It All Depends On Your Definition of "Significant"

Being a Certified Weather Geek -- and a girl who had dreams of being a meteorologist until a friend told me a major component of forecasting is math -- I'm delighted to report that Minnesota is under a Winter Storm Watch for this weekend. We're expected to get at least six inches of snow on Saturday, to be followed by strong winds and plummeting temperatures. The National Weather Service is throwing around phrases like "powerful low pressure system" and "significant wintry weather" and "six to 10 inches by Sunday."

Be still my beating heart.

For the record, I don't love winter. Quite the opposite. Winter in these parts tends to be cruel and stinging and indifferent to one's pain. "Fool! You dare to bare your head in December? Let me remind you what wind chill means." It's difficult to love such a tyrant.

It's just that I love
storms. Thunderstorms, snowstorms, hailstorms, brainstorms -- they all give me a buzz that probably isn't healthy.

I'm the weirdo who stands outside during a tornado warning and scans the horizon for funnel clouds. I annoy my husband beyond words by calling him every five minutes during a severe storm to report the latest on the situation. ("OK, now they are saying the center of the cell -- and it's red on the radar, almost up to a magenta, and you know that's bad -- is going to pass just north of us within 20 minutes.") I know the difference between sleet (ice pellets) and freezing rain (glaze ice). I was the go-to girl at the TV station whenever weather made the national news. ("A tornado in Kansas? With home video?!? Sweet! I'll write it for all the newscasts.")

So it goes without saying that this weekend's potential storm -- the first of the season -- has me all a-twitter. I'm sure I'll spend a good chunk of time today tracking the system, reading the latest forecasts and generally acting like a teenager who is expecting Miley Cyrus to come to dinner Saturday night.

And then there's this: A few minutes ago, I logged in to my favorite weather site to get the latest. There was a blinking red box on my home page. "One of your other locations also has alert information."

I click. Turns out, it's San Diego, which is expecting -- wait for it -- rain this weekend.

"Special Weather Statement: Chance of showers tonight through Saturday and gusty west winds.... The best chance for significant rainfall amounts will be Friday evening into early Saturday morning. Rainfall amounts will range from a few hundredths to near one-half inch in the coastal areas and from one-quarter inch to nearly one inch in the mountains."

And me without my ark. I hope my brother and sister-in-law will survive the terror that is ... The Drizzle!

Reminds me of one of my favorite e-mails from a few years back. The subject line said: Severe So Cal Storm Damage. The picture attached showed this:

Of course, having lived in California for almost 10 years, this shouldn't be a startling phenomenon to me. My rear end still bears the marks from the day it was handed to me on a silver platter because I didn't lead the 5PM newscast with The Rain.

Me: "That wasn't rain. That was mist! I didn't even need to turn on my wipers when I ran out for lunch. Why would I lead the news with it?"
News Director: "You've got to quit thinking like a Midwesterner! That was rain! That was dangerous! That was huge! And next time, you lead with it!"

So if you're wanting an update this weekend on the significant weather, be it six inches of snow and ice followed by below-zero wind chills or something resembling spit on your windshield, you know where to turn. I'm here for you.

More at 11.

"I'll love you forever," said the psycho mother

(Full disclosure: I wrote this post about year ago and published it on a private blog I share with some close friends. But the memories were stirred up today when I read The Queen B's list of seven random things about her.

Side story, but did you know she's practically related to George Clooney because of a pig? No, I will not shut up. Go read for yourself.

So anyway. I resurrected the post because it's new to my readers here, and the feelings expressed within come from deep in my heart. Truly. I love children's books almost -- if not more -- than I love Noggin. But this book could keep a counselor in business for years.)

Just a random rant today about the "classic" children's book "I'll Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch. I won't recap the whole book here, since most people seem to remember it from their childhoods.

I don't. But maybe I just blocked it out of my mind. Because, seriously: THE BOOK IS PSYCHO!

