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  1. 365 Days of Writing: Day One

    January 1, 2014 by Wendy

    Somewhere in this jar is a scrap of paper that says “write every day.” That’s mine.

    So, one of my goals for 2014 is to write more and write every day. No matter what. The reasons are mainly to polish my craft, and ultimately, to really get into writing the children’s book and the novel that have been brewing in my head for the past two years.

    Write. Every. Day.

    I know there are going to be days I don’t feel like it. Days I’m uninspired, or that I have a migraine that’s giving me what I call “mibraine,” or I’m too busy to even think about what to write, let alone sit down and do it. But I’m going to try. Even if it’s just three things in my gratitude journal (which is another “goal” of mine), a Facebook musing or a short post on my blog, some writing will be done.

    It’s been a rough year and a half. That, I’ll need to write about someday. But today is just a start to get those rusty wheels cranking. I’m surprised I even remember how to post a blog post. (Is that even the right way to say it?) My poor, neglected blog. Just sitting here, with not one new word put on it since, what, last January? Or two Januarys ago? I don’t even know. And since I pay $9.95 a month for the space to park it on the Internet, heck, I might as well use the thing. Even if nobody is going to read it. It’s like exercise, and nobody needs to see me do that to reap the benefits. (Trust me, these days, that’s not a pretty sight to behold anyway.)

    So that was it. I did it. Yay, me! Some days, my posts will be long and thoughtful. Some days, short and full of a bunch of nothing. Like this. But it’s all good. It’s a start. I would’ve felt like a real loser failing at my 365 Goal on Day One.


  2. Happy New Year, Happy New Blog!

    January 5, 2012 by Wendy

    I’m currently in the process of doing some blog housecleaning for the new year! Please check back soon!

  3. Teens in the House!

    July 28, 2011 by Wendy

    In the wee hours of this morning, something a little disturbing happened. At 12:38 a.m., a teenager began occupying our home. And then just 20 minutes later at 12:58 a.m., there was another.

    No, we didn’t not have a spontaneous house party, but our Natalie and Nicole turned 13 today, and I have a feeling our lives are about to change. Not, perhaps, as drastically as they did 13 years ago when these girls came into this world—at least I hope not—but change they will.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 1 week old.

    Natalie and Nicole, 1 week old.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 5 years old.

    Natalie and Nicole, 4 years old.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 13 years old.

    Natalie and Nicole, almost 13 years old.

    Now here’s the cliched question: Where did the time go?

    No, seriously, where did it go? I can close my eyes and instantly bring myself back to the moments they were born, at 12:38 a.m. and 12:58 a.m. Because of pre-term labor, I was in the hospital for two weeks, doped up on all kinds of horrible meds that gave me bad dreams and crazy thoughts. Just about every night during those two weeks, the contractions came on like crazy, and depending on which nurses were on staff, I may or may not have been whisked in a panic to the delivery room and prepped, only to have things slow down and I’d be returned back to my room.

    This went on almost nightly, and as it got closer to July 29th, Mr. BK’s birthday, I decided two babies would be an awesome birthday gift, and set a goal to have them then. Plus, I couldn’t exactly head out to the mall, and there was no back then, so that was all I had for him. But I quickly learned that you don’t really “set goals” when it comes to childbirth, and on the eve of July 28, I began to develop the dangerous condition of pre-eclampsia, meaning I needed to get them out stat—or else. So hooked up to a Pitocin drip and my waters (yes, waters—two bags) broken for me, it was time. But it was only about 5 o’clock in the afternoon on the eve of their father’s birthday. As the painful hours passed, I became more and more determined to hold them in until at least the stroke of midnight.

    “Do you feel the need to push yet?” the nurses would come in and ask. I’d look at the clock—only 10 p.m.

    “Um, no, not really,” I’d grimace, even though I felt like I could go #2 at any second, the hallmark symptom of “feeling the need to push.” These babies were going to be born on their father’s birthday and that was that.

    When midnight finally struck, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and finally confessed to my need to push. And just 38 minutes later, we heard the sound of Natalie’s tiny cry—and the silence of Nicole’s absent cry. “This one decided not to breathe!” is what I heard instead. But that panic only lasted a minute while the nurses did their thing, and then I heard her loud cry.

    And then from there on, it’s like I’m watching the past 13 years on fast-forward, speeding right through everything: first steps, birthday parties, playdates, illnesses, school years, family trips, and now suddenly, they’re teenagers! Where, oh where, is that pause button?

    Sadly, there isn’t one, but if I could just pretend there is for a moment, I would like to hit it and dedicate this blog to my special girls. One at a time, of course.

    Nicole Helena


    My dear, sweet Nicole. Did you see what I did there? I put YOU first, because for your whole life, it’s always been “Natalie and Nicole.” I don’t know why; it just sounded better that way, plus it was natural, since Natalie was born first.

    Now speaking of that…you were supposed to be born first. All along, you were “Twin A,” and all along, you were poised at the, um, entrance, ready to come out first. But then, fittingly, either because you were being polite or because you were being pokey (both of which are entirely likely, as we now know), you decided to wait. Or, Natalie was being bossy and cruised right past you (also entirely likely, as we now know).

    And then you decided to wait to start breathing, too. You scared me a little there, but only for a minute. Had I known then that you just prefer to take your time doing things, and doing them your own way, I wouldn’t have worried so much.

    Sort of.

    But you have made up for that little scare by being so easy, so pleasant, and so trouble-free just about every single day of your life. Eating, napping, playing…nothing was a struggle even as a toddler. There were never those “Terrible Twos.” Or Threes. Or anything. Well, except for maybe that 3rd-grade year, your self-described “schizophrenic” year. Hey, you said it, not I. And anyway, that wasn’t so bad. You were just trying to figure yourself out. Everyone has years like that. It would be great if we could keep this “easy” pattern going during these upcoming teen years, OK?

    When you were born, you smelled like cookies. I couldn’t stop smelling and kissing your sweet little cheeks. That’s why we called you “Cookie Face” for the longest time. You were pure sweetness. To this day, you are pure sweetness. When I think of you, I think of the color white. You are such a sweet, sweet soul and one of the kindest, most gentle people I know. And not just because you are my daughter—but because that’s just you. Anyone who knows you would wholeheartedly agree.

