A Year of Thanks

1 post a day for 365 days showing gratitude

being in the womb, it rained, and i’m off to ireland November 13, 2014

Filed under: adult fun,kids — courtsbrogno @ 6:40 pm

There’s just so much to be thankful for today. To start, over breakfast Luke just said, “Mommy, I was thinking about the time I was in your belly and how it was so beautiful.” He said this with such seriousness and sincerity that it stopped me completely. Because the time that Luke was in my belly, no matter how stressful the time was for me, was exactly that: just beautiful. I really don’t want anymore kids, but when I hear Luke say something like that, I swear my womb starts to expand. Because having kids is HARD, but it’s so worth all the love.

I’m also thankful because it rained today. A light mist fell all day. And it made everything just seem gorgeous. Our campus is so ugly, really it is. I often wonder what students on tour must think of all our mismatched buildings, but when it rains, the campus just feels magical, so even walking to teach felt great today.


Finally, one month from today I’m off to Ireland for a 9 day adventure by myself. My new passport came a few weeks ago and looking at it today just made the trip feel so real.


I am so excited, but I’m also so nervous. I love traveling by myself, but I have no plans for when I get there and not a lot of money. I’m really hoping that everything I hear about the Irish is true, especially their wonderful hospitality because I’m relying on someone to take me in and offer me a place to stay. I also don’t know what I want to do, but today, the New York Times posted  a video about what to do in Dublin, so that made my day and it felt like the universe was trying to tell me that everything will be fine. But I keep toddling back from being nervous and missing my kids to being excited for this adventure. I decided today, though, that I just need to get my head in the game and stop worrying. If I believe I will have a fantastic trip then I will.


I’m back!!!!!!!!!!!!! September 18, 2012

Filed under: kids,kind words — courtsbrogno @ 3:02 pm

I know, I’ve said it before but this time I mean it. I got so bogged down trying to catch up on all that had happened that I became inert. So, fuck it. I’m not going to go backwards, only forwards.

So much to tell, so much to say, but it’ll have to wait for that one a day post.

So for now, to start off on something super cheery, an essay my daughter Maddie wrote last week  about her grandpa (poppy). Maddie and I don’t always get along these days, but when I read this I just melted. (And I SWEAR I did not help her with any of this).



            They say that people who do the most for you are the people who hear thank you the least. My grandpa (poppy) always does everything he can to help around the house. Whenever he visits he always wants to know what he can fix and what time he can pick me up from school.  He is fun, active, and inspiring. Most of all Poppy demonstrates respect, positivity, and kindness to not only me, but to the whole family which is something that makes him unforgettable.

Poppy walks through the door in his gruff and scary voice and asks “where’s my hug?!” All four grandkids race to him and give him the biggest hug we can give. Then he softens up and starts walking in circles asking what time the football game is on.  Poppy is a one of a kind man. He loves every sport especially football. Green Bay Packers is a sacred word in our family. Whenever they lose he starts cursing in Italian and paces back and forth.  Sports is not the only thing Poppy is good at; he is good at pretty much everything.

Poppy attends church every Sunday and then calls me to make sure that my week at school was good.  He works six days a week so his wife (nona) doesn’t have to.  Respectful describes Poppy the best. I’ve noticed he holds the door open for everyone. Ever since I was little I’ve watched him do this and now it is a natural instinct. I have him to thank for that.  My favorite thing about Poppy besides his respectfulness is our little traditions. Every time he visits he takes me out to whatever breakfast I want. We play tic-tac-toe and then go home and watch the Honeymooners, which was his favorite show growing up.

“So thank you Poppy you do the most for me and I hardly ever say thank you.”  So this is for the best man, athlete, and Poppy that I’ve ever met. No matter how many mistakes I make you will always forgive me.  Even though I may be way too old to run and give my grandpa a hug, I still do because my grandpa still runs and hugs me.


growing up February 1, 2012

Filed under: kids — courtsbrogno @ 8:41 pm

Maddie, my almost 13-year-old, middle school kid, is growing up.

I don’t like it one bit.

Because in my eyes, she’s still my baby.

maddie baby

I mean, it seems like it was just yesterday that she was born, and nursing, and attached to my hip as she insisted on being carried everywhere. Even until a few months ago, she begged to still sleep in my bed and fought with Luke to sit next to me on the couch.

But, now she grows. Away from me.

