Sunday, August 31, 2008

Will it stick?

It's Sunday. The last weekend day of summer. Yes, we have labor day tomorrow - another "day off." But if you have kids you know - first hand - that labor day is very much full of labor. Getting kids' school clothes folded or hung. Tossing the chewed up flip flops and grass stained shorts in the Goodwill bag. Making sure you have lunch bags. Water bottles (no plastic, please!). White socks. Underwear that actually fits your kids. And, of course, new shoes. Who doesn't love new shoes on the first day of school?! We all do, but it means moms and dads schlepping kids in and out of many stores finding ones that don't feel "weird" "tight" "short" "just not right" "odd" "ummm" "yuck" "flat" "spongy" or "ugly" (a sampling of descriptors I recently overheard by children who will remain unnamed).

My last-sunday-of-summer was NOT spent in a kid's shoe department, thank goodness. It was dedicated to what I deem an even more "important" task as we prepare for me (Carol) and my darling dumplings (7th and 3rd grade this year!) to head back to school.

My task emerged from a vow I made to never - ever! - in the coming year to utter the dreadful question: "what the heck should we have for dinner?" while simultaneously ending the spending of my entire 401k on Davanni's Pizza (the Bruess usual: solo traditional crust cheese for 3rd grader, 3-cheese calzone for 7th grader, and turkey hoagie for hubby and me).

It started in early July with a sorting of my favorite recipes, most of them torn pages plucked over the years from Cooking Light, MSLiving, Real Simple, Bon Appetite, the Star Trib, notes jotted from friends' kitchens, mailings from realtor postcards, and miscellaney printings from my fav recipe sites (what did we do before I also flagged all the yummy-sounding recipes in my Moosewood Restaurant Classics, my 500 Soups Compendium, and my tiny little treasured panini resource manual. All recipes are assigned a number. Numbers are assigned to days. Days are collated into weekly grocery shopping lists. On October 28th, 2008 we'll be enjoying baked pasta with spinach, ricotta and prosciutto. On November 4th? Butternut squash soup with ginger and veggie burgers. On January 19th: Big bowl quinoa salad and on Feb 5th:" Chicken curry in a hurry." Sound delicious? I agree. But - why am I surprised? - my kids didn't think so. After a number of "ewww"s and "grossssss" came the question: "how much butternut squash can you expect a kid to eat in a year?"

So, I decided that while developing a new recipe/menu plan, I should also implement a new family dinner ritual. I'm not sure if it will stick, but the beauty of trying intentionally to develop a new ritual is that no harm done if it fails; no sense in not trying if you think it serves a purpose; and no worries if it doesn't make it because you can always change it.

The new rule (ritual) at the Bruess house this year: When a meal is cooking or placed lovingly on the dinner table, everyone has to say (not in unison): "Yum. We're so lucky."

We are, truly. And so why not say it out loud every single night, eh kids?

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Growing Family

Jeff and Julie, my (Anna's) brother and sister-in-law, welcomed a new addition to their family a few weeks ago. Isn't Joshua John adorable? We get to go see him in a couple of weeks and I can't wait! His older brother, Jacob, proudly promised to introduce us to Joshua as soon as we land in Denver. Jeff and Julie - like the loving couples we write about in "What Happy Parents Do" - are deeply committed to modeling a healthy relationship for their children. I can't wait to see them in action with their not one but two sweet children.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Meet Gwynnie

For those of you who don't know, I'm living with a super cool family in Kentucky. While I've only known them a little over a week, I feel like I've known them my whole life. Eating meals and spending time with them makes life so much more enjoyable when I start to feel lonesome for Brent. Gwynnie (my Kentuckian "sister") and I have already developed our own rituals! Before turning in for the night, we sit on my bed and watch an episode of "Friends" together while eating a few dark chocolate M&M's. It's like a slumber party each night! Here she is finishing a little math homework while I do some work on my computer.

First day of classes tomorrow. Will update soon!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The new girl on the block ...

... is snowy white, fluffy soft, has the pinkest tongue and the cutest tail.

Her name is Kitty Davis (that's her first name) and she's not only "the cutest dog in the universe" (according to Lori of the Lori and Julia show, FM 107.1, who happens also to be a neighbor), but Kitty D. is Fred's new girlfriend! He is, literally, dating the girl next door. Ah, we're in love.

Fred + Kitty Davis: A heavenly dog-loving match made on Portland Avenue.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Miss Anna

It's true. I cried deep inside when she left.

But then I smiled.

Because I, like she, knows this is her path right now. Trust that a Kentucky Ph.D. is what she deserves right now. Love the fact that she is willing to go for it. Smartly. Thoughtfully. Willingly. Always mindfully.

Anna, my friend and partner: Study hard. Text and call often (during orientation, a boring lecture, and/or late on a lonely Kentucky evening .... )

And come home soon, will ya already.