    You amaze me every day with your creativity, and your patience to funnel it in ways I can’t even imagine—making highly detailed sculptures no bigger than an ant, crocheting, knitting, sewing, making stages for Noelle’s Polly Pockets and tiny houses for her critters and creatures, and even fashioning hair ties for me out of seaweed when mine break in the ocean.

    You are wise beyond your years, and have always given Poppy and I questions that make us think. It’s no wonder you’ve always been such an awesome student—not just in school, but in life.

    I can’t wait to see what you are going to do with your life. Your preschool teacher predicted you would be some kind of minister or missionary, or another Mother Teresa. I can see that. But I can also see you doing something in the sciences, something that requires you to use your brain and your hands. (Are you sure you don’t want to be a doctor?) Whatever you become, I can already say that it has been a pleasure watching you get there. From the minute you were born—literally—you have done things your own way. I have always said you were “sweetly stubborn.” I don’t know anyone who can convey the message, “No, I don’t want to do it your way AT ALL, I have my own ideas, please leave me alone” in the sweet way that you do. Although you have never said those words in your life, you have your way of letting me know that’s what you’re thinking. This “sweet stubborness” is and always has been a part of you, and I love it. (Except it does frustrate me when we’re clothes shopping!)

    When you and Natalie were younger and I had my fun at dressing you either exactly alike, or the same but in different colors, I always put you in pink. I thought you were going to be the delicate one, the one who would always want bows in her hair and pretty shoes on her feet.

    I can hear you laughing now. You, the girl who is always up for any outdoor adventure and has skydiving on her bucket list. The girl who, on our recent camping trip, was barely seen nor heard all day, as she was busy hammering geodes open or exploring the forest. I love, love, love your adventuresome spirit, and I hope that stays with you always.

    How long did it take before I finally figured out you shouldn’t be the one in pink? That you didn’t want bows in your sweaty little curls, and that you couldn’t care less what your shoes looked like, as long as you could run fast in them?

    How much money did we give Miss Nadya, and how much hair gel and bobby pins did we go through before we finally realized that you hated your thrice-weekly ballet classes, and only liked the yearly performance? Could that be why you never really did get your left and right feet figured out, and why you fell and lost your Beethoven wig on stage? Yes, you definitely seem more comfortable and confident on the basketball court, and the family so enjoys watching you steal the ball and zipping around the court, always with a huge smile on your face, and always offering a helping hand for fallen opponents and teammates alike.

    In fact, you play basketball the way you do everything in life: with a smile, polite yet determined, and always supportive and encouraging of your teammates. Keep that up both on and off the court, and I promise, it will get you far in many aspects of your life.

    As parents, it’s natural that we recognize certain traits in our children and try to pinpoint from whom they’re came. While you most definitely are your own person, you did get your DNA from us, so If I could be selfish for a moment, I’d like to state that you absolutely represent the best parts of both Poppy and me. And despite what the majority of strangers say, you got your blue eyes from me, and right now with your braces and when you wear your glasses, I see me, in 5th and 6th grade. (But you are much prettier and far less geeky than I was.) I guess because of that, I thought you would be a lot like me, but it turns out that you are a lot more like Poppy in many ways. Both of you, let’s say, aren’t bothered by disorder, you’re both very mechanical and analytical, you both love the outdoors and you’re both extremely loyal and trustworthy. That being said, you’re also sensitive and empathetic. It makes me so proud to see that in you, because before you were even born, I knew that was one of the traits I really wanted to instill in our children.

    We are so lucky and blessed to have you as a daughter, and your sisters are lucky and blessed to have you as a sister. You make a perfect BFF for Natalie, and an excellent role model for Noelle. I hope you have a fun sleepover party tonight with your friends, and I hope your first year of teenage-hood is exactly how you want it to be.

    We love you, Cookie Face!

    Natalie Celestina


    Oh, Natalie. Chatalie, Battalie, Tattalie…so many nicknames over the years, each evolving with your dynamic, vibrant personality. If Nicole is the sweetness in our lives and home, you are the lightness.

    The minute we first looked at you, you really did look like Nonina, your namesake. With your olive skin and long, thin nose, you looked just like a cute little old Italian lady. I swear I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d have been born with a babushka on your head and a loaf of Italian bread tucked under your arm. Since we didn’t know if you were going to be boys, girls or one of each, we had already decided yours was the girl name, so since you were first, you got it. And even though you weren’t supposed to be first, it couldn’t have worked out or suited you better.

    Like lots of things in life, I suppose you just knew that was the right way to do it.

    You were a crabby baby. Not crabby as in cranky, but just serious and all business.Which is so funny because that’s exactly the opposite of how you turned out to be. But in those early days, I would nurse you and you would either look at me sternly or not look at me at all, and in my post-partum, sleep-deprived state, I would say, “She doesn’t even like me; it’s like she just wants to nurse, then she’s done with not even like a thank you or anything.” That went on until you were old enough to say “itch da,” which meant, “switch sides.”

    We called you “Owly,” because once when Poppy’s very midwestern friends came to visit you, they said you seemed “a little owly,” which in Wisconsin/Iowa-speak, must mean crabby. The name just stuck. Plus, we thought you seemed wise.

    Because grandparents and aunts were the only ones who ever babysat you (to this day!), we made them all take a CPR course. This proved to come in handy, what with your breath-holding spells that would begin with a cry, followed by a failure to inhale, followed by turning blue, then passing out and even seizing a couple times. It got to the point where everyone around you (especially me) would instantly go into panic mode if you so much as bumped your head or stubbed your toe. (Literally—a door running over your foot once resulted in a call to 911 and an ambulance ride, all while I was suffering a bout of the stomach flu.) Yeah, those were good times, girlie!

    When that first started happening, we took you to all the necessary specialists, only to have the neurologist diagnose you as “precocious,” something he said he saw 20 times a year with his young patients. At that appointment, he gestured at Nicole and said, “This one does it too, doesn’t she?” And actually, yes, she did, but not to the degree you did. She’d stop breathing and turn magenta, while you took it to the blue spectrum. And speaking of colors, that’s about when I started noticing gray hairs.

