A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

the ways in which i make my daughter thoroughly unhappy November 21, 2011

Filed under: kids — courtsbrogno @ 2:01 pm

My daughter, my beautiful, loving, precious only daughter has changed from my best friend, the love of my life (and hers), my do anything and have fun gal, my side-kick for almost all past adventures to a sourly, pout-y, moody, don’t want anything to do with you mom because you make my life miserable tweener.

Oh the tween years (and really in a few months she’ll be an official teenager). I know I went through them. I know I was moody and an emotional wreck. I know surges of hormones took over every sane and rational part of my being.

But mostly all of my tween-angst was because my mom was so not cool.

And I am cool.

My mom didn’t take me to hip concerts as a child. My mom didn’t take me to museums or plays or art exhibits or anything that might have cultivated a sense of appreciation of the arts. I mean, sure I have it now but that’s only because I had to learn it on my own…and if there’s one thing I don’t want Maddie to do it’s to have to struggle to find out what’s hip and cool on her own like I did.

I knew from the day she came out of my precious womb, that I would gently guide her to liking everything I did. And as I looked at her sweet sleeping baby face, I knew–I mean I knew–that I wouldn’t even have to guide her: that she’d willingly want to like everything I liked.

Because, you know, I’m hip.

And cool.

But somewhere in the past year, my precious sweet daughter has gone from loving every concert, museum, art exhibit, author reading to absolutely despising whatever event we are at.

Last week, I took her to see some live music. And it was three all girl punk bands who were interesting and funny and quirky.

This is what she looked like throughout the show:

And I said, “What’s wrong? Why aren’t you enjoying this? I’m letting you stay up late to see this. Listen to their lyrics: how empowering are they?”

To which she just rolled her eyes, turned away, and slumped in her chair.

(Notice the head slump action)

“Maddie. This is cool. You should be enjoying yourself. You’ve seen tons of live music and you’ve always loved it.”

“Well, I don’t love it now. I want to go home and go to bed,” she replied.

So we went home.

A few days later, I took her on another date: to a poetry reading.

This is what she looked like throughout the show:

“Maddie. Why are you pouting. This is art. Right now you’re cultivating your inner-self. You’re learning how to appreciate art.”

“Can I play a game on my ipod?”

“No. Pay attention. What other parent is doing this with their kids right now. Look around. Do you see any other kids here? No. How cool are you?”

“That’s my point, mom,” and the eyes roll.

“But that just makes you cooler. Plus, we’re seeing Leslie and another colleague of mine, Lisa.”

“Aren’t they amazing Maddie? The strength of their words?”

“Um, I guess. Can we go home now?”

“Please take a picture with me so I can blog about how much fun we’re having…”

“Fine mom, I can fake it.”

Then we went home.

And I sat Maddie down and told her how much I love her and how much I love spending time with her and how when she was little (up until even a year ago) how much she enjoyed doing things with me, how she was always up for an adventure.

And I explained that I didn’t have a fun mom and that I understand how her hormones are coursing through her body and that she can’t help to be moody, but really, I asked, “Can you just try to enjoy your time with me cause, you know, the things we do are so cool. You are so lucky to have such.a.cool.mom.”

Eyes roll. Head slump.

“Mom! That’s what you’re NOT understanding. You are not cool. At all. Nothing you do is cool.”

Um. What the fuck?

I’m sure that’s just the hormones talking.


mama’s edition November 18, 2011

Filed under: adult fun,friends — courtsbrogno @ 6:22 pm

I wish I could say that I’ve been having a raging fun time over the past few weeks, but that would be such.a.big.lie.

Because I’m overloaded with grading. The good thing, however, is that I still enjoy my job, even if I complain about the workload. Another good thing is that with my spare time I go sit at my favorite coffee shop and grade, which makes the reading seem easier. I almost always run into my good friends and colleagues, so we grade together. Okay, really we bitch about our grading. But still.

My usual spot.

How can Jenny be grading with a glass of wine? Me thinks it makes for better grades.

Truly, Andy and I work hard.

In between all the grading and reading, I have had a few opportunities to get out and see some music and friends.

I went to the Jade Festival in Big Sur with my friend Greg:

Perfect Big Sur weather. Perfect crowd.

Greg getting food.

Greg’s dog Jack gets more attention than any dog I’ve ever known. He’s super friendly.

We bumped into my friend Tim who lives in San Francisco. Such a treat to see him.

That’s a HUGE piece of jade.

It was a joy to  celebrate my good friend and colleague and old office-mate Erin’s 40th birthday:

40 never looked so good.

I saw the Mother Hips play in town with some good friends.:

Paul, one of the friends in our group, got a comped booth. Nice!

