Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Other Esther

It's not very often that I meet other people with my name.  I never had that problem in kindergarten of having to be called Esther H to differentiate between Esthers.  Sometimes, I've heard of someone's grandmother being called Esther, but never anyone my age.  Until a couple of years ago, when her blonde haired, blue eyed daughter became friends with my blonde haired, blue eyed little girl in first grade.  And there she was, another Esther.  A musical, born in a castle with a Scottish accent and lover of restoring broken things, and broken people, sort of Esther. 

Probably one of my favorite things to photograph is something that tells a story.  Something that lets you glimpse behind what you can easily see and wonder about what comes next.  I was tickled pink to be asked to do the photographs for Esther Sparks & the Whiskey Remedy's new single coming out on January 1st with a vintage vaudeville theme.  We met on a gorgeous fall day for the final filming of the music video.

Esther Sparks & the Whiskey Remedy
Yes, that's my son in a tutu.

The Cast
Esther & Darren-the stars of the show. (Not sure why Chloe looks a little scared in the background)


There was lots of music, and dancing, curious looks from pedestrians and Scottish meat pies.  You gotta be wondering by now, right?  I'll share the link to the video when it's released so that you can see all of the awesomeness for yourself.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A little Bit of Random

Yesterday, the 11 year old and I were in the store.  Look here, Mom.  I glanced up in time to receive a shot of peppermint room spray in the eyes.  A small disclaimer goes here because the lad didn't think that it would spray halfway across the room, and his stricken face was the last thing I saw before my eyes swelled shut.  He led me by an outstretched arm to the bathroom and I spent the next few minutes running water in my eyes.  I was late to pick up Chloe so I had to hurry up and pay, while I was still squinting to see through bloodshot, swollen eyes.  (I felt the need to explain myself to the clerk.)  Chloe wanted to know why the car smelled so strongly of peppermint.

Chloe had her first board breaking session in Tae Kwon Do the other day.  I almost missed it.  There was a miscommunication between me and the husband and he took my car to get a part for his non functioning vehicle. But instead of coming back to get me, he went straight to Chloe's class.  With 5 minutes to get to her class, I left Aidan to watch a pot of soup bubbling on the stove, grabbed the bike out of the garage, pumped up a flat tire and began a Tour de France worthy sprint to the finish line.  The whole time I was...Please God just hold her off until I get there...I promised I'd be there....


Fortunately for our marital harmony, I stepped in the door just as her teacher was asking her if she was ready.  She looked up as I walked through the door and slid into a seat. 


It was a happy ending after all. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

December 6th

I can't believe I haven't updated this little space in so long.  I keep thinking I should sit down and write something, then the thought gets swallowed up in the rest of the day's activity.

I'm homeschooling Chloe for this season.  She goes to her public school for specials-art, music, pe, and science enrichment then spends the rest of the time with me. We are having so much fun being together all day.  I feel like my creative energy comes in bursts and spurts and right now homeschooling is consuming a lot of it. 

I've been taking lots of portraits, and making new friends.  I recently started a facebook page...bluethistlephotography....eek!  That's a little bit scary and a little bit exciting.

We just celebrated a birthday in our house.  Our Thanksgiving baby just turned nine, and not a day goes by that she doesn't make us laugh and give thanks that she's ours.  She's sassy and spunky, and tender and generous.  A bit ago she took her little green purse on a tip to Target because she wanted to look and see if the $9 that she had earned raking leaves for a neighbor was enough to buy her big brother the Lego set that he wanted.  She was about $40 shy, but undeterred, decided to keep saving so maybe she would have enough by Christmas. 

birthday cinnamon rolls
Happy birthday sweet Chloe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Soccer Diva

Soccer season is over and this is one happy momma/coach.  We had a boat load of fun, but it was a lot of time juggling.  As the Hubs has continued to be off working in Texas, I am so grateful for the community of friends who stepped in to help balance my life by shuttling my kids to various events when I was double booked, bringing me brownies because I looked harried, and having us over for dinner.  So grateful!