    Still, despite these episodes, you quickly went from “owly” baby to happy, exuberant toddler. You were a ball of pure energy who had little use for naps. You ran around the house from day to night like a little ant—in fact, Nonno used to call you formica, which is “ant” in Italian. And once you started talking (first word: “April,” our Beagle at the time), I swear, you’ve never stopped. Thus, the nickname, “Chatalie.” And we love it. You bring so much fun and laughter to our house now that it’s hard to imagine you as the “owly,” serious baby that you once were. Well, most of the time, anyway.

    Although at the time, I scoffed at the “precocious” diagnosis and insisted on further tests of your heart and brain, it turns out that old, eccentric doctor was right. You quit with the breath-holding spells at age 3, just like he predicted, and then you were reading chapter books at age 4, and even narrated your preschool play.

    You’ve amazed us and made our hearts swell with pride with your every accomplishment, which seem to come to you with ease. You amaze me with the way you set goals for yourself, and then achieve them one by one, as if you have a checklist. (Wait—you probably do have a checklist, as this is the girl who makes a list of not only what she has to pack for a trip, but another list of what she has to re-pack for the return trip.)

    When you started in ballet, you just “got it” right away, as if you were born with a bun and a leotard. You loved being on stage, and we all loved watching you perform for years. Then you decided you were more interested in gymnastics, and I was too busy with a new baby to see about finding you a class, so you taught yourself by looking up techniques on the internet. When I finally did get you enrolled in a class, your teachers were so impressed with your front and back handsprings, they asked you what gym you’d been training at. “I taught myself on E-how,” you’d say. They were astounded; I’m still amazed. I have always wanted to do a back handspring and never could, and at this point, probably never will, and it makes me happy that you can. (And I’m so happy that you got it back this year after losing it for a year out of fear.)

    I love how you figure out what you want to do, you learn how to do it, and you do it and you do it well. This determination and resourcefulness will get you far in life, and I’m excited to see what you’re going to do. Right now, you say you want to be a graphic artist or in advertising/marketing when you get older. You have so many qualities that would be right for that field, so it will be interesting to see if you choose that path.

    Because you were so serious and analytical as a baby, we all assumed you were taking after Poppy. But we couldn’t have been more wrong about that. As you get older, it’s seeming like you and I are alike in a lot of ways. We both enjoy doing so many of the same things—reading, yoga or exercise DVDs, shopping, writing, and recently, hair and makeup talk—and it’s a new kind of fun for me having a buddy to do these things with. Even better, you seem to be developing my distaste for messiness and lack of order, which means I have a little more help with picking up around the house and nagging the others to pick up after themselves, so yay!

    We are so blessed and lucky to have you in our lives, and we love you more than we can say. You are a truly wonderful daughter and sister, and we are all grateful for your presence every day. I love how you helped out in Noelle’s gymnastics class, and that you work with her at home, and that you have become an expert at the “turbo bath” and sometimes read to her at night. I am so happy that Noelle has you and Nicole for big sisters—she adores you both, and I couldn’t ask for better role models for her.

    Enjoy your party tonight with your friends, enjoy being 13, enjoy your last year of middle school. It will all go way too fast—at least for Poppy and me.


    And speaking of Poppy, of course we haven’t forgotten that today is his birthday, too. He was so thrilled when you were born on his birthday (and oddly enough, the same day his twin cousins were born a decade or so earlier), and he has never once minded sharing his day with you. In fact, he’s grateful to share the spotlight, because he thinks the whole birthday thing is kind of blown out of proportion. Still, we always find a way to spread out the celebration. (Now when Noelle was given that due date as well, that was getting a little ridiculous. Thank goodness she decided to wait another four days because we all know she most certainly would not want to share her birthday!)

    On the night that you were born, we did manage to have a small birthday celebration in my hospital room, and when this photo was taken, it marked the beginning of a new tradition:


    The best birthday gifts ever!

    Nearly every year since, sometime during the birthday bonanzas, I try to take the same photo of you girls on Poppy’s lap. I remember many times saying, “We’re gonna do this every year, even when they’re teenagers!” I can’t believe that time is already here.

    First birthdays, 32nd birthday.

    First birthdays; 32nd birthday.

    2nd birthdays; 33rd birthday.

    2nd birthdays; 33rd birthday.

    7th birthdays; 38th birthday.

    7th birthdays; 38th birthday.

    8th birthdays; 39th birthday.

    8th birthdays; 39th birthday.

    9th birthdays; 40th birthday.

    9th birthdays; 40th birthday.

    10th birthdays (first Cokes!); 41st birthday.

    10th birthdays (first Cokes!); 41st birthday.

    11th birthdays; 42nd birthday.

    11th birthdays; 42nd birthday.

    12th birthdays; 43rd birthday.

    12th birthdays; 43rd birthday.

    And we will continue to do so, even when you’re in college or have husbands and children of your own.

    So I hope you have a happy birthday, too, Mr. BK. I hope you enjoy your day that will end with 10 squealing teenage (!) girls taking over the house. I know you would not want it any other way, and I love you for that.

    That, and about a million other things.

  4. Judy Blume Gave Me A B.F.F.

    April 20, 2011 by Wendy


    As she sat on the hot, sticky bus seat, with a shard of torn vinyl poking her in the back of her thigh, Wendy reached down to the pile of books on the floor between her seat. There, tucked in between her Serendipity literature book and social studies textbook, was the book she’d just started a few days earlier: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. She picked up the book and became so engrossed in reading about Kimberly, Janie, Mavis, Gretchen and Nancy feeling each other’s backs to check if they were wearing bras, that she barely noticed the new girl sitting across the aisle from her.

    “We must—we must—we must increase our busts!” the girls chanted. “Do it thirty-five times a day and I promise you’ll see the results,” Nancy told us.

    And that’s when Wendy felt a tap on her left shoulder. She turned around and saw it was the new girl, that cute, freckle-faced Nicole who’d just moved here and was in Wendy’s sixth-grade class. Wendy didn’t know much about her, other than that she was Mormon, which, to Wendy, meant that she was really nice and didn’t drink Coke.  And even though Nicole was the new girl in class, she was already sticking up for Denise, the chubby girl who got picked on a lot and smelled kinda bad.

