Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It is finished.

Well, it's actually more of a work in progress, but I've decided to move my blog over to Wordpress. I'm going to be figuring out the ins and outs of Wordpress for a little while, but will no longer be posting here.

Visit my new blog here. You'll be able to sign up for email updates there, as well.

Thanks for reading, and see you at the new site!

Enough! Maybe.

I've been frustrated about some wonkiness wtih Blogger lately. That I can never get my occasional photos to look right (more specifically, look right with text) goes without saying, but even bullets, numbering and very basic spacing issues (like between paragraphs) have been driving me nuts for a while, now. I'm investigating moving this blog somewhere else and will (hopefully) have a new web address to share soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Catching up

A few articles and columns:

  • Today's "Milton Makes a Difference," about Mary Beth Callahan, the preschool special education team chair in Milton.

  • The August 1 "Milton Makes a Difference," about some teens from St. Agatha parish in Milton who traveled to Appalachia for a service project.

  • "Milton Musings" from August 6, about another reason to love Cunningham Park.

  • The August 8 "Milton Makes a Difference," about school resource officer Maria Poles, of the Milton Police Department.

  • This past weekend's "Just a Minute," in which our heroine finally adopts a dog. Said heroine bears no responsibility for the column's headline, although it is kind of cute, despite groans I've heard from some readers.

I think that catches me up. I've also been writing features about camps all summer for the Milton, Hingham and Canton Patch sites, as well as continuing with my weekly wine column for the Milton site. Summer camps are winding down and soon I'll be back to my weekly school news columns for the three sites.

One side note: the kids are all done with their own camps now, and these past few days have been a reminder of just how hard it is to write with them around. Uninterrupted time is at a premium until school starts on August 31. Thank goodness Earl can be around enough to keep them occupied.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

No idea how I fit it all in there

I took inventory of my tiny little purse the other day, and found clues to my status as a mother all over the place. Read about it in this weekend's "Just a Minute" column.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Foster Care Article

Today's "Milton Makes a Difference" is about the Festa family, who have taken foster children into their home for the past two years. I am amazed at foster parents and their children, who make room in their families and their hearts for kids who have nowhere else to go. They're good people and I hope you enjoy reading about them.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Time Warp

Seriously? My last post here was July 10? Wow. I lost nearly two weeks in there somehow.

I do have a few "real" blog posts swimming around in my head, but have no time for that at this very moment. For now, you will have to make do with two recent columns:

1. Today's local humor column for Milton Patch. Everyone can use guidelines now and then.
2. Last week's "Just a Minute." Grease is still the word, but let's just leave most of the other words out of it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Ice Cream Man

This week's humor column for Milton Patch was about the Ice Cream Man. You know, the guy who tries his hardest to ruin your kids' appetites right before dinner? Read it here, and take a tip from a friend of mine -- if your kids are young enough, start calling it "The Music Truck." That might work for a few years.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Abby is growing up. Sometimes she's very much still a little girl, but then I blink and she's almost a teenager. She had her first sleepover last month, and it's the subject of this past weekend's family column for the Patriot Ledger. Enjoy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Oh, No.

Currently NOT rocking my world is the lack of any sort of logical reason why the last post looks so horrible, no matter what I try. It's enough to make a girl think of defecting to Wordpress.

Oh, yeah.

Currently rocking my world:

  1. Freegal. It is the best thing ever, to look up long-lost favorites and get them for my iPod for free. Today's finds: Indigo Girls and REO Speedwagon (yes, I'll admit to REO. I won't disclose that the other download was Kenny Loggins, however.)

  2. A nice glass of wine with and after dinner.

  3. Kids playing outside after dinner (currently playing: "What time is it, Mr. Fox?")

  4. Happy kids swimming in the town pool this afternoon.

  5. Reading both the Magazine AND the Ideas section from yesterday's Globe while the happy kids were swimnming this afternoon.

  6. Clean sheets on the bed tonight, and a secret plan to finally watch "The King's Speech."

  7. Good news from a colleague.

  8. Having had the chance to visit with (almost) my entire family this past weekend.

  9. A beautiful, perfect, sunny summer day.

  10. The kids' summer camp. How could I almost have forgotten that? Day 1 was today and they loved it.

Ten is a nice round number so I'll stop there. Quite wonderful, especially for a Monday.

Food pantry article

Today's "Milton Makes a Difference" is about the Milton Community Food Pantry. It's great to have such a community resource and volunteer opportunity right here in town. Everyone there is so cheerful, too -- volunteers were all smiles when I stopped by to get a few photos. Smiles make for good pictures, too. Read about the Pantry's good work here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Local column

Today's "Milton Musings" column: no more pencils, no more books...read it here.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I've been wanting to blog for some time, but haven't been able to sit down and do it. I've had that restless feeling of wanting to write, as opposed to the dutiful feeling of having to write, but no block of time that I felt I could afford to put toward this soul-feeding, well-filling activity.

But here I am, and although I'm currently responsible for five children (my brother and his family are visiting this weekend, and I'm watching his two kids this afternoon) it feels nice to just sit and put fingers to keyboard for a while, without a deadline breathing down my neck.

The past 10 months have been insanely busy. I am forever saying how busy I am, but since September, it's been a whole new level of scheduling craziness. Teaching school, teaching at home, rehearsing my church choir, cantoring weekend and funeral masses and meeting eight writing deadlines every week has been a challenge. But the school year is over, my private teaching is on a summer schedule, and the writing has eased up a bit, too. No wonder I can sit here and think out loud, or rather, in print.

My project for the summer is to take better care of myself, and I'm off to a good start. I had lost nearly 15 pounds, using SparkPeople, last summer, and started gaining it back in October (about the time the writing ramped up.) I gained it all back, with interest, and realized last weekend that I was within 5 pounds of my full-term weight when I was pregnant with Abby.

That was a wakeup call.

