Life Ends: Please Roll Down a Hill Somewhere

That is my Dad with my daughters Portia and Libby at Taltree Arboretum in Valparaiso, Indiana. It is a gorgeous place to spend some time.  We went there for my Dad’s 70th Birthday and for our dog Steve’s 7th birthday.  

My Dad rolled down a big hill with those little girls.  I am too stuffy and uptight these days to do such nonsense.  I admire my galpal Whitney who introduced my girls to rolling down hills...tho Libby is short on the concept and tries to roll across the hill instead of down it. 


That is what they were up to but I had to explain it to my Dad since it didn’t look like a successful downhill roll.  He showed them.  He rolled and laughed and I watched.  I took some pictures and felt I was missing out.

A few weeks after this wonderful day my Dad’s brother Paul died.  He had been sick but not...well not that sick?  It was a harsh surprise to get the phone calls, the text messages from Colorado inviting love and tears as my Uncle Paul’s three daughters and family gathered around him and his health failed utterly.  If you know me at all you know all my wildness is attributed to my “C Chromosome” as in Curlee, our family name.  My Dad and his three brothers Paul, Charlie and Johnny make up a wild and crazy foursome I am fully delighted in.  They are all musical, outdoorsy, wild and fun.  They love well.   They say “I’m Sorry.” and they are FOUR.  
Charlie, Johnny, Paul and Jimmy(MyDad)

My heart aches.  My head has been everywhere these last days.  I really shouldn’t even write about this.  I leave in a few days to travel with my Dad to honor Paul.  To try to console or at least cry with my family.  There will be singing.  Beer. Food. But the taste will be off because of our sadness. Some joy will be missing. 

I cannot imagine losing my Dad and I cannot imagine our family without Uncle Paul.  We need him there raising the crazy level or painting the rest of us while we are at it.   He made up songs for us every time we met.  He played and sang lots of songs next to Uncle Johnny and then my cousins Ericka and Josh began playing too.  I sang a favorite, The Circle Game, into my daughter’s hair and cried. I hope we will sing that together next week.  

Or that at least we try.

Uncles Charlie, Johnny, Paul and my Dad Jim

Uncle Paul’s last closing on his Care Journal the week before he died was “Love and Light and The Flow”  Perfectly Paul, and it was as if he knew we might need such an uplifting least in writing.  His daughters Ericka and Alexi sent out a formal announcement with the following piece by Runi which made me weep and hope and seek.  
Uncle Paul with his Mandolin last summer.

“Out beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.  When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about."

Cool Father’s Day Gift He DOES Want: Gifts from Uncommon Goods Giveaway

One of you lucky folks is going to be able to get your Dad a GREAT present this Father’s Day.  May I give you a teeny bit of advice? Your Dad Husband Father Son who now has a son (or daughter, we apparently prefer girls at our house) DOES NOT WANT SOCKS as a Father’s Day Gift. (NOTE: I’m pretty sure my husband doesn’t want socks either.  Or the XLT  v-neck undershirts from JC Penney’s I bought him because I just am not domesticated enough to keep his clean.  Or unwrinkled. And I rarely let him near the laundry room. Silly Me.) 
My Dad with Portia and Libby at Talltree Arboretum

Dad will tell you he doesn’t want or need anything.  This is a lie to spare you the embarrassment and cost of trying to buy something for the man who has it all. (Obviously, he has YOU!) But you still want to get him a gift.

Socks, dress shirts, loud short sleeved shirts from Target on sale: NO.  Nifty Father’s Day Gifts from the Kohl’s ad in the Sunday paper: NOPE. Dad does not want this stuff.  

What does the Father, Dad, Pop, Papa, Daddy, Man of the Month want?  

Something interesting. 

For the love of all parenting challenges, get him something INTERESTING.

He wants something creative and thoughtful;  better yet if you can help other people at the same time. 

I can tell you where to look for ANY FATHER:  Check out Uncommon Goods, folks!  The company has an inspiring mission that makes me feel good about anything I buy from them.  I have personally drooled through their Father’s Day Gifts, and have been tempted to buy myself a few Father’s Day Treats!!!  For that man that matters in your life, your Father, Grandfather, Husband, Brother...Uncommon Goods has super cool unique gifts for every budget.  

