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And Then There Were Two

June 5, 2014

I didn’t expect to write a post like this so soon. Two months after losing Romeo, our little Bippy cat left us. This nearly 4-year-old cat was born on the side of our house and was a character all his own. I am devastated he is gone.

Bipp was the sweetest and most loving cat. He would cuddle on my lap while watching TV and sleep on top of my printer when I worked. He would so patiently let Sophie drag him around the house and never once protested. In many ways, he was a lot like Romeo. He also had a big personality and could be found resting in boxes, Sophie’s doll cradle, open Trader Joe’s bags, and in the booster seat in the car. He was also very vocal for a cat. I’m pretty sure he thought he was talking with us most of the time.

But Bipp had a wanderlust side that made him leave the backyard and had a tendency to cross the street right in front of our house. That danger, coupled with ridiculously fast drivers on our residential street, led to poor Bipp’s demise.

Bipp disappeared one day a few weeks ago and obviously didn’t come home. It wasn’t until after Sophie and I left flyers in our neighbors’ mailboxes four days later that two kind neighbors told us what happened to him (they actually saw the act and the driver who didn’t even stop). I am very grateful for our neighbors who cared enough to let us know about Bipp, and also for them making sure his remains were taken care of. It would have been unimaginable for Sophie and me to return home and see him there. As hard as it is to imagine, I am also very glad he didn’t suffer.

I’ve come to learn he had quite a little life outside our house. The neighbor across the street called Bipp a great cat, and he welcomed him into his yard because he solved their years-old rat problem. This man, a practicing Buddhist, told us that Bipp had good karma and “nothing is forever.” Another neighbor mentioned how her elderly parents loved it when he came into their yard and were asking why the cat doesn’t visit anymore. It makes me smile to know that Bipp had become a neighborhood fixture.

Losing Romeo was very sad, but the loss of Bipp really hit me hard. Perhaps it was so close in time to Romeo’s death that it brought back all the sorrow. Even though we still have Casey and Tess, the house feels so lonely without the two boys. I have an empty feeling inside that wasn’t there before. It was heartbreaking seeing Tess (his mama cat) stare out every window all day long, and check his usual spots in the house for him. I know she misses him too.

When Sophie asked why Bipp had to die, I suggested to her that maybe Romeo was lonely and needed a friend (Bipp could often be found snuggling next to Romeo). Of course I have no way of knowing if that’s true. But it makes me feel better thinking that may be the case.

There’s a spot at the end of our upstairs hallway near Sophie’s room and my office where Romeo used to sleep. The once-white wall is now a darker shade (from where Romeo’s body pressed against it), which I will probably never paint. When Romeo died, Bipp started sleeping against the wall in that very spot. And now that he is gone, I often find Tess resting there. I’ve never been one to believe in ghosts or supernatural things. But I do think this is a sacred spot, and I like to believe they are all relaxing there together.

Learning the A, B, C’s of Reading and Writing

May 19, 2014

I’m convinced that one of the hardest tasks humans have to master is learning how to read and write. As an adult – especially one who writes for a living – I forgot how difficult it is to learn the right words and figure out how to form a complete sentence. I don’t even recall how I learned to read and write, only that I acquired these skills in elementary school.

Watching Sophie learn to read and write this year has been one of the most amazing transformations I’ve had the privilege to witness as a parent. And I am completely in awe of the teachers who are tasked with making sure their young subjects actually learn to master these skills.

When Sophie started kindergarten only eight short months ago, she could write her name and recognized the alphabet. But reading was done by me. And her writing consisted of words resulting from, “Mom, can you spell …?”

I didn’t know how to teach a kid to read or write (and quite honestly, I don’t think Sophie would have wanted to learn from me either). So when she went to kindergarten, I watched as her teacher worked magic over the course of a school year. On the advice of her teacher, I soon found myself telling Sophie, “Sound it out” when she asked for help writing a word. She was NOT happy with that response. But soon she was off and writing at school and at home.

The first evidence of Sophie’s learning to write came in October when she showed me her first full writing assignment. She wrote, “I was at Sea World with my mom.” It may not seem like much. But before this, Sophie did not understand how to sound out words.

writing1

In December, the class hosted a Publishing Party, an event where the kids presented their latest writing projects in front of the class for the parents and classmates. Sophie presented a thoughtful little “pattern book” with illustrations about ice cream. It was amazing to see sentences becoming longer and words becoming clearer. And the kids were so brave presenting their books on the document camera and speaking into a microphone in front of an audience!

publishing party collage

March’s Publishing Party featured non-fiction “books,” Sophie wrote about meerkats. For this assignment, kids did research and used an “idea web” to organize their thoughts. Research?! I didn’t learn to organize my thoughts and research this way until middle school! They presented their work in a book with a table of contents and diagrams.

meerkat

meerkat collage

The last publishing party focused on opinion writing. The kids took turns in front of the class reading their opinion books. Again, the kids organized their opinions in a chart and then wrote out their ideas. Sophie’s book was entitled, “My Mommy.” I couldn’t have been more proud watching her read her own work and seeing her writing on the pages. I can’t wait to see what she presents for the final party where the kids will present their “how to” books next month.

opinion1

opinion

It’s been an incredible journey, watching Sophie learn how to turn letters into words; and thoughts into sentences. She no longer asks me to spell out words for her. I am overwhelmed with joy when I see her sitting on the couch reading a book out loud, or sounding out signs as we drive in the car. These are the moments that make me proud, emotional, and of course, excited to see what she’ll do next.

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What I’m Reading: “The Island of Doves” (and giveaway)

April 29, 2014

Congratulations Amber! You won the giveaway!

I have been reading such great books lately! After finishing Gone Girl, I dove into The Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees. These two books couldn’t be more different. And I loved it!