On Monday, I started using SparkPeople again, and decided that this was going to be the summer I prioritized taking care of myself. So far it's been pretty good -- I took a walk with a friend one day, another by myself the next, and have been to the gym three times, too. I'm not eating perfectly but am doing much better than I was. It feels good to place some importance on taking care of my own well-being, after such a long time of being too busy to put any time into it.

Health-conscious individuals might argue that there's no such thing as being "too busy" to take care of oneself, but they don't get it. That kind of pontificating does nothing to alleviate the problem and only creates guilt in people, like me, who go into what I call "survival mode" in order to just get through the days and weeks. People have to set priorities in order to manage their lives, and my priorities have necessarily been elsewhere for the better part of a year.

And now, without guilt or regret, I'm adjusting my priorities. To be able to do that is another blessing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Two pieces

"Just a Minute" ran this weekend in the Patriot Ledger. I'm looking forward to summer vacation this year (and mine starts today!) Find out why here.

Today's "Milton Makes a Difference" is about the Caring Circle of the Milton Catholic Collaborative, an association of the three Catholic parishes in town. They're reaching out to help people in need. Learn more here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Library volunteers piece

I don't think I usually link to my "Milton Makes a Difference" column on Mondays, but since it's my second-favorite weekly assignment (after my humor columns) I really should start. Today's piece is about the Friends of the Milton Public Library. They do great work and are preparing for a membership drive in the fall. Read about it here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Run for cover

Last week, we had a tornado here in Massachusetts, and even my town, which was ultimately not affected, was under a tornado warning for a while.

If only I'd known that when we watched "The Wizard of Oz" a few days before. Read about our perfect family storm in today's Milton Musings, "Blown Away."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Family Humor Column

Here's one I can't let Abby see just yet. Enjoy today's "Just a Minute" column for the Patriot Ledger.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Last weekend's family column

The web person at the Patriot Ledger was on vacation last week, and my column was never published online (harrumph!) Here it is. For the record, the bad dreams seem to have passed for a while.


As a parent, I’m used to the pitter-patter of little feet. Said pittering and pattering is a normal, expected and welcomed part of the soundscape of our home. The exception is when the pits and pats come down the stairs between midnight and 5:00 a.m., as they’ve been doing a lot lately.

My nine-year-old never has gotten out of her bed at night in her life. (The exception: two bouts of sleepwalking, a creepy behavior which disappeared as soon as her tonsils were removed, which was, in a way, even creepier.) My six-year-old has been a very good sleeper, aside from a couple of bouts of nocturnal illness. My little guy, however, has gotten out of bed more in his five years than the fifteen years of the other two combined.

The boys’ bedroom is directly over my husband’s and mine. I’ve learned I have about 45 seconds from the initial thump of the feet hitting the floor to the apparition at my bedside. The ensuing exchange typically goes like this:


“Yes, honey?” (Maybe if I close my eyes again he’ll disappear.)

“I had a bad dream.”

“You did?”

“Yeah.” Quivering voice and the start of sniffling are detected.

(Hoisting myself onto one elbow.) “Aw, buddy, I’m sorry. It was just a dream, though. Why don’t you use the bathroom and then we’ll tuck you back in.”

Off he goes to the bathroom. Now, for the most delicate phase of the operation: how to ensure that it’s my husband who gets out of bed, goes all the way upstairs with the little lad and tucks him in again, leaving me snug and cozy where I am. The trick is to appear to be mostly willing to make the arduous journey, but just slightly too tired and befuddled. Husbandly gallantry will prevail, if I can manage not to overplay my hand.

The first step is a slightly audible sigh. Sometimes a little moan can help.

Gallant Husband: “Is he okay?”

Me: “Yeah. The poor kid had another bad dream.” (Rolling over, slowly, facing husband. Direction is key; keep him engaged while simultaneously showing I’m too tired to get out of bed, myself.)

GH: “Man.”

Me: “Mmmm-hmmm…” (trailing off a bit.)

GH: “Do you want me to go up with him?”

Me: “Mmmmm.” (What a guy.)

Off he goes. If it’s almost 5:00, my husband will just stay up, leaving me to battle the alarm clock. If it’s much earlier than that, I’m usually in dreamland by the time he comes back down the stairs, no doubt smiling a little in my sleep.

Someday, my little dreamer will learn to shake off a nightmare and value sleep over parental comforting. In the meantime, my gallant husband will (hopefully) continue to answer the call of the pitter-pattering feet, and my heart, half-asleep, will go pitter-pat, too.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Remember that calm feeling I had earlier this week? It's gone. All of it. Or at least it was this afternoon, as I pondered how to catch Brian's Little League game, copy the programs for tomorrow's recitals and make three deadlines, all before we were to have a dinner guest.

But: I went to the game for a little while, got the copies made, and met two of the deadlines and got an extension on the third. Dinner guest and dinner were fine. Things are okay again.

I also managed to do something for myself today -- a long walk with a friend, something we're trying to make into a weekly thing. I did more than four miles and burned off about half of my pancake-extravaganza breakfast. Oh well; better than if I hadn't walked!

Tomorrow I have two masses to sing, and then the recitals, and then more dinner guests. I think I'll think about that tomorrow.

Oh, by the way, here's a link to today's Milton Musings. It is so, so beautiful here at this time of year. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Busy week break

The week of my annual studio recital is always interesting. On the one hand, Sunday afternoon will be a whirlwind, with a voice recital rehearsal, followed by my voice students' recital, and then my piano students' recital. An all-afternoon affair, plus there are some extra things I need to do this week to get ready, like create and copy the programs, check with the hall, etc. I also need to get all my writing work done early as I won't have that Sunday afternoon time to catch up.

On the flip side, however, most of my piano students are really just concentrating on their recital pieces this week, so lessons are moving quickly, leaving me with a little extra time here and there within my teaching schedule. It's nice to have a breather.
As busy a time of year as May is, things are starting to wind down. My classroom teaching only goes on for five more weeks; my studio teaching the same (until the summer schedule kicks in.) My church choir is quite busy for the next month but then will be done for the summer. Writing chugs along, but some of the school-based reporting I do will also be going on summer vacation.