Natalie received it as a gift a few years back, and she's just gotten around to requesting it in the last few months. The story follows the relationship between a mother and a son as he grows up, and the common refrain is, "I love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

OK. So it's sweet when the boy is a baby. And a toddler. And it's endearing when he's a boy and a teenager. But by the time he's a man and has his own place across town, the mother is so obsessed that she's driving over to his house in the middle of the night, climbing in his window, cradling as he sleeps and singing this song to him?!? That's not endearing. That's SICK!

Making things worse: the illustration where the mother is driving her car over to her grown son's house in the middle of the night with the ladder on top of her car. (And if you aren't familiar with this book: I am not making this up!) Maybe even creepier is the fact that she's tied a red flag to the back of the ladder that extends off the car. You mean, she's planned this trip?!? Let go, woman! Get a life!

Thankfully, the book leaves out the part where the son gets married and Mom tries to cradle him while he and his new wife are trying to be ... intimate.

OK. Thanks. I feel better now.

The question now becomes: How can I 'accidentally" lose this book before the kids request it again? Because I can't read it before bed anymore. It gives me nightmares.

So Random It Will Make Your Eyes Water

Angie of Flibbertigibberish tagged me the week before Thanksgiving with the Seven Random Things meme. It's a fun meme -- one of my favorites -- so I am more than happy to play along. Problem is, it's just so terribly difficult to find seven random things about myself.

<crickets chirp, crickets chirp>

Alrighty. I didn't expect you to believe me anyway.

So without further ado, here are a few of my peculiarities so you can mock me mercilessly get to know The Real Me. I'm just warning: It ain't pretty.

1. If the phone company assigns me a phone number with too many odd numbers, I will force them to give me a new one. Because even numbers are happy, and odd numbers give me the heebie-jeebies. Never again will I submit to a number like 505-9995. Never again.

2. I went to a Richard Marx concert in the early 1990s. Wilson Phillips opened for him. I don’t know whether to cry or to laugh at that memory.

3. I love the smell of new tennis shoes. There’s something about that rubber sole that makes my pulse pound. It’s like a drug for me.

4. I secretly adore children’s television programming. It’s fun, educational and innocent. I’m afraid that, when my children are all in school, a delivery man will find me watching “Noggin” by myself. (This is especially ironic considering how much grief I used to give my Mom when I discovered she occasionally watched “Sesame Street” even after she had no little ones at home anymore.)

5. We moved four times during our tenure in San Diego. But we always lived within a mile or so of Naval Air Station Miramar (now Marine Air Station Miramar), the home of Top Gun. (At least, it was the home of Top Gun when the movie was filmed. Now the Top Gun school is in Nevada and why am I telling you all this useless information anyway? Sorry. I think I slipped into journalist mode there for a minute.)

My point is, no matter where we lived, our home was constantly subjected to low-flying, loud, military jets. And nothing could have made me happier. It was just so wicked and awesome and countless other '80s words. I especially loved it when the F-16s were low enough to make the air crackle as they buzzed our house. As our older neighbors often said, “Yes sir, it’s loud. But that’s the sound of freedom!” I still miss the daily roar of those planes.

6. I have a birthmark in the shape of a funky “K” on my leg. The summer I was a camp counselor, I told all my campers that the birthmark convinced my parents to name me Kelly. Yes, I know. I’m evil.

7. Pie is my favorite dessert. I used to be a dyed-in-the-wool chocoholic, but these days, I’m all about fruit. Apple? Divine. Pumpkin? Vegetables for dessert. Blueberry? Get the ice cream. I’m especially a sucker for authentic Key lime pie (which is not the same thing as "lime" pie that is green; that pie is an aberration and just plain wrong). Real Key lime pie is yellow and will make your jaw ache from the perfect foil of sweet and tart. If it's on the menu at a good restaurant, I will not be able to resist ordering a huge slice, even if I need to take it to go.

