A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

Christmas Blitz January 14, 2015

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 9:53 am

After getting back from Ireland, I was in full mode Christmas planning. After all, I only had three days to finish up some shopping (fortunately I had already bought 90% of my gifts), wrap everything, clean the house, bake cookies, and do this all while keeping the kids busy and suffering from total jet lag.

This year I had made the decision to go “light” on presents. Last year was such a total overload that I can’t even remember what each kid received. So I really didn’t buy the kids anything but one or two gifts–and things they really wanted or needed. My sister and I made the same decision about the entire family. We all got gifts, but small gifts–nothing that cost too much and something we actually needed.

So everything worked out great. Except my present wrapping. That was just a hot mess.

Christmas Eve we went to my parent’s house for dinner and family time. We ate, talked, tracked Santa, and generally everyone got super annoyed at Luke because he could not contain his enthusiasm for Santa which made him behave like a bat-shit crazy person. Other than that, though, we had a good time.


(First decent family photo in a long time)

cl3(Cate and Luke. Their cuteness kills me.)

ben(Me and baby Ben. He is just so adorable.)

brit(I know I dressed Luke, but I didn’t realize I made him look like a British rock star.)

cookies(Finally getting kicked out of my parent’s house–ahem, I mean going home–and putting out cookies and milk for Santa)

My head hit the pillow and before I knew it, I opened my eyes to Luke’s huge face directly in front of mine, asking “Can I open presents? Is it time? Can I? Can I? Mommy. Mommy. Listen to me.” I looked at my phone and the time was 6:30 am. I have one Christmas rule and that is NO OPENING PRESENTS UNTIL 7 AM. So I told Luke to wait another half hour and I got up, washed my face, brushed my teeth, and made some coffee.

But let me tell you, that 1/2 hour was the longest of my life because Luke kept pestering me for the time (“It’s 6:38, Luke. Now it’s 6:40, Luke. It’s 6:41, Luke”) and having to wake up the ultimate teenage girl, Maddie, who would have slept until 10 if she had her way and even though she had presents waiting for her, grumbled as she tried to get out of bed.

Finally, it was time.

santa(Santa gifts first! Luke got what he wanted:  My Little Ponies and Frozen figurines sets. Maddie got slippers: I swear that’s what she asked for.)


(How Luke acted every time he opened a gift that contained clothes. The exact opposite of his sister.)

family(The mess of toys and clothes, but most importantly, sharing the morning with family)

fav(Probably Luke’s favorite gift that came from my parents–a 26 foot, 4 car, track that lights up in the dark)

birk(Probably Maddie’s favorite gift–a pair of Birkenstocks. And Lord help me if I swore that Birkenstocks would never cross the threshold of MY house. If this doesn’t prove how much I truly love Maddie, then I don’t know what does)

pins(My favorite gift came from my sister: 2 buttons that read #READ and All you need is BOOKS. I wear them with pride on my denim jacket)

necklace(A good friend also gave me this beautiful necklace that I love, love, love)

cl(Christmas playtime with Cate and Luke–I took them to the movies)

cl2(The they created an entire town from Luke’s new play-doh set.)

I think this was my favorite Christmas yet because we really just enjoyed each other as a family and there wasn’t an over-abundance of toys everywhere. It felt like what the season should be about–playing with new toys/outfits, for sure, but also just hanging around with family and savoring that crazy/loving/anticipatory feeling of Christmas.


falalalalala December 3, 2014

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 7:07 am

Today was the day I’ve been waiting for, well, ummmm, about 364 or so days–the day we get our Christmas tree and decorate our house.


So I picked Luke up and we went to get a tree. We found a perfect one immediately and then just had to wait for it to be wrapped.


(Waiting for our turn patiently in the rain)

And I have to say that I feel pretty bad ass. I loaded the tree onto a cart. Put the tree in my car. McGyvered my trunk closed with twine because the tree didn’t fit into the car. Drove home. Put on the stand. Pulled this damn 8 foot tree into my house. And then stood it up and put on the lights all by myself. I felt like running out into the street and yelling, “I am woman. Hear me roar!”

