and serendipity came to pass

When you’ve been talking about something for many moons, planning it, anticipating it, preparing for it and generally almost-doing it, why is it that when a concrete symbol comes along, you invariably stop dead in your tracks and say to yourself something like “Damn! This is for-real HAPPENING?!”

Which is how I felt when I walked out the door last week and saw this in my own for-real front yard:


We moved into this house in the summer of 2003, when Megan wasn’t yet a year and Kira was way off on the horizon. Fast-forward through kitchen and bath remodels and vats of paint and thousands of dollars of landscaping and a decade of years, and moving wasn’t in our minds.

In fact, we had met with a contractor and were slated to embark on a major renovation over the summer to properly situate ourselves to hunker down for teenage years to come – but one evening this past May the MPM and I looked at each other and had the dawning thought that perhaps another house might really suit us better. One that didn’t require a major renovation to accommodate us.

Because in truth, this house has a small handful of permanent problems we couldn’t solve with a renovation of any scope. And because while moving is hell, it is only hell for a short, and discrete, time. Renovation is hell for several months. And then a few more weeks. And probably a few more. And then there is punch-list purgatory to wander around in for a while.

The trick was going to be finding the right house. Because we knew we wanted to stay in this ‘hood. Because this is where I have my village, and when you are raising kids, you need you a tribe.

And it had to REALLY suit us. No sorta-suiting, leading to major remodeling projects down the road (see: hell/purgatory, above). And it needed to be aging-in-place friendly, because the MPM has made it known that he has exactly one (1) move left in him.

I looked at everything on the market, which wasn’t much, and then after a week or so I sat down one morning with the neighborhood map and traced my finger along the grid of about 7 streets by 5 streets, visiting them in my mind as I traced. Was it even possible to find a house we might want and could reasonably afford?

Because we had a lot of must-haves: Flat lot, not much maintenance required. Brick. Front porch. Playmates within walking distance. Flow for entertaining. 4 bedrooms plus an office. A kitchen I could remodel to suit myself. A teen hangout space. Space to grow food, and sun for same. Garage, highly desirable. Screen porch, ditto.

It was a little daunting. But as I traced, my fingers came to rest on a crossways street, and I mentally inventoried and thought, Y’know, maybe. And I picked up the phone and dialed a business acquaintance of many years and asked if he happened to know if anyone on his street was perhaps thinking to move. And he paused for the briefest of moments and then said, Why yes, in fact I do.

And went on to say that he and his longtime girlfriend had gone out to look for houses together for the first time… the night before. And then he gave me the particulars on his house, while I strove to remind myself that fate is not part of my world view and this perfect-on-paper house would likely smack me with disappointment face-to-face. And then we agreed the MPM and I would pop over the following weekend. Just to take a look.

And so it came to pass that we recently signed a contract on that very house. 5 bedrooms with a flat yard, front porch, garden space, kitchen for remodel. Office, screen porch, deck, garage? Check, check, checkitty check. Friends nearby AND the most awesome teen hangout basement ever. Really.

So. All to the good, and being swept away on a tide of fate serendipity is pretty fun, though not without its verklempt moments.

Putting my garden to bed this autumn weekend, and recalling the vast span of hours I’ve spent inside those fenceposts. The angle of the light coming in through the sunroom windows in the morning. Imagining leaving this carefully designed kitchen that suits me so utterly and efficiently… for one that I’ll need to live in for a good while as-is. Realizing that the window over the sink in my future doesn’t look out into the back yard, nor does it frame a view like this:


And in the packing-up, perhaps packing up some pieces of childhood too. Toys that we might have kept around for another year or two will likely find their way downline a little sooner. And that playset there… weighing its useful life against the hassle of moving it.

And the enormity of knowing that the next house will be our last. Sensing that its nest-emptying will come all too soon – just about precisely as long as we’ve lived here, which some days seems like it’s only been since maybe a little after breakfast yesterday.