    “Are you reading that book?” Nicole asked Wendy, in a tone that implied dismay.

    “Um, well, yeah, I just started it,” said Wendy, adjusting her thick glasses that were sliding down her sweaty nose.

    “That’s a dirty book!” exclaimed Nicole, pointing her finger at the cover. “I can’t believe your parents would let you read it!”

    “It is?” said Wendy, acting dismayed herself but full well knowing that it was about bras, boobs, boys and periods. “Well then I’m not gonna read it!” she said, also full well knowing she would devour the rest of it beneath her covers with a flashlight later that night.

    That day was the beginning of what would become a lifelong friendship between Wendy and Nicole, who were B.F.F.’s before the term was even cool. (Actually, I think we called ourselves B.F.A.’s then, but whatever.)

    "Laverne & Shirley," in eighth grade. We were up for "Best Friends" for the yearbook, but didn't win. What did they know? I wonder if Kim & Missy, the girls who won, are still B.F.F.'s?

    "Laverne & Shirley," in eighth grade. We were up for "Best Friends" for the yearbook, but didn't win. What did they know? I wonder if Kim & Missy, the girls who won, are still B.F.F.'s?

    A more recent photo.

    A more recent photo.

    Fast-forward to 32 years later to today, when I would like to wish my B.F.F./B.F.A. a very happy birthday!

    I will never forget that moment on the hot, smelly bus that day, as it was the beginning of a truly wonderful, lifelong friendship. From that day on, we were an instant pair, always Nicole & Wendy, Wendy & Nicole, never one without the other. For years, everyone called us “Laverne & Shirley,” and we even dressed like them for the Halloween dance in eighth grade. We won .45 records of “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Whip It.” That tells you how long ago it was.

    Throughout the years, we remained side by side through all the stuff that Margaret herself went through: boobs, bras, periods, boys. Later, college would separate us, there would be marriages and a divorce, job changes, health issues, moves and babies who are now kids.

    Oddly enough, both of us ended up having twins. When I had mine, she was a single woman in a high-powered career and she flew out from Utah to “help” me. (She knows why “help” is in quotes. Like I said, she was a single woman in a high-powered career in those days, and didn’t quite get the hands-on mommy thing yet.) When she had hers, I flew out to California to help her. Having the advantage of having been there and done that, I hope I was of some help to her. I will never forget that night that we sat on the floor of the darkened nursery, sometime around the 2 a.m. feeding, each of us holding a baby.

    “How am I going to do this?” she sobbed, bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived.

    “You will. You just will,” I said, knowing exactly what she meant and exactly how she was feeling.

    And she has. And excellently, too. She is a wonderful mother with an enviable amount of patience and energy.

    Sadly, we don’t get to see each other nearly often enough, due to our full and busy lives, five kids and 798 miles between us, plus a bad economy. Yet, we still manage to check in with each other on a regular basis. We have an understanding that we are always allowed to freely brag about our kids’ accomplishments, without fear of being thought of as braggy, or bitch about our sisters (she has three, I have two) or parents without fear of being thought of as bitchy.

    We always thought we were each going to marry surfers and live in beach houses right next door to each other.

    Yeah, that happened.

    I married an engineer and live in the desert; she married an IT guy and lives in Northern California. She does live near the beach, so at least one of us followed through.

    Come to think of it, we still talk about all of the same things we did back in those Judy Blume days: boobs, boys, bras and periods—just in a different way now.

    One thing that hasn’t changed: We still have the same taste in books. Often, one of us will mention a book, and the other will say, “Oh, I just read that!” One time when she came out to visit and I picked her up from the airport, I reached not for her when she got off the plane, but for the book in her hand, as it was it was the same one I was reading at the time.

    Reading the same book as we await pedicures.

    Reading the same book as we await pedicures.

    Last year, she mailed me some stuff of hers that her dad found in the attic, including some of our old notes and the very book that began our friendship. After inhaling the yellowed pages to infuse my mind with memories, I gave it to my own daughters, who were in sixth grade at the time. I will probably send it back to Nicole when her daughter is in sixth grade. (But I kind of don’t want to part with it.)

    Now that I’m thinking about it, how did that “dirty book” end up in your parents’ attic? And how did you know it was a dirty book if you hadn’t read it?

    You so read it, didn’t you?

    Happy, happy birthday. One of these days, we’ll celebrate it together.

    When we’re old ladies, living in our old beach houses with our old men husbands.

    Passing our dirty books to each other.

  5. Miss-Labeled

    April 13, 2011 by Wendy

    Last weekend, we spent the entire two days working in the yard. Not being the most adept at Hula-Hoeing weeds or trimming trees, Little Miss decided to go inside to work on her own project. When dusk fell and we quit, I was summoned by the Mr. using my real name. (He never does that, instead either using a shorter form of it or an original nickname, like Wife or Friend.)

    “Uh, Wendy?” he called to me through an open window, as I was outside picking up dog excrement. “Uh, the little one decided to label her dresser drawers while we were outside.”

    “Really?” I said, impressed that she would take such initiative. She and I had just reorganized all her clothing for the upcoming warmer months.

    “Yeah. With a Sharpie,” he replied in that calm, even tone that could only mean it’s something really bad, like when he got stung by a scorpion or got into a fender bender.

    I went inside to inspect the damage:


    Yup. Sure enough, it was Sharpie. On the wood. Both dressers.

    But when I looked at her labeling job—underwar, pajamus, long pans & shets for next year—I couldn’t be mad. (The Mr. was doing a fine job of that himself.) For one thing, she labeled them properly. For another, her spelling wasn’t too bad. And she even used an ampersand! But just the fact that she took it upon herself to label them—and correctly—made my heart swell with pride. (I’m a sucker for labeling.)

    I only wish she had used my label maker.

    As the Mr. lectured her about how we don’t write on wood, telling her she needs to ask before she writes on anything and banning her from the Sharpies, Twin A was already Googling how to get Sharpie out of wood.

    “Try toothpaste!” she called out.

