You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2011.

The white lace dress she wore for Nana’s birthday tea. The froggy pajamas she wore the spring we first moved to Hummingbird House (we named our house when we moved here). The overalls and strawberry covered onesie she wore right when she turned two-years-old and we ate sausage and bananas in our backyard fort. The shirt she wore the first time she went to Disneyland. The first dress, chevron striped, that she ever picked out for herself from the store. The orange shirt with white polka dots she wore the first time she saw the pumpkin patch.

And on and on.

Katie and I cleaned out her closet today. It needed cleaning, been about a year and a half. She has grown. I still remember the first time I ever moved her 0-3 month old onesies and gowns from her bureau, back when she turned six months. It was all I could do to keep from crying back then as I boxed them up, realizing that my life would be about watching her grow and grow until she left for college, for her own life. I still get lumpy and misty, though today was much more about the satisfaction of accomplishing a job I’d put off for too long.

This was the first time, too, that Katie has really been involved. She tried on everything of questionable sizing—and there were many pieces that fell into this category. She wears anywhere from a 2T to a 4T, depending on the article, brand, and cut. She is tall, so pants tend to fall by the wayside faster than short-sleeved shirts and some dresses. She actually loved trying on her clothes and helping to sort them. We basically pulled out everything and started fresh, reorganizing everything into categories and really doing it right. A well-organized closet can save so much time. She loved the bonding, the talking time, the being together. Eric crawled around and around until he took a nap. His closet is coming up next.

There is nothing like going through Katie’s clothes to make me realize how fast time is passing. Clothing holds such memory. The next round of cuts, in another year, will be harder to make. Even Katie anticipated it: “This is the dress I wore on the night Grandpa Yoder died” she said as she handed me her white Christmas dress to hang up in our dress section. Where did that come from in her? Of course, I was thinking it, too… And all the clothes she has now that remind me of her becoming a big sister a few months ago. It isn’t the clothes themselves, of course, but the memories attached…and the awareness that those times have passed and are passing.

Cherish the moment, cherish the moment.

We have spent more time tonight playing than we usually do, and so bedtime is a bit late tonight. In fact, I am briefly posting before going into my daughter’s room to read some more to her before she falls asleep. Aunt Ashley gave Katie and Eric several books this past weekend, and Katie right now is deeply involved a seven part series about rainbow fairies….pretty neat, since these little volumes are her first chapter books. We’ve read through three already, with Amie and Daddy taking turns also. She can’t put them down. Hurrah for books that make children passionate.

I came across a poem by Ruth Krauss today. Krauss is one of my FAVORITE authors for children. She wrote the elegant book The Carrot Seed, about belief in oneself.

Here is the poem I found. It is entitled “No More Woxes: A Short Tall Tale” and it is by Ruth Krauss:

There was a wolf

and there was a fox and

they ate each other up.

And that made the wox.


Then the wox

ate himself up and

that’s why there are

no more woxes.

I had a strong first reaction and interpretation of this poem, friends, though I know it could represent different things. What do you see in this poem? What is the metaphor? What do we learn from it? Please ring in!


“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”  (BUDDHA)

I was going to write about an entirely different topic tonight, yet then I sat down and opened up one of the best e-mails OF MY LIFE from a beloved friend of mine. She has received good news, and it has made my heart well up with so much excitement and delight for her that I am not sure I will be able to sleep. Since it is her news to share, I cannot go into any details here on my blog…as much as I would like to. I am very, very, very, very bad at keeping secrets—especially the exciting ones. I want to shout it from the rooftops! I want everyone to celebrate with my friend. I want her to be covered with delight. Joy has a way of burbling out… But I have to be good for at least another week!!

When something happy and exciting happens for one of my good friends, I feel as happy as if it were happening to me. In some cases, I feel even better than if it were happening to me. With myself out of the equation, I can celebrate more purely and worry less. My best friends are such good and amazing people, and I have been friends with my core group since high school. I love them like family. When something good happens for one of them, especially when I know how hard they have been working and have witnessed their journeys, it makes me want to sing. All of us have always let each other be our true selves, and that is why we have all been friends for so long. I love them unconditionally, as I hope they love me.