I'm now supposed to tag seven other bloggers to keep the link love going. So I'm tagging one of my new favorite bloggers The Queen B, one of my perennial favorite bloggers The Preacher's Wife, a few real-life friends (Calandra, Mindy and Becky), a blogger who is thoughtful, funny and raising three of the cutest triplets on the planet at Lots of Scotts, and a blogger who probably gets so much traffic she won't be able to play but I'm going to try anyway at It Coulda' Been Worse.

And in case one of my tagees has done this before and can't come up with seven new random things about themselves (to which I would reply: HA!), may I suggest that you narrow the scope to "Seven Random Things: Christmas Edition" or "Seven Random Things: This Really Annoys Me" or "Seven Random Things: The Snob Factor." (Which is a really good post by another great blogger, Veronica at Toddled Dredge. Maybe I'll tag her too. What the heck? It's Monday, I'm drinking my coffee and I'm feeling the love.)

I'd also tag my husband, Mr. Love Well, who recently started his own blog so he can share what he's learning through his study of John 15. But I think that would open a can of worms that is better left shut. And buried. Underground. Where it can't hurt anyone. Like nuclear waste.

Oh. And if you'd like to make a pregnant girl feel better about herself, now that her weirdness has been posted on the Internet for all to see? (And for the second time, I might add.) Leave me a comment and tell me something random about you. Spread the joy. 'Tis the season.

<Group hug>

Go in peace.

Thanksgiving Lessons 2007

I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my house for more than ten years now.

It's not because I'm Martha Stewart. Nor is it because I'm a cooking prodigy. (Someday, I'll blog about the very first meal I cooked for my brand new husband. Short version: Calling it a meal is generous. Extremely generous.)

No, it's simply because I like to eat. And on holidays, I want to eat food that's familiar, food that's from my family of origin.

Don't mess with my culinary traditions. They are all I've got.

It all started in 1996. Mr. Love Well and I were living in San Diego, 2,000 miles away from our families. We didn't have money to go home for both Christmas and Thanksgiving. Neither did the majority of our friends. So I volunteered to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the rest of "the orphans" in our young marrieds Sunday school class. And -- voila. A tradition was born.

Over the course of the ten years, I've learned a lot -- about cooking, about myself, about my husband. I've learned trying to tuck the wings under a raw, wet turkey is a lot like trying to bathe a tantrum-throwing infant. I've learned I should rearrange my oven racks before I preheat to 425. I've learned how to take the neck out of the turkey cavity without gagging. (Actually, I'm still working on that last one.)

But this year I've learned as much as the previous ten years combined. It's been a doozy.

So without further delay, here are a few of the lessons from Thanksgiving Day 2007:

1. If you're going to brine a turkey, it helps to have a brining location chosen and tested before you submerge an 18-pound bird in a three-gallon salt-and-sugar solution. Otherwise, you might find out too late that the crisper drawer where you planned to store the brining turkey isn't water-tight. And you might find this out by discovering a small creek of brining solution running from your second fridge down the floor of your garage.

2. Brining works wonders on dry, bland turkey meat. It's the difference between a Red Delicious and a Honeycrisp. Only I don't usually put gravy on my apples.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. It is Thanksgiving, people.

3. One of these:

Can occupy one of these:

For at least 20 minutes.

Of course, you'll also need to deal with the pad of
scratch paper you keep next to the phone becoming this:

4. If you have one of these:

Wait. What happened to my feet?

Oh! If I lean way over ... there they are!

Anyway. If you have one of these:

You'll be spending a lot of time in one of these:

A LOT. I'm considering the installation of a flat-screen and wall-to-wall carpeting.

Or a catheter.

(Side story, but during one 12-hour period this week, I finished off the the roll of toilet paper in every single bathroom in the townhouse. What do you think that says about me?)

5. Do not try to taste-test these mashed potatoes -- even for seasoning purposes. Because if you do, you may find your eyes rolling to the back of your head and unintelligible sounds coming from deep in your soul. Oh. My. Word.

Just put them in a serving dish and set them on your table. In the name of hospitality, allow your guests to help themselves first.