    We did. All it did was make a smeary mess that smelled like mint.

    “Look up the Queen of Clean’s website!” I shouted, as the Mr. was vigorously rubbing Goo-Gone into the wood to no avail.

    Then Twin A had a sudden brainstorm. She came running into the room with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

    It worked! With only a little elbow grease, the Sharpie came right out.

    We decided to take the experiment further by trying it out on our kitchen table, which for months had bore the scars of another Little Miss creation, a Sharpie art project that had soaked through the paper. It worked!

    It was a valuable lesson learned. Up next: Teaching Little Miss to use the label maker.

  6. She Nailed It!

    March 5, 2011 by Wendy


    Ever since I can remember, my sister Cheryl has been obsessed with nail polish. And by obsessed, I mean she could easily go on that show My Strange Addiction. I don’t think there’s been a time in her life when she didn’t own an entire Walgreens’ worth of nail polishes. Even as an awkward pre-teen, she had this shadow box that she made in “shop” class hung in her room jam-packed with every Wet ‘N Wild and Sally Hansen polish ever made.

    Over the years, wherever she’s lived, the collection has grown and moved with her. Her “stash” is a sight to behold. Just picture Ulta. Now add a few aisles. And guess what’s always on the top of her Christmas list?

    I’m thinking it started way back with the Sunday-night ritual my mom, sisters and I had for years. We’d all sit at the kitchen table, with piles of cotton balls and bottles of remover, soaking, filing, buffing and painting, while my dad complained about the smell. To this day, on Sunday nights I still feel like I should be doing my nails. And sometimes I do, with my own daughters. But unlike my sister, who changes her polish at least once a day, I’m lucky to have a coat of clear that lasts all week.

    Lately, I’ve noticed a huge explosion of blogs, websites and YouTube videos devoted to all things nail polish. My sister is all over these like  basecoat on cuticles.

    One of her favorite sites, Chalkboard Nails,  is hosting a contest using something called a dotting tool. My sister came up with something super cool, and I’m letting her guest post on my blog in order to enter the contest. In the weeks leading up to the contest deadline, she legit blew up my phone with at least three pictures a day of a new design on her nails. I think what she finally ended up with is so cute and original! I’ll let her tell you about it.

    Here she is:

    Connecting the Dots

    First, I would like to thank my wonderful sister for giving me a “rental” spot on her blog.  I do not have a blog, but check hers out! She’s a great writer and it’s fun to read. (Aw, thanks, sis!)

    So I entered this dotting tool contest on Sarah’s blog, Chalkboard Nails (another awesome blog!). The first thing I did was go on a hunt for a dotting tool. I searched several stores, with no luck. I know I could’ve made one out of bobby pins or straight pins, but the search was part of the fun. (Ed. note: Probably because it led her to more nail polish!) Here’s what a dotting tool looks like:

    Lo and behold, of all people, my husband found me one!  Who knew?  Now I was set! But as it turned out, that was the easy part—coming up with a design was the hard part! After much thought, and trying to come up with something cool that hasn’t already been done, here’s what I came up with:

    Gumball machines! The design allowed me to really utilize the dotting tool for the “gumballs,” as well as to outline the actual machine. Here are the tools of the trade I used:

    Here’s how I did it and what I used:

    • Base Coat: Pro-FX Fiberized Ridge Filler (love it!)
    • Then the base color:  Pure Ice, Super Star
    • Next: Sally Hansen, Devotion Creme (This is the red. I used the brush from the polish to make the base of the gumball machine.
    • Next: Milani, Black Magic (I used the dotting tool to outline.)
    • Then: OPI, Rinse Charming (This is the silver, where the gum is ‘dispensed.’)
    • Now, the gumball colors:
    • Sally Hansen Diamond Strength, Something #340
    • Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, No Hard Feelings #370
    • Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, Limestone #620
    • Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, Heart of Stone
    • Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear, Mellow Yellow #360
    • Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear, Twisted Pink #240
    • Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear, Sun Kissed #150
    • Sally Hansen Xtreme Wear, Blue Me Away #130
    • Finally, I topped it off with: “In A Hurry Air Dry Top Coat” and Essie, Good To Go

    And I just want to say, this was waaaaayyyyy harder than one might think!  Big kudos to all the other entrants—I have a huge respect for all the talent.  Amazing!

    Now, just for fun, here are a few other designs I played around with, some with the dotting tool, some with stamping:

    Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got to go do my nails…and TLC is calling. Something about a My Strange Addiction application? Haha!







  7. Crappy Valentine’s Day

    February 20, 2011 by Wendy

    Valentine’s Day used to be my favorite holiday. Ever since I was little, I loved everything about it—the conversation hearts, giving and getting the tiny little cards folded over and sealed with a heart sticker, pink frosted cookies and the heart-shaped boxes of waxy chocolate pieces filled with orange or pink fluff.

    Then, as a married grown-up, it was fun to do cute little romantic things like have a picnic dinner in the living room or a hike in a pretty spot and give each other corny cards. (We always thought it was too mundane to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant just because everyone else was.) Whatever we did, it was always fun and romantic.

    And then we had kids.

    When they were babies and toddlers, it was just nuts and I don’t even remember what we did for Valentine’s Day. It got worse as soon as the twins hit school age.

    That’s when Valentine’s Day became a job. There were cards to write for the entire class (times two), class parties to plan and help out at, cutesy breakfasts to make, little treats to tuck in school lunches and special dinners to prepare.

    I remember when the twins were in kindergarten, we took a 10-day trip to Walt Disney World at the end of January. Knowing it would be Valentine’s Day when we got back, I had them work on their Valentines on the plane on the way there. All the flight attendants were so impressed, and kept coming by to comment on how cute the girls were, and what a great mom I was for having them work on them so early.

    I was pretty impressed with myself, too, having packed the class list, the two sets of cards, the pencils, stickers, etc.

    I don’t know what happened to that mom.

    Fast forward to seven years of Valentine’s Days later, with our third daughter now in kindergarten, and all I can say after this Valentine’s Day is:

    I suck.

    Maybe it’s the fact that Little Miss is the second go-around for me, or maybe it’s just that life has become too busy, but that mom on the plane who had it all together? She must’ve taken a solo vacation this year, ’cause she was nowhere to be found this year.