Island of the Doves tells the story of two women in 1835 America who are both similar and different, yet transform each other’s lives. Here’s the “official” summary of the book.

Susannah Fraser lives in one of Buffalo’s finest mansions, but her husband has made it a monstrous prison. When a mysterious woman offers to help her escape, Susannah boards a steamboat for Mackinac Island. But after being a dutiful daughter and obedient wife, it is only as she flees that she realizes how unprepared she is for freedom.

An exceptional woman of early America, Magdelaine Fonteneau has overcome convention to live a bold and adventurous life, achieving great wealth and power as a fur trader. But Magdelaine has also seen great tragedy and lost all that was dear to her, and she is no longer sure her hardened heart is capable of love.

Now, Magdelaine seeks redemption by offering safe harbor to Susannah. But as their friendship grows into something miraculous, it changes each woman in unexpected ways. Each needs to learn to love again, and only together can they realize a future bright with the promise of new life. 

I have to say that even though the story takes place in 1835, it almost reads like it could be modern day. I had not read any of Kelly O’Connor McNees’ other books before, so wasn’t sure what to expect. But I love the historical context of the book and the two women’s stories are fascinating. And considering I read this book after Gone Girl, it definitely kept my interest and was really an enjoyable read.

GIVEAWAY: I have one copy of The Island of Doves to give to one lucky reader. To be entered to win, leave a comment telling me what you’re currently reading. The giveaway closes Friday, May 2 at 5 pm Pacific time. 

TIOD-small

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of  The Island of Doves to review for this blog post.  All opinions are my own and I only endorse books that I am proud to recommend to others.

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Catching Up

April 17, 2014

Yes, I realize I’ve been pretty much MIA for the last month. Life has been a bit hectic lately, which has kept me from writing here. I do miss this place and interacting with all of you. I have ideas for new posts and there are several musings in my head right now, so I hope to stop neglecting this little blog so much.

In the meantime, I thought I’d use this as a catch-up post and fill you in on what’s happening these days. This is not my typical blog post, but hopefully you’ll stick around and see what’s new.

  • It’s been a strange spring so far. As you know, my beloved Romeo left us in early March. Thank you so much to all of you that left thoughtful comments on the blog post or Facebook. I’m doing much better now, but I still feel pangs of sadness now and then. I find myself spending lots of time and attention to Casey. She has been with us since she was a puppy, and she’s been such a comfort to me since Romeo died.
  • It’s hard to believe Sophie has only eight weeks left of kindergarten. Her transformation this year has been incredible. It’s insane that in September, reading was not in her vocabulary and now she’s writing and reading like crazy. It’s amazing, and is the subject for an upcoming post.
  • Sophie also just finished running a marathon. The school hosts a morning Running Club for kids and parents who want to run/jog/walk before class starts. Sophie has been running with Bryan on  regular basis since the fall. Yesterday she completed 26.2 miles – her first marathon! It was incredible to watch her run that last lap to get to the marathon completion. I was crying, and she was so proud of herself. I love that she set a goal and achieved it.
  • I am super excited to be the first San Diego city editor for Red Tricycle. Some of you may already be familiar with Red Tricycle, which is an online resource for parents and families looking for cool things to do, places to go, and recipes to make. I’ve been writing for Red Tricycle for a while, and to make this leap is so exciting.
  • Although I haven’t done any posts related to recipes lately, I’m still cooking and doing my monthly meal plans. I’ve been loving the recipes from The Fresh 20, which I wrote about last year. You should definitely check it out if you’re looking for easy meal planning options.
  • As many of you know, I often review books on this blog and my book pile continues to grow. I took a break from the stack when I found a copy of Gone Girl at Goodwill for $5. And once I started reading Gone Girl, I couldn’t put it down. Holy cow, was that a mind trip! I’m glad they changed the ending for the movie since it will make the movie suspenseful in itself. Have any of you read it?

So there you have it (for now). I promise to have more substantive posts soon! In the meantime, here are some photos I snapped recently.

Me and my Sophie.me and sophie

I was walking on the UC San Diego campus and came across this scene. I’d caption it, “Even little riders need a place to park.”cars

Casey is trying to keep me from finishing “Gone Girl.”casey book

Sophie and I go to the park after school twice a week. I glanced over and noticed there weren’t any kids swinging – such an odd thing. I love the simple beauty of this photo.swings

My never-ending stack! Have you read any of these?books

Sophie (and Bryan) on her marathon day!marathon collage

The spring sky was so blue and full of white puffy clouds. I had to capture the moment.sky

Tell me what you’ve been up to lately. Tried any new recipes? Reading any good books?

How to Trap a Leprechaun

March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I don’t typically do much to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (other than the obligatory wearing of green). But for Sophie’s homework project this month, she had to create a leprechaun trap for school. After getting some Pinterest inspiration, Sophie decided to fill a jar with “gold” and attach a ladder so the leprechaun could climb up and then get trapped in the jar.

Here’s the final leprechaun trap.

leprechaun trapAside from the Rolo candies, we had everything at home so it wasn’t too daunting of a craft. We had the shamrock fabric, Mason jar, pipe cleaners, and scrapbook paper in the garage. And a friend helped Sophie build the tiny wooden ladder out of twigs for a fairy house.

These projects are supposed to be family efforts, with the student doing most of the work. And with the exception of the hot glue gun, this really was Sophie’s project — right down to the “frey” gold sign. (I purposefully did not spell it for her because I felt strongly it should be HER effort.)

Sophie is so excited to go to school today and see if her trap caught a leprechaun. I can’t wait to pick her up and hear what happened.

Of course, I think I may have already found our backyard leprechaun!

bipp leprechaun

Whether you celebrate St. Patrick’s day or not, I wish you  a very lucky day!

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