Chloe was definitely one of the soccer stars this season.  Girlfriend has some serious aggressive tendencies out there on the field.  In fact, if someone had the ball and Chloe was coming at them, chances are good that they were not going to score. 
She's fierce, that one

Chloe owned the middle of the field.  Not many girls could out run her, and very few matched her intensity.  It was a far cry from watching her play as a 6 year old, following the pack with the ball and shouting instructions to her team mates.  In those days, we would bribe her with hot chocolate if she touched the ball-just once!

I was an awesome coach.  Okay, so maybe we didn't win any games, but everyone felt good about themselves and secretly knew they were my favorite.  And we had matching hair ribbons.  It doesn't get much better than that.


This finger on the nose pose is a classic awesome coach pose.  It projects style, knowledge, and other really important coach like attributes.  Claire was my assistant, and a lifesaver.  She knows way more about soccer than I do since she has been playing her whole life and coached middle schoolers before moving here.  The only thing she was missing is the whole finger on her nose pose.  Maybe she'll learn something from me.

I should add that Aidan was my assistant assistant coach.  The girls loved him.  They thought he was amazing, and when he was off at cello lessons I had a barrage of questions about where he was, what he was doing, and when he would be back.  He had an line up of hugs our last day which wasn't his favorite since he's in that whole preteen "don't touch me" stage.  It didn't seem to diminish his halo though when he peeled their arms off.  Some of the girls were more interested in chasing Aidan than the soccer ball.  Hmm. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy Fall

When my friend, Sarah, lived here we had a tradition of making chili and pumpkin pie on the first day of fall to celebrate.  She's lives in Germany now, but the first day of fall still sent me scurrying to my cupboard to pull out the pumpkin pie recipe, and set a pot of bison quinoa chili to simmer all day on the stove. The first day of fall gives me permission to finally use the fall fruits that have been cropping up in the stores.  And I suddenly feel the cravings for lasagna, bisques, and pumpkin everything.  

Long's Peak

Sunday we celebrated the memory of my Dad who passed away a year ago.  My brother's family and our crew took our mom to Estes Park for the day to spend our time remembering in one of his favorite places.  I baked up a batch of my Dad's favorite cookie, Jubilee Jumbos, that has become a part of the family lore.  In college, my mom was sitting in class when a plaintative voice came drifting in through the window singing...jubilee jumbos...juubbilleeee juumbooos...

Estes Park
The aspen leaves are turning a gorgeous yellow tinged with fiery red.  It makes me happy.  Chloe and I are getting this homeschool thing figured out.  Some days it's too beautiful to be inside, so we drag the math books outside and find a cozy rock to do our business.  She's loving being home with her momma, and I'm loving having her with me.  Happy fall.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The New Normal

I'm trying to find a new rhythm these days.  My darling husband has been working away on a project in Texas, which means he's been home for 4 days in the last month and counting. That leaves me pulling the single mom wagon, with one child in cello and lacrosse, and the other in tae kwon do and soccer-which I also happen to be coaching.  I'm super thankful for the family and friends who have loved on us in various ways, feeding us dinner, working on my car, making me brownies and chai and stepping in to help ferry children when I'm double booked.  
Some days I do feel like superwoman and I'm doing OK;  other days I'm singing "a few of my favorite things..." through clenched teeth.  (For the record, Julie Andrews, that doesn't really help.)  The other night I was up late digging through the cupboards because I had forgotten that I needed to make a French dessert for Aidan's world languages class and I already had one child asleep.  (No pressure, mom, but I did tell my teacher that you were sure to bring something.)  I found a recipe online that matched the apples, cinnamon, and lemon I had on hand and voila-an apple cloufti.  Today I discovered a squirrel is living in my roof.  I'm not sure what to do about that one, although the thought did cross my mind to hoist Roscoe up there.
coal creek trail
I just started homeschooling Chloe part time this week.  She is going to school for specials, and spending the rest of the day with me.  We felt like she needed a little boost in some areas, and because she is relatively high performing at school, those things she struggles with are never addressed.  She's been waking up every day eagerly asking what we are doing.  She's anticipating something creative and wonderful (and I'm not even sure what we are having for dinner!).  Which is why I'm sitting by this stream while she's in school, giving space for something magical to bubble up and appear in my mind.  I do think that learning is an extension of living, and most times we just need to be present in the moment.  We rode the trail on our bikes to school, and stopped to watch a hawk circling and collect leaves that are losing their green chlorophyll.
Aidan had his first lacrosse game this last Friday.  He loved it.  Hes not concerned with what the score is really, or even who's doing the scoring, he's just completely stoked that he can run around and hit people with his stick.  Last week I wondered if I could get away with switching places because I was thinking it would be just the thing that day to run around and to hit somebody with a stick. 