But overall, a quiet calm of knowing it is the right move for us. Providential? Depends on your world view, I suppose. But I’ll gracefully, gratefully accept that sort of serendipity any day.

still here

You know, I am still here. Here in my life. Not so much here at Fraught-The-Blog. I know.

What’s keeping me occupied?

Well, there is the gardening, and the children, and the cooking cleaning washing driving. Some biking and running and general combating of the Earth’s gravitational effect on the physical plant that is me. And I have a job! Did I tell you that? No, not the cycle-instructing job – though I still have that one – but a job that gets me out in the world and interacting with cool people and thinking about interesting things. Fun!

I have never in my whole entire adult life had a job where I went in at a prescribed hour, worked for a certain number of hours, and then went home at a set hour and didn’t think about it again until the next prescribed hour. A leave-it-at-the-office job. Nor do I have that job now. But I have one that lets me work mostly when I want to, and that’s pretty freaking awesome. I get paid reasonably and I do things that I enjoy and I feel appreciated and I’m learning new things. Not much more to ask from a mid-life part-time job, methinks.

The girls? Oh, them. Those growin’ thangs. They are SOMETHING. Megs starts middle school next year and while we still have a gracious plenty of Moments, I’ve realized that we are going to be friends. She trusts me. I can tell her when I’ve screwed up, and I can hear her apologize when she does, and there is a foundation of respect, be it at times deeply subterranean. Every once in a while she’s more mature than I feel. I feel quite blessed by our relationship, and though I am occasionally nervous about  what the next years hold in the way of conflict for us, most days I think we’re going to weather it just fine.

Kira was, at the close of her 2nd-grade year, invited to the same program that her sister attended in grades 3-5. Pupils Learning Appropriately TOgether is the acronym. Gahh. Her scores were such that her daddy and I have looked at her with different eyes. Because Megan is, after all, the gifted one, the wicked-bright one; Kira is the sweet one, the personable one.

Those labels, they are dangerous things. Why do we do that to our kids? Megan shows herself incredibly sweet, and Kira is going to whip some math ass, and I for sure am going to try to remember not to box them up and limn their life-roles for them.

Probably some peeps will read this and think I am a little too braggy on my kids today. My blog, my braggy. Yup. They are beautiful and funny, too.

Let’s see, what else? Well, I have a quinoa recipe to share. Is it just me, or has quinoa rocketed into the chi-chi sphere of late? I’ve seen it on more menus in the past six months than I did in the six years before. I know a secret about quinoa, though, and it’s not just how it’s pronounced. (No, that would not be “Kwih-no-ah.”) It’s about how to keep it from being gummy and sticky!

Stay tuned. I might even post said recipe over the summer, since it is a summer-style dish.

I have made some friends lately who are just about exactly half my age. That is a funny thing. And a learnin’ one. Some of them, they are so freakin’ smart – it is an awesome thing to see.

One thing I have decided is that the best indicator of intellect is the questions people ask.

Another thing I have decided is that in my advancing years I have winnowed my rules for friends to two: 1. Be kind. 2. rsvp.   In that same vein, I like to think I am softer, and more forgiving, and have left some of my peskier expectations along the road.

And I am sometimes astonished at the serendipity of life. In a few weeks or months I may get to tell you a story about that, if things go down the way they are looking like they might.

My brother and his wife have adopted/rescued a new Keeshond, and we get to meet this little furry niece soon. I am happy for them, and happy that we get to stay with them for our Yellow Springs time next month. It is a tradition we love, and I often think the best memories are built on the bedrock of tradition – maybe to do with the memory being created one layer at a time, and over the years it takes on depth and luster. Like a pearl!

Or something like that. Whatevs, we love us a tradition, and ones that involve family are the best.