So, tonight is a joyful night. This weekend has been filled with some questionable karma: flu, our movie night DVD from Netflix was too scratched and wouldn’t play, etc. Yet there was such happiness afoot all along!

Beloved Friend, if you are reading, candles of happiness are being lit all around you!

I am feeling much better than last night, though I am hoping a good deep rest tonight will have me feeling more like myself tomorrow morning. I was up all night last night—and my husband, helping me, was too—as the worst of it passed. Bill stayed home from work to help with our kiddos this morning, so I could rest and so that they would be more protected from any contagions. My mom also came over for most of the day and did laundry, went shopping for crackers, ginger ale, and other tummy comforters, and she helped fix meals for the kiddos and played with Katie while Bill watched Eric. I am so thankful for all of their help. I am not sure what I would have done without them… My energy level was so low that keeping up with a crawling baby would have been nearly impossible…I am so grateful for the time to rest. I camped out on the couch and worked on my fluids and crackers and dozing.

So, I am hoping this stomach bug was the fast and furious kind.

An illness like this always makes me reflect:

1) Our bodies are really so much at the mercy of biological organisms beyond our control. We are so fragile…

2)…on the other hand, our bodies are also tough and often up for the fight. Either way you look at it, our fragile/powerful bodies are humbling.

3) Right now, almost all food sounds repulsive—a different state of mind than I am normally in. Kind of eye-opening. Outside of having little energy today, I rather liked the feeling of a totally empty stomach, not stuffed to the brim. I saw what I subsisted on today—a popsicle, a few crackers, egg and dry toast, a few bites of Greek yogurt with honey, lots of fluids. More than enough, really, especially for a day of rest. True, I am often much busier—but am I overeating? Probably. Well, definitely. Funny how our culture’s (and my own) obsession with food and oversized portions look when all food sounds disgusting. I got a different perspective on that today. Refreshing.

So, off to bed (soonishly) for me. Again, thank you to my husband, my mom, and my sweet children for being helpful and for giving mommy the “day off” to convalesce. Crossing my fingers for tomorrow!

The flu…or something. Symptoms have increased in the last hour especially. Worse than feeling bad is worrying about passing this on to my kiddos…

Hope you all stay healthy, readers!


Though we thought about going out to the library today, we took one look at the cozy grey morning and decided to spend the day warm in our house. While Eric took his morning nap, Katie and I discovered that we could tap into the library’s online stash of educational computer games from our home computer. COOL! We spent about forty minutes playing word and number games in English, French, and Spanish. The Temecula Public Library rocks! Another reason I am happy to raise our children here…

By mid-morning, we had a fire going and Katie and Eric played “house” together. It was cute, because I was cleaning the kitchen, and it was the first time I’ve had the sense of “my children are off doing something together”—and both were equally content. Katie used one of our baby gates to make a pretend “house” and brought over some pillows and toys. At one point when I was peeking on them, Eric started crawling back toward the family room—and I saw Katie take both his legs and gently drag him back to play with her, saying, “Let’s play house, Eric!” Eric, for his part, thought this was hilarious and as Katie was being gentle about it, I stayed out of their way. Oh, sister and brother!

I sneaked a picture of the “house” game. This is the first time they’ve really done something on their own without my involvement/suggestion. Cute.

Later, when we were cleaning up “house,” Eric made his way to the staircase and started to paw the first step like he had…ideas. I was putting a toy back around the corner and I heard Katie say, “I don’t think you should do that, Eric.” I loved two aspects of this: 1) I love that she was watching out for him; and 2) I absolutely ADORE the words and tone she used. It wasn’t bossy or aggressive. Just factual and caring. “I don’t think you should do that, Eric.” A good precedence for their teenage and adult relationship: advisory, yet respectful that it is his choice.