Then the kids decorated the tree. I did not put  up one ornament, and yes, they’re all a little misplaced, but it’s the kids who did it and to me, it’s perfect.




I hung stockings, put out decorations, hung wreaths, and now our house just feels magical.



We listened to Christmas music, ordered pizza, and then sat on the couch taking it all in.

I love this season for some many reasons, but manly because I watch my ids get so excited (even Maddie!) and that brings out the inner, hopeful child in me.

I’m so thankful for this day, our time together, and the begining of the best time of the year.


and bam! just like that! December 2, 2014

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 6:46 am

I finished all my Christmas shopping in one fantastic cyber-Monday.

I know, I know. I feel a little guilty for not going local, but I just can’t afford that.

And getting everything done in one day is awesome.



wow. how did that happen? i have a week to catch up on. November 27, 2014

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 9:01 am


I’ve been feeling the stress from students at the university–stress, it spreads to everyone  and can lower a classroom dynamic faster than anything else–so I decided to read out loud to my students my blog post from a few days ago, titled “Students.”

This was risky. I mean, I basically state that I hate teaching fall quarter because of them. But I also thought it might be nice for them to know how I felt as well.

I didn’t share the blog (obviously). Instead, I transferred what I wrote onto a word document and projected it to each class as I read it out loud and braced myself for what could be some terrible comments.

The students completely surprised me. Most of them commented on how much I seemed to understand freshmen and what they’re going through. But I also received comments like:

“Wow. I guess I never thought that professors get stressed too.”

“I never understood what a “C” meant in college and the difference from high school. I get it now.”

“Can you send this to my mom? She really doesn’t understand what I’m going through.”

“I really like the way you understand what we go through. But most of it is our faults.   We’re

adults. We need to spend more time on planning ahead and actually doing work.”

“You should publish this. All our parents and high school teachers should read this.”

Some of the more funny comments I heard:

“I think you need to add some transitions.”

“Why do you even like teaching?” –this led to a great conversation by the way.

I’m thankful I shared my feelings. I didn’t expect the student comments to be so understanding or profound. I’ve always felt that being more personal in the classroom is a good thing, and this just reinforced my belief.


I went on a blind date and IT WASN’T TERRIBLE. I’ve been on so many terrible first dates that having one be just “normal” (whatever that might mean) makes me thankful.

That is all. I have no expectations–nothing in me screamed out “I like this guy A LOT,” but nothing in me screamed out, “OMG. Get me out of here!.”

So we’ll see what happens.


The Mother Hips played and since they only play about twice a year now, I had to go.


It was a great show, but even I–a HUGE Hips fan–have to say that they have become more “jam band-y” as of late and I really, really don’t like it.

To make up for the parts of the show I didn’t like, though, was the great friends I was surrounded by:

rich(Terrible picture, but this is one of my favorite people, Rich, who teaches philosophy at the same university as me)

matt(And a complete SURPRISE visit from my old friend Matt, who has a wonderful girlfriend that just happens to live in town and so he’s moving back to town in May!!!!!)

I’m thankful for my night out, but even more thankful for the friends I have that make me feel so loved and appreciated.


I dropped Luke off at my parent’s house for a sleep-over. About once a month they take Luke and Cate for a night (and it’s a crazy night. Luke and Cate get along so well that it’s great, but the amount of talking they do can drive anyone crazy), which allows Maddie and I to have a date night.

This Saturday, we went to the movies and saw MockingJay, Part 1

imgresIt was a great film, but even better as being able to spend some quality time with Maddie and enjoy the fact that we did not fight:)



Luke swallowed a nickel.


Normally, this wouldn’t put me into a state of instant fear, but I remember back when Maddie was just a baby and we were visiting her grandparents in Irvine and her grandparents’s neighbor’s son had swallowed a penny and it WENT INTO HIS LUNGS AND HE ALMOST DIED. Actually, I don’t know if it’s true that he almost died, but that’s how my memory sees it.