Then, pile your plate high and tell yourself it's a low-calorie dish. The Pioneer Woman says so.

6. A Thanksgiving morning like this:

Makes you really thankful for the warm smiles inside, like these:

And, of course, for this:

And this, sitting on your kitchen counter:

Because they are just symbols of the sweetness coming later in the day, when family gathers around a table to share over-flowing plates and over-flowing hearts.

Surely God's blessings upon me are like homemade pie at the end of a Thanksgiving meal -- an over-abundance of richness, a bounty of goodness. I'm humbled by His grace.

I pray my day-to-day living always spills over into thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6). I've been given so much.

Inside My Brain, For Just One Day

Sunday, November 18 - 9:00 AM
Oh, Natalie is singing with her first-grade Sunday school class in church today! I need to grab the camera.

Sunday, November 18 - 10:30 AM
Dang it! I left the camera on the desk.

Sunday, November 18 - 10:45 AM
There she is! There's our big six-year-old, walking in with all the other kids. Only ... why is she limping?!? Oh! One of her shoes has fallen off! Whoops! Good thing she can put it back on while she hops to the front of the sanctuary.

Sunday, November 18 - 10:46 AM
OK, now I know why I've heard Natalie singing "'Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus" the last few weeks. She learned it at Sunday school. Look at all those kids singing that old, faithful hymn. ... Hi sweetie! Yes, I see you waving and smiling! I'm waving back!

Sunday, November 18 - 12:15 PM
Listen: She's singing to herself in the backseat of the van on the way home from church. What a precious little voice! Of course, the lyrics are getting butchered. ('Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to tay him at his word, Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus. Oh for gray to trust Him or.) But still. That voice! Slightly off-key and innocent and sweet. If we could just get that on CD to give to the grandparents for Christmas. They would be bawling in ten seconds flat.

Sunday, November 18 - 1:00 PM
Isn't that funny? She's even singing absent-mindedly to herself while we eat lunch. That hymn must really go deep. ... Although it is a tad strange that she sings "oh for gray to trust Him or." Do you think I should correct her? ... Nah. She's just a kid. Enjoy the simplicity, Kelly.

Sunday, November 18 - 2:30 PM
Seriously? Still? The same song? And no other verses or the rest of the chorus or anything? Just "Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for gray to trust Him or. Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for gray to trust Him or."?!? ... Lord, would it squelch her spirit if I reminded her of the "how I've proved Him o'er and o'er" line? ... Yes? Well. Maybe you could get bring it to her trusting little mind?

Sunday, November 18 - 3:18 PM
The song. The mind-numbing song. It will never end. Please, Lord, make it stop! Just make it stop?

Sunday, November 18 - 3:36 PM

Sunday, November 18 - 3:45 PM
Honey, how about if we sing a different song? Pick a Wiggles song. ANY Wiggles song.

Sunday, November 18 - 3:47 PM
Ahhhh! Never before have I appreciated the inherent beauty of "Toot, Toot, Chugga, Chugga, Big Red Car." Thank you, Lord, for Jeff and Murray and Anthony and Greg!

Thanksgiving, A Week Early

I woke up at 5:00 AM today. It wasn’t my intention, but pregnant women tend to awaken at all hours of the night. Either we’re suffocating due to the fact that we’ve somehow managed to lie on our backs, which “compresses both the inferior vena cava and the lower aorta.” (And here I didn’t even know I had a vena cava, much less one that was inferior. Should I send it to counseling, and if so, do you think it’s covered by my maternity insurance?). Or it’s time to visit – once again – the WC. (Note: If you can make your way to the bathroom, use the facilities and get back in bed without ever opening your eyes, you probably make the trip too much. As my husband said last week as I gulped down yet another bottle of water, “Wouldn’t it be easier just to pour it in the toilet and get a full night’s sleep?”)

So. I woke up. But I couldn’t get back to sleep. Which is strange for me. Sleeping is one of my better skills.