Today was also the first day that I have considered Eric officially mobile. And he was EVERYWHERE. He can army crawl across a room in seconds, and he had several pockets of actual crawling. He also sat up on his own for the first time, without using my knee/leg as a pushing-into-position device. He is Mr. Speedy. Today was the epiphany day for me: having two really adept and young movers changes the game completely. Our routines are getting ready to adapt again, as a result. I am never ceased to be amazed that things work out with children…each new milestone is such a blessing and a challenge as we learn how to incorporate their new abilities with our own.

Thankfully, since I was tired out myself after lunch, today was one of those completely rare days when both Katie and Eric napped at almost the same time. Their overlap didn’t last all that long, but it was a few moments of downtime. Never to be taken for granted. I did a bit of cross stitching, sipped Yorkshire tea, watched Bogie and Hepburn, and had a moment to let my mind wander. Ah.

We did most of our pre-school in the afternoon today. Katie worked through some pages in several workbooks, and we are seeing the emergence of her phonics awareness now. The drills and practice are working. She likes her workbooks and using our special pencils for them. We also worked more on scissor use. I have a book of cutting lessons, and it is easy to xerox a page for practice. She loves the “snip strips” made on bright pink paper. Her work was precise, and she seems to be getting the hang of scissors…I wish I would have started this maybe a little earlier, but she is getting it.

Katie and I started our new art class before Toastmasters yesterday morning, an Abrakadoodle class. We took a few sessions through the city last year, but we haven’t signed up for any since Eric was born. Oh, she was glad to be back! We made masks yesterday, and Katie chose to make a puppy dog mask from cut paper. Really fun! We started our morning with a special trip to Starbucks for breakfast, and Katie expressed delight that it was “just like old times.” We have art class every Tuesday morning for awhile, and she is looking forward to it. We don’t want to overschedule her, but we figure music and art classes are good supplements for what we can give her at home. She has also expressed an interest in returning to gymnastics—after asking for a break—and she is fairly clear that she wants to return to the version of it put on through the city, versus the competition gym we had been attending. She expressed that she likes the teaching/teacher better at the program through the city. It’s hard…while this could be a lesson about embracing different teaching styles, I don’t really think there is a point in doing that at age three. Right now, life needs to be fun and non-stressful…and so does the learning. We are currently signed up for the city program session that begins in a few weeks.

Finally, we got out my childhood Lite-Brite this afternoon, and Katie played with it for the first time. I have so many happy memories of playing with the Lite-Brite with my parents. We’re keeping it old school here at the McGaugh House!

Because Katie napped, she knows she gets to stay up with me a little past bedtime tonight for “girly time secret cuddles,” a.k.a. American Idol and dessert in the cozy chair. I think we’re both excited!

I was not expecting to win our Toastmaster club’s formal International Table Topics (impromptu speech) contest today, at all. I entered it just to challenge myself, because I knew I would have to face discomfort. We don’t improve at anything when we don’t get out of our comfort zone, or when we don’t offer ourselves up for critique. There are members who typically handle impromptu topics quite better than I do, but I think I largely got lucky and was able to connect with the topic (which has actually been used in a previous competition before):

I am going to give you four words. You need to use at least two of them in a story, and you may use all four if you wish. The words are boy, telephone booth, wolf, and theater.

In Toastmasters, we need to start speaking almost immediately after we receive the impromptu topic (in Academic Decathlon in high school we were allowed a minute of prep time), so I was very glad to recall right away the infamous incident involving my high school boyfriend, the summer before college, breaking curfew, climbing up to my brother’s second story window, and my dad unexpectedly being asleep in my brother’s room (instead of my brother being in there)… I knew that error of judgment would come in handy someday! And now, thirteen years later…

Anyway, today’s contest was the first step in the International Speech Competition, and I will be representing our club (in the Table Topics category) for the Area C-4 contest next week. John Richardson will be competing with a prepared speech, and Steve Matley (who won the district award for evaluation a couple of months ago) will be the runner-up for both of us. I am excited and a good kind of nervous. I know I have been given a golden chance to push myself. Those chances are gifts.