 I'm off to teach cursive...


Monday, September 3, 2012


Aidan and Chris are downstairs playing Portal 2 with the little sis keeping company.  The last two days have been spent in the glorious expanse of the mountains, and for right now, all is as it should be in my house.

 The last two weeks with Chris gone have been stretching for me.  I got to play mommy, and daddy, soccer coach, fix it man, and everything else.  Some nights things got left behind, like grocery shopping and a regular dinner.  There may have been one night where I handed Aidan a jar of peanut butter and crackers, while Chloe munched on panda puffs.  (The incredulous look on his face was hilarious because that is definitely Not Normal around here) There were several nights where I sat up with my new middle schooler and tried to walk him through those first few days; and feeling so inadequate.  I could only absorb his emotions and give him a safe place to express his sudden insecurities and frustrations.  (while wishing we could have solved this before bedtime)  But I couldn't fix anything.  Then I realized all of a sudden that was okay, and I wasn't supposed to.  Because if I took away all of the mountains my kids have to climb, they will never learn to conquer life.  And that they can conquer life.


 It's not easy to watch them sometimes scramble and slip, but I know that when they make it to the top and look down at what they have accomplished, they will be so proud, and more brave when they encounter their next mountain.


 It would be negligent of me to give them wings, and never allow them to use them.  But it's tough on the mommy, even knowing that love allows hard things.


When they are little, you can swoop in and fix life with a snuggle and a kiss, but when they're older, sometimes you just gotta sit there on the edge of the bed and feel helpless, until suddenly, they find their feet again.  Maybe I'm learning something though too.

And when they stand on top of their mountain, they will feel like they did it on their own, but I will have the gray hairs and sleepless nights that says nobody climbs a mountain best, alone.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cafe

I have this memory of serving an older brother, just home from work, a handmade menu and playing chef to make his dinner.  All I can remember making is crispy pieces of fried ham and cinnamon apples with butter-lots of it.

Yesterday is proof that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.  Aidan loves to cook, he's 11 and likes to spend his money buying exotic spice combinations.  He's actually a really amazing at the chef thing. Chloe delights in creating beauty, and celebrating anything-give her a reason and she'll squirrel off to her room with various art supplies, whipping up something special. 

They cooked up a plan to combine their talents and make some money.  A few select people were invited for the inaugural opening.  Invitations were made, a menu planned, and grocery shopping done.

I'm not speaking from bias when I say that Aidan's breakfast burritos are AMAZING!  He uses a complex concoction of spices that shouldn't work, but somehow does.

fresh eggs from the girls
making coffee
Chloe dressed the part of hostess, made place cards, and was in charge of all the waitressing.

name cards
Breakfast was a complete success.  One little guy at the table enthusiastically told Aidan that "public restaurants are much fancier, but the food here is WAY better".  And all I had to do was heat tortillas!