I'm not panicked about the summer at all this year, really. My three kids are all registered for their enrichment programs (at least I believe they are...haven't received confirmation yet.) Our vacation plans are loosely set. I need to create my summer teaching schedule (after this weekend's recital) and then I'll have things more or less scheduled out until school starts again. I like the feeling of having things organized, and even though there are details to take care of, I'm feeling quite calm.

We'll see how long it lasts!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cross-phylum motherhood

Read about my experiment in raising creatures that aren't my own, in today's Just a Minute.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Little Leaguer

Here's Brian, before his first Little League game last Saturday.

Go, Braves!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Zip, zoom, whoosh...the weeks are flying by. Yesterday I realized I only had six weeks left of school, which made me feel happy and panicked at the same time. So many events to fit in before the end of the school year -- 15 for my church choir, alone (including rehearsals, but those are still events, in my mind.) Next weekend is my studio recital, my school concert is June 14, and the writing assignments just keep coming. All of this is good. A lot of good.

I was feeling scattered today and told a colleague that I'm usually much more organized, and that I'm just doing too much. He was kind and understanding, and I really do believe I'm doing too much, but I still get irritated with myself. It's not like me.

School will end and things will settle down a bit. Tomorrow I'll get through my mammogram, funeral to sing, dentist appointment, phone interview and dealing with the refrigerator repairman (see what I mean?) I'll also do some writing, tackle the mountain of laundry waiting to be folded in my bedroom and make dinner. I will make time for fun this weekend (meeting a friend for a walk on Saturday) and then slog my way through another teaching week. Hopefully I'll get over this latest cold or allergy attack or whatever it is, too.

Next week we should have Abby's IEP finished for the coming school year. That will be good to be able to check off the list.

The sun goes down, the sun comes up, and one day at a time, I'll do what must be done. Come June 16, however, I think I may make myself the biggest pitcher of sangria, ever.

Monday, May 2, 2011

FAVA makes a difference

I profiled Janet Gilmore and Karen Hainline, two Milton sisters and art teachers who teach visual arts through Friends and Advocates for the Visual Arts. Read about why they do it and their upcoming summer camp in today's Milton Makes a Difference.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

At least no one got hurt

My husband was recently in a car accident. Learn how his perspective on our town was altered in today's Milton Musings.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An unexpected insight

Abby and I were chatting at bedtime last night. Her math homework had been about volume, which builds on her previous homework this week about area. Both involve multiplying dimensions -- length times width, then base area times height for volume.

Abby's grasp on the formula for volume seemed tenuous, so I asked her last night as I was tucking her in, "So, how do you get volume?"

She looked at me with a huge grin and answered, "You scream! You yell!"

We both collapsed in a fit of giggling. Once we settled down, of course I had to ask her if her teachers had made that joke in school. She told me no, that she herself made up the joke right then.

It was the first time I can ever remember her making a spontaneous joke, a play on words that was genuinely funny in the moment. It made me so proud, not only because laughter is important to me, but because of the connection it created between Abby and another person, namely, me.

Abby's pun gave me a glimmer of hope. She's going to be all right.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Recovery in motion

I have a new column on Milton Patch called "Milton Makes a Difference." It's about people who live or work (or both) in my town who, through their work or volunteerism, make the world a better place. This week's installment is about Laury Hale, a personal trainer and certified cancer exercise specialist who helps her clients find their "new normal" after diagnosis and treatment.

She's an inspiring woman. Read about her work here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I decided to google my last column for the Patriot Ledger, just to see how many other GateHouse papers ran it over the past week and a half. The links on the first few pages were nearly all for the column, and I effortlessly counted thirty. I kept going. Forty. Would I see fifty?

Once I decided I'd had enough, on the 18th page of the Google search, I had reached sixty. Sixty papers across the country ran my last column. Whoa.

I was pretty excited to see thirty, but strangely, as the numbers kept rising, my heart kept sinking.

I don't receive a penny for any of the other places my column runs. I get my little fee from the Ledger, and, because of the way my contract with GateHouse is, I don't own the column any more, and any GateHouse editor can run it wherever and whenever he or she pleases.

Make no mistake: I'm thrilled for the exposure. I imagine folks in Delaware, Louisiana, Minnesota, Colorado, California and many other places getting a chuckle out of my writing, and that makes me very, very happy. Plus, it shows me that what I write has a much broader audience than the circulation of my local paper. That's good.

I do think, however, that if the material has such broad appeal, there ought to be a way to be compensated more appropriately for it.

I've half-heartedly attempted in the past to open up a discussion with the regional editor for GateHouse, who really wasn't interested in talking to me. To be fair, I wasn't exactly over-assertive, and it was a few years ago, too. I do not believe, however, regardless of my assertiveness level, that there is any flexibility on the part of GateHouse where compensation for widespread distribution is concerned.

If anyone from a syndicate is reading this, let's talk. Anyone else, if you've got ideas to help me earn a living wage from this writing I do, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A gift in the present

Today was a day that reminded me just how far we've come as a family. I had to teach a little this morning, and the kids got themselves dressed, ready for the day and practiced their instruments without a fuss. Earl stayed home while I taught two lessons, then left for work. I had plans for a haircut, but my house-call-making hairdresser's schedule was a little up in the air. Finally she said she could come at 2:30, so I packed up the kids and took them for a short grocery shopping trip.

They were antsy in the store, but I had clued Abby in that I'd take them out for lunch afterwards. The boys didn't know this. The shopping went relatively smoothly, and we had just gotten to the restaurant, where we were waiting in line to be seated, when my hairdresser called and asked if she could come right then.

Of course I said yes, but had to explain to three hungry little kiddos why we weren't going out to lunch, after all. They weren't happy, but I explained some of the extenuating circumstances to them, and, while they still grumbled, at least they settled down. Besides, I told them we'd come back to the same place for dinner, instead.