I always sort my shopping searches priced low to high and with Uncommon Goods it was so refreshing to see neat Father’s Day gifts even under $10!!! (I got a kick out of the budget priced  shark socks myself!) You can filter your search so well, including handmade items or recycled selections!  You can be environmentally green while wowing That Man this Father’s Day.
At least make them COOL socks!
One reader will win a $50 gift certificate to the Uncommon Goods website.  (And if you buy yourself a little something while you are there I’ll never tell.)  I am receiving a $50 gift certificate too for sharing this giveaway with you, so we both win!  

Enter to Win by doing one or all of the following.  Each entry gives you a better chance at winning.  Please add a new comment here for EACH ENTRY to receive credit. Winner will be drawn randomly from all entries by a two year old this time.  Contests ends Saturday June 1st at 10:00am

Enter to Win $50 gift certificate from Uncommon Goods and find your perfect Father’s Day Gift!  You get one giveaway entry for completing each of the seven items below. Please post a separate blog comment below for each one you complete. Winner will be posted on the blog Saturday June 1st by 5:00PM.

1) Tell me your idea of the WORST or FUNNIEST Father’s Day gift ever!

2) Look at Uncommon Goods Fathers Day Gifts and tell me which one you would like to give this Father’s Day.

3)  Like Uncommon Goods on Facebook

4) Sign up for Uncommon Goods insider email

5) Tweet about this giveaway with this link:

6) Follow Uncommon Goods on Twitter

7) Follow Uncommon Goods on Pinterest!

Good luck everybody!  I hope you enjoy Uncommon Goods as much as I have.  
My two favorite Fathers: Dad and Hubby John!

I Hate Little Kid’s Books: HELP ME PLEASE! Best Books for Parents to Read to Kids

"No Honey, I do not know where your Dora the Explorer book went.”

"Winnie the Pooh that is NOT AA Milne’s brilliant and clever version?  Nope. No idea that that might have fallen behind your bed a month or so ago.” I might say.

I hate kids books.  They are silly and mind numbing and...perfect for our little darling’s mental and cognitive development.  UGH. And because repetition breeds mastery our kids want to read and re-read  their favorites over and over again.  I think the Velveteen Rabbit By Margery Williams is AWESOME....but after weeks of reading it daily, I did tuck it behind the bed “accidentally".  For two months. And I have a love hate relationship with Skippyjon Jones....but Portia has most of it memorized and that is purty darn cute, Mr. Fuzzybuns.

I might have fallen even more deeply in love with my husband as he began to read chapter books to my toddler girls last summer.  "The Magic Gourd” by  an author I do not recall and “Now We Are Six” by AA Milne, so very few pictures but OH!  What beautiful language!

I have always been razzed for my use of language.  I like big words and I used to read the dictionary to learn new ones.  I’ve been told by bosses to ‘dumb down’ my words when teaching classes.  I might not be a deep thinker, but I love WORDS and the wide depth and variety.  Sure I cuss and use slang, but Je parles dans le Francais aussi! (May not be written correctly, but it is the spoken word I do best, you see.)

If the current masses of TV centric character books have you rolling your eyes, shoving them behind the bed or couch or donation box, try these choices instead!  Sure, the language may sound high handed for your four year old, but isn’t that better than dumbed down?  And the plots and stories are richer, deeper and smarter than anything you will find through a made-for-TV-but-now-seeking-literary-acclaim piece of tripe.  (I’m looking at you, Thomas Train!)

I buy used books through for a SONG.  Check these out:

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth a collection of tales about a Big Panda who speaks “With a slight panda accent” full of life lessons and engaging illustrations....We have two of his books and I am looking for the rest.  I read them when the kids are asleep.  My Dad bought them for the girls becasue they often use haiku poems and he is all about that.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans a charming story about little schoolgirls in France.  My Aunt Ruth sent this one to the girls, I had never read it.  THIS was a book I didn’t mind reading daily for a time.

