March Madness

April 1, 2013 at 11:36 pm | Posted in Bun, Family, Giggles, Lollipop | 5 Comments
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March madness? At our house, it doesn’t involve basketballs or brackets or neon yellow sneakers. It’s all about the eggs. And the chocolate. And making sure your siblings don’t get one more string of crinkly fake grass than you in their baskets. Not to mention jelly beans.

The hunt for eggs is mostly complete before Mommy drags herself out of bed toward the gleeful shrieks coming from downstairs.

The dog finds eggs, too. And eats them. This does not turn out well later.

Small children devouring chocolate bunnies results in sticky fingers, chins, cheeks, eyebrows, elbows, nostrils, knees, toes, and ear lobes.

As if more sugar was needed, there is syrup for dinner. Oh, and, bunny-shaped pancakes.

But … No yucky black-licorice jelly beans enter the premises under any circumstances.

Three sets of small fingers search all baskets a minimum of seven times to ensure that tribute has been distributed equally.

The cat protests the bunny ears forced on his head by eating some faux purple fur.

No one falls asleep until at least two hours after bedtime. And, somehow, there is no leftover Easter candy for Mommy and Daddy to sneak.

If I get to the grocery store early enough Monday morning, there are always a few teeny-tiny bags of heaven-sent Cadbury mini-eggs hidden behind the giant generic chocolate coins on clearance.

And that one last dyed egg? Will just not be found.

What signals Easter at your house? How do your pets involve themselves in the celebration? And where did you find that last egg?

The Beautiful Stuff

March 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Photo Tuesday | 19 Comments
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“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” — Ray Bradbury

What beautiful stuff do you see around you? What’s your best Easter egg hiding place? And what do you like to find inside those pastel plastic shells?

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“S” is for “the beautiful stuff” … See more Ss at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

The L Word

February 7, 2013 at 1:07 am | Posted in Bun, Family, Giggles, Lollipop, Photo Tuesday | 21 Comments
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“Who, being loved, is poor?” — Oscar Wilde

Who makes you feel rich? Are you raising a tree-climber? And do you have the peel-off backs to those foam heart stickers littering your kitchen floor, too??

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“L” is for love … See more Ls at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

In My Heart

January 11, 2013 at 12:02 am | Posted in Bun, Family, Giggles, Lollipop, Photo Tuesday | 17 Comments
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“here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)”
E. E. Cummings

What do you carry in your heart? Are you an E. E. Cummings fan? And is my little hobo adorable or what?

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“H” is for heart and holiday ornaments and hobo. See more H at Jenny’s.

Jenny Matlock

Light Bright

December 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Friends, Lollipop, Photo Tuesday, The Pups | 16 Comments
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“Live in rooms full of light.” — Cornelius Celsus

Our lights are up. Our tree is lit.  Until yesterday, though, we were still taking Christmas pictures in short sleeves and sandals. The cold front finally blew in overnight, so it’s finally, finally, beginning to feel like December. And the only thing under the tree? Our fat napping cat. But we’re getting into the spirit by eating our weight in candy canes and soaking up the light of the season — whether it comes from the neighbor’s electric reindeer or the gleam in Lollipop’s eye as she crafts her thank-you note to Santa: “Dear Santa, Thank you for the presits. I love them.” (Can’t hurt to plan ahead, right?)

What’s your favorite Christmas-light color? Is someone furry sleeping under your tree? And what kind of “presits” do you want this year?

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See more light at Beth’s.

Sifting Through

November 27, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Family | 11 Comments
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I made dressing and cornbread for the first time this Thanksgiving. Recipes from my grandmothers.

It’s more complicated than that, though, in that way that modern families are. It’s a story about blood lines and life lines intersecting. About an adoption 52 years ago and a marriage 30 years later. About two women whose courage and strength I inherited, even if our DNA doesn’t match under a microscope.

 

One is my step-grandmother, according to syntax. She raised three boys and buried her youngest when he was 18. She spent holidays mixing and chopping and pulling pans in and out of her two ovens. Always, always, there was buttermilk in her fridge and sequins in her closet.