So we zipped home, had a quick lunch and then everyone got their hair cut. Oh happy day! We all had just way too much hair. It was like the Cousin Itt family for a while. We're all much better now.

After my hairdresser left, I decided the boys really needed some dress shoes to go with their Easter outfits. I created the plan: we'd go to the mall (ick) and pick up some shoes, then stop at the lunch place for dinner on our way home. The kids were on board.

On our way to the (ick) mall however, we noticed that the lunch place wasn't open for dinner. This, despite the fact that a sign said it served dinner! Cut to three unhappy, disappointed kids in the back seat. I told them we'd find another place, hoping it wouldn't be the food court at the mall (ick, ick.)

We managed to find two little pairs of dress shoes -- one half-size apart -- and set out for dinner. There's a TGI Friday's near the mall, and, thinking it would have a kids' menu, I suggested that. Once again, they were on board.

Here's the best part: the kids were GREAT. It wasn't too long ago that I couldn't take them anywhere because of the threat of a meltdown when there was a change in plans. Yet, our plans had changed a lot today, and, in my estimation, their reaction was only a little dialed-up over that a typical disappointed kid.

Not only that, but every restaurant visit -- and for this reason, they were few and far-between for years -- ended abruptly following a child being sick. I'll spare the reader the gory details, but suffice to say that it was awful, and always happened. Every single time.

Happily, our restaurant visit passed without incident. The kids ordered for themselves very politely, ate without misbehaving and even stayed close by in the parking lot. It was...how shall I say this...fun.

Who knew, ever, that a family outing, or two in the same day, could be more fun than stressful? What a gift.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy for...

  1. School vacation week. No, I'm not traveling anywhere. Yes, I'm still working. It's still awesome.

  2. The chance to write stories that make people smile, or think, or take action. I hope today's Milton Makes a Difference was an example.

  3. The best husband, ever. Here is a man, who, when asked if he can host a last-minute visit from his wife's college classmate and family, says "okay" and doesn't grumble. He worries a bit about getting things ready in time, especially since said wife is working up until the moment the guests arrive, but he just carries on, and does so cheerfully. He is the best.

  4. Renewing old friendships and making new ones.

  5. Homemade brownies, and deciding that 34 days without desserts was enough (yes, I decided this last week.)

  6. Children who practice their instruments while I'm out working.

  7. Children who can get along with my college friend's children, and have a good time while the grownups visit.

  8. More writing opportunities.

  9. A fabulous "Attende, Domine" by my children's choir on Sunday. They sounded beautiful, and I don't say that lightly.

  10. Knowing that there are six more days of vacation and at least three brownies left.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baseball Fever

It's here! Little League has started, for the first time ever in our household. The excitement is palpable. Read about it in today's Milton Musings.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What a week.

All together now: TGIF.

This week started poorly, with my receiving a phone call while teaching that Earl had been in a car accident. A teaching colleague held my class while I called home and got the story, the short version of which was that Earl wasn't seriously hurt, but the van was.

Over the next couple of days, insurance issues were worked out (the other driver was at fault) and, after squishing three disgruntled kids into the back of our tiny Focus for a couple of days, we were able to get a rental with more room, although not a minivan, as they were in short supply due to the upcoming school vacation week.

Note to self: you're not the SUV type.

The accident (or "crash," as the official report calls it) has overshadowed our lives for the past few days, but now all that remains is to have the van restored to its former glory. That process is ongoing, and we don't know how long it will take. Earl has recovered from the majority of his aches and pains, and at least we have a vehicle that fits all of us more comfortably than our little second car.

The other TGIF-worthy news is that we had Abby's annual team meeting yesterday, to create her IEP for the coming year. It's a three-year reevaluation year, too, meaning that Abby completed a battery of tests in a variety of specialties to help the team determine her eligibility for special education services. Earl and I were very pleased with the testing reports, and felt that they gave an accurate picture of Abby's strengths and challenges. It's tough to see some of the challenges in print, of course, but the reports have given us a lot of food for thought.

Team meetings rank right up there with going to the gynecologist. Inconvenient but necessary, mostly annoying and a little painful, while feeling vulnerable the whole time. A necessary evil that isn't really evil; just a non-preferred activity, to use autism language.

Yesterday's meeting, however, was the best yet, with a very low level of nonsense, and a general sense that everyone in the room was on the same page. It still was an uncomfortable, almost-three-hour meeting, and Earl and I have to do more thinking about what was proposed. All things considered, however, it wasn't that bad.

And now, it's Friday, with school vacation week stretching before me. While I'm trhilled to have a week off from school, myself, there is that little matter of the kids also being out of school. On top of that, it's Holy Week, which is anything but restful for a church musician and choir director.

As I am wont to say in these kinds of situations: it's a different kind of work.

The coming days are bound to be better than the past week, if only because there's no team meeting on the horizon. Now, if we can avoid further car crashes, it will seem like a real vacation.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's enough to make you sick

No, I'm not talking about all the posturing that played into the threat of a government shutdown. Today's topic is how the world carries on, and those sidelined with yet another cold (that would be me) must carry on with it. Read today's Just a Minute, coming to you from Dansville, NY.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rocketing Rodents

Soon we'll be taking down our birdfeeder for the warmer months, assuming the warmer weather actually comes. Until then, we're feeding the birds, and, unfortunately, the squirrels. What we didn't count on was the rodents' remarkable athleticism. Read about it in today's Milton Musings.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Whine, whine, whine

Oh, come on. Snow. Again. Will this winter never end? It's a fitting end to this week, which was marked by my acquisition of yet another cold (this makes four this winter) and the unfortunate demise of our dryer. Add to that various sniffles and coughs from the boys, the time unwillingly spent on the necessary chore of doing our taxes, some unwelcome news on the writing front and, if not exactly insomnia, then less-than-restful sleep, and I can safely say I'll be glad when this week is over. The whine analysis:

  • Sniffles. I've been pretty much sick since right after Christmas. I did have a healthy week or so at the beginning of March, but generally, I've been coughing my way through the past three months. Not good for the singing, the teaching or the sleeping. This latest cold has me worried; pain on the left side of my throat and up into my left ear. I hope it's not strep, and I hope I feel better enough tomorrow that I don't have to schlep to the doctor in the nasty weather to find out.