At this rate, it looks like I'll be out of a job soon.  Now, if I can only get them to cook vegetables...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kiss and Tell

I'm watching the stream of ants that magically appeared after I laid out the ant traps.  And I feel really bad, because they are telling each other in ant talk that they found something really special.  They've called out all the workers ants and they are rapidly decreasing the amount of clear poison in the little plastic case.  But I know, they are all going to die, and I feel bad about it.  I'm telling them that I'm sorry, and I asked them nicely to please go away.  I spent a week vacuuming, squirting, and squishing.  I used up a tube of silicone caulk trying to block off all their entry points. But they kept coming back, and ranging farther and farther into the house.  I'm sorry little ants, but you really left me with no choice. 

In other notes: our pile of adoption paperwork is slowly moving into the "filled out" pile.  We still need to get fingerprints, doctors notes, cpr trained, and a few other items, but we are plugging along.  We've answered all sorts of questions about each other and our personalities, parents, siblings, friends, dogs, chickens...(time to kiss and tell).  Chris and I got into a rountine of sitting in bed at night with a pile of paperwork and a movie, occasionally peeking over the other's shoulder to see what was being said about us.  (Okay, maybe most of the peeking was being done by me.) It was interesting though, that the way we rated ourselves was almost always spot on with the way the other person rated us.

And to finish: here's a picture of Aidan being super manly by swimming in an alpine lake.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The kids started school last week.  After a couple of days of quiet, I start to miss the little critters.

6th grade and 3rd grade!
The garden is a crazy riot of greenery.  I planned and organized with neat little rows and burlap lined walkways, and I was SURE that I gave everything plenty of space this year.  Guess not.  Trying to pick produce without stepping on something important is a balancing act which looks like an intricate yoga pose, and has sent me sprawling into the tomatoes more than once.
I never finished painting that stretch of blue trim after I fell off the ladder last year.
Sunflowers make me happy
Missy Franklin
The newest member of our clan.  Chloe earned the bunny after 2 months of a "Bunny Responsibility Plan".  She spent the summer cleaning the chicken coop, providing them with fresh water and food daily and getting up with the sun to let them out of their house.  This cuteness is the result.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Rolling Ants on Binders

Every year, around the times that the kids go back to school, a council of ants convenes and decides to invade my house.  For some reason they decide to ignore the large numbers lost in previous years to squishing, squirting, and vacuuming, and think this year will be the one the takeover is successful.  Seriously, whoever is in charge should be fired.   If I were a peon ant listening to the dying scream of my comrades, I would stage a revolt.  Or maybe these are the ants who ticked the queen off and so she's having her revenge.  Bad queen.

We survived the first few days of back to school.  There was one small crises when it became apparent that I was the only parent to succumb to the large, plastic, 3.97 binders from Wal-Mart.  (Although in my defense, I was just following the school supply list)  However, certain middle school disaster was averted after a marathon, multi store shopping trip that ended with the desired item found and clutched in my completely cranky and there's no way on earth I'm going to another store hands. 

Today is my first soccer practice.  The one where I'm coaching because no other parent would volunteer.  My last coaching experience was Aidan's wee ball team, back when it was okay to stand on your head on second base and half the team might leave the field in the middle of an inning for a potty break.  I was never quite sure how I got wrangled into coaching then, I just signed up to "help" and the next thing I know, they're handing me a roster list and telling me good luck.  I'm not sure any of them actually learned anything about playing baseball.  But at least they all felt good about themselves.  And we had good snacks which is really the important part. 

And because every blog post should have a picture, here's one of us rolling down a hill.  The classic part where Aidan rolls with wild abandon and then runs into Chloe and I, and makes her cry.

hill rolling at it's finest

Monday, August 13, 2012

Little Big News

Summer's almost over and the kids will be heading back to school in 2 days.  I've been absent from this blog as we've been squeezing the last goodness out of summer.  There is a layer of dust on the computer and a to-do list piling up, but we've been knee deep in making memories.  Riding our bikes to get ice cream, playing in alpine lakes, turning little bits of ordinary days into moments to remember.