So I got a little panicked and called the doctor.

The on-call nurse went through a list of symptoms, none of which Luke had, so the nickel didn’t go into his lungs and is making its way through his digestive system. THANK GOD.

Now I just have to spend the next week looking through his poop to make sure the nickel actually passes and doesn’t get stuck anywhere in his intestines. Lucky me.


I finally saw Minus the Bear play. This is a Seattle based band that’s  been around for over  decade, but the few times they’ve come to town to play, I’ve either been unable to go or the show sold out before I got tickets. Not this time though. And they were worth the wait. It was a great show and I’m thankful I had the chance to finally see them play.



OK, this might be a bit redundant, but I went on another blind date and it too wasn’t terrible. Of course, I don’t know what will come of this blind date, but once again, I was in no rush to get the hell out of there.

I’m beginning to see a pattern. The past two blind dates I’ve been on have been with men who are divorced and have kids. Normally, I would avoid such men because their baggage +  my baggage could only = a disaster. In truth, though, what I’ve noticed is that divorced me are SO DIFFERENT than men my age who have never been married (and I know this is a way too small sample for me to be making such broad claims, but I really don’t care). They are much more willing to be vulnerable. For example, both of these men made it clear that they are looking for something serious, because, as this one man said, “I want to go home with someone every night, and hold her hand, and look at her every morning.” Trust me. I have never heard this from a non-married man because saying something like that on a first date is bold, and terrifying, and brave.

So maybe divorced men are better. Who knows? But right now I’m just thankful this date went well and that I’m seeing, perhaps, a more honest side–or maybe just a different side– to men that I didn’t even know existed.


No work. No school.

The kids and I lounged around the house, cleaned, and I finally finished grading the last 10 or so essays that have been haunting me.

Then we went to my parents’ house for dinner.

I’m thankful for an easy day with the kids, a home-cooked meal I didn’t have to prepare, and finally finishing some work.


my summer by numbers August 23, 2014

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 9:00 am


My beautiful car hit the 100K marker this summer:



I love this car. I bought it in 2006. It’s taken numerous trips from the bottom of California to the top. It took Luke home from the hospital safely. It’s been littered with trash from the kids (and me), covered with stickers, towed in San Francisco, and other than some transmission work and regular care, has never broke down or given me problems. I used to say that when I had enough money I’d upgrade to a Volvo. I no longer think that. I’ll probably be a Subaru owner for ever.


This is the number of miles from Barcelona, Spain to San Luis Obispo, California, which is about the amount of miles our 16 year-old Spanish exchange student, Berta, traveled to stay with us this summer. Maddie begged to have a foreign exchange student stay with us for 3 weeks during the summer. I was hesitant at first, but Kirby convinced me it would be a good experience for Maddie, so I agreed. Plus, 3 weeks isn’t too much of a commitment. then I found out there would be a home inspection and interview, which I assumed we would fail given our “different” living situation. But we passed! I guess the Spanish (or at least Berta’s parents) think our living situation is quite normal. In fact, when Berta arrived and I was in the midst of arguing with Luke’s dad (see last entry), Berta was pretty astounded. She told me that her 12 year old brother still sleeps with her grandmother, that Spain has an “open-door” attitude to living with family and friends, and that being a single-parent is no big deal. “Why would anyone even ask,” she wondered.

I think I’ve gotta move to Spain.

Berta was a wonderful addition to our family. She was kind, spoke perfect English, and really enjoyed spending time here. Maddie and Luke had a great time with her as well.





(I think Berta loved shopping the most. That’s Maddie, Berta, and one of Maddie’s friends at Urban Outfitters. Luke is in the middle with the unicorn hat on. Oh Luke….)


(Maddie, her friends, and Berta enjoying Farmers’ Market)


The amount of miles we traveled for our summer vacation.


(Good-bye town!)

We stopped to see the elephant seals first.


Then we drove to Big Sir to camp.