  • Wet laundry. Our dryer has been making some noise for a little while, but seemed to be working okay. Then, on Tuesday morning, the clothes were just as wet when I took them out as when I put them in. Boooo. I can't really complain, because it was 16 years old and didn't really owe us anything. But it's just one more thing. We're getting a new one delivered tomorrow, but first, we have to get the old one out of the way...and up the stairs. Can't wait to tackle that project tomorrow morning.

  • Taxes, schmaxes. It's really not that bad, but our taxes are complicated, since we're both self-employed. We take a zillion deductions (or rather, our accountant does on our behalf) and all those receipts and credit card statements and cancelled checks take time to organize, categorize and total. It's definitely worth it -- even tallying every mile I commuted to gigs -- but it's a crashing bore. At least it's done for this year.

  • Too many eggs in one basket syndrome. I do a lot of writing for Milton Patch, and learned this week that much of what I write is being eliminated or reduced by the powers that be. Fortunately, the editor has been able to salvage some of my stuff, and has asked me to pick up some other regular features, so it's not as bad as it might have been. If nothing else, it's been a lesson that I need to share the love a bit, and approach other outlets with my writing.

  • Twitchy legs. A few years ago, I had a nasty bout with the comically-named restless legs syndrome. It sounds ridiculous, but these crazy legs wake me up in the middle of the night because they can't hold still and let me sleep. I get so annoyed with them. Why can't they just relax, like normal legs?

Now for the good news:

  • Tomorrow is Friday. I have nothing on my calendar (save for the dryer delivery and one phone appointment) and can stay home all day long and work, assuming I don't need to schlep to the doctor. Maybe I could even do some yoga to settle down these legs.

Yeah, that's all I got. But at least it's something. Namaste.

Last Weekend's Column

The Patriot Ledger didn't put my column online last weekend, and I haven't had any time to do it until this very minute. Enjoy.


I’m not the pickup truck type.

Now, many fine people drive pickup trucks, including my father-in-law, who has one for his contracting business. His truck is on the small side, but it does the job, and has been serving as my in-laws’ only vehicle for several months, ever since my mother-in-law’s clunker of a sedan went to that great junkyard in the sky.

Then they were invited to a family wedding in Key West, more than 1,500 miles away. A few weeks before the trip, my husband wanted to talk about it.

“You know how my parents are going to Florida,” he began.

“Mmm-hmmm,” I murmured, deep in a Google search.

“Well, I was thinking,” he continued, “that it might be nice to let them borrow our car for the trip.”

I tore myself away from the pursuit of knowledge and considered his statement. Since we needed the minivan for the kids, I knew he had to be talking about our new-to-us compact. The one with the USB port and the heated mirrors. The one that gets upwards of 30 mpg on the highway.

“Their truck won’t be comfortable for such a long trip, and they’ll save a ton of money on gas if they take our car,” he continued. “So maybe we could just trade cars for the time they’re gone.”

I stifled a sigh. He was right, of course. It wouldn’t really be an inconvenience for us, and would mean a lot to them. Besides, they’ve done so much for us over the years. Of course they should borrow our cute little energy-efficient car for their trip. I nodded my assent, and handed over my keys.

Earl left before dawn one morning to make the switch, returning later with the circa-2003, brown, no-frills, commercially-licensed pickup. He gave me the key, and cautioned that if I needed to adjust the side mirrors, I’d better do it before I left for work, because they weren’t electric. I got in, was pleased to note that at least it had an FM radio, and turned the key.

The truck roared to life. Here was a vehicle with muffler issues. I gave Earl a withering look as I lumbered down the driveway, wondering how such a manly, growling truck could simultaneously squeak like a baby carriage with a bum wheel.

My maiden voyage in the truck took about 20 minutes, during which I developed a new appreciation for my own car’s suspension. The pickup bounced and jounced its way over the proliferation of early-Spring potholes, leaving me clutching the loosey-goosey steering wheel and wishing St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, hadn’t been demoted to “Mister Christopher” some years ago. This Rough Rider could have used some saintly intervention.

Since that initial commute, I’ve gotten more used to the truck and its natural ebullience on bumpy roads. Now, while driving this vehicle that suits me no better than a Harley, I don’t exactly smile, but I do clench my teeth and think happy thoughts. In a few days, my in-laws will bring my car back, and the driving will be smooth for me once again.

Copyright 2011 GateHouse Media, Inc.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits

I stayed home from school today, the first day I've done so all year. Timmy was sick and Earl couldn't stay home with him, so it was my turn. It was nice to have a day at home, but I would much rather that Timmy was well. It's doubtful he'll go to school tomorrow, either, but I only have to teach two classes and can come home right after that, so Earl will stay with him until I get home.
MCAS makes for an anxiety-ridden morning for Abby. One down, something like 4 or 5 days to go.
I get really annoyed with students who fart while sitting on my piano bench. Ewww.
I also get annoyed when something I thought was a private email exchange turns out not to be. No harm done, really, but for those of you who are naive like I was until this afternoon: businesses that use Constant Contact for email can track anything you do with those emails. They can tell if and when you open them, as well as whether you forward them.

Constant Contact is a marketer's dream. I'd certainly use if if I had the need. But it left me feeling pretty unsettled when I received an email from a representative of an organization, who stated he knew I'd contacted someone I'd read about in the Constant Contact email. He knew this, of course, because I forwarded that email to the someone in question, with my own message to the recipient.

As I said, no harm done, other than that feeling that Big Brother is watching.
Spring has disappeared. Snow yesterday, fairly chilly today (although I only stepped outside to get the paper, so how do I know?) I console myself with the knowledge that April starts next week. It can't snow in April, right?