I am thankful, too, that my mom was able to watch my kiddos for me after all, today. My Nana has been sick and needed some errands run, and Tuesday was the only day my mom and Aunt Debbie could do it this week. When my mom first told me this weekend, I was a little bummed because I really wanted to try the International Table Topics contest this season…but I tried not to let on about it. For starters, I am just lucky my mom babysits for me on Tuesdays to begin with.  Also:  family comes first without exception and needs to be always the priority (in my way of thinking), and I just figured that my participation was not to be this year. And that was okay, you know? We give up something we love (speaking with our friends) for something we love more (Nana and her well-being). Trading one thing for another that we love even better is never a sacrifice or a loss. But then late last night I found out that my Nana’s neighbor had been able to run the errands and that Mom wasn’t planning on going after all. Thus it turned out that I was able to attend our club contest meeting after all.

I’d also like to take a second to give a shout-out to my Toastmaster colleague Tara Fall, who also writes the blog Finding Strength to Stand Again. She revamped her Icebreaker speech (her FIRST speech for our group…I know I know…it is excellent…we teased her at first about being a hustler, but really and truly she does not have a background in public speaking), and she has entered it in the American Academy of Neurology Film Festival. Maybe it is just because I know her and love her  purpose-driven positive vibe, her focus on gratitude and learning, and her manner of speaking/word choices/cadence…but I really think this video of her speech is a must-see. If you do like what you see, it would be awesome to vote for her video if you all have a chance.

I think all four of us who competed today are just happy that Bob, today’s Contest Master, didn’t use the second topic he’d prepared (also used in a previous season):

You are St. Patrick, and you have been given the task of getting all the snakes out of Ireland. How do you do it?

I mean, what the heck? So see, this could have gone a totally different way today! I am still thinking about what I would have said there… Any ideas, readers?

Happy President’s Day Weekend, everyone! We took the weekend as a time to work on taxes (fitting, it seems) and to give our daughter a bit of instruction in history.

We studied a little bit about three of our American presidents: President Obama, President Lincoln, and President Washington. I kept the introduction basic, and we stayed away from myth (like the cherry tree episode). We talked about the White House and about elections. She seemed the most interested in Abraham Lincoln, and since he is one of my favorite presidents, I especially had fun teaching about him, showing her pictures, and so on. At one point she called him “President Lincolnham” which I thought was cute.

We made a stovepipe hat to represent Lincoln, and we connected him to the copper penny. She used her magnifying glass to investigate the Lincoln monument on the back of older pennies. We did penny rubs with paper and pencil, and we also used them to working on a subtraction lesson. I have a tome on Abraham Lincoln, and I showed her pictures of him, his wife, his sons, his generals and cabinet members, and John Wilkes Booth. We talked more about the Civil War, and she saw pictures of Lincoln meeting one of his generals at an encampment. We ended by coloring an coloring page of Lincoln I’d found online that was drawn based on his likeness in the Lincoln Monument. We talked about the symbolism of how his hands are posed at that monument (one open to represent kindness and mercy; one closed to represent justice, strength, and war).

President Washington turned out to be fun, too. I wasn’t sure what to do with him, at first. We know the cherry tree parable is made-up and that he, almost more than any other founding father, has had his history distilled to become an almost larger-than-life hero. I think it is important that, as much as we can, we teach accurate and unbiased history. No human leader is without flaw. President Washington did own slaves, for example, and there are questionable aspects about him, as well. Still, he is an intelligent and important historical figure, a big part of leading the colonies to independence.

Bill found a National Geographic documentary on Washington on YouTube, which we viewed through our tv. It was about 45 minutes long, and we broke it up with a long walk around the neighborhood, telling stories about the Revolutionary War. The most interesting part of the documentary from a teaching perspective was Washington’s use of codes and invisible ink during his wartime communications. We decided to make our own invisible ink as a tribute to our first president. After working with the ink, Katie colored another coloring page of President Washington.

With President Obama, we talked a bit about the election, his family, and the modern White House. We colored a picture of him, too.