Eloise by Kay Thompson annoyed my Dad with her six year old antics but I enjoyed it.  This one, again from Aunt Ruth who said a college pal used it as a monologue for a theater class!  IMAGINE!

The House on Pooh Corner by AA Milne bears little resemblance to the Disney dumbed down kind of Pooh story book most of our children know.  Just reading these makes me smile even when the girls do not get the subtlety.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter is my least favorite...but they are all awesome and right now I cannot remember which book is about the dollhouse and that rotten mouse Muncha Muncha who lives in a dollhouse and cries while cutting a plastic ham. 

Usborne books tend to be brilliant but more mainstream than the oldies. I know there are lots of very good books out there, what are some of your favorites?

I would love to hear about your ideas of clever books for small children.  Erica Barker sent me this link to her post on Great Kids Books for Boys! And Jeff Cagwin sent me his post  on books too!

Mamas: Stop Buying Your Clothes at Target (Yes, we can tell!) Try Beyond Pink Boutique

When I used to work and wasn’t sitting about all day eating bonbons and wiping little teeny tiny person butts, I wore nice clothes.  The people around me wore nice clothes.  Of course, we didn’t always dress well  or expensively and I was still young and trying things out.  My clothes were all Casual Corner suits with a sprinkling of Target and Marshall’s mixed in. My hair was another matter.  Like when I had personal struggles and  colored and permed my hair within an inch of it’s life over the course of one particularly rough month. My colleague BFF Jean and Precious Boss Texas Suzanne worked together to get my hair into Haircrafter’s Salon to fix the mess.  And there might have been a highly inappropriate incident in which Someone was in a professional meeting and removed, just for laughs, a hairpiece which one should not have been wearing anyway.  In order to brag about how one could have long hair even when one actually had short hair.  Talk about wisdom in older age...yeesh.  Anyhoo.
Just realized this sweater is too big!

Now I am a Mama.  I dress pretty well for a stay at home mama.  Mostly because of my neck skin.  It has started doing interesting and creative things and so I dress nicer lately to distract folks from looking at it.   My summer uniform is usually skirts and tshirts so I might look dressed up but can sweat and play and sit on the ground with the best of them.  I just look fancy.    My thighs aren’t up for any modeling jobs and shorts tend to show that.  Or the skorts I am now addicted to.  But...I digress.  As a mama the only new clothes I am buying are more tshirts I do not need from Target.  And every time I go in that store I want to buy more pajamas.  Like I hang out in my pjs?  (If you haven’t seen this picture, just pretend with me, OK?)

Beyond Pink, interesting but not quite right
Date night was coming as it does every week.  Most weeks I do shower, but my wardrobe needed a lift.  I got my haircut at Vanis Salon by the famous RJ (back when I could afford her....*sigh*) and I figured I would take my special gift card I got from Mothers and More Spring Fling right on over to the nearby Beyond Pink Clothing Boutique in Valparaiso and see if I could find a little something SASSIER than Target’s latest offerings.  I was still blushing from seeing fashion guy Nick Verreos from Project Runway speak on style and he said “Ladies, stop buying ALL of your clothes at Target!  You cannot be fashionable only buying clothes where you buy food.”  I was wearing a Target jacket and shirt and about died from the truth of it.  Mamas, They Know.  So Beyond Pink.  Thought I would try it.

Tempting but a few flaws.

I came in dripping from the rain with salon fabulous hair.  My gift card was $25 off of $50 or more, so frugal me planned to spend EXACTLY $50 in order to get Something Wonderful for around $25.  This boutique is very LaDiDa for me, so I headed for the clearance rack.  Lesley Steele was working that fateful night, and as I blathered on about my gift card and stay at home budget and Target wardrobe and date night she began to pull things for me to try on.  Lesley was a GIFT to me.  We decided to look for a marvelous shirt and the things she brought to me were between $20 and $80 for a variety of shirts, some from the clearance rack, some clearly not.  (Sisters, when one buys $8 tshirts from Target, can you imagine the sticker shock to see a shirt for $80?)  Does it wash and fold itself?  No, in fact it needs to be NOT WASHED IN A GREAT BIG PILE WITH OTHER STUFF?  What does “hand wash" mean, anyway?  Like what I do after touching sticky dining toddlers?  HUH?