Instead, I lay in bed, thinking about my life. About the kids sleeping peacefully in their beds down the hall from me. About the man sleeping two inches from my face. About the baby sleeping (yes, sleeping – not rolling or kicking or mambo-ing) in my swollen belly. And I was suddenly overcome with such a deep feeling of gratitude that I was almost giddy.

“Thank you, God, for these blessings! Thank you that we have shelter over our heads. Thank you that we are healthy. Thank you that you have restored my relationship with my husband. Thank you that we’re building a family. Thank you for pursuing us and loving us and giving us all good things.”

And with that glow in my heart, I slowly – ever so slowly – went back to sleep. It only took me about 50 minutes.

Five minutes later, I heard the shuffle of pajamad feet coming toward our room. I cracked open an eyelid. 6:00 AM. Our four-year-old quickly appeared next to our bed and climbed in. (Translation: Sleep-time is so over.) My six-year-old daughter woke up about an hour later and immediately started whining. The four-year-old responded by hitting and spitting. The words “stupid” and “hate” may have been slung. Cries of indignation and hurt filled the air. And during our morning prayer time – a new things for us, so don’t get too impressed – my husband had the audacity to open his prayer by saying, “Lord, thank you that I get to go to work now.”

It wasn’t even 7:30 AM. Those warm and gooey feelings that had flooded me earlier melted away with the night. The day had begun.

During breakfast, the following events occurred.

1. My daughter refused to study her spelling words, even though she can’t spell many of them, because she’s “tired and it’s too hard.”
2. I mismeasured the amount of water needed for my hot Kashi, creating a bowl of watery gruel that was so hideous, I had to toss it and start over.
3. My son sat naked and crying in his bedroom for a full ten minutes while I ate my (second bowl of) Kashi because he didn’t want to put his clothes on by himself nor did he want to humble himself to ask for my help.
4. During an attempt to put something away in the pantry, I knocked over the brand-new-yet-open canister of cornmeal, which poured out like a yellow waterfall onto every shelf and every box and every floor item below.
5. My children accused me of trying to freeze them to death. (True, it was 63 degrees on the main level when we came down this morning. Since we’re in a middle townhouse unit, we haven’t needed to turn the heat on yet. But for crying out loud, people, this is Minnesota, and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better! Toughen up!)

Yes. It’s a wonderful world. Do you hear the music? Do you feel the love?

By the time I delivered Natalie to school and got into the car to return home, I was glum indeed.

But then, a song came on our local Christian radio station. And it wasn’t “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me.” (Anyone else grow up watching “Hee-Haw?” Or is it only those of us who spent their early years in Kentucky?) It was Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Live Out Loud.”

It’s always been a favorite of mine. And this morning, it did something miraculous. It changed my attitude and reminded me that I’ve been given something far better than anything I could imagine – a new life, a forever heart, a restored relationship with the very God who created the universe.

"Why are you so downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God."
- Psalm 43:5

So for the rest of today, I’m going to live out loud. Even if my children launch into a whine worth of Napa. Even if the white laundry turns pink. Even if the chocolate-glazed pumpkin cookies I’m itching to bake this afternoon end up tasting like chocolate-glazed feather pillow.

Because I was made to live out loud. And nothing can steal that kind of joy.

That's Totally Ragical, Dude

A few mornings ago, I grabbed a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread from a box lid on top of the fridge.

My four-year-old son was in awe.

Pumpkin bread.

From the top of the fridge.


“Wow, Mom!" he said. "That was ragical!”

Which I like to think is a combination of “rad” and “magical,” in a nod to our California heritage.

You can take the family out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the family.

Mostly because smog works itself into the very DNA of your cells.


Heffalump @ Love Well

So I'm 30 weeks pregnant now. And really, all things considered, I'm doing great.

It's just that -- I think I've turned into an elephant.

I don't walk. I lumber.

I don't move fast. I plod.

I don't stop quickly. It's not easy to halt this girth.

(Insert elephant trumpet sound here.)

