silence in interactions with your loved ones.  It will show them the depths of your love AND give them confidence in their abilities.



Hi friends,

I've giving myself some time off.  Hopefully not too much time as I've only lasted about 2 weeks on my new writing schedule (write at least 1 post/article, 6 days a week) :)

In the meantime, I will be nurturing my loved ones, staring into the campfire and praying... particularly for these three:
Storytime with their Junko.  
(and now the world knows that I'm a miserable failure at keeping pants on my children)


Girl Who Travels :: Loving PA!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of PA Tourism. All opinions are 100% mine.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to write for visitpa.com because coincidentally I have spent the past week planning our two family summer vacations both of which centered in Pennsylvania.
While there is a time and a place for planning grand trips to far away destinations, there is also something wonderful about staying local.  Our summer vacations are built around short drives (Hazel ERUPTS after 1.5 hours in the car), low costs, visiting friends/ attending weddings, and most importantly (re)discovering our beloved Keystone state!
Sometimes it's fun to hop in the car without a detailed plan.  This baby phase of life is not that time!  Micromanaged plans make for a much happier family.  This summer, my family will not drive longer than an hour without a planned stop.  Thanks to the internet, I've found amazing parks, nature centers and yes, McDonald's playplaces (I can't believe I am admitting that last one publically.  Parenthood takes you places you never imagined...).
To assist with planning a PA roadtrip, visit PA has the coolest feature.  Enter pa-roadtrips.  The Roadtrip-a-Matic has a cornucopia of predesigned 3-day trips.  Solving the problem of wondering if there's something AMAZING near-by that you don't know about, roadtrips give you multiple scenarios depending on what your interests are and what part of the state you want to explore.  It also suggests where to eat and where to sleep.  So you can head-out on a perfectly planned roadtrip without devoting weeks of preparation!
Scrolling through the selections, I'm hard pressed to choose just one vacation.  However, with the kids in mind, I was thrilled to discover "Kidsylvania"!  Swing on through the Steel City had the best tagline "Spend some quality time with your little 'yinz".  While we've taken the kids to Pittsburgh many times, we've never gone simply for vacation.  I wonder if we have the resources to go on 3 family roadtrips?
How about you, which pa-roadtrips are you/ would you choose?
Visit Sponsor's Site


Save By Shopping

Love my title?  I'll bet my husband is seeing red.  He hates that particular strain of logic.  "Honey, I saved SO much money today at the mall!".  Wait, who shops at malls anymore?  Clearly it's been a LONG time since I've gone on a physical shopping spree :)

That's just it.  I rarely shop at brick & mortar shops.  There are drawbacks to this and I hold myself (and Amazon) partially responsible for the lack of bookstores within a 30-mile radius of my home.  However, I am an online shopper and I'm thankful it exists!

For a country girl, the world of possiblities opens up when shopping online.  Outdoor gear, organic clothes and books... I could spend all day  browsing those three categories!

Perhaps I'm dreadfully late to the party, but I finally joined Ebates.  Every money-saving-website has been talking about Ebates for a long time, but I resisted creating yet ANOTHER site to visit and remember log-in information for.  However, since I do almost all of my shopping online, I finally bit the bullet.

Yesterday I realized that I need a rash guard swim top for Heidi (skin, our body's largest organ is particularly fragile duirng the first 2 years.  I think these shirts should be mandatory.... have you ever tried to repeatedly cover a squirmy baby in sunblock?  Precisely.).  I was thrilled with the selection of online stores who belong to Ebates.  I shopped at OshKosh and scored some sweet sales while earning 2.5% back.  Some stores offer up to (quickly scanning...) 7.5% back, maybe more.  Combine that with any online coupons and BAM... you've saved some major dough :)

So, check it out and if you decide to join, please do so through my link (the graphic below) :)


Girl Who Travels :: ADK

As the hardcore outdoor enthusiast that I claim to be, it may come as a surprise to you to know that my first backpacking adventure occurred when I was 20-years-old!  I was entering my Senior year of college at Mount Union and had signed up for a course in Group Dynamics.  Bar none, this was the coolest class I ever took.

The prerequisite:  a 5-day backpacking trip in the Adirondack mountains.  SIGN ME UP!  (note:  a quick look through the current course catalogue leads me to believe that this course is no longer offered.  I believe the "Wilderness Trip" still occurs, led by a husband/wife duo...Laura who joined me in this adventure and John, who I cajoled to join me the next year.).

Tan and fit from a summer of working as a camp counselor, I was exhausted, but ready for an adventure!
I almost always wear Edelweiss bandannas when I hike.  It's my thing.
Having missed the initial day of group building exercises on campus, I showed up just in time to load-up my ENORMOUS backpack with my share of the gear and hop into the 15-passenger van.  Much to my chagrin, out of the 2 "teams", I was assigned to Trey's team.... and he was also late.  So, we left without him.  Now, I didn't actually know Trey, but I knew who he was.  Oh yes, the stereotypical Rico Suave frat boy who drove around campus in his jeep with the top down and the guy whom everyone simply loved.  Blech... I was less than thrilled to be led through the wilderness by Mr. Metrosexual.

As these things usually happen, Trey went on to become one of the best friends I ever made in college.  We lived together off-an-on (depending on my mood for the semester and whether I wanted a roommate.  He was a good sport... since I had free housing) during his grad school career and he remains high on my list of favorite people.  I've looked past his ridiculous sex appeal and he's cast aside his memories of my glaring at him throughout a course or two (oops... he noticed!).  I digress...

Back to the mountains.  The "team" is assembled and we begin our long drive to upper New York, to the Adirondack Mountains.  If you've never been there, plan a trip NOW!  Starting near Lake Placid, we hiked for 5 long, hard, fantastic days.

Fresh from my "camp counselor" mentality, I quickly got over my sour attitude and focused on the joy of a week in the wilderness with some close friends, without the responsibility of caring for campers and getting to know some new people.  

Day 1, I was eager to be part of the team.  Each day one person was in charge of the map (with the guidance of the leaders) and set the pace.  I eagerly volunteered and begin hiking the motly crew STRAIGHT UP A MOUNTAIN.

One of the suggested preparations for this trip was regular running throughout the summer.  Though active, I had had no time to run.  Figuring everyone else was in amazing shape, I gritted my teeth and hiked my little heart out.  Determined not to be the cause of snickers and sideways glances, I kept up a fast pace.  Fortunately after a ridiculously long time at this pace (felt like an hour, probably more like 20-minutes), we took a break and slowly people began to admit that the pace was a little rough.  PHEW!

Discovering freeze-dried backpacking food, consuming ridiculous amounts of GORP, nightly sleeping bag wrestling matches (not as kinky as it sounds!), learning to make bear-proof food storage and delving into deep discussions, I was in complete heaven.

Mid week was HIGH PEAK DAY!  If the weather cooperated (it did), we were going to head to Mount Marcy for a peak experience (he he).  This was the first time I ever hiked above the tree line.  Wow.  Feel the burn. Even now, 10 years later, my calves burn with the memory of such a steep, long hike.

On the way up, our leader, Trey, and our student leader, Becky, kept our spirits up with frequent breaks and silly songs.  I used this opportunity to release my campy dorkiness and taught them the BEAVER SONG!  

Beaver 1, Beaver All, let's go to the Beaver ball.  *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 2, Beaver 3, let's all climb the Beaver tree.  *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 4, Beaver 5, let's all do the Beaver jive. *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 6, Beaver 7, let's all go to Beaver heaven. *hand motions* ch ch ch (x4)
Beaver 8, Beaver 9, come on everybody it's BEAVER TIME! *dance around like a beaver*

Group Shot on our 2nd-to-last day, sporting our BEAVER FINGERS.

Though this trip and the next year, when I joined Trey as his student leader, could be a mini-series of it's own, I'll end with one more I'm-a-hardcore-hiker story.  After the above photo was taken, we had the option of a solo night.  Packing up the bare minimum we were led to private sites in the woods for us to reflect, write, be silent and create a "Christmas" present for a teammate.

I took my pen, knife, journal, sleeping bag, raincoat, head lamp, and 2 garbage bags.  That night, the heavens opened up and it stormed!  Luckily for me, I knew how to make a shelter...however in the heavily trampled woods, my resources were severely limited (or perhaps that's just my excuse for being lazy).  I made myself a ghetto lean-to, lying underneath a fallen tree which I lazily laid some long limbs across, I used my rain coat and one opened garbage bag to make a shelter from my upper 1/2 and slipped my sleeping bag into a garbage bag to keep my lower 1/2 dry.

When the thunder and lightening picked up, I shuddered.  However, I remained remarkably dry and toughed through the night, determined not to be the only "scaredy cat".  The next morning, my dear friend, student leader Becky, came to find me... she hadn't slept a wink because she was so worried about me.  She awoke me by singing, "Good morning beautiful.  How was your night?".  I'm certain there is no better way to wake up after a solo night!  She snapped this shot of my ridiculous shelter:
No one does "bed head" like me!  Though I don't remember this, looking at this photograph, it seems that my shoddy shelter was almost more dangerous than the storm... some of the sides fell on top of me!
I was the only girl to spend the night in the storm... I think I need a badge or something :)

So there you have it, a few reflections of the week that ignited a life-time passion for backpacking!  Isn't it amazing the way time in the woods can reinvent your attitude, your friendships and your sense of self?

Post #1:  Excons on the AT