(p.s. I can feel a next book coming on: What Happy Long-Distance Authors Do: The Silly Little Rituals of Super-Sappy Sistahs)

Friday, August 22, 2008

I love Kentucky

I really do. Can you blame me? Just look at that library. Libraries are my weakness. While Carol's favorite smell is cleaning solution, mine is the scent of old, musty books. UK's library, I learned during orientation, is the 2nd largest in the country. I'm dying to find my own little corner of this lovely space.

More perks? My professors are equally as brilliant as they are supportive and professional. My classmates are both fun and smart. It's truly all I could have hoped for. And, while it's tough saying goodnight to my sweetie over the telephone, I know it's only temporary. The timing couldn't have been more perfect, too. You see, Dr. Laura Stafford, one of the top five scholars in our area of communication, has recently been researching long-distance relationships. And, like me, this is her first year at the University of Kentucky (she was recruited away from Ohio State). It was meant to be, wasn't it? If you're ever doing the long distance thing (not that I'd wish it upon you), you should definitely check out her book, "Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships."

Whew. It was a long week for Carol and me. Soon the undergrads will be knocking at our doors (or flooding our inboxes, I should say). Summer was good, but so is university life. Let the classes begin!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Max Turns One

Seriously, are there bigger cheeks (exemption: Carol's) anywhere in St. Paul?

Happy Birthday, Max. Thanks - a billion cheeks - for letting me document your first year.

Natalie and Doug: You should have another, just to make sure a human being can't get any cuter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Kentucky Bound

Well, as some of you know, I (Anna) am off to the University of Kentucky to finish up my Ph.D. It'll be a dream come true to be supported and nurtured by some of the best scholars in our discipline as I further develop my research line on marriage and family rituals. UK is home to some of the top "applied" researchers in the world and I can't wait to be surrounded and invigorated by them.

It'll be quite an abrupt change, though, being away from my loving hubby and all. But, thankfully, he is my number one fan and supports my pursuits and dreams. He loves my goals. And I love him for loving me and my goals equally, even when they take me half way across the country. We'll be crafting some "loving little rituals" as a long-distance couple for the next nine months, I'm sure.

Other big supporters? My best friend from grad school, Jen, and her four month old son, Hayden. I went to visit her in Duluth last month and Hayden was sporting a UK shirt. I'm so thankful for Jen's encouragement! And for Hayden's public display of support, too. I'll be sure to send the whole family some UK gear once I arrive next week. Jen, LL.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In Summary ...

... above is a word-art depicting key themes from our blog over the last many months (created for all of you who haven't been keeping up, have a short memory, have a 'give-me-the-gist-kind-of-personality' or, like me, crave things in mini-version). Cool, eh?

I thought so. And you can create your own "wordle" at with whatever words you like! For instance, students of all ages and grades: Think about putting a wordle on the title page of an upcoming essay? Copy and paste your original manuscript into, select a template, and wordle will identify and design, in seconds, your key words into a workle (my term) of art, sure to get the attention of your teacher or prof! (note: If any of my -- Bruess' -- students are reading, I'm impressed already).

A+ for wordle.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Making It Lovely

Two things: I (Carol) have an obsession with making "it" lovely (my house, my office, my toes, my dog's hair, my marriage ... everything. Except my handwriting. I produce the scratchiest, sloppiest notes. Not sure why).

Anyway, today, as I was enjoy the last hours of the PERFECT summer day (cloudy, warm, wanting-to-rain and ... the most important detail: my dear groom and beautiful children left me home alone for the weekend while they went to the cabin). Alone! All by myself. Ahhh. Alone to grow the Zen in my soul, scrub floors and toilets, and just sit - with nothing more than the Star Tribune and the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (ok, Martha Stewart Living too) on the screen porch. Did I mention I was all by myself? Ahhh, again.

At one point this weekend, while all by myself enjoying the sounds of my peaceful garden fountain, I came across two of the greatest little sights (one was actually a "site"). First was the lovely little sight of three precious gems out my pixy urban garden. They greet you at the front door where you rest your keys. Second was the most lovely little website, called, the blog spot of some woman who created and owns a papergood/gifty company called Pink Loves Brown, Rush to it. I have no idea who she is, but she has an enviable design sense and illustrates the loveliest greeting cards, note pads and other adorable and oh-so-(not really, but really indeed) necessary products for a lovely little life.

So, the real inspiration for this blog was to reflect on how we each might make our marriages a bit more lovely. Have you done anything this week to make life even a little more lovely for you and/or your spouse?

Tell us about it! Seriously. Post a response and share a lovely little gesture you've made for or toward your partner recently.

I'll start: While cleaning today (all by myself) I arranged my husband's contact solution, case and extra little bottles in the shape of a smile. Hope he notices. If not, I'll smile anyway.