Japan. Libya. Yemen. The world's cup of suffering is overflowing.
I have an Irish soda bread injury that is taking a long time to heal. While slicing a homemade loaf last week, the knife slipped, and I've been wearing a bandage on my finger ever since. I blame all typos and wrong piano notes this week on the Irish.
I decided this week that there's no reason I can't make things better while waiting for them to officially get better. There's a change coming in my life that will be a welcome one, and I've been putting off a lot of things until that change happens. It occurred to me a couple of days ago, however, that some of the things I'm postponing don't really need to be postponed. If these things make me happy, why not do them now?

It doesn't always work, but it helps keep me more in the moment, instead of biding my time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Column

We had absolutely beautiful weather the last two days. Sunny, warm -- it was perfect.

It was the kind of weather I was wishing for last week, when I wrote today's Milton Musings.

My writing yesterday was a little different. I took a walk and was inspired thus:

A coat-less walk at winter's end,
And suddenly, the world's my friend.
Therapy and hocus-pocus
Can't hold a candle to a crocus.

Today is supposed to be on the chilly side, but I can handle it, after the dose of sunshine I got yesterday. And besides, I've got a half-dozen crocuses in the yard, until the squirrels discover them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

They're growing up

I wrote a piece about how the kids are growing up, and how that makes me feel excited as well as wistful. It's in today's Patriot Ledger.

In other news, I left yesterday's pity party and finally put together my three entries for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2011 writing contest. I've been thinking about it for weeks, but the deadline is Tuesday, so I figured I'd better get my act together. I had to submit three columns published in 2010, and these are the ones I chose:

The Beach Boys one

The dead rabbit one


The bad eyesight one

Hopefully the committee will get a few chuckles out of them. Maybe you will, too.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Whine alert!

I wish it were a wine alert, but that particular beverage wouldn't be great for this cold I have, which still lingers. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm in my annual March funk.

I have columns to write, that are supposed to be funny. I got nothin'. I'm sick, tired, feeling overworked, overwhelmed and put-upon. I whine to Earl that I don't feel well. I whine to my sister about the weather. I whine to friends that I don't get to have any fun, at least not without rearranging tasks four and five levels deep and/or being in a major time crunch afterwards.

March, to put it plainly, stinks.

I feel this way every year. Yes, the worst of the snow is behind us, and for that, I'm sincerely thankful. But the monsoons come, followed by the sideways rain and the drizzle for what seems like days on end. Then, it will clear up and be in the low 40s for a few days, and then the cycle starts all over again.

March has no fun holidays, except for St. Patrick's Day, which is really a non-event in my house. I hate boiled dinner and won't make it. Blech. I make Irish soda bread, and will do so this weekend, but other than that, and the Christmas Tree Shop shamrock on my front door, St. Patrick's day doesn't bring much cheer to the house.

I also came to the conclusion this week that I'm just doing too much. I also recognize that I can't do anything about that right now. I know this, and have for some time, but it's wearing me down.

There are signs, however, that change is coming. We move the clocks ahead tomorrow night, which means we'll have daylight later in the evening. Crocuses are appearing near my kids' school and daffodils are stretching upwards by my furnace vent. Before I know it, April vacation will be here, then Easter, and then in another blink it will be summertime, when my schedule will lighten up a lot. There is light at the end of the tunnel; it just seems like a really, really long tunnel right now.

And here I sit, in my cozy house with a new roof that won't leak even in these rains, while Japan suffers. Yes, it puts things into perspective, but the funk goes on.

Monday, March 7, 2011

OTC Efficiency

The stinky thing about having yet another cold and having to take Sudafed in order to be able to breathe (or talk, or sing) is that the sleeping isn't so good. I've been up multiple times for the past two nights. No fun.

The silver lining is that I'm not tired from my poor sleep, and I'm getting an awful lot done. Plus I can breathe, which is always helpful.

I can see why stimulants, such as Adderall, are so useful for people who need help focusing and accomplishing their various tasks. I'm usually pretty organized and efficient, but I notice an uptick when I have to take pseudoephedrine for congestion.

Yesterday, for example, I did my three-mass (four-and-a half-hour) church job, including directing my children's choir. I came home and wrote three days of my daily column plus one of my weekly columns. I also helped Abby with one of her writing assignments, supervised her practicing for her recital tonight, made cookies with her (also for her recital tonight), had a short visit from my sister, and did various things to get ready for the work week -- laundry, double-checking meal planning, etc. -- and I did it all without feeling overwhelmed, and getting to bed by 8:15.

Not feeling overwhelmed is the key, here. I usually have to do most of those things (except for the cookies) and often feel resentful, exhausted and oppressed by Sunday afternoon. Not so, yesterday.

Of course, if Earl hadn't been doing a lot of stuff with the kids, I might have been pushed over the edge. But maybe not, with the Wonder-Woman feeling I had.

I am in no way suggesting that Sudafed should be taken for any other purpose than to relieve congestion. But, as long as I have to take it for my cold, I'll enjoy the increased focus and efficiency it brings. I'm off to tackle a teaching day now.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Can you hear me now?

Somehow, lost mobile phones keep turning up at my house. Read about it in today's column on Milton Patch.

Monday, February 28, 2011

One little thing out of many

I got an email from a friend today. We've been a bit out of touch, and he wrote that he's wanted to write for some time, about a lot of different things, but it's been so long and there's so much that he feels overwhelmed about it.

That's how I feel about this blog, and any writing that I don't "have" to do right now. I have several topics churning around in my head about which I'd like to write, but it just seems like so much to get started, and can I really take the time to do it? And wouldn't it be better to turn it into a column to be published? And on and on.

I wrote my friend that he didn't need to catch up, and to just start where he was. Pretty good advice (thank you, FlyLady!) So maybe a little dose of that is needed here.

One thing in my head pertains to this weekend's column, about Abby's not-so-secret admirer. I've been thinking a lot about this, and how happy it makes me, and feeling silly about the fact that it makes me so happy. I felt the same way about a similar situation for her two years ago, when she was in second grade. Why?