    Several weeks prior to the holiday this year, Little Miss’s teacher sent home a note instructing parents to help their child make a mailbox out of shoebox, and to not write individual names on the Valentines, so as to make delivery easier and more efficient during the class party.

    Knowing how difficult it is to prod a 5-year-old to write 26 Valentines, I intended to get an early start, buying the Valentines a full three weeks ahead of time.

    That doesn’t mean we wrote them out that early.

    No, we waited until the weekend before, during which there was a birthday party, double-header basketball games, grocery shopping and a bunch of other weekend tasks thrown in. By Sunday night, Mommy lost all her patience after the 149th time of telling Little Miss to stay at the table until all the Valentines were written. Plus, Little Miss liked the ones she picked so much that she wrote out six for herself, which meant now she didn’t have enough for everyone in the class so she had to borrow some from her sisters, but then we discovered those had Bible verses on them and because you never know if that will offend somebody these days, I had to run out to CVS to buy another box. (I would’ve let it go, but I had to run out anyway because we were out of Scotch tape, which we needed to tape the Valentine pencils and lollipops to the card.)

    Earlier in the week, Twin B helped Little Miss decorate her shoebox. The first-time mom of seven years ago might have looked in dismay at the crooked patches of pink construction paper, bubbled up from way too much glue, and the “Happy Birthday!” stickers and hand-drawn peace symbols on top of the box. But the practical mom who’s been there, done that, cringed just a little and thought, “Well it’s just going to get thrown away anyway, what’s the difference?”

    When I walked her into the classroom the next morning to help her carry in her box and Valentines, I saw the difference.

    The back table was already filled with boxes that I might buy at a fine stationery boutique if I ever had a need for such a box. There was the large round hatbox adorned with Marabou feathers and pink glitter, another box had the child’s name spelled out using cutout letters each mounted on a stick, another was covered in a scrapbook layout of photos of the child. And here was “ours:”



    Already feeling bad for my numerous “FOR THE LAST TIME, CAN WE PLEASE FINISH THESE VALENTINES BEFORE I REALLY FREAK OUT” outbursts, I felt even worse walking back to the car. “At least I put red bows in her hair today,” I thought to myself.

    I came home and told the Mr., describing in detail all the fancy boxes, and all the presents piling up on the teacher’s desk. (We gave her a giant Hershey’s kiss that said #1 Teacher, which I thought was nice until I saw the elaborately wrapped gifts, flowers, plants and chocolate-covered strawberries other kids were bringing in.)

    “So what?” said the Mr., who incidentally, had taken the day off to spend with me only to find out that I had to volunteer later that day at the class party. “There’s no value in that! Do you really wish you would’ve spent hours putting feathers and glitter and crap on a box, just so she can bring it home and throw it away?”

    Well, yes, I kind of do.

    I sulked about it for a while, vowing to do better next year. Later, we went back to the classroom for the party, where the teacher got annoyed because the other room moms and I didn’t know how to make a bouquet out of the pile of paper hearts, pipe cleaners, doilies and tissue paper she left out for us while she was in a meeting.

    Even my rocket scientist hubby–who came to the party, because, well, we were spending Valentine’s Day together— couldn’t figure it out, so there. Sheesh.

    The party was chaotic and stressful, the kids were all wound up and sugared up, and we were glad when it was over.


    Just as the bell was about to ring, and the kids were all lined up at the door holding their fancy mailboxes stuffed with Valentines, I noticed something in Little Miss’s cubby: The gallon-sized Ziploc bag full of all of her Valentines carefully taped to the pencils and lollipops sitting there, just the way I left it in the morning. They never got passed out. I wanted to cry. No, I did cry. In a mad scramble, we started handing them out to kids as they were filing out the door, stuffing them in as many hands, backpacks and boxes as we could. Some kids got two or three, some kids got none at all.

    All that prodding, all that erasing, all that taping, all that yelling. All for nothing.

    But then after we got home and I was emptying her backpack, I saw a pink foam heart stuck to a pink lace doily  peeking out of her folder.

    “Aww, did you make me a special Valentine?” I asked Little Miss. But then I turned it over:


    “I love you Cheerio!” it said in her kindergarten scrawl. Yup, it was for the dog.

    The dog—who, in the chaos of everyone coming home and sorting through all their cards and candy—somehow got a hold of the paper heart bouquet that Little Miss made. The complicated craft that we room moms apparently couldn’t figure out was now a pile of soggy, shredded tissue paper lying in the middle of the living room floor.

    I found this hilarious.

    Wanting to salvage what was left of our day, the Mr. suggested we all go on a long bike ride in the desert. I ran into a cactus and got a roofing-nail-sized thorn embedded into my thigh, but that bike ride turned out to be the highlight of my Valentine’s Day.

    When we got home, the Mr. threw some lovely tenderloin steaks on the grill, and by total accident, one of them came out into the perfect shape of a heart, which we enjoyed by candlelight as a family. So it turned out to be a pretty nice Valentine’s Day night.




    I got a bad stomachache from the rich meal, after spending all week eating only salads, turkey and fruit. But it didn’t end there.

    When I put the load of laundry I had just washed into the dryer, I discovered that I had washed the Mr.’s cellphone that must’ve been in his shorts pocket from the bike ride. It’s been nothing but a dead black screen ever since.

    And that was my crappy Valentine’s Day. If anyone sees that mom on the plane patiently helping her daughters make their Valentines, please tell her to get her sorry butt back home. Her family needs her.

  8. Our New Baby Boy!

    February 19, 2011 by Wendy

    Three weeks ago, the balance in our female-dominant household finally shifted with our new addition to the family:


    This is Cheerio, our new yellow Labrador retriever puppy. He was born on Dec. 9, 2010, and we were able to take him home when he was 8 weeks old. Little Miss named him when she was 3 years old. My parents had just gotten a chocolate Lab, and one day, Little Miss said, “Someday, I would like a “vanilla” Lab named Cheerio.” We all loved the name then, and it stuck with us ever since. And how perfect of a name not only for a cereal-colored dog, but also because he is an English Labrador, and the Brits say “cheerio” a lot.