Pictures of today:

We began the morning by putting the finishing touches on our tax organizer. Katie got into the role, too. I gave her an old bill with some numbers on it and a pen, “to do her taxes.”



Katie with her lunch and stovepipe hat (a toilet paper roll and black construction paper, super simple).

Writing with our invisible ink (lemon juice, in our case). We got to add some science in, too, as we talked about why the acid works this way.

After writing our messages/drawing our map, we let the paper dry (I found some old-timey cream linen paper left from something else, so it looked more 1770’s), and then we revealed the message with candlelight.

Katie’s secret map!


Yup. Can I get a woot woot? It’s that fun time of year again…and I’ve been procrastinating. I am even “taking a break” and procrastinating right now. Ugh, how I loathe, despise, and abominate anything having to do with taxes. Except for our CPA—she’s great, competent, honest, efficient, responsive and all that.

So I finally printed out our 2010 18-page (yeah, baby, yeah!) tax organizer. It only has a….bazillion questions. Why does tax law have to be sooooo complicated?? Can you hear me whining yet? It seems to me that there must be a simpler way to collect taxes. All these deductions and minutiae. Ugh. It is enough to drive someone like me, well, crazy. Okay, okay, I love the minutiae of grammar…that’s my language. Tax language is not my language. Thank goodness it is Susan’s language. Thank goodness there is someone out there who can understand and do this for us. All I’m doing is filling out the organizer, for gosh sakes, and I’m about ready to scream/cry/yank out hair. Can’t imagine actually having to prepare the return myself…

Today was appointed the magic day. I’m still in my jammies. I’ve been compiling info for hours, adding up medical co-pays, double-checking receipts, it seems. I’m sweaty with anxiety. Just seeing the thick packet waiting for me last night gave me heart palpitations. Nice enough that tax law is so confusing and picky—and if you do it wrong, enter the wrong thing, you can be punished monetarily or worse. Fun stuff. About as fun as a stick of dynamite.

Bill let me sleep in, took the kiddos downstairs. Good thing, because I was up randomly for a couple hours in the middle of the night, brain whirring. I’ve begun to associate the middle of February with bad feelings. As much as I try to keep non-stressed about tax prep, I can’t. It puts me in about as bad of a mood as I get…like I could snap at anyone any moment. Bill has known me long enough to know that when I approach him with his “please find this” list and try to appear nonchalant like he has all the time in the world, that what I really mean is “Please find it right now, or I will be a basket case.”

The thing about doing taxes, outside of having to deal with what I feel is minutiae, is that it also makes me think of all the time I feel I am wasting working on taxes—when they could be made easier for the lay person to understand. It also makes me think of how much we have had to pay out in the past, and it makes me think of ways my tax money is spent that I don’t want it to be. I don’t even like thinking about money. Anytime the topic of money comes up, good or bad it doesn’t matter—even apart from taxes—my stomach turns over. I know I need to find a way to make this fun for myself…but I can’t right now.

The organizer is a series of questions, most of which are “no,” but there are other more complicated parts. It feels overwhelming, and I try to get through a page at a time. I check the bottom of the page when I finish it. I am infinitely bothered by pages that can’t be checked off if I need to search for something… like right now, for instance, the reason I am upstairs.

So I’d better wrap this up. I am desperate to finish my organizer and send it away and thus rid myself of responsibility. I am hoping for an improvement in my attitude mid-week.

Gather joy in finishing your part of the work…and sending it as far and as fast away from yourself as possible. 😉

Oh, I am so glad my little girl is home from her happy slumber party at my mom and dad’s house! All of us are together again, the way we should be.

Little Katie was a tired girl when she got home. She stayed up late chatting the secret words of grandmothers and granddaughters cuddled together under the big canopy bed. They had a rollicking time for almost twenty-four hours: coloring, imagination play, putting on make-up, baking, reading, and more. She was tired and loved.