(Thank God the river still had water. It was still low, though)


(The back of our campground. We lucked out with a great campsite, but we were attacked by ticks. Thank God the camp store had bug spray)


(A beautiful morning)


(Of course, Luke was the first up, so I built a fire and we discussed life according to Luke)

We departed Big Sur and stopped at a beautiful beach close to Carmel.



From there, we headed to the Santa Cruz mountains to camp at Big Basin. I’ve never been there before, but it was amazing. Surrounded by the redwoods, bathed in heat: this might be my new place to camp.


We took quite a few hikes:




(Sadly, there was barely any water in the creek)







(helps with relaxing)


After a fun night, we packed up camp, and went over the Golden Gate Bridge.


And to Healdsburg, where we met with my sister and her family, my Aunt Debbie and her husband, and my Uncle Michael for our annual holiday to watch my uncle compete in the Vineman Ironman. Thankfully, this year, he didn’t compete in the full ironman, but instead just did the AquaBike–the half marathon and half swim.

The house we all stayed in was right on the river and just beautiful. I loved being able to walk right down to the river with the kids and catch a deer crossing the property.






IMG_0967 IMG_0957 IMG_0940 IMG_0935 photo

We watched my uncle’s race.




(I must say, all the hard work my uncle does really takes a toll on me as well. Hehe)

We had time to go to the Korbel estate:



And overall, just had a fantastic family vacation:


But we weren’t finished yet. We left Healdsburg and headed to Monterey, where I rented a hotel for the night.

We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium:




And then I forced the kids to go to the Steinbeck Museum with me:







And then we finally made it home. Overall, it was the best family trip we’ve had in years.


The dollars I spent taking the kids to the fair for one day. Ridiculous. But the kids had fun, and I found out that Luke LOVES roller coasters and isn’t scared of them a all.







(Luke also happened to be a whiz at throwing darts at balloons. He won something at every stand we went to. Which was 4. Now we have 4 more stuffed animals to clutter our house.


(I saw a barn owl at the fair, which made it all worthwhile to me.)


Pretty much the amount of writing I did for myself. Did I write the few articles I told myself I would? Nope. Did I work on my novel at all? Nope. Did I write any blog posts? Just a few.

I had been feeling disappointed in myself for not taking advantage of the only free time I get during the year to work on my interests, but then I realized that this summer was really devoted to my family, and I feel alright about that. With Maddie and Luke starting school on Monday, I’m glad they had a great summer. Maddie even told me the other day, “Mom, this was the best summer I’ve ever had.”

That feels so much better than finishing an article.


I’d become a lesbian for you August 9, 2014

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 10:08 am

A few disclaimers first:

1. I’ve never had a lesbian experience. Shocking, I know. It seems like almost every woman I know my age has, but I missed the whole give-it-your-best college try, and I don’t think lesbians are attracted to me since I’ve never been hit on. And even if I was, I’m just not into girls. I really like men. Men with beards. Not that I’m against lesbians–I have a lot of lesbian friends and I respect their choices. But, yeah, I haven’t had any interest in trying that path.

2. I’ve been to a lot of live shows and I’ve met quite a few musicians, and I’ve ALWAYS kept my cool around them. I realize they’re just people, like me, with a different job and a lot more fans. So I treat any musician I meet just like I’d treat any other person. I don’t ask to take a picture with them, and usually we end up talking about regular stuff, like our kids.  And if I meet a musician that I’m a big fan of, I stay cool. I wait until I’m at home to squeal with delight and then wish I had taken a picture.

But both these disclaimers went out the window when I recently saw Sarah Jaffe live. I’d been turned on to her music about a year ago, and back in December, when I went to San Francisco to see Andrew Bird, I’d gotten tickets to see Midlake perform the night before, but mostly I was excited to see Sarah Jaffe as the opening act. Unfortunately, we got to the show 1/2 an hour late (which normally is no big deal) and we missed Sarah Jaffe’s performance. I was so bummed.