A few weeks ago, I was checking out a waiting children photo listing and someone caught my eye. Chris and the kids were also immediately hooked. We've been in a holding pattern about adoption, anxious to go ahead, but feeling stuck somehow.  But this one little girl gave us the courage to turn our waiting into action. There is mounds and mounds of paperwork still to go, and lots more waiting to come. Right now we are holding things loosely in our hearts because there is much that has to be happen before we can be matched with her.  But we have stepped into the process, and the pile of paperwork we just received is daunting to be sure, but here we go!

We are a little bit nervous, a little bit excited, and a little bit scared.  Kind of like how when you look at that little blue line telling you that you're pregnant, you know your life is about to change, but you're not sure exactly how.  And there's still that little bit of nervousness of the unknown What Ifs.  But we are just going to take it one step at a time, and trust the Author who gives life to our stories with these new pages.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I love Two Gay Men

I'm not making a political or a religious statement.  I sorta think there's a few too many of those running around anyway.  I'm just gonna tell a story. 

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to be gay in the "buckle of the Bible belt".  It was difficult enough for me as a "good christian" growing up there, trying to make sense of all the rules and regulations that the church provided.  But I guess there's a certain sense of safety in following a set of guidelines that are prescribed to get you where you want to go, and get you out of where you don't want to go.  You know like how if you follow the speed limit you won't get sent to jail for speeding?Unfortunately, I'm not really sure anymore that it works like that.

 I used to be the most black and white thinker; just like my dad.  His initial view of homosexuals would have made the most conservative right winger proud.  I'm not sure exactly how he started changing, but I think that it began with his two gay neighbors.  And maybe the fact that they became humans, and friends, not just another statistic.  I wonder if they were cautious about the two christians that moved in next door.  After all, they must have felt the sting of our religious fervour at some point in their lives. 

I think it's ironic that two men in a group of people most stigmatized by the church, lived next to a man who also began to feel the sting of rejection, from his own people, as the disfigurement from his cancer grew. 

I love these men because they are the backs that carried my dad to the emergency room as he was dying.  They are the ones who took care of the little details that death demands, and made a wall around my mom to protect her from prying questions.  They sat with me on the front stoop and never once offered a hollow sounding cliche because they were angry and sad too.  They are the ones who didn't fade quickly back into their normal lives, because it was their loss too.  And they whispered...let us know what we can do, because we would do anything, anything, for your parents.  And they meant it, because they treasured the love my parents had given them.

I've been asked if I was angry at God.  And I'm not. Because In the midst of darkness and rejection, I've seen His relentless pursuit to give Grace.  I saw Jesus myself, that day my dad died, through the hands of two gay men.

So y'all can fuss and carry on, boycott and whatever else.  But I'm thinking that it might be missing the point.  Maybe the point that a front porch view and a knock on a neighbor's door give you.  The point that Grace is not exclusive and Love really does transcend all boundaries.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What is Beauty?

A guest blog by Aidan Cummings: Some people think that beauty is about supermodels and flowers and eyeliner. But it's not. It's simple, and not fancy and showy. It's just love and family, and support when you need it. Like for example, a whole crowd cheering a child with a disability as he crawls his way through a race. As our Iraqi friend would say, "that is soooo beautiful."

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dom Cathedral

We had the chance  to visit Germany's "most visited landmark"-the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Cologne. (Officially the High Cathedral of Saints Peter and Mary.)

I don't have a view camera so there is some perspective distortion as the tops of the buildings seem to lean imposingly.  But I actually like the affect.  It sort of fits the feeling of being in the shadow of the huge towers.

Dom Cathedral

The day that we visisted Cologne was dark and overcast.  At one point, we had to huddle with forced intimacy in the doorway of a souvenier shop with other pedestrains as the sky opened and poured rain, then abruptly stopped as quickly as it began.