    We have been dogless for the past three years, since our other dogs, Orion and April, both passed away after 12 and 14 years with us. We had been wanting another, but just like with children, we were waiting for the right time. And just like with children, there never really is a right time so you just jump in and do it. And that’s what we did.

    And it really is just like having another baby, but without the stretch marks (new ones, anyway) and the allowance of the “baby weight” excuse. Actually, it’s more like having a 1-year-old running around the house with no diaper on and putting everything in his mouth, and therefore, creating the need to never take your eyes off of him for one second. Once again, my days are structured around a naptime, playtime and mealtime schedule. And for the past three weeks, we have been sleep-deprived from getting up in the night with him and getting up for the day when he does at the crack-of-ridiculous.

    But man, is he cute! Like, Cottonelle puppy cute:


    So far, he’s so sweet and well-mannered (most of the time), that he let me place him on a package of toilet paper for this photo shoot. (There were treats involved, but still.) We have met and interacted with both of Cheerio’s parents, and we are hoping that he turns out as cool and gentle as they are.

    The week before we got him, we were in PetSmart stocking up on all the things he would need. At first, we were overwhelmed by how much the pets market has changed since we were pet owners. Suddenly, we apparently need orthopedic mattresses, car seats,  pricey organic food, a $75 Furminator hair brush, two aisles of vitamins and supplements, and the Martha Stewart collection of dog bowls, etc. What happened to good old Pedigree and Milk Bones? But even more overwhelming was the scene at the register:

    A 4-month-old yellow Lab, just like the one we were about to get, hopping around like a maniac while his owner was trying to slide her debit card into the machine while attempting to hold his frenetic leash.

    “Oh, girls, look!” I said. “Let’s go see him!” All five of us ran over to him and pet him, and he went all Marley on us. He immediately whizzed all over the Mr. and the floor and then rolled in it, knocked over Little Miss, and nearly choked himself to death while his owner was trying to restrain him. After talking with us for a while, she dragged him (no, really, dragged him) out the door, him choking and sputtering and hopping the whole time. When those double doors shut, we just stared at each other, wide-eyed and open-mouthed.

    “What. Was. That?” said the Mr.

    “What. Are. We. Thinking?” said I.

    Then the Mr. put his hands on my shoulders, saying, “Don’t worry, ours isn’t going to be like that, it’s the owner’s fault, look, she couldn’t even hold on to him and he had a harness on. She shouldn’t be using a harness! That just shows that the dog is in control, not the owner!”

    Yeah, OK, whatever. All I could see is pee and craziness.

    “That was nuts!” continued the Mr., and then began to imitate the dog, whizzing and all. “The dog was all,” he said, breaking into what looked exactly like someone having a grand mal seizure while spraying a fire hose of urine all over the place. The girls were quite amused. The workers who were cleaning up the whiz were not. They just stared at him.

    But so far, Cheerio does not seem to be  like the crazy PetSmart dog. He’s had his “Marley” moments, like stealing the hair brush and running away with it when I’m trying to do Little Miss’s hair for school and we’re already late. And then there’s yesterday morning, when I was blow-drying my hair and he took a flying leap from the bathtub deck to try to grab the cord.

    For the first two weeks, he was having some intestinal issues that had me Googling every parasitic disease a dog can get, and if it can be transferred to humans, etc. I’m pretty sure our vet office now knows me as the psycho who keeps coming in waving her snack-size Ziploc bag full o’ stool stample.

    “It’s negative for parasites,” they keep telling me, trying not to roll their eyes.

    Apparently, new-mommy panic has hit me once again.

    My mother-in-law will love that one. She hates when people personify their pets, and even worse, when they put her in the role of the puppy’s grandma.

    “I have never been, nor will I ever be, an animal’s mom or grandma,” I overheard her telling my mom, who was admiring the pictures of Cheerio on my phone, and saying, “Look at your granddog!”

    “I never gave birth to a dog, so how could a dog be my grandbaby?” she says.

    Of course, this just makes the Mr. and I want to refer to Cheerio as her “grandson” even more, and call her his “Nonna.”

    “Hey, it’s probably going to be the only blond grandson you’re going to get, so you might as well enjoy it,” I told her.

    And then a few days later, as I was telling her about my crazy busy day, she said, “Do you mean to tell me you left my grandson home alone all that time?”

    Ha ha. And she did say he was the cutest puppy she’s ever seen.

    Little Miss, on the other hand, has no problem with the personification. She calls him her “baby brother.”



    “Finally!” she said, “I’m not the shortest one in the family! I’m taller than my baby brother, right?”

    Yeah, for now. But wait until he’s the 90-100 pound dog he’s likely to be.

    The Mr. doesn’t love the personification either, but he knows that in a house full of girls, he doesn’t stand a chance. For now, he is letting us carry him around, cradle him like a baby and snuggle with him on the couch. (Right now, his only rule is that I not give the dog more affection than I give him. But come on, how can I not with that cute little puppy face?)



    During a recent cold snap, in which freeze warnings were issued, my girlfriend who absolutely loves dogs called and left a message just as the Mr. was leaving for work.

    “I was just calling to see how the baby did last night,” she said. “I bet his lil’ body was so cold, poor little baby,” she said, to which a crabby Mr. yelled at the machine: “HE’S NOT COLD! HE’S A DOG! HE’S FROM LABRADOR! HE’S WEARING A FUR COAT, FOR GOD’S SAKE!”

    Still, he’s pretty tolerant while we’re in these early training stages. And guess who we hear talking to him like he’s a human baby, and guess who we see carrying him around and wrapping him in his jacket on those cold nights?



    But as soon as Cheerio is 4 months old and has all his shots, that’s it. It’s time for him to get to work. The Mr. is training him to be his hunting partner. After all, that is what they are bred for, and partly why we selected the breed we did. And just like he was when the girls were in their baby stages, the Mr. is getting a little impatient for that 4-month mark.

    “I don’t see why I can’t take him out in the desert now!” he kept saying, even though the breeder advised us to keep him only in our own back yard, away from any other potential germ-carriers, both wild and domestic. Thankfully, the vet concurred at Cheerio’s last checkup, putting an end to that argument for a while.