The other is my mother’s mother. The one who birthed two children she never got to hold. The one who sewed my dolls a wardrobe that my own daughter now plays with. The one who loves chocolate as much as I do.

I found myself years and miles away from these two women this Thanksgiving but so connected I could feel the brush of their apron strings. I walked from my pantry to my laptop to my pantry, dodging abandoned toy trains and dropped marker lids, semi-oblivious to the chaos of my three children simultaneously playing school, gas station, and tag around me. I gathered oil, cornmeal, and broth. I chopped celery, green onions, and French bread loaves. I read the notes my mother had e-mailed me after years of making these dishes herself.

As I stood there, I felt something more than the sweat on my forehead from my preheated oven. I felt the simple but profound power of tradition — three generations of women preparing a meal, the same meal, for their families. My grandmothers cooked, in part at least, because they were expected to. And I cooked because they had.

But I also cooked because I wanted to. Because I’m thankful no one expects me to roll my hair and reapply my lipstick when I’m finished. And because I recognize the kind of nourishment that a hand-written, flour-dotted recipe gives my soul.

What did you cook for Thanksgiving this year? What are your favorite family recipes? And are you still getting by on leftovers?

How I Met My Mother

May 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Family, Guest Posts, Me, Transylvania | 14 Comments
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Mother’s Day is Sunday. Only I forgot. Because they don’t celebrate it in Romania, and I didn’t have the Target card aisle to remind me.

So instead of cute little potted plant and a box of her favorite tea, I gave my mom 10 questions. And this space to answer them in.

Mom and me

Because every time I practically beg my children to find their other shoe fortheloveofPetenow, I wonder: What the heck am I doing wrong? My mom never yelled at me. My mom never made me eat my peas. My mom never frowned. How did she do it??

She’s about to tell us. And really?

It’s not so much a gift for her as it is a gift for me. And you.

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You left the onions and olives and other icky things out of casseroles when I was younger because I didn’t like the consistency. How did you have the patience?
I do not see it as having extra patience. When I was young, I never really liked onions or olives either … so I could empathize. Also, you never disliked anything I loved. For example, if you had not liked cheese, we would have had a problem! Besides, in the big picture, battling over onions was something I chose not to do.

PS: You can chop up onions really, really fine … and no one knows they are there. :)

You never made me clean my plate … or my room. And I turned out okay. How did that happen?
Do you remember our old neighbors? The father would make his son sit at the table for HOURS if that is what it took to clean his plate. I just thought that was cruel and unusual. And wrong. Because of that, I might have been more lenient than normal, but I had faith that you would eat when you were hungry. There was always the next meal.

As for cleaning your room, I have a very odd theory on that one. When I was growing up, my mother never made us clean our rooms. She always did it for us. Having a clean, orderly room was an expected standard of living. When I grew up and moved out on my own, I still wanted everything to be orderly, so I did it myself.

I feel like I raise my voice or sigh in exasperation at my kiddos at least 23 times a day. I don’t recall you ever doing this. How did you manage it?
OH, NO … you just don’t remember! I felt like I often raised my voice. Well, maybe not raised my voice exactly, but I distinctly remember often using the “evil eye” and snapping my fingers. Being exasperated is part of being a mother. And is perfectly normal. Only mothers on TV never lose their cool! I just always tried to minimize letting off steam and tried to remember you were learning and growing and I needed to learn and grow along with you.

Mom and Bun

How is it different being a grandparent? How is it easier? Harder?
Being a grandparent is FUN because there is no responsibility! I get to be a little kid again and just enjoying playing with the grandwidgets. Blowing bubbles, coloring, watching cartoons … you name it; a grandparent gets to do it all and feel absolutely no guilt. You have the heavy job of installing values, setting goals and expectations, and all that important parental stuff.

In my book, there is nothing hard about being a grandparent! Well, other than living a long distance away … That is the hard part.