Paul and Julie are so much fun. And a little crazy. But in a good way.

We had fun.

I also had the chance to go to our town’s Art after Dark. I met up with friends, had some beer, and checked out some amazing art. I especially liked the university’s student furniture show–such talented students we have!

I loved this. I wanted to buy it. can’t believe it’s student made.

Melanie and her son Diego painted a skateboard deck for one store’s gallery. Well done.

I know, this mama edition isn’t that interesting. Well, mama’s been super busy.

At least I’ve caught up with the past month and a half. I left  a lot out, but in general, we’ve been working hard, playing some, and enjoying life a lot.

There’s not much we could ask for.


the kids’ edition November 13, 2011

Filed under: family fun,kids — courtsbrogno @ 11:29 am

In the past month or so, the kids and I have been on a hurling course through the universe of homework, school, babysitters, after school activities, sport practices, team games, slumber parties.

And that’s just basically Maddie.

At this point, I’m just trying to keep up with Luke and Maddie’s schedule. I always tell myself, “Just stay a day ahead and you’ll be alright.” This works about 80% of the time. The other 20%, I run out of time to make a healthy dinner so I order pizza, I forget to print something out for Maddie so I have to make a late-night run to my office, I forget to send Maddie to school with money for something so I have to leave work for a minute to drop it off, and I forget to pay Luke’s daycare provider (even though I DO have the money) until she has to call me at least 3 times.

I also: forget to return that important paperwork to Human Resources, forget to pay rent (just remembered today!), lose some student’s essay (I’m convinced it’s in my car somewhere), go to the wrong restaurant to meet a friend and then wonder why he’s not showing up, almost run out of gas because I didn’t have the time to stop and refill my tank, ignore Halloween and not put up one decoration, and run out of milk, juice, bread, eggs, and wine!

The list could go on and on. I don’t think that I’m a failure though. I just know that I’m really busy. And the kids are busy. And life is just a bit crazy right now. But in between these moments of chaos, we’ve had some incredibly fun times.


Like attending Natalie’s 5th birthday party and getting  to see my best friend Denise (Natalie’s mom) and her family.

Happy birthday Natalie!




The party’s theme was dress up, and Luke was pretty much the only boy there, so the girls put make up on him and dressed him up. He LOVED it.


Luke really knows how to rock a pink, glittery scarf.



Seriously, every girl took off her dress up clothes, but Luke wouldn’t take his off.

Maddie got to see her best friend Jailyn (Denise’s daughter as well), so for her, the birthday party was fun also.


Then there was Halloween, and I ordered the kids costumes just in time. I like to make sure the kids are themed, and so Maddie picked a Sesame Street theme: she went as Big Bird and Luke went as Cookie Monster. It wasn’t nearly as inventive as last year’s costumes (when Luke was a gnome and Maddie a pink flamingo, so together they were my lawn ornaments), but they still looked cute:

The only problem was that it was about 85 degrees outside, so Luke only wore his costume for about 5 minutes.


On Halloween, Maddie had her first ever school dance (during the day). I decided to stop by on my way to work and take pictures, but after 5 minutes, the literature teacher approached me and kicked me out, saying “Parents are NOT allowed.” Like I knew this (side note: had I read the weekly announcements, I guess I would have known this.). At least I still got some good pictures. And observed that Maddie was NOT bumping and grinding with some 8th grade boy (I’d kill him. And her.)


Luke was with his father on Halloween night and Maddie and a bunch of friends went trick-or-treating by themselves, so I had 2 whole hours to grade at a very quiet coffee shop. Did I miss watching the girls trek from house to house? Hell no.

But lest you think I am a bad parent, I made up for it later in the evening because after trick-or-treating, Maddie and four of her friends came back to our house for a sleep-over. Between the sugar high induced tween excitement and chatter, I sat on the couch with a glass of wine and read the New York Times. It’s amazing how adept I am at tuning things out (i.e. tween chatter).  Everyone had fun. Everyone was happy.


Maddie’s school had its annual blessing of the animals, so we dragged ourselves to school at 8a.m. with our dog, Baily, in tow. This may not seem like a difficult task, but getting all of us dressed and presentable and fed with a dog that had to look good too was quite the feat.

I asked the priest to sprinkle Luke with some holy water too. Lord knows he could use a few extra blessings.

Amidst the dogs, cats, turtles, fish, and birds, someone brought in his pet cow. How awesome is that family?


We drove out to a coastal town to celebrate Maddie’s old babysitter Amy’s birthday. Amy babysat Maddie from the time she was 6 months old to 7 years old. She was the best. I often referred to her as my husband. Being able to celebrate with her made my heart sing.

God do I just love this woman!