And with that, it’s bedtime here at Casa Fraught, and the girls are coming in from outside with volume and spirits both high, and it is time to be a-settling them down. I’m already in my jammies, so I’m going to go nuzzle some sweet necks and breathe in some outdoor skin smell and then get myself into bed too. And count my blessings, because I have a bunch. Some of you are among them, and thank you for that.

Hugs, A



soup. feel the love.

Y’all, I was afraid I might have forgotten my password to get in here to post. Or that WordPress might have changed everything around so much I couldn’t figure out where to go. But, happily, though they have changed up some stuff for sure, I think I can still figure it out.

We had a “snow” cancellation of school for the umpty-zillionteenth time today. I am fine to cancel school when there are actual dangerous road conditions, but there has been rather less of that and rather more concern about the possibility of dangerous conditions developing at some point. Blah. I’ve written about my feelings on the topic before. If you’ve forgotten, or weren’t around, or simply wish to revisit my incisive and witty prose, that would be a click here. Or maybe here.

Anyhoo. After I got done driving Megs to and from her piano lesson on roads just the merest bit damp, she settled in with a friend and I settled in to dinner prep. Sometimes lately I get a wee smidge distracted by the computer —  emails to answer or research to be done or a particularly engaging TedX, say — and it might be 7 or so when I hear the MPM about to wander downstairs from his office, causing me to leap back into action at the cutting board. But tonight I had everything well in hand by 6:15.

I’ve made this dish now three or four times, and this time I didn’t deviate really at all from the notes of the previous time, so it occurred to me that it’s reached the pinnacle of Post-Worthy.

The “post” part being rather more astonishing than the “pinnacle” part, in case you hadn’t noticed my absence lo this last half-year. Er-hemm.

I’m at a bit of a loss for what to call this recipe, since it’s one I mostly made up all on my own. Maybe I should just call it Post-Worthy Soup. And for anyone who remembers my ongoing flirtation with a paleo diet, yep, it’s paleo-friendly.  And almost righteously healthy, really.

Post-Worthy Soup, or A Righteously Delish Thai Fish Stew

What you need:

  • olive oil
  • butter or ghee
  • 1 bulb fennel, chopped bite-size
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6oz shell-on shrimp
  • 3c chicken broth
  • 1c or so diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 1/2 can coconut milk, the real stuff and not the “light”
  • 2 links andouille or other spicy sausage, sliced in 1/4″ rounds
  • 3c cauliflower florets
  • 1# white fish – tilapia or catfish perhaps
  • 3c napa cabbage, chopped
  • 1T red chili paste (I use Thai Kitchen)
  • 1t thyme
  • bay leaf
  • splash lime juice
  • generous half-teaspoon of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning (no kitchen should be without)

What you should do with it:

Preheat to 375, preparatory to roasting on parchment paper the fennel, tossed with 1 tsp olive oil.

While the roasting is going on, about 12min, peel the shrimp and toss the peels – just the peels, not the shrimps themselves – in with 2 C water. Bring to a simmer.

And while the simmering and roasting are doing what they need to, saute in a good pot or dutch oven:
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
diced onion
sausage rounds

When the onion is translucent and the sausage slightly browned,  add your  chicken broth. Place a strainer over the dutch oven to catch the shells and pour the shrimp stock right in. Then add the tomatoes and the cauliflower florets.

Simmer 8min or so and add the fish and the napa cabbage.  When the cabbage is still crisp but heading toward tender, add the shrimp and simmer 3 more minutes. Promptly ladle up and enjoy. I can assure you we did.

such a bargain!

So I was at Kroger today and noticed a section of crackers about 4 linear feet long, different flavors of the same variety, each flavor with its own temporary shelf tag reflecting the excitement! and eye appeal! of Yellow Pricing! 2/7.00. For an item ordinarily priced at … 3.59.

Multiply by a thousand or so items in 3600 Krogers across our great land, and suddenly you have a  truckful of temporary yellow shelf tags reflecting such alluring “savings” EACH WEEK. A landfill-bound truckful. I hereby deem this Wanton and Wasteful. Not to mention Annoying and Ludicrous. Perhaps even verging on Downright Stupid, given that employees are being paid to affix, and then un-affix, each of those thousands of tags.