When I get out of bed in the morning -- or, let's be honest, in the middle of the night to heed the siren call of the wild -- I puff and pant. My ligaments stretch and strain. My back muscles scream at me I struggle to right myself. My heart rate shoots up instantly. (Can walking to the bathroom constitute a strenuous workout?) I'm so front heavy, I'm developing a permanent swayback.


I also have to contend with a female child in my abdomen who is training for "Dancing with the Stars." (I think she has a particular liking for the mambo.) She jabs and rolls, kicks and turns. She is in constant movement, making my stomach heave and roll like an ocean storm.

And then there are the special effects pregnancy performs on my face. About three weeks ago, I looked like a "before" picture from one of those old Clearsil commercials. Remember? The one where the announcer draws a constellation on the face of the unsuspecting teen, connecting the red acne dots with a black marker? "The Big Dipper!" "The North Star!"

Yeah. That was me. Only I think I was sporting a small galaxy on my visage. It was ... beyond words. I could only grimace and bear it and remind myself that this, too, shall pass. (And thank you, Lord, for Proactiv!)

I comforted myself with the thought that this only confirms the old wives' tale that says you're having a girl if you're uglier pregnant than you are normally. Because I certainly don't glow much when I'm with child.

Unless you count the shine from the oil, and I really think that's only attractive to Exxon executives.

But she's worth it right?

Pregnancy is such a strange, mysterious, amazing thing. I keep reminding myself, "It's not everyday that you get to be a part of a miracle, girl. Suck it up. Your energy and smaller self will return. Someday, you'll be able to walk across the room again without having to stop and catch your breath. Someday, you won't have to hike up your pants every time you get out of a chair. Someday, you'll get to meet this little girl and all the inconveniences and annoyances of pregnancy will fade like a Minnesota fall."

Oh. And since God might have seen that I needed a physical reminder? My sister-in-law had her baby on Friday. Here's my brother, my sister-in-law and their new son.

Aren't they precious?


It's worth it. It's all worth it.

P.S. But could someone please invent some slip-on shoes that are suitable for winter in a northern climate? Because I almost passed out this morning when I had to tie my boot laces. Who can bend over that long, people? I have a baby where my lungs used to be.

That's all I'm saying.

Memories of a Pedicure

If you need a bit of Southern-style hilarity in your life today, go directly to this post at The Preacher's Wife and then read part two here.

No. Really.

Go now.

OK. Are you back? Are you done? Can I share my story now?

Being a mom to two young children, I haven't bothered to get a manicure since 2003 when my brother got married (to Julie who is one of my favorite people and who is now two days past her due date for her first baby, bless her heart; let's all give her a big shout out).

(Wait. I need to share a picture from their gorgeous wedding on the beach in San Diego. Will you indulge me?)

Aren't they adorable?!? I love that photo.

OK. Back to the story.

I realized then, in 2003, that, a. my hands are either continually in motion, in water or in trouble, and b. they don't make a nail polish strong enough for my life. Despite the beautiful job by the technician, my manicure chipped and smudged before I had even gotten to the car. (Something about my 20-month-old daughter wanting to admire Mommy's pretty hands.)

However. I believe that same visit also introduced me to the joy that is a pedicure. Apparently, my feet aren't subject to the same amount of abuse as my hands. So I can get an adorable pedicure, complete with hibiscus flowers that have a jewel in the middle that is fun and sassy, and it will look good for weeks if not months.

Fast-forward a few years. My daughter grew up watching me return from trips to California with cute and sparkling toes. (Yes, that's right. I had to travel to California to get a fun and sassy pedicure. Because there were no Asian salons in the small town where we lived at the time, and the white girls at the salons in town had never heard of hibiscus flowers and jewels. Heck, they weren't even sure they had heard of Asians.)

(I kid. But barely. My husband was the racial diversity were we used to live. But that's a post for another day.)

So. The daughter. She loved the toes. The sparkles. The jewels. The flowers. She admired them. It only seemed right that, on our next family trip to San Diego, I would take her to a real Asian salon to get Her Very First Pedicure.