    That’s why when the Mr. and I took him for a walk the other day, we took turns carrying him through the neighborhood. The Mr. grumbled the whole way: “This is ridiculous! We finally have a dog, and we can’t put him on the ground for a walk? No, because suddenly the neighborhood is teeming with parasites!” he ranted.

    “Well, it’s either that or he gets diarrhea again and I freak out and look up all these diseases on the Internet, and then YOU can spoon up the diarrhea into a Ziploc!” I say.

    I keep reminding him to stop rushing the puppy stage, just like I reminded him to stop rushing the baby and toddler stages. It’s going to go by so fast. It already is, as can be seen in these photos from when he was first born until now:


    One day old. This is possibly him with one of his sisters.


    Cheerio at about 5 weeks old, on the day we visited and picked him out of the litter.


    The ride home with our new baby.


    Cheerio, just last week, at 9 weeks old.

    He already weighs 14.5 pounds, and should gain about 2 pounds a week. We anticipate he’ll be a big dog.

    That’s our boy. Our big blond son.

    Finally, people might stop asking us when we’re going to try for a boy.

  9. “Not the really bad ‘S’ word”

    February 18, 2011 by Wendy


    Last week, Little Miss’s kindergarten class celebrated Arizona’s birthday. All the children were to dress up in their finest Western wear (because that’s how we all dress here in Aree-zona). We dug out some old boots from when the twins took horseback riding lessons, picked out her most Westernish dress and found a safari hat we got at Disney World that Poppy fashioned into a cowboy hat by curling and tying up the brim overnight. A little ghetto, but it worked.

    I don’t know if it was the outfit or what, but later that evening, Little Miss casually mentioned to one of her sisters that “Today, Peter called me and another girl the ‘S’ word, but not the really bad ‘S’ word,” she said, all wide-eyed and reassuringly. (The “really bad ‘S’ word” is stupid.)

    “Well what word did he say?” her sister asked. (This is the same boy she had a crush on in the beginning of the year, but she has moved on and there have been two others since.)

    “The ”S” word that all the singers say, like Ke$ha. Ke$ha says it all the time.” (This is what happens when you have a 5-year-old with middle-school sisters—forget cutesy sing-along songs; she listens to their music.)

    And then she spelled it out for us: “You know, S-E-K-S-I.”

    Ohhhh, that “S” word.

    I think I would’ve rather he called her S-T-U-P-I-D.

    Why in the world is a 5-year-old boy is saying this, and how in the world does my 5-year-old know it was kind of a not-so-nice thing to say? (Unless you’re my age, of course, then, bring it on!)

    The next day, I repeated the conversation to the teacher. She didn’t get it when I spelled it the same way Little Miss did. So I had to say it: “SEXY. He said she was SEXY.”

    “Ohhhhhhh,” she said. And then her expression changed from confusion to horror. And then she said something only a teacher would say:

    “Well at least she spelled it correctly phonetically, I guess I can be happy about that!”

    Yes, me, too.  Her father and I are thrilled.

  10. What’s on the Whiteboard

    January 27, 2011 by Wendy


    We have this whiteboard in our kitchen that’s a holdover from when I was doing preschool at home with Little Miss last year. It’s not the most attractive kitchen accessory—certainly nothing you’d ever see in a hip Dwell spread—but because it gets a lot of use, we’ve left it up. Usually it’s filled with cartoon drawings, doodles and the occasional math formula or problem that Poppy is trying to explain to the girls.

    Sometimes, after everyone has left for work and school, I’ll look at the board and get a flashback of what was going on at the dinner table the night before. This morning, I got the idea to do a “What’s on the Whiteboard” segment on my blog every once in a while, as it gives a little snapshot of what’s going on in our world—or at least our dinner table.

    As you can see, the main focus of our conversation the other night was, and has been, about the new member of our family due to arrive tomorrow—an adorable yellow lab puppy named Cheerio, just like the ones you see in the Cottonelle and Estee Lauder commercials—but hopefully NOT like the one in Marley and Me. (I’ll blog more about him after he gets here.)

    We  have been planning for his arrival since November, before he was even born in early December. So the other night, we were discussing the importance of consistency, and that we all need to use the same terms and commands with him for training purposes. Twin A decided to make a list of those commands on the whiteboard, such as “Drop it,” “Leave it,” “No biting,” “Stay,” and, my favorite, “Put it away.” (Anyone who has ever been around a male dog will know what this one means. Two words: Red. Rocket.) She also wrote out his daily schedule that the breeder has outlined and encouraged us to follow.

    OK, nothing really exciting there. But what made me laugh the next day was seeing the diagram right in the middle of the board. You see, that was the day the big news came out that Oprah had an unknown half-sister. I found the story quite fascinating, not so much from Oprah’s perspective, but from the sister’s. Imagine finding out one day you have family you never knew about, but to find out she’s Oprah? (Just for the record: I would forgive my mom for withholding this secret–if the secret family member were someone as equally cool and famous as Oprah.)

    So I was explaining the story to Mr. Buzzkill (BK), but he just wasn’t getting it. It was a confusing, convoluted story to begin with, but BK does not like the use of pronouns, which made it even harder to tell because there were a lot of “shes” to potentially throw around, between Oprah, her new half-sister, her deceased other half-sister, her mother, her nieces, etc. Making it even more confusing was that the new half-sister and the deceased old half-sister had the same name. And I’m trying to explain this to him? Sheesh!

    He’s also known for asking questions that have nothing to do with the point of the story: ”Wait, now who owns this BBQ restaurant?” And, “Now whose house did they go to for Thanksgiving?” Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t ask who made the sweet potatoes. I’m not even joking.

    Sensing our communication breakdown frustration (a nice way of saying, “getting really exasperated with each other,”) Twin B jumped out of her seat and decided to diagram the situation for BK. (This pronoun-averse engineer processes things better in chart and graph form. Go figure.)

    I still don’t think he got the story, though. Nor do I think he really cared, but at least he tried.

    And that’s what was going on at our dinner table discussion the other night.

    Stay tuned for future episodes of “What’s on the Whiteboard.” I know, it’s all so fascinating.