Our Katie is asleep now in her cozy chair in her room—she fell asleep as I was printing out our tax organizer for our CPA. I think I could have fallen asleep, too… Anyway, she still is slumbering, regaining energy for our weekly movie night no doubt!

At the beginning of our printing project, Katie was playing with some of her figures on the playroom table. I heard something fall, a bit of a muted thud on the carpeted part of the floor. Hm. I assumed it was just one of her heavier characters (maybe the Queen of Hearts)…but whatever it was, I said, “Oops, can you pick that up please so Eric doesn’t get it?”

That’s when I saw the tears in her eyes. It wasn’t a character…she’d actually dropped something breakable, and it was indeed broken, the glass shattering as it hit one of the wooden chairs on the way down. “Do you love me anyway?” Of course I do, Katie. I comforted her and told her, “That’s too bad, sweetie.” She was so tired that I should have seen mishaps coming, but we were trying our best to get settled for the evening.

She asked, “Are you mad, mama?” In truth, I really wasn’t. I said, “No, sweetie, I am sad for you. Sad it broke.” While my printer ran out of paper on page eleven of eighteen, I went for the vacuum. We haven’t had too much of a chance to debrief yet, but when we have a quiet moment alone together tonight, this is what I want to tell her:

As I vacuumed, thankful that vacuuming is a meditative state for me, I thought about how every event that happens can be totally good, totally bad, or a little of both. As Shakespeare writes in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Experiences just are. It is what we do with those experiences that matters. Who knows the result of the breaking of the object? It might seem negative on the surface, but perhaps some good arises from its ripples. Perhaps it sent me on a vacuuming bender, during which I picked something up off of the floor that might have harmed Eric, like a pin I couldn’t see. Perhaps it will make me move something around to its place on the bookshelf, something which could have fallen from somewhere else and hurt one of the children. Perhaps it will lead to a good discussion about looking at life with an open heart, between me and my daughter. There are a thousand or more ripples that action could produce…We cannot look at it as just one unhappy moment. It is part of the whole…

We embrace it with peace.

Why struggle against it? Or wish that we had it back? Why wander down those paths, when we can look for where the beauty is?

I use this way of thinking, especially when I am driving. Sometimes I am the slowpoke; sometimes I am behind a slowpoke. Sometimes,  I get cut-off and have to put on the brakes. So many potential frustrations. But why? What if that car going 30 mph in a 45 zone is slowing us down for a reason? What if it means that I won’t be in the position to be in an accident fifteen minutes later? Who can guess?

I try to think this way when I am in line, especially at the grocery store. All we can do is observe. Observe and be ready, ready and willing to see the life that exists beyond ourselves. I seek to break my bad habits, my habits of being reactive and thinking time and life should be about me and my schedule or my sense of anything.

My vacuuming ended in Katie’s room, when looking up I saw what was probably the best representation of all I had just been pondering. I saw rain coming down in the midst of utter sunshine. In fact, I had to do a double-take. Was it raining? It was so bright and sunny right at that moment. I actually thought my dad might be outside with the hose, watering up at the window for some reason—that’s how odd it seemed. But yes, it was raining against a perfect sunlit backdrop.

All I could think was: dual nature.

There is a dual nature to every action or experience. What we perceive as good or as bad events may in fact be more closely wound together than we think. In fact, every once in awhile, I glimpse a moment of feeling those good and bad events merge together as one. They just are.

A few seconds later, standing by another window on the opposite side of the house, Bill called out that there was a huge rainbow in the sky. I often call Katie “my rainbow hunter”—she finds them everywhere, has an eye for them. She sees them in mirrors, in reflections on the wooden floors. She has a child’s sense of where that beauty is, and she always shares them with me in her excitement. Oh this one was a perfect rainbow, one of the best we’ve ever seen together. It was a big deal. We could see the whole spectrum so clearly defined, a perfect arch breaking through the clouds.

We went outside to see it, barefooted, eager. Down lower, we could only see part of it, not the whole thing as we could from upstairs. Our perspective had changed. Dual nature.

There is joy in the breaking, and in the putting together again.