I warned her in advance that very little English would be spoken at the salon -- but I assured her she would leave with the cutest toes ever.

Of course, I didn't think to warn her that her sweet tech was most likely going to be speaking Vietnamese. Which is why she did what any child who has been raised on Nick Jr. would do: She started speaking "Dora"-inspired Spanish to her tech whenever conversation grew quiet.

"Hola?" "Lo hicimos?" "Azul?" "Cuidado?

The slightly confused girl painting my daughter's toes would look at me quizzically. Being too far away to correct my daughter without embarrassing everyone, I could only smile and nod.

And thus, we ended our visit. My daughter was thrilled with her toes, as was I.

And after reading The Preacher's Wife post, I'm just happy Dora doesn't have an episode where she visits a chicken farm. It could have been much worse.

Dang It If Robert Frost Isn't Right After All


It's a brisk morning in the Twin Cities, this sixth of November. It's as if winter has swooped in and commandeered autumn's territory, like some sort of climatological bully. Winter never asks; it just takes.

And so it begins. We ate dinner in the dark last night. Today began with temperatures in the low 30s and measurable wind chill. Gray clouds hide the sun, so all the glorious fall colors that were so gorgeous last week, now look muted and old. That bright golden tree near the school playground has grown pitiful and sad in less than 36 hours. Now, she's just a half-denuded tree with a smattering of dirty yellow leaves. The wind will do that this time of year. It strips everything of color and warmth. On the way home from school, I noticed the horizon; it was all bare limbs, dark against the gray sky.

Well. Yes. This is November in Minnesota. Best get used to it. Cheerio and all that. I suppose I'll just come home and brew another pot of coffee, turn on the fireplace (no more blazing blazes and woodsmoke for us, unfortunately; the townhouse fireplace is gas operated) and hunker down.

At least there's Thanksgiving to look forward to. Probably because of it's hype-lessness, it's one of my favorite holidays.

Plus, food is involved, and I love everything about food: the menu planning, the grocery shopping, the cooking and eating. I love it so much, I'm greedy about fixing Thanksgiving dinner for my family -- and whatever extended family happens to be in the area -- all by myself. Don't offer to bring something to my Thanksgiving dinner. Just don't. It irks me and makes my forehead wrinkle. Back away from the kitchen, people! Why would you try to steal my joy?

Something else that occurred to me about Thanksgiving this morning: It lacks the decorations that Christmas and Halloween hoist upon us. Not that I'm complaining; it's a Good Thing. But where are the turkey lights and the inflatable pilgrim hats for the lawn and the 20 days of Thanksgiving music? Doesn't it seem weird -- and yet entirely wonderful -- that Thanksgiving is the ugly red-headed stepchild of winter holidays?

Mommy Math, Halloween Edition

Someone explain this to me.

I bought two bags of candy at Target three weeks before Halloween. One bag was full of bite-sized chocolate favorites like Snickers, Milky Way and Twix. The other contained miniature boxes of movie candies like Dots, Milk Duds and Charleston Chews.

The bags were opened forthwith. I munched my way through "Good Eats" each night ate a few pieces. The kids were allotted a few after various meals, a reward for when they ate their broccoli or apples or Corn Pops.

Halloween came. We trick-or-treated in our neighborhood only, since it was a chilly night. And since the development we live in is only half completed, we made about 12 stops total.

How is it, then, that the amount of candy we have in our kitchen has more than doubled in a week? We're like the widow's jar of oil. Or some kind of horror movie. It just keeps coming.

And guess where all those pounds of chocolate are going to end up eventually?

Here's a hint: I gained 10 pounds during the four weeks between my September and October doctor's appointments. My November appointment is tomorrow.

You do the math.

Coming soon: Mommy Math, the Fall-Back-to-Standard-Time Edition, when that one "extra" hour of sleep mystically transforms into four hours of toddler torture, when your child insists it's time to get up even though the clock reads 5:30 AM.