Sure there are still times that she wants to sleep with me and times when she comes up and hugs me, but they’re rare. And I know they’ll become even more rare over the next few (several????) years.

I wish I could say that I’m accepting this like a mature adult, but I find myself throwing tantrums all the time, and behaving more like a toddler.

Inside, that is. On the outside I’m trying to keep it together. I’m barely accomplishing this.

Like today, for instance. I pick Maddie up from school and she gets into the back seat.

“Guess what happened today Mom,” she says, hands clasped together and bouncing in her seat.

“What? You got a 100% on your Spanish test?”

“Noooooooo. I mean maybe. I don’t know yet. Something better, Mom.”

“Maddie, I’m tired; it’s been a long day. Just tell me what happened.”

“I got asked out!”

“What,” I say. “By whom?”


“Well, what did you say,” I ask.

“I said YES!!!”

“You said yes?”

“Yeah, Mom. I really, really like him. I’m so happy!!!!!!!!!!!”

Inside I start panicking. My brain starts searching for answers: Images of locking my sweet baby girl in a closet flashed across my mind. No, I could go to jail for that. Homeschooling!  That’s the answer, I think. Wait. I don’t even have the time right now to check her homework, so how will I home-school her? MOVE!!! Yes, we’ll move away to a different town. A smaller town. A town with no boys!!!!!

On the outside, however, I just calmly say, “Hmmmm. I trust you to make good decisions, and I’m sure this boy is nice [side note: I’ve heard he’s NOT! from an inside source], but I’m in a little bit of shock and I’m not sure how to handle this, so you’re going to have to give me 24 hours to let me absorb this because, you see, in my eyes you’re still my baby, and this is hard for me–you growing up. BUT, I’m really glad you told me.”

I think this was honest and mature. But since then, I’ve picked apart our conversation and thought about what to say tomorrow, but I keep sticking to one thing that’s really bothering me:

She said, “I got asked out.”

Maybe it’s the feminist in me, but really? It just seems so passive. I know, I know, this coming from me who didn’t–and said over and over I can’t and I won’t–want to ask out a man. But I have had self-esteem issues. Maddie does not.

Or does she?

See, this is what’s bothering me.

In a bit of weird irony, tonight Maddie finished reading Jane Eyre, and she came downstairs to talk to me about it. I took this as the perfect opportunity to teach without preaching.

“Let’s talk about the ending, Maddie,” I said.

“No, let’s talk about the crazy wife in the attic,” she said.

“No, that’s sooooo boring,” I lied. “Let me read you my favorite line: ‘Reader, I married him.'”

“Um, that’s your favorite line?”

“Maddie, Jane is a feminist! She didn’t wait for someone to come rescue her, did she? Did she wait by the fire for someone to ask her out? No. She said NO to men!”

“Well, she said no to St. John, but she did say yes to Mr. Rochester.”

“O.K., she did. But she was a strong woman! She’s my hero Maddie. She should be yours.”

“I’m just glad she’s rich and married in the end.”

Reader, I let it go.

I’m going to bed with the intent of letting it all go for the night.

By tomorrow I will have a plan of how to deal with Maddie having a boyfriend (this is so difficult for me to even say aloud let alone type) that will be fair and goaded by trust and honesty.

I will grow up.

Because Maddie sure is.


vacation’s over January 10, 2012

Filed under: family fun,friends,kids — courtsbrogno @ 5:27 pm

I’ve officially been back to work for a week now, and surprisingly, I’m feeling really good about this quarter. I felt ready, really ready, to get back to work.  Though, the day before school actually started, as I was sitting in my office prepping, a sense of dread did come over me.

Thankfully, it passed. And before school started, I had a fantastic break with the kids.

Maddie won our local AYSO U14 final game, coming in first place and then came in 3rd place in regionals.

She had such an amazing team of girls. They all got along so well.

Her coach, Coach K, was amazing: by far the best coach we’ve ever had. In any sport. Hands down.

Maddie played so well this season. Her coach guided her to become more aggressive, skilled, and overall, gave her the shot of confidence she needed.

I’m thankful that my best friend Jill, her husband Greg, and her son Gavin made the drive to see Maddie’s game. That’s true friendship.

My sister and her family also came. I’m thankful for how supportive they ALWAYS  are.