Note: “Look for the yellow tags!”


Blog-worthy? Maybe not. But I’ve got to get back on track somehow, right?

Hugs from me to you. I hope your summer is packed full of goodness thus far.

in which i am irreverent, and condone a killing to boot

It is late spring, and the season of fully sanctioned worship in our public schools. Separation of church and state, perhaps, but now let us bow down for the great portion of the school day and pay obeisance at the feet of the god of standardized testing.

At Kira’s school, during this holy time of year trite pleasures of art and music are put aside, that proper devotion to all things memorized may more fully be made. And for three blessed weeks the gym is redeemed from its lowly purpose of physical activity and sanctified as a holy temple of test-taking. So while only the 3rd, 4th, and 5th-graders are eligible to receive the bubble-test communion at this K-5 school, the lives of all students are irredeemably touched by the sacramental offering.

I’ve written before, at some length, about my feelings as a non-believer, and I won’t rehash here today. But this year I’ve decided to make a little log of Megan’s instructional day. (By all means put little air quotes around the word “instructional” as you read that sentence aloud to your spouse,  your dog, or your Boston fern).

I do think that the teachers in the gifted program that she attends try pretty hard to keep giving their classes new material as May rolls on. But they’re under the gun, and the amount of review that the kids belly up to not just in May, but all quarter long, would choke a hippo. The teachers are no happier about it than the students, and my heart goes out to them.

Megan’s recounting of yesterday’s hours between 7:45 and 2:15 did not paint a picture of a day brimming over with innovative instructional time. Although she did get to play some dodgeball and was quite pleased about that. (Aside: I don’t personally recall loving dodgeball. Did you? Of course, I’m sure I wasn’t any good at it, and she is.)

On the bright side, her class IS engaged in an original and rather inspired project that she’s quite enthusiastic about. It’s a group endeavor, brainchild of one of her classmates, that’s supposed to culminate in a 100-page book titled “Kill Bobbie J. Cutlip.”

I suppose I should be correctly, politically, horrified, but my understanding is that BJC is the author of the “What I Need to Know To Pass the [fill in history subject] Standards of Learning Test” catechism that the poor stultified students in Megan’s generally overachieving class are drilled on daily commencing in May.

And in truth, there’s no murder or even mayhem at hand. Rather, the exercise is to come up with imaginative and innovative ways to dispose of the book. For instance? Sandwiching it between two large pieces of meat and driving over a bayou bridge in Louisiana in search of a hungry alligator, as one girl in Megan’s class has suggested.


With apologies to the lady herself, I’m all for killing Bobbie J. Cutlip. Bring on the premeditation, all 100 creative pages of it.

today i reframe failure

You could say that I failed to hold up my Post-A-Day promise for the month of April. And you’d be dead right.

Or you could choose to say that I managed to throw down a post 20 days in a month featuring a calendar already full to the brim, and be right happy about that. And you know, despite highly public failure to follow through on something I said I’d do, that’s where I’m standing. Since it’s that or hara-kiri.

I’ll be back in May, I promise. There’s lots to tell, but just not much time today to tell it. Vote your favorite and it might actually get featured in a post!

1. Houseguests.

2. PTA thoughts and fears.

3. Cycle 101, or My Dream Comes True.

4. Kira and her lonely recess days of late.

5. Stuff I’m growing. And stuff I might.

6. That bathroom remodeling project.




suspended, with reason

Dearest readers,

The MPM and I are hosting wonderful friends through Monday. Daily blogging is suspended until their departure, as I’m unwilling to give up any of our too-few-and-far-between hours with them to hold firm to my commitment to you. See how I am?

Just so you know I’m not simply slacking off, but busy with face time and memory-building.

Hugs, and I’ll see you next week. xoxo