Lesley Steele, wearing a scarf I loved
It was so exciting and interesting to me to shop at Beyond Pink.  I was so out of my element and yet felt so pampered and special.  Lesley took pictures of a few more interesting options and tho I REALLY wanted to spend less, I did find a shirt that was AHHHHMAZING. It was an ethereal robin’s egg blue shirt with ruching and a longer length.  The drape of expensive clothes is really does make a difference.  With my coupon I still paid $60 for it, but it is worth it.  The last time I paid as much for a shirt I only had one child, and I still love and cherish it.  (It is a cobalt blue Cabi Designs wrap shirt that makes me thinner, smarter and more beautiful.) 

The last time I even tried on anything lovely was at Ivy Boutique here in Valparaiso way back in November, but I didn’t shell out and probably should have!  I’m paring down my wardrobe and figure if I stop buying Target Tshirts every week and purchase quality clothing once in a greater while, I can have a smaller, better wardrobe for these mama years.  Plus a little splurge makes me feel good.  And a little guilty, which admittedly has it’s own innocent pleasure, amIright?

THE Shirt, Jane from Mad Men, Anyone?
So here is what I bought!  Thank you Lesley & Beyond Pink & Mothers and More! It is currently waiting to get washed carefully and respectfully because Somebody was crying against it the last time I wore it on Mother’s Day.  Somebody who was at brunch with our family but really would rather be napping and declared rather loudly “DONE!  I DONE!” and dissolved into tears.  I held her as I finished my fabulous Susie’s Cafe meal and felt gorgeous in my little ruched robin’s egg  blue top.  Sure, a Target T-shirt would have dabbed those baby tears better....but the mama in blue holding a sad person felt absolutely alive and ravishing and that has no price. As long as there is a coupon, anyway!  

Live Better WINNER of Conscious Box Giveaway

Thanks to all of you who entered my LIVE BETTER Conscious Box Giveaway!  I am excited to get my free box in the mail, and so grateful to them for letting me give away one too.

I had the girls draw our winner and it is WHITNEY!  Congratulation to you, I hope you enjoy your Conscious Box and learn about some new products.  Please send me your email address and I will get your information to them for your prize!

Keep checking back or just sign up to receive my blog posts in your inbox to hear about my review of my Conscious Box when it arrives.

LIVE BETTER: Conscious Box DELIGHTFUL Giveaway!

I’ve been a leetle down in the mouth lately, but THIS made me smile!  A box of goodies from good companies sent to me every month?  Yes, Please!  Conscious Box, a fascinating group offered to give one of you fine folks a free month’s box, and I get one too....WAHOOO!

I get a monthly subscription box from is makeup and girlie things and I like it.  I like a little surprise every month and  it is worth the monthly subscription fee.  

Conscious Box is the same type of deal but it is foodie thangs and body products too AND they are better quality and ingredients for my life. Conscious Box finds natural, sustainable CONSCIOUSLY created and marketed products and send them out for you to try from your own little house.  Instead of wondering if something new will also be something you like, you can experiment from home and share...if you are nicer than I am.  (I might hide my box from  my family and try everything myself!)

I love having a little surprise coming to me monthly. Not that one. Not bills.  THIS one.

To enter the giveaway, please do any one or all of the following for chances to win, and comment on my blog(not FB please) for each entry.  Winner will be chosen randomly by a four year old child based on all entries.

1) Tell me which Conscious Box category you are most interested and excited about.

2)  LIKE Conscious Box  on Facebook (...they are having A LOT of fun over there!)

3)  Set up a free account at Conscious Box and learn more about their quality clients here.

4) Make up a poem or haiku about Conscious Box just to amuse me further...see mine below:

Oh, Dear Conscious Box,
Will you send me Unreal Sweets
and other good treats?

The contest runs until May 7th so get those comments a’comin!  Check back on the 7th after 5pm for our WINNER of a FREE MONTH’S CONSCIOUS BOX!  I will also review my free box when it comes sometime next week...what fun, a healthy gift to me this month.  Thanks Conscious Box!