The kids and I also went to see my nephew Braden’s soft ball game. It was really cute. And some of these boys are so talented!

Maddie and I went to see my niece Cate’s very first ballet recital. It was so damn cute, I wanted to capture the moment forever. All of us cheered her on.


On a sunny yet chilly day, I took the kids down to the beach with Baily, our dog, to walk along the pier and play in the sand.

Then we went to the barn to buy some fresh produce and walked among the sunflowers.

Luke and I had a date and went apple picking. Even though the season is over and were few apples left, we still enjoyed the experience.



I spent hours making flower bobby pins and magnets for Maddie’s school to sell for their annual Christmas Boutique.

Luke and I had one of many coffee dates while Maddie was out busy with her friends.

The Luke got sick and even though I hate to see him ill, I love how cuddly and loving he is.

As a treat for our family, Milo, our cat, brought home a mouse.

That was still alive! I tried my best to save it (him? her?), but alas, Milo had the final say and the mouse died.

In many ways our vacation seemed too brief, but then it also seemed incredibly long at the same time, which is probably why I was ready to get back to work. But I’m thankful for the quality time I had with my kids.

I’m also thankful that I had a fun New Year’s Eve without the kids. I was with my sister and a bunch of friends at a local restaurant, and I had so much fun, I didn’t even take pictures, except for this one which a friend sent me (and it’s not even that good, but at least it kind of shows how much fun everyone is having).


I really believe 2012 is going to be a GREAT year with much to look forward to.

My only New Year’s resolution is to be more conscious of what I’m thankful for. I think not writing everyday has made me less conscious, which I don’t like. I also resolved to tell people–in person–that I’m thankful for them. Even if they hear it multiple times from me, I’m going to be much more vocal this year.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve my friend Devin, who had recently broken up with her boyfriend of 4 years, introduced me to her new boyfriend. He was so handsome and nice and I told Devin this. She responded by saying:

“That’s because I’m great and I deserve great things, and so look: I got someone GREAT!”

I love it. Devin is a humble person–no ego at all. But she knows she’s great and she has a wonderful and healthy confidence.

So I’m also stealing Devin’s saying and making it my own for 2012:

“I’m great and I deserve GREAT things”


nature abounds December 27, 2011

Filed under: kids — courtsbrogno @ 7:34 pm

There’s so much to catch up on and share, but for now, I’m just going to tackle today.

Because today was a great day. A spur of the moment day when I woke up and thought, “I want to do something really fun with the kids. An adventure.” I feel like we’ve been in the house a lot, caught up in the holidays and family and rushing around.  We all needed a change of scenery. We needed to slow down.

So, I decided to take the kids to Salmon Creek for a hike. I’ve passed by it every time I’ve gone to Big Sur and I’ve never made the hike, but today, it was 60 degrees, the sun was shining, and we didn’t have anything to do (except for cleaning the house and I did not want to do that). Maddie was grouchy at the prospect, Luke was kind of tired, but I had made up my mind: we were going.

We didn’t do the whole hike. Only to the waterfalls and then we lopped back around to go about half-way to Spruce Camp. I would have liked to have made it all the way to Spruce Camp, but it was such a steep climb and with Luke still on my back, it was getting too difficult.

But it was still gorgeous.

(The hike up.)


(The falls. Gorgeous.)

(Luke was so, so, so made I wouldn’t let him get naked and go play in the water.)

(Luke finally got off my back and walked a little bit by himself)

We then left, and we were all in a better mood. Maddie had stopped pouting, Luke had some energy, and I felt renewed.

We stopped a few times on the side of the road to take in Big Sur’s stunning views:

We also stopped to see the elephant seals.

It was a long day driving up the coast, but it was worth it. Getting my kids out and into nature: that makes me happy. They may not always be pleased, they may whine, they may pout. But once in the depths of nature, their faces change as they become almost enchanted with and by nature’s energy. There is a distinct change in them. Far away from distractions, we have nothing to do but observe the beauty of this earth: the flowers, the trees, the water rushing to the Pacific, the monstrous seals flapping sand over their bodies, winding roads, breath-taking scenery.

It’s not hyperbole when I say this is what keeps me feeling alive in spirit. I want to roll in the dirt and spread my arms against thick rock.I want to rest my head in the moss and whisper my problems to a rushing stream.

And I do, all of this. Because nature abounds. And absorbs all of me.


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.


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.