Inside, the air was heavy feeling.  Aidan was tip toeing next to me and whispered that he didn't think that it didn't felt like a church should feel. 

Supposedly the remains of the Three Wise Men
While walking around the city we found the most cheerful little shop.  There was a bright colorful display in the window in the midst of this gray and gloomy city that drew us in like bees to a flower.  The best part was that inside we discovered a a huge selection of Shaun the Shaf merchandiseNow, Chloe loves sheep more than anyone I know, but we all love Shaun the Sheep!  I think we amused the very German shopkeeper with our giddy, childlike excitment.  (And, seriously, watching an engineer that excited about a child's cartoon is great entertainment.) We exercised great restraint though, and only came away with one small magnet.

Musician in front of the great front doors
The Silver Knight

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


It took about 5 minutes in Germany for my wee ones to decide that they would like to move there.  Of course, a lot of places that we have visited have tended to provoke the same reaction from them.  (Excluding Kansas on down South for some reason.) 
On May 21 we visited the immigrant museum in Hamburg, Germany, which was the spot that exactly 110 years to the day,  my great grandparents on my mother's side had left from to immigrate to the United States. 

Mom marking the spot that her grandparents had left from

My oldest brother has been doing some research on our ancestry.  It appears that a side of our family had the genes of wanders.  With no apparent reason, my ancestors picked up their bags and moved.  Gradually through the generations making their way from Europe to England to Ireland and Scotland.  Continuing from there to New York and then gradually moving from the East coast to the West coast, to where my father was born in California. 

An advertisement coaxing immigrants to America
Some of the 7 kids in my family have picked a spot and stayed there.  Some of us, though, seem to have inherited the Fernweh of our forefathers.  (A German word that literally means "to ache for distant places".)

The Auguste Victoria that carried my great grandparents to Ellis Island
When I was growing up, we moved so often that I had a friend whose parents questioned whether my parents were running from the law.  To me it seemed totally natural that we moved often, it was more unfathomable to me to stay in the same place all your life.  Even now, I start to get restless after a few years in the same place. 

Items from a shipwrecked boat carrying immigrants
Hamming it up at the "immigration office"
It's interesting to think that the same courage and taste for adventure that ran through my ancestors veins, made its way through the generations to affect even our present day lives; giving my children a Fernweh of their own.

Reproduction of immigrant housing

Monday, June 25, 2012


In an effort to escape this stifling, crazy kind of heat we've been having, we headed to the mountains for our first family camping trip.  We drove an hour or so up to an old ghost town, Caribou.  Here and there we saw evidence of it's silver mining past, although Mother Nature has erased much of its history.

Caribou, Colorado

We adjusted to the fire ban that forbid a campfire, but allowed a camp stove.  Although, really, sitting around roasting marshmallows over a little blue flame is not the same experience as having an actual fire.

Boys and water...
King of the mountain brandishing his swords
Off to battle

The kids loved the freedom of wide open spaces, small mountain streams, old ruins, and moose tracks the size of my hand. It was an arena made for adventures.

Mountain man...before the slip off the rocks that dislocated a knee...

Someone forgot the pan to cook the carefully selected chocolate chip pancake mix in, which necessitated an early departure and trip to the Happy Trails coffee shop for coffee and croissants. Come to find out the younger set doesn't view mesquite flavored pistachios as appropriate breakfast food.


We brought the dog, who enjoyed his adventure just as much as the kids, and slept outside the door of the tent to guard us from the wilds. Next time though, he needs to carry his fair share.

A tiny cabin that now houses only wildflowers and grasses

I remembered vacationing in Colorado when I was a girl. My dad kept stopping and exclaiming over the flowers, bending over to take pictures.  I thought it was funny at the time, that in the midst of the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, he was enthralled by the little wildflowers at our feet.  He was especially enchanted with the Columbine. He would have liked this one, I think.