So, our little town has been getting quite a few big(ger) acts coming through. It makes perfect sense: we’re directly a half-way point between San Francisco and Los Angeles, so it’s no big deal for musicians/bands to stop, stay the night, and play. Plus, the venue–SLO Brewing Company–has been killing it in regards to their booking person. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty excited. I love being able to walk down to the venue, see a show, and then walk home. No driving!

Thus, a few weeks ago, the Polyphonic Spree was playing and though they’re not a favorite band of mine, they’re pretty good, and I thought it would be a fun show. I bought tickets for myself and Maddie and Maddie invited some friends, so we all went together.




We all got there around 8:30, which I knew was a bit early, but the girls wanted to be on time. As we we’re walking up, I noticed a sign that announced who the opening band was. To my complete surprise and delight, it was Sarah Jaffe. It became apparent as I spoke to a few friends I saw that other people knew about this, but I had no idea. I was giddy. Seriously, giddy.

Because Sarah Jaffe is just that good.

And while the Polyphonic Spree was good (21 people on a small stage–that’s amazing) and Maddie had fun:







I was most impressed by Sarah Jaffe. She was just as good live as on her records.



And I freaked out. I went up to her after the show, gushing about how much I liked her. She honestly looked tired and I could tell she didn’t want to really talk to me, but I couldn’t stop. I kept talking, telling her how I missed her in San Francisco, posing for a picture with her:



And then I honestly said (and it really just slipped out because I can’t imagine that I was in any rational mind set and also for the record, I wasn’t drunk) AS I WAS HUGGING HER, “I’d turn lesbian for you. That’s how much I like you.” Ummmm….that is the perfect way to freak someone out. Which I did.

I’m pretty sure any possible love affair with Sarah Jaffe ended that night. But I’ll always have the humiliating memories.



tidbits July 21, 2014

Filed under: family fun — courtsbrogno @ 11:00 am

So it’s the middle of summer, and I figure it’s time to catch up on the things that happened from January-June. This is purely self-serving as I write these type of blog posts so I can remember what my life was like when I get old and forget my own name. I anticipate that one day I’ll turn this blog into a printed book for myself; thus I can gaze back on my entries and think I was much cooler than I actually am.

It’s going to be a boring post. You should probably stop reading now.


My sister had a new baby, Ben. He is so freaking adorable that for a few days I seriously considered having another baby (with who? I have no idea. If only David Sedaris or Ira Glass would have me!). But then I woke the fuck up and realized that I’m on the precipice of having my life back. Maddie will be in college in 3 years, Luke is with me 50% of the time already, and I will be able to do all sorts of things…maybe I can travel or stay in bed all day or travel…yeah, what I really want to do is travel. And without a baby. But Ben is adorable, so I’ll take pleasure in just holding him from time to time.







Easter came and we went to my parent’s house for dinner and an Easter egg hunt with my sister and her family. I think Easter is my least favorite holiday, but the kids seem to like it, even though I refuse to buy them candy or baskets. I’m such a mean mom. It’s a good thing my Aunt Judy send baskets for the kids or they’d really hate me.





I went to the STRFKR show, which was amazing. One of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.





Saw Matt Pond play in Los Angeles:



Decided on the type of house I’d like to eventually live in and the road that will get me there. I’m realizing these dreams of mine seem to include places where no one can bother me:






Celebrated Mother’s Day with these two devious kids:




Went to Luke’s school for family craft day:






Drove Maddie and her friends down to Disneyland:



And then sat in loads of traffic. When Maddie tries to pull some horrible-mom shit on me, I’ll remember to point out this trip:



Started Luke in swim lessons. At first he hated it. Five minutes later, he loved it:













Took the kids on some hikes:





Luke made it up Cerro San Luis all by himself for the first time, which is a huge deal!



Let Maddie go with some friends to a concert at a local venue with her friends. As in: without me. I was a bit sad, but then she told me how she made her way to the front of the crowd, and I glowed with pride. I have taught her well:


My dear friend Steve got married to the most lovely lady ever! Maddie came as my date and we are so happy for him.



Saw my wonderful colleague and friend Lisa read her poetry while being accompanied by a polished banjo player:



And finally discovered my true passion in life: