On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.

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Even Better Than Baskin-Robbins

I remember going out for ice cream as a little girl. That’s when a trip to Baskin-Robbins was something special–before it got lumped together with Dunkin Donuts. When I was younger I gravitated towards strawberry or peach. Once I (almost) outsmarted my parents’ long-standing rule of NO GUM by ordering bubble gum ice cream and methodically picking out every piece of bubble gum in the scoop on my cone. (In fairness to my parents, I was also responsible for the NO GUM rule, but that’s another story.)

Then I discovered coffee ice cream in middle school. My regular babysitting job was for neighbors who had recently adopted a baby. Their pantry reflected their refined tastes, and they stocked the freezer with just two ice cream flavors: coffee and rum raisin. I chose coffee. And when we visited Baskin-Robbins, I discovered something even better than coffee ice cream. The flavor was called Jamoca Almond Fudge. Need I say more?

I don’t eat ice cream very often these days, but I still love coffee, almonds, and chocolate. The recipe below is my homage to my favorite Baskin-Robbins flavor but is much better suited to a post-workout meal. (Note: My recipe does not include high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or Jamoca®.) There are no directions because I’m assuming that if you’re reading this post, you also know how to operate a blender. Add ice as desired.


Jamocha Almond Smoothie

4 oz. brewed coffee
4 oz. milk (I use 1%)
2 scoops chocolate protein powder (I like Nature’s Bounty Optimal Solutions)
1 Tbsp. almond butter

Nutrition Info
Calories: 270
Fat: 11.25 g
Carbs: 22.5 g
Fiber: 6.5 g
Net Carbs: 16 g.
Protein: 22 g.



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Mother of the Year?

Some days I think mothering is a win-lose occupation. I’m having more of these days lately. G tells me at least once a week that I’m ruining her life and that I’m selfish for insisting on doing things my way. I know it’s totally selfish of me to insist she not eat food in her bed and then scatter the packaging in her dresser drawers and pillow cases, so yes, that’s why I’m attempting to ruin her life. Then I picked her up from horse camp yesterday. Apparently I’m back in her good graces for the week.

On Saturday when H and I were packing her suitcase for a week of day camp and time with the grandparents, she informed me she no longer wanted to go to camp–especially if I was going to force her to wear socks AND sneakers. I replied that she owed me $90 for camp tuition. She’s smart at the young age of 6 and decided that she would gain some leverage by acquiescing if I agreed to accompany her to day camp. (Sure, a 39-year-old mom would not look out of place at a camp for elementary students.) Instead, I agreed to buying her lunch on Sunday, and she agreed to go to camp and be spoiled by Grammy and Granddad. Guess who won this battle! (Hint: it wasn’t me.)

Yesterday I spent the day with my middle child, which is something that hasn’t happened since last December when we took explored DC for her eighth birthday. Apparently I’m not as fun as her sisters. Apparently she doesn’t whine to her sisters about how bored she is. And apparently I struck out at 3 attempts to make her less miserable. In the morning, we visited Miss Debby, one of our favorite people. She’s a grandmother from our church who has adopted our family as her own. She also has a kid-friendly house and yard and never insists that the girls pick up after themselves. S whined at Miss Debby’s house until we left for home. So I made a playdate for the neighborhood pool. After less than an hour, S actually curled up under a towel and asked to go home. After dinner, G and I took S to play Street Soccer, which is an evening of pick-up soccer games arranged by our local soccer club. I was excited: DC United sent 2 players to play with the kids and sign autographs, and much of S’s soccer team showed up to play. S was not remotely interested in the soccer pros; she actually left the field and told me she didn’t want to play at all and that this wasn’t her idea of fun. “Seriously? I just committed to a year of coaching your soccer team, and you no longer want to play?!” was my reply.

Fast-forward to this morning. S spent another miserable night coughing. She agreed to a doctor’s visit this morning, and our doctor suggested viral bronchitis as the cause of her misery. I simply asked if she could have cough syrup with codeine, please. Yes, I am Mother of the Year.

If I’ve learned anything, the rest of the week will be unpredictable. S and H will eventually conquer their coughs and sleep peacefully through the night. One of my kids will decide I am the world’s worst mother, another will defend my honor as world’s greatest mom, and the third will be wise enough to stay out of the discussion.

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A New Milestone

My youngest child, H,  is going to camp for the first time tomorrow. She can’t decide if she’s excited about camp or irritated that she has to wear socks and shoes for 5 mornings this week. I can’t decide if I’m relieved to have a little extra time to myself with one less child or anxious that she’ll keep her grandparents and cousin awake all night tonight with the barky cough she picked up from her neighborhood friends.

This is a first for her and for me. Yes, she has finished kindergarten–and a good portion of 1st grade–but we’re a homeschooling family. I’ve never put her on a yellow school bus or dropped her off to spend 7 hours with another teacher. S, our middle daughter attempted to spend part of the week with my sister’s family last summer; her attempt lasted a stunning 21 hours, and that’s only because I refused to drive an additional 4 hours to get her without first getting a full night’s sleep. Our oldest, G, is a pro at spending time with the grandparents; she regularly reminds us that she will legally be an adult when she turns 18 and won’t have to live with us anymore. (She’s quite knowledgeable for 10.)

But this week will be different. G will be away at horse camp this week and living the dream life that we so cruelly deny her. (Or at least that’s her interpretation.) H and her cousin O will be living my dream life: being spoiled rotten by their grandparents, eating all sorts of things that Mom doesn’t allow, and playing games at a day camp whose theme is Superheroes!

That leaves just me and S in a position we haven’t seen since G left for 3-year-old preschool. She was easy to please back then. We went for walks, visited playgrounds, and ate Egg McMuffins. But she’s 8 now and knows there are fancier places than McDonald’s. What will we do with ourselves this week? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to every minute of it.

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With apologies to William Carlos Williams

It’s not supposed to arrive until tomorrow. Still I hold out hope that perhaps a brown UPS truck will pull into our driveway before the end of today with a special delivery from Animas Corporation. Until then, we’re exhausting all sorts of strategies to distract us from the waiting: swim practice, a 4-mile hill workout, chatting on Facebook, a trip to the library with 5 mynah birds young girls, a long email to my soccer team, and–I am not making this up–a neighborhood stake-out with 3 police officers in 3 different uniforms. Since all of that has failed to hasten the delivery of S’s new insulin pump, I thought I’d try a little poetry. Do you remember reading William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheel Barrow” in school? It’s the sort of poem that English teachers (me, included) like to assign because it makes poetry simple and accessible and allows us to gradually transition to scarier poets who use rhyme and 25¢ vocabulary words.

Insulin Pump

so much depends

a thin plastic

running from a silver

straight to Sarah’s

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A Day in the Life…of a Hamster

Due to popular request, I’ve decided to explain what life is like for our ridiculously spoiled hamsters…from Brownie’s point of view.

12 AM: Start my workout. Must run a 5k tonight. Training for Hamster Invitationals.

12:22 AM: Need a drink and a nap. So tired.

12:59 AM: Hungry again. Where did I leave my stash of sunflower seeds? Why do they always bring me these alfalfa sticks? I’d rather eat my shavings.

1:05: More running. My Nemesis is on his wheel, too. Must. Run. Faster.

1:32 AM: That’s enough running. I wonder if I climb up these bars, could I push the top off? Maybe the Curly Girl forgot to lock the cage.

1:33 AM: Darn. She locked it. Maybe I’ll just shake the bars for a while. Or maybe I’ll take a nap.

4:45 AM: Can’t believe I slept this long! Must hurry before the Alpha Male turns on the lights. Stuff my left cheek, slurp some water, and take my last run. Nemesis appears to be asleep.

5:00 AM:  Dang! He woke up early! Maybe I can fall asleep before he notices I’m awake. Too late! On second thought, maybe Alpha will make me some eggs. Look cute so he’ll pick me up.

5:01 AM: It worked! Ha ha, Nemesis, I’m cuter than you, and I’m getting eggs.

5:02 AM: No eggs. Look uninterested.

5:03 AM: Back to my nest. Figure I have 2 hours until Small Noisy People bother me.

7:01 AM: Oh no, the Noisy People are walking around upstairs. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5….

7:02 AM: Good thing I wasn’t asleep. Favorite Noisy Person is taking me somewhere. Maybe she’ll feed me? Nope. I wonder whose bed I’m in….

7:19 AM: Why is the Tall Lady screaming at me?! It’s not like I pooped in her bed.

7:20 AM: Back to the nest.

7:30 AM: I’m in the ball. Must get into the pantry!

7:40 AM: Must sleep. After I eat some more.


How cute am I?


5:45 PM: That was a great sleep! Stretch for a minute and shoot Nemesis a withering look. Oh good, my Favorite Noisy Person is in the room. Pick me up! Pick me up!

5:51 PM: Munch on a 6-inch spear of cucumber until Tall Lady takes it away from me and yells at my Favorite Person for taking the family’s dinner. Am I not family, too?

5:55 PM: Oooh, I’m getting weighed tonight. I wonder if I’ve put on any muscle lately. Yes! 174 grams. I am way buffer than Nemesis.

9 PM: Guess I’ll get up for the night. On second thought, I’ll just get some water and take another nap.

9:15 PM: Nemesis is on his wheel. Can’t he see I need my sleep?

11 PM: Need to get my miles in. Schedule says intervals, but I’m feeling more like a long slow run.

11:30 PM: Great workout. Need to refuel with some protein. Where did I stash those seeds? Yes! A sunflower!

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If You Give a Child a Box…

If you are a parent, chances are good you can recite at least one of Laura Numeroff’s books. We are big fans of If You Give a Pig a Pancake and If You Give a Moose a Muffin. In fact, books have always been more important to my children than toys. We have just a handful of toys that require batteries, and we regularly purge our toy bins after Christmas and birthdays. Not many toys are sacred in our household. Occasionally someone asks, “Whatever happened to the Polly Pockets?” I remind her that we moved three years ago, but Polly and her collection of rubber outfits did not. Ditto for My Little Ponies.


The Cardboard Village

My girls have always preferred cardboard boxes and sticks to fancy toys that light up and sing. So yesterday it was no surprise to discover that the girls and several neighbors discovered a stockpile of moving boxes. They spent hours designing a cardboard village in the cul-de-sac in front of Mr. Ted’s driveway. (Mr. Ted is our elderly neighbor who is amused by their ingenuity, and he promised not to run over the girls or their boxes.) Because they are girls, they each claimed an apartment. H proudly informed me that she lives in L-23. I’m not sure of the other addresses. As the sun started to set, it was time to dissemble their complex. No worries though. They have already spent two hours today setting up their village.

Where are the Ruby Red Slippers?!

Where are the Ruby Red Slippers?!


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When it comes right down to it, we’re all just cousins, aren’t we? I write this a day after attending a family reunion for my father’s side of the family. I’m still rather confused at how I’m related to most of the people I met yesterday, but I did spend a lovely afternoon on the Rappahannock.

My paternal grandfather, Nelson Duffey, was the son of Charles Duffey and Mary Catherine Creegan. Charles died when my grandfather and his sister Peg were young, and my great-grandmother remarried a man named Edward Wayson and had 3 more children. Yesterday, several of the Duffey and Creegan families held a reunion, which is really just a reason to talk and eat with people you don’t see very often.

My girls were delighted to meet a grown-up cousin who shares their interest in nature. Cousin Rodney delighted them with pictures of snakes and snapping turtles. They loved learning that he doesn’t kill creatures; he just tags them, sends them on their way, and waits to see how long it takes them to return. Cousin Barbara Jean collects antique dolls, and they were equally delighted to explore her collection. They found the backyard koi pond and proceeded to name each fish. Donna and Jane, your names have finally been passed on to another generation…of fish. Their favorite discovery is difficult to put into words. This is definitely a case where a picture in worth 1000 words.


Cousin Bobby’s toilet: photo courtesy of Pat Corkery


As H astutely commend, “Mom, if someone forgets to flush, everyone will see it.” Need I write more?

In all, everyone had a great time. We visited much-loved aunts, uncles, and cousins. We played corn hole–just what is the obsession with corn hole these days?!–and we lined up for the ubiquitous group photo. We made new friends, and someone tossed her cookies–or, according to my girls, it was mostly carrots. Four hours came too soon, and we piled back in the car to drive home to Maryland. I still can’t tell you the difference between second cousins and first cousins once-removed, but I can tell you that the labels really don’t matter.