This is what makes Amy so great: in the middle of her own birthday party, she spend almost an hour with Luke digging in the dirt until she found a bug (a walking stick no less!) for Luke to play with.

Maddie brought her best friend Jailyn to the party and they had a great time running around the yard with Luke and the dogs.


I don’t work on Fridays (as in, I don’t have to teach and instead just get to stay home and grade, so technically, I guess I do work on Fridays), and Luke and I always have a Friday date. He gets to choose what we do and where we go. Almost every Friday, he chooses to go to the barn so he can feed the animals. We always end our date with a sandwich and ice-cream.

Sometimes, though, Luke just wants to lay in bed and watch a movie, and I happily oblige.

Other times, he just wants to sit and play with me for hours, drawing and building blocks.

(Luke’s drawing and interpretation of me. A friend said it looked like “Family Circus,” and those are just my footprints from running around. If this is the case then Luke is more astute than I believed him to be.


We’ve still been trying to squeeze in family dinners because nothing makes me happier than bringing friends together with my kids to share a meal.

I think my favorite dinner guest may be Andy because he plays so much with Luke, distracting him as I finish dinner. He’s a great uncle!


So despite all the chaos and the forgotten dinners and missed appointments, we’re hanging in their, perhaps even prospering as being a family on the go. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and I look to my kids to see if there is disappointment in their faces. Usually there’s not. Instead I see smiles and love, which makes me appreciate our lives, in all its craziness.


new ink November 9, 2011

Filed under: adult fun — courtsbrogno @ 1:12 pm

Over the past few months, much to Maddie’s horror and Luke’s delight, I have acquired two new tattoos. The first was one I had been thinking about for the past 3 years and the second was a quickly made decision that I’m still not entirely sure about.

For years I’ve been thinking about having part of my favorite Rilke poem, Sonnets to Orpheus, II tattooed on my body:

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

But all three lines couldn’t be tattooed onto my body, so I narrowed it down to the last two lines, and then I thought for about a year. One night, this summer, I ran into my friend, Gary, an excellent tattoo artist who has tattooed me before. We started talking and I told him about my idea. We were both a little boozy and by the end of the night, I had made an appointment with him for the following week. The next morning I awoke with a head ache and a vague memory of our conversation. I pulled out of my pocket Gary’s appointment card, and mortified, I called him and canceled.

The poem was once again stored in the back of my mind until I tired of it constantly swirling around my thoughts, interrupting me as I went about my day. I called Gary. Made an appointment. Sent him the poem. Received his idea. Liked it. I headed back to the tattoo chair.

The biggest decision was where to put the tattoo on my body. I knew I didn’t want it to be in a noticeable part, and at first, I had thought of putting it on my back, but it didn’t look right on my back. I asked Gary what he thought about putting it along my rib cage. “It’ll hurt,” he said. “It hurts regardless,” I responded. Gary laid the imprint on my side, and we all looked at it. I loved it. He loved it. The other tattoo guy loved it.

Thus, I got my first tattoo in 5 years.

Looks good, don’t you think?

While my side was being tattooed, Gary mentioned how much he hates my ankle tattoo. This is not a surprise; he’s hated it since he first saw it over a decade ago. I hate it too. It was a stupid tattoo I got when I was 18, and I think the day I turned 19, I started regretting it. I’ve been talking about removing it for about 15 years now, but I haven’t. And every time I put on a skirt or dress and see that stupid tattoo, I cringe.

Gary doesn’t believe in tattoo removals, but he does believe in covering up ugly tattoos, and he has covered up a stomach tattoo I had that looked pretty bad after having Maddie (looks much better now, though Gary says I’m ready for a touch up). As we talked about my stupid ankle tattoo, Gary took out an orange marker and started drawing on my ankle, showing me what he had in mind for a cover. I walked around with the drawing for a few days until I decided to just do it. As Gary said, “If you’re going to have a tattoo on your ankle, then make it a pretty one.”

Gary’s initial drawing.

Let’s do this Gary.

The outlining is finished.


It’s a beautiful tattoo and much better than my terrible original. But it’s taken me awhile to get used to. It seems so big and every time I look at my ankle, I’m caught off guard by this big, colorful tattoo.

Despite any misgivings I may have about this new tattoo, however, there’s nothing I can do about it now. This actually gives me comfort.

That’s it. No more tattoos. No more ideas mulling in my head.

For now.


and, yes, apparently, I am still a bad blogger. November 8, 2011

Filed under: kids — courtsbrogno @ 2:37 pm

I am sitting in my office right now waiting for students to come and receive help from me about the essay they have due the next class. I canceled classes for today and tomorrow, pushed back their essay deadline,  and am holding office hours for 4 hours today and 5 hours tomorrow in the hopes that students will be proactive and work on improving their essays before they turn them in. The benefit, I believe, will be that I get to read better essays and the students learn more about the writing process.