How is it watching your child play the role of parent? How often do you bite your tongue when you have a wise nugget to offer?
You and Josh are great parents, so it is very rewarding watching you. As for biting my tongue … First, I hate being told how to do something, so I would never, ever do that to you. These are your children to raise as you see fit, not as I see fit. Second, I know I can always express my opinion and you would be willing to listen. But at the end of the day, you are the parent.

I once spilled a jar of rubber cement all over the carpet. It never came out, yet I was not sent to kid jail. Explain.
Ha! This is truly one of those memories that will last forever! You did not go to kid jail because it was an accident, and accidents happen. Also, what good would it have done to browbeat you with the memory repeatedly? Or made you never touch a bottle of glue again? How productive would that have been? We all learned a valuable lesson that day: Rubber cement is to be used at the table … and not sitting on the floor.

I never had a curfew. Explain.
This one is easy. You never wanted to do anything that went beyond what I thought was acceptable, so there was never the need to set a curfew. Perhaps if you had wanted to stay out all hours of the night with people I did not like, it would have been different. But all your friends were very responsible so I was never anxious about when or where you went. Also, more often than not, you would have people over to the house rather than going anywhere, so other parents had to worry about curfews. I didn’t!

Mom and the Gang

When my high-school boyfriend moved two hours away, you let me drive there on weekends. And I didn’t notice any gray hairs. How did you not worry yourself sick?
Did you ever notice I always highlighted my hair during this time!!? Actually, I did worry myself sick during the drive time. Until you got there and called to say you had made it safely, I was a nervous wreck!

But I believe one of a parent’s main goals is to instill a sense of confidence in her child that any and all goals are achievable. That meant I had to keep a lid on my fear, provide you with the skills to accomplish your goal, and then step back and let you use them. I think I did pretty good in this department.

I do admit to total failure when it came to insects, though. I instilled my fear in you. I wish I could get a do-over on that one! Bugs can be your friends. :)

What’s your proudest parenting moment? Your craziest?
A parent’s real pride is not only in her child’s accomplishments but also in seeing the choices her child makes. And I am proud of you every single day.

My craziest parenting moment? Hmmm, must have something to do with volunteering at band camp, being a band chaperone, or working the concession stands at football games. Crazy, but loads of fun!

Describe what went through your mind when I told you we were moving to Romania. (Tell the truth.) How has this year been for you?
Having talked about keeping a lid on fear … this was a very big lid to keep on. It was not that I was afraid of you moving to Romania, just that I could not jump in the car and get there if there was an emergency. That is one of the biggest fears a parent can have — not being able to get to her child when she is needed.

Even though I was scared, I knew it was going to be a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience for you all. So I just started counting down the time till you came home!

Thanks, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day! And I’ll see you in less than two months!

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What questions would you like to ask your mom (or mine)? Do you remember things you were allowed to do as a child that freak you out as a parent? And what’s the worst thing you ever spilled on the carpet?

The (Easter) Grass is Greener …

April 9, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Photo Tuesday, Transylvania | 22 Comments
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Awake, thou wintry earth —
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
— Thomas Blackburn, “An Easter Hymn”

This is our first (and only) Easter in Romania. The traditions are different. The food is different. There are no pastels, no jelly beans, no Peeps. Instead, there are reds and yellows and blacks. Hand-rolled sarmale and cozonac with raisins and poppy seeds. Orthodox icons of the Virgin Mary on sale at the grocery store. It’s new. It’s strange. It’s amazing. And much to Lollipop’s delight? There are indeed rabbit-shaped chocolates.

Have you ever spent Easter somewhere else? Which traditions would you take with you, and which would you leave behind? Could you live without jelly beans? Peeps? Cadbury eggs?

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For Whom the Snow Falls

March 10, 2012 at 9:53 am | Posted in Me, Transylvania | 10 Comments
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Spring is in the Romanian air.

The temperature is still tap-dancing around freezing. The kids still laugh hysterically when they see their breath in the car. And I’m still wearing my beloved YakTrax. But spring? It’s here.

Ahhhhh, spring.

