Friday, December 24, 2010





Please take a minute to vote for your favorite gingerbread house!
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Car Seats and Rescue Workers

This morning, I cried as I watched Good Morning America. The story was about a little boy, just two years old, who had been in a terrible car accident. Click the link if you missed the story. Though mostly the tears were out of happiness because the story has a happy ending, they were also tears of understanding for the parents of that little guy and for some of what they had to endure in the hours immediately after the accident. And one thing that Dr. Richard Besser said, which prompted this post, was that two things (besides the obvious pain-staking work by incredible doctors) saved that boy's life: his car seat and the rescue workers who kept his head and neck secure.

In 2004, my husband, my two daughters and I had just experienced a fun-filled day at an outdoor concert.
Later that day, we were in a fatal car accident. A driver with a blood alcohol content of over twice the legal limit smashed into our Jeep. That driver and two of his three passengers were killed.

My girls were 7 and 4 years old. According to Michigan law at the time, Lilienne was still required to be in a car seat, but Genevieve no longer needed one. But guidelines suggested otherwise, and so we still used one for her as well. Aside from Genevieve's broken arm, the girls did not suffer serious injuries. Police officers at the scene said the car seats made a difference.
Rescue workers arrived at the scene within minutes. They were efficient, calm, and caring. They were also cautious and thorough. Both Genevieve and I ended up strapped to boards. Poor G was on hers for nearly 7 hours, but I appreciate the concern that the paramedics took to make sure she did not suffer a neck or spinal injury. The 7 hours were very long for her, but short compared to a lifetime of paralysis.

So sometimes, I get a little mushy and dramatic. But I know that it is thanks to car seats and rescue workers that I have two beautiful and wonderful reasons to be thankful and joyous this holiday season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowmen and Christmas Cookies

My Grandma was a hairdresser. She had a salon in her home, but we never called it a salon; it was always called the beauty shop--lowercase. It didn't even have a proper name. Her customers were mainly little blue-haired old ladies. At least that is how I remember them. These ladies showered Grandma with gifts during the holidays. Most of them were hand made: doilies, strange beaded window hangings, lots of plastic canvas, and crocheted toilet paper covers. The other thing she got a lot of was Avon. And my favorite of her Avon gifts was this cute snow couple. Grandma used to complain about the blinking lights, but I would always turn them on when I got to her house. Finally she decided to give them to me and now they have a rightful place in my home, blinking merrily in the living room at Christmas time.

I also think of Grandma at Christmas because she made the best Christmas cookies. She cut them in big Christmas tree shapes and sprinkled them lightly with green sugar. And I always got to take home any that were left after our holiday gathering at her house. The dough for the cookies is very hard to mix up when all the flour is added, but even after she no longer had the strength to mix them, she would make Grandpa do that part so I could still have cookies. Now, my girls and I use her recipe and have made our own tradition of baking Grandma's cookies on Christmas Eve.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sunsets and Beaches

Kaleidoscope is an annual publication by the Michigan Reading Association. Every school in Michigan can submit one piece of student writing for Kaleidoscope each year. Students who are included in the anthology are invited to attend a Young Authors Luncheon during the Michigan Reading Association annual conference. There is always an author that gives a presentation to the young writers. In the words of Martha Stewart, It's a good thing!

Because the girls' school district wasn't sending any writings for publication, I began sending them myself about five years ago. The girls submit their writing every other year, when the conference takes place in Grand Rapids. They love the opportunity to listen to a published author. I also take them to the Author's Garden, an area in the conference exhibit hall where authors are scheduled to sign books. And in the past, I have taken G to other sessions--one where she had the opportunity to do some creative writing led by author Wendy Mass. I have as much fun immersing them in the world of readers and writers as they have experiencing it. Here are their submissions for this year:

Sunset by Lili
Pink and yellow dance across the sky
orange lets its color shine
purple peeks over the mountain tops
red dashes from side to side in a streaking blur
the sun slips away under the Earth
darkness comes and with it, the moon.

The Beach by Genevieve
The sand shines like a million diamonds in the early morning sun,
The water glints, saving us all from the blistering days of summer,
Boats are drawn to it like bees to honey,
My beach

Volleyball matches so intense it's like our own little Olympics,
Tanning on the shores for hours,
Turning a lovely shade of cherry red if you forget the sunscreen,
The days are long, hot, and sticky
The only way to survive is the clear blue water of the beach
Fighting heat like a soldier in a deadly war.

The nights are short,
Spent by the flickering flames of a campfire,
Listening to the melody of the season
Stars poke out one by one, timid, as if the sun could come
Back and wash them away in its golden light

The leaves begin to alter,
Trading in their lively green color for crimson, gold, and ginger,
The summer is gone,
But the magic of the beach is only stifled for a small amount of time,
Hibernating over the winter like a lethargic bear,
Preparing itself for the next year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Chocolate Mess Tradition!

If there is one thing the staff at my school does right, it is feeding each other! Ok, we do a lot of other things right too, but we have a tradition that in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break, we have staff luncheons on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each team signs up for a day and then plans the menu for what they will bring. Along with our 4 grade level teams, we have the related arts team, the office staff, and the parapro team. That makes seven days of not having to think about what to pack for's awesome!

I didn't realize that my easy crock pot Triple Chocolate Mess had become such an expected tradition. But last week, the gym teacher mentioned in passing that he was already looking forward to it. And when I posted on facebook this morning that it was cooking in two crock pots, I got several comments from anticipating staff members. I also got comments from other friends wondering what the heck I was making. So, here is the recipe for you, friends. Happy cooking, but most of all, I hope it makes happy memories for you!!

Triple Chocolate Mess
1 cake mix
1 instant pudding mix
Mix these dry mixes together in large bowl.
4 eggs
1c. water
3/4c. vegetable oil
1 pint sour cream
Mix these wet ingredients in smaller bowl until smooth. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well.
Stir in 6oz. chocolate chips. Put mixture in greased crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours. You can cook at a higher temp for less time, but it can tend to burn on the bottom if you do. I also layer paper towels under the lid and change them from time to time to soak up condensation that make it soggy if it drops back down.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Simple Memories

Tonight Lili asked me to put sponge rollers in her hair. My mom used to put my hair up in sponge rollers at least once a week when I was a kid.
I loved the feel of her hands combing through my hair, even if she pulled a little when my face started turning back toward the tv. I hope Lili remembers it fondly one day as well.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010


When I was a kid, it was great fun for me, my sister, and my brother to change the Noel train to a Leon train. It drove my grandma crazy, but I think my grandpa (Leon) loved it. :) Now the Noel train is at my house and my girls continue the changing of the train tradition.
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