It doesn't hurt that "Friendly Boy," as I called him in the column, is a really, really nice kid. He's polite, neat, quick with a smile, and cute as a button, to boot. Combine that with not only his obvious affection for Abby, but how kindly he treats her, and it warms a mother's heart. It's adorable that Abby doesn't seem to notice, and even more adorable when I point it out to her (after the fact, of course) and she's obviously pleased.

But why am I so pleased?

The answer, I fear, has less to do with Abby, and more to do with me. On an interpersonal level, I'm so happy that boys notice her, and sadly, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that boys didn't like me when I was her age. Or at least I didn't recognize it.

This is not so healthy; I don't want to be a mom that lives vicariously through her daughter. Ick.

Another reason -- and this one isn't any nicer than the first -- is that I tend to see Abby as a collection of problems to be solved. Her Asperger Syndrome creates many challenges for her, and for 9 1/2 years, it's been up to Earl and me to find solutions for them. We celebrate her successes, of course, and there are many. But the challenges are still foremost in our minds.

This attention from Friendly Boy has allowed me to see Abby through someone else's eyes; someone who thinks she's great and who isn't aware of the challenges she faces. Or maybe he sees the challenges, and doesn't care. Either way, it pleases me to no end.

This is part of the reason why I haven't been blogging -- now the kids are up, it's noisy in the house, and everyone needs to get ready for school and work. So I need to end this now without a proper conclusion. So there it is. Draw your own conclusions, dear readers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Abby's not-so-secret admirer

Puppy love is awfully cute, especially when one of the puppies hasn't opened her eyes yet. This weekend's "Just a Minute" column explains.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I've got a little list

I had to make a quick trip to Rochester-Pennsylvania-Rochester last week, for another family funeral. This made two in three months, from the same branch of my extended family. As I was getting ready to go, I was worried about all the stuff that had to happen while I was gone. Finally, I made a list. Read all about it, in today's Milton Musings for Patch.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The saga continues

Part 2 of the brotherly rivalry column. Really a sequel rather than a "to be continued," as promised in my previous Ledger column.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Good Neighbors

Earl and I love our neighbors, Paul and Sue. They make our neighborhood special for us. Today's Milton Musings explains why.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Catching up a bit

I've wanted to blog for a little while, but haven't made the time. Even with all the snow days (we're up to FIVE now, and it's only the first week of February!) I haven't taken a few minutes to really organize my thoughts about how things have been lately. So, here goes.

The big news this week is that Abby has learned to swallow pills! This is a monumental achievement, to me. To her, I don't think it's a big deal, as this week was the first time she ever tried to take a capsule, and she was successful on the third try. I don't mean the third DAY -- I mean the third drink of water. She did it! And then she did it again the next night!

It's such a big thing to me because I tried and failed for YEARS to learn to swallow pills as a kid. I was never successful until I was 12 or 13. And here is Abby, little Miss Gag-on-Anything, dealing with a palate expander in her mouth and still being able to swallow her daily medication in capsule form. I am amazed. She is surprising me more and more these days.

In musical news, I spent the day at St. Catherine's today, having sung a morning mass with my children's choir there. With a choir rehearsal in the afternoon, it made more sense for me to set up shop in an extra office and work from there. A lovely spot, really, and nice to get out of my home office (aka my living room) for a change. Plus the music director and I had a chance to connect, which was helpful. I'll probably work from there again the next time I have a similar schedule.

In writing news, I've taken on some more work for Milton Patch. Every Wednesday, the site will feature three short columns: Frugal Family, Grab & Go Kids Planner, and Great Escape. I'm on the lookout for deals and things to do with kids, anyway, and who doesn't like investigating ways to get away from it all (close to home)? Yesterday was the first day the three pieces ran, and I was pretty pleased with them. Once again, I am amazed at the opportunities that continue to come my way, and am so grateful for them.

I think there were other ideas floating around in my head to write about, but I can't think of them now, and it's time to get the kids to bed. Another time. Cheerio.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Refereeing sibling rivalry

Brian and Timmy are great friends, as well as frequent rivals. Sometimes their problems are easy to resolve; sometimes not. At any rate, they keep me on my toes, and one recent incident is the subject of this weekend's column in The Patriot Ledger. Read it here.

In other news, we had yet another snow day on Thursday. I'm beginning to forget what a full week of school feels like. Rumor has it there's another storm on the way for the middle of next week.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snow Day

We had yet another snow day yesterday, making three so far, with another storm brewing for next week. This could get old.

We had our first two snow days back-to-back last week, and I thought it would be a nightmare, but it turned out pretty well. Read all about it in today's Milton Musings.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Suddenly Chatty

I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a bat mitzvah yesterday. My friend Bonnie's lovely daughter, Mackenzie, was called to the Torah for the first time. The service was moving and Mackenzie did a wonderful job. I was thrilled to be there, my first time at a bat mitzvah, or for a Shabbat service, for that matter.

Abby was invited to attend with me, but she is taking part in a Saturday morning math and basketball program at her school, and yesterday was the first session. We decided it would be best for her to begin her program and send her regrets. She would have found the bat mitzvah very interesting, but I do think it would have been rather long for her, as well.

Last night, after dinner, Abby started asking me about the bat mitzvah. Who was there? What did Mackenzie do? Was there music? What did the synagogue look like? Was it all in Hebrew? I answered her questions, and then the topic of family conversation changed.

A few minutes later, Abby said, "Mom, we are SO not done talking about the bat mitzvah."

Every once in a while, she surprises me. She's never said anything like that before, and it cracked me up.

We continued to talk about the bat mitzvah, the Torah, the prayer book, the music, the tallit, the people who were there, and different parts of the service. When we had all but exhausted the topic, she announced that she wanted to talk about her math and basketball program.

It was less of a conversation and more of a data dump, but as I told Earl later, she opens up so infrequently that whenever she's in the mood to talk, I make it my business to be in the mood to listen.