This idea, however, doesn’t seem to be coming to fruition.

Not one student has come to see me and I’ve been sitting in my office since 11:00.

Whatever. I’m not going to let it get to me because this is what my office desk looks like right now:

Essays, homework assignments, emails to return. I am so very busy right now. I honestly feel like I may never catch up to all the grading I have to finish. And then, as soon as I do finish a pile, another one just replaces it. It’s so frustrating. So frustrating that for Halloween I attended a party and the theme was “Afterlife,” so I thought and thought and though about a costume and I finally decided that I should just follow my heart.

I went as the death of an English teacher.


Maddie and I worked really hard on this costume. I made photocopies of student essays and gave Maddie a red pen and told her to write whatever she wanted to on them, but to make sure she wrote a big “F” on each piece of paper. She had so much fun doing this. Here are some of her editing comments:

“My 12 year old daughter can write better than you.”

“This is why I’m retiring.”

“I should have become a doctor.”

“You’re writing is KILLING me.”

So we took these essays and stapled them all over my clothes. We took an old head band and glued essays to it as well as red pens and binder clips. I put red pens and binder clips all over myself and zombied out my face. On my back I attached my REAL paycheck stub and wrote: “I died for this much money a month.”

Seriously, it was a great costume. And people could not believe how much little I made a month. “That’s just soooooo sad,” they commented.

You’re telling me.

Anyway, I should be grading and trying to clear off my desk, but perhaps I’m more like my students than I wish to admit because I cannot muster up the strength/courage/ability/attention to grade one more terrible essay. So, instead, I’m updating my blog. Which, in my last blog post, I said I’d be doing every other day until I had caught up.

But obviously I didn’t.

So I’ve spent the past 2 hours, sitting in my office, alone putting all my photos on the computer and organizing everything so that I can actually blog with ease over the next week and catch up on everything.

Thank God. All this pressure is making me so very anxious.


His essay was terrible. I don’t even know how he’s going to improve it before the due date. Ugh.

Anyway, To alleviate all this back loaded blogging  pressure I AM going to post every other day until I catch up. I SWEAR.

Starting with this post, which is now secondly titled:


So we are a soccer family. In all honesty, it’s probably the only game I can sit and watch in entirety, which is odd, I know, because soccer is such a low scoring game and most people find it boring. But not me. And not Maddie.

We’re not sure about Luke again. He’s the wild card of the family.

I took Maddie and Luke to watch our university soccer team play against our rivals. We went with my best friend Denise and her daughter and we had the best time.

(Game time)

Luke, Maddie, and Denise.

Denise and I. We never get to see each other even though we live in the same county and work at the same place. Thus, I am always so grateful for the time we do spend together.

Me and Maddie. She sat with her friend for almost the entire game, which made me really sad, but I just let her go and hid the tears.

All Luke wanted to do was play under the bleachers.

Denise’s daughter Jailyn played soccer with her team for the half-time show.

Our school won and I loved how the students all rushed the field.

We’ve also been going to our university’s girl’s club soccer games. We go because the kids’ amazing babysitter, Alison, is the president of the club and she plays as well. Although she is the kindest babysitter ever, she plays a mean game of soccer and is incredibly aggressive. I also like to take the kids to these games because we get to sit on the field instead of bleachers, so it feels more intimate and because I want Maddie to see all the great female athletes on the team–hopefully, she’ll find it all so inspiring that she’ll decide  not to do drugs or have sex while she’s a teenager.

Fingers crossed.

Game on.

Hmmm….Luke’s not interested in watching the game, so he’ll just try to climb the fence and bother everyone around him…

…but then he’ll pause for a moment and pay attention. Then he’ll go back to bugging everyone…

…until he finally falls asleep…

…and misses the best play of the day.

Like clockwork, every time we go to a game, this is what Luke does.  Maddie and I think he may not be a soccer player when he gets older. What a sad thought. What will I do Saturdays in the Fall? How will I keep my kid off drugs?

Finally, Maddie’s playing on a kick-ass soccer team this season, and they are undefeated.

She’s out there somewhere playing.

Watching her team play (and dominate!) is exhilarating, and I’m proud that Maddie’s becoming a more aggressive player (last week she got yellow carded for taking out a player. I know I should feel shame, but I felt pride. If this makes me a terrible parent, then bring it on…). The one thing I don’t like is the early morning games:

Freezing cold.

Even though his sister is playing right in front of him, all Luke wants to do is play. His favorite game is to just hide. He reminds me of a osritch.

But I guess all that matters is that Maddie is having fun and enjoying herself.

And not doing drugs.