How do I know? Last week, I had an animated discussion about the pile of snow clinging to the roof with the old man who takes care of our building. He spoke some fast Romanian. He gestured a lot and stomped his feet. He made kapow! noises.

I nodded knowingly.

Even though I’ve never seen snow like this in my life. Let alone three months of snow about to fall off a roof. My roof.

We concluded that the deluge would happen in the next day or so … then ricochet off the covered front porch … and then explode right into the spot on the street where I had carefully spent 15 minutes parallel parking.

So.

I moved the car. And seriously considered buying us all helmets. Just in case.

The next morning, there it was. Right where he said it would. In the empty parking spot everyone else had had the sense to avoid.

Mărţişoare, like this handmade one, are given to women on March 1 to celebrate their awesomeness. Oh, and the arrival of spring.

As I stared at the smashed snow-pie in the road, it hit me. (Figuratively, of course.) I’m a rookie. Winter — real, cold, and brutal — is new to me.

But so is this life, this expat life filled with roundabouts and rolled r’s and purple money.

With spicy ketchup and cherry moonshine.

With holidays like last week’s Mărţişor, which celebrates the women, spring, and the exile of long underwear.

I can let this life — equal parts amazing and exasperating — frustrate me. Exhaust me. Grate my very last nerve into shreds thinner than the carrots in Romanian cole slaw.

Or I can open my arms and embrace whatever falls into my path.

Right after I put my helmet on.

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Fluffy Bunnies in Romania:
Read the tales
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See the photos.

A Love Letter

February 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Posted in Me, Transylvania | 24 Comments
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We’ve hit a rough patch, you and me. And I’m not just talking about that layer of ice at the end of the driveway.

I’m coming to realize that our relationship isn’t a fairy tale. For us? There’s no happily ever after. I mean, we always knew that we weren’t meant to last, that I would be the one to leave.

But there’s still time.

And in the few months we have left together, I want to remember all that I love about you. I want to magic-marker that list on my mental bulletin board and draw your name with curlicue letters that have hearts over the i’s. I want something to hold onto when we’re apart.

Oh, Romania.

I love that there’s something unexpected around your every corner. A woman and her chickens hanging laundry. A basketball goal. A mini Cooper with racing stripes. A snail. A carport vineyard. Every day, always, you make me smile.

I love that everything about you is connected. I walk to the neighborhood market for a liter of milk and hear the mid-morning church bells on the way. I pass the park and stop in so the kids can zoom down the yellow slide and then the purple one. On the way home, we count the taxis lining the piaţa, their bumpers stuck together like a set of checkered magnets.

I love your colors. The purple fence. The blue recycling box. The red bench. The white door. The rainbow of fresh produce. Even snow-covered, your brightness peeks through.

I love the friends you’ve given me. With names like Liviu and Florica and Horia and Mihaela. From as far away as Jordan and Sweden and Delaware. From as close as three buildings down. It’s equal parts strange and wonderful that our lives have intersected. That we are together, here, now.

I love the ways you’ve pushed me. To buy Brussels sprouts and drive a stick. To trust my instincts and live without Dr. Pepper. To let people help me.

I love the experiences you’ve given my children. Horse-drawn sleighs and haystacks. Castles and pirate ships. Walnuts the size of dinosaur eggs and the value of the almighty British pound.

I love your nonchalance. Park on the sidewalk? Sure. Ketchup and corn on your pizza? Okay. A hundred fluffy sheep grazing sun-kissed stalks in front of a dazzling onion-domed church? Oh, right.

Romania, you’ve been the adventure that I hoped for. You’ve opened my eyes and my heart to a culture so very different from my own. You’ve offered up decent chocolate and decadent donuts time and time again.

Let’s savor these next few months together. Let’s hold hands and whisper gently and slow down. Let’s sit, quietly, under that amazing apple tree and imagine the snowflakes are tiny buds, fresh and white and new.  Because I can see the end of this road, our road, just beyond the unfurled blooms.

Love,
Stacia

Have you ever written a love note to a place? What do you love about where you live? And how do you remind yourself?

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