She also expounded on her Friday morning social skills group, which she almost missed this week. (It slipped our minds because of the snow days on Wednesday and Thursday.) She left nothing unsaid, and was adept at defining expected and unexpected behaviors, and how they can influence what others think of us. She gave examples of behaviors from her group, and even from some real-life situations where others had demonstrated unexpected behaviors to her.

She was less successful at coming up with examples of her own unexpected behaviors. I was able to help her out on that one.

It was such a gift to see Abby so engaged in a topic (or three) and to want to communicate about it. The give-and-take of a conversation needs a little work, but for now, I was just so thrilled that she wanted to talk to me. The gift of gab, indeed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Homework, homework, give me a break!

Today's family column is brought to you by my daughter's never-ending homework. As I tell my own students...if it weren't hard, you wouldn't need a teacher.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Blues

I'm not feeling enthusiastic about anything this morning. My get-up-and-go got up and went somewhere else. In a word: blah.

We had a pretty good weekend, although I spent much of it working, as usual. I took Abby shopping on Saturday morning, and she had a birthday party to go to in the afternoon. We got all her homework and practicing done in between those two events, with a minimum of fuss. The boys hung out with Earl a lot, and all the kids played in the snow. Sunday saw three masses for me, one for everyone else, more playing outside for the kids and then we all went out to dinner, a rarity.

In and around all those activities, I wrote. I also spent far more time on Sunday doing lesson plans than I wanted to. That's because my normal planning time on Wednesday was used for a doctor appointment, at which I was diagnosed with bronchitis. I'm feeling better; still coughing and kind of under-energized, but much better than last week.

I need to try hard to do all my planning at school, doctor's appointments aside. I resented all the time I had to take from my weekend yesterday, made even longer by three kids asking for my attention at the same time. It was the first weekend in 10 years that I haven't had an afternoon mass to cantor each day, and I was looking forward to the free time. I did have some, but it wasn't nearly as relaxing as I had hoped. Plus, I never cooked ahead for the week, as I like to do, to make the weekdays easier.

I also started out strong last week on a new exercise program, and fizzled out over the weekend. I should be exercising right now and can barely deal with the thought of moving off the couch to get ready for school.

Right now the only highlight I can see for the week is the possibility of a snow day on Wednesday, as we're supposed to get quite a storm. I guess that means I should try hard to get all my lesson planning done for next week today and tomorrow, so I don't have to do it at home again. While I'd welcome the time off, a snow day will also mean that I'll have to reschedule my private lessons that day, something I hate to do.

I guess it's just the Monday blues. I said it before, and I'll say it again: blah.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January is the coldest month

Winter isn't my favorite time of year. Read how I plan to survive January in today's Milton Musings.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolution Column

I'm keeping it simple this year. Read about my two new year's resolutions that cover a multitude of...well, not exactly sins, but, shall we say, areas in need of improvement.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy New Year! My family rang in the year with the stomach bug and laryngitis. Whoopee! We're on the mend now; it was only Abby and Earl who had the stomach bug, and while I'm kind of hoarse, I was still able to sing a mass this morning (hopefully will be able to do one this afternoon and tomorrow, too!)

I spent a little time over the past day or so reading my blog entries from 2010. What a year! It's amazing to me how things have changed. Even knowing full well that there had been changes, it still surprised me to read entries from last spring, before I had these three new jobs I've been blessed with, when Timmy was still in preschool, when I was doing more feature-writing than I am now. I'd say, overall, things are better now.

Sure, I miss the comparatively less-packed schedule I enjoyed before this fall, when I could meet a friend for coffee without panicking that I wouldn't get my writing done. The funny thing, though, is that the more I have to do, the more I actually get done. It must have to do with that deadline-driven work style I have. (Maybe I should set deadlines for housework!)

More changes are coming, in that this is the last weekend of my afternoon mass cantoring schedule. I've been singing a 4:00 mass on Saturdays and a 5:00 mass on Sundays for about 10 years, and have decided to give them up, given my new position at St. Catherine's. I've let the music directors at the Quincy churches know I'll be available to substitute, but I won't have an afternoon commitment on Saturdays and Sundays every single weekend any more. It will be nice to be able to plan activities, or even just spend more relaxed time with my family, without knowing I have to run out and sing those masses.

I spent some time this afternoon purging old files. Our home office has been a cluttered mess for some time, and I vowed that I would clean it up during this vacation week. It's not totally there yet, but I've made a very good start. Today I threw away reams and reams of paper -- everything from Brian's Early Intervention ABA session notes, to various iterations of his and Abby's old IEPs. Earl had also been very involved in the Special Education Parents Advisory Council for our district a few years ago, and we tossed a lot of his old papers and notes from that, too. Hallelujah!

The office still needs more work, but it feels great to have ditched all that paper, which has no bearing on our lives any more.

My New Years' resolutions are pretty simple -- lose 15 pounds (probably more like 20; I've been afraid to step on the scale for the past two weeks) and be more patient. Pretty much the same as they are every year! I've got some external motivation for the weight loss, though, with a college reunion coming up in the summer. As for the patience...well, it would just be a good idea. My "Just a Minute" column for the Ledger was on this subject. It's not online yet, but I'll post a link when it is (or publish it myself if need be.)

I'd like to write something about hopes and dreams for 2011, but I don't do hopes and dreams very well. It's probably a personality thing, but I immediately start to think about plans and strategies, rather than just letting myself be hopeful and dreamy. But if I really tried...
- I'd imagine Abby's Asperger's becoming a negligible force in her life
- I'd become a truly syndicated columnist, with the financial arrangements to match
- I'd have time to swim every day, or at least as often as I wanted to
- I'd see our family debt-free
- I'd have time to relax and do something totally indulgent (like watch a movie!) without the nagging feeling that I really should be doing something productive

Some items on the list are ridiculous; others, maybe not so much. In the spirit of hope that comes with a new year, I'm not going to stomp on any of them, but just let them be, and see which, if any, will be.