Say Hello to My Little Friends



Meet Tiny.  That’s what the kids and I named this little guy who was crawling on the bathroom wall the other day.   I read somewhere recently that if you’re scared of spiders and bugs, giving them names will help you feel more connected and less afraid.  The idea is that you’ll realize they’re so much smaller than you and can do little harm compared to what you could do to them, so why not just peacefully co-exist?  I should be ashamed to admit this, but shortly after taking this photo on my iPhone and zooming in, and noticing his spiky legs, and beady eyes, and imagining Tiny climbing into bed with me to “co-exist”, I introduced him to a rolled up “Real Simple” magazine.

Tiny up close..a little too close


I’m pretty sure it was a quick and painless death because I’ve been working out…a lot of upper body stuff…so it was a pretty good whack.  Initially I intended to scoop him onto the magazine and run outside to free him, but when I approached, he kind of reared up with his long front legs in what looked like an attack position.  I just couldn’t risk it, and by “it” I mean having him attack me with his attack legs.

I’m not sure where my fear of spiders and other bugs comes from, but I’ve tried to play it cool around the girls.  I don’t think I’ve pulled it off very well.  The other night, I jumped out of my skin, and let out a feral-cat-like shriek because something was crawling up my back.  It turned out to be a few stray hairs from my pony tail, but I found a new way to get the kids’ attention when they’re in a t.v. trance.  Naturally, I’ve passed this unfortunate trait down to at least one of my offspring.

Last weekend before her soccer game, Samantha asked me whether there would be bees on the field.  I assured her that since it was October, it was highly unlikely.  But wouldn’t you know, a few bees forgot to look at the calendar on that 80 degree day and decided the soccer field was a pretty good place to hang out. The coach waved in a new player as Sam came running off the field in a panic, mumbling unintelligibly.  I tried to calm her down by telling her that bees rarely sting and giving her the “they won’t bug you if you don’t bug them” speech.  That’s when I had a flashback to that fateful day in Mrs. Fetterman’s first grade class.

It was quiet time, so we had our heads on our desk.  The windows were open, and there was a gentle breeze. A buzzing noise broke the silence, and we all popped our heads up.  The teacher whispered for everyone to be-very-still. We sat frozen as the lone bee zipped erratically around the room for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually it landed on Brian, the toughest kid in class. We watched in fascination as the bee crawled around his shirt. But when it made its way onto his bare neck, Brian flinched so that his ear met his shoulder, and he unleashed a grotesque wail which sent the room into chaos. The thought that something so little could hurt the guy who could take a dodge ball to the face meant that this was a pain I never wanted to experience.  I learned to run from bees, and it served me pretty well throughout my childhood.


Now here I was standing before my frightened daughter telling her not to do the very thing that kept me safe all those years. She didn’t want to hear it, and she didn’t want to get back in the game.  I thought about the naming thing, but I could see that backfiring.  “Stay still Samantha, Hank just wants to say hi!”  Fortunately, about this time, the bees took off toward the woods, and Sam reunited with her teammates.

On the way home, as I reiterated the leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone theory of bugs and spiders, I felt like a hypocrite. Afterall, just a few days earlier I had smashed the daylights out of poor Tiny.

Then just this morning, as if it was some sort of sign, this guy showed up in my kitchen.


I snapped a quick photo and then simply walked away.  But as I drove to work, I started worrying that maybe he came looking for Tiny, and he’s gonna put two and two together, and God knows what he has in store for me.  All I know is tonight — I’m sleeping with one eye open and a Real Simple magazine on the nightstand.

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Preschool Soccer…It’s all Greek to me

The love for sports runs thick through my big Greek family. My dad was a wrestler and football player, my mom was an alternate for the Olympics in swimming, my sister, nephews, and cousins all played college sports. I played lacrosse and volleyball in high school, and while that’s where my personal athletic career ended, my passion for sports stayed with me. I grew up imagining my ancient Greek ancestors racing chariots or throwing javelins in the original Olympics.

From the time I was very young, my dad instilled in me a competitive drive. His tactics sometimes left me scratching my head like his rule: “Dinner first..milk after.”  His philosophy was that we wouldn’t need to come off the field for water breaks as often if we didn’t eat and drink at the same time. Like all impressionable kids, I never questioned it.

As a mother, I find myself wanting to foster that same competitiveness in my four and a half year old son.  When we signed him up for soccer at the age of 36 months, I’m not sure what I expected, but here’s how it went down: while the other kids followed the coach’s directions, Owen would randomly sit down, or find a clump of dirt to kick, or run to another team’s field to kick their ball. I would urge him to “get back in there,” but my pleas fell on deaf ears. Once when I buried my head in slight embarrassment, I looked up only to find that he had wandered over to the jungle gym. Last year, we took a hiatus from sports.

As fall rolled around this year, my inner athlete told me to sign him up again.  Even with visions of Owen kicking the ball into the opposing team’s goal, I mustered enough courage to fill out the registration form.  Maybe it’s because I’ve seen how excited he gets watching his cousins, who he pretty much idolizes, play football and lacrosse.

Neill, Nathan, Nicholas, & Owen after a UMBC Lacrosse Game


If I’m being totally honest, what seems to interest Owen the most about their games is all the ceremony — the uniforms, the bleachers, the high fives between players.  So imagine his excitement when I came home with his team shirts, knee socks, and shin guards. I barely had them out of the bag before he was all geared up, and practice wasn’t for another few days. He even convinced me to let him wear the entire uniform to school the next day.  How could I say no?

Owen all suited up


His excitement continued right up to the first practice.  As he asked the coach if it was time to play, my stomach twisted a little at the thought of him running off to the playground mid-practice. Then I reminded myself to just chill out. Not sure if that had anything to do with it, but Owen seemed genuinely interested in listening to the coach, and as a result, he did pretty well. He may not have “gone for the ball” every time or “kicked it to the goal” on each possession, but he had so much FUN!  Every time he touched the ball with his feet (or hands) he would look over and give me a thumbs up.

When his first game rolled around, he suited up in his “Blue Lightning” uniform, and I saw a look in his eye that said he was ready for action. As we strolled onto the field, Owen was already beaming with pride…and then he noticed the bleachers. Since they don’t keep score at this age, I had already chalked this game up as a win, and right then and there I made a decision that tonight, I would let him drink his milk WITH his dinner.
Game Time



Beiged and Confused

Home improvement projects are supposed to be fun, but they stress me out.  So many decisions, and then the expense of it all. I mean, why can’t I just paint the lower half of the walls for half the price?  After all, that’s the line of demarcation between those who use the banister and those whose philosophy is “Why waste a napkin when the stairwell will do?”

Unretouched photo of my stairwellphoto 2

So out of necessity, the painters come tomorrow, and even though it’s been on the calendar for a few weeks, I haven’t picked any colors. I think my paralysis comes from the many bad choices I’ve made over the years.  My husband refers to our master bathroom as Infirmary Blue, and we once painted the exterior American Cheese Yellow. You’d be surprised how many neighbors (you never knew you had) come out of the woodwork because they can’t sleep due to the “glow.”

  What were we thinking?DSCN1286

Color is great, but I’ve learned that unless you’re a trained professional, stay away from it.  When Dayna and I list a home, we explain to the sellers that the goal is to make their home appeal to the masses.  Proper staging and fresh neutral paint can do wonders to help achieve this goal. Mexicali Turquoise in the master bedroom may have sounded like a good choice at the time, but potential buyers may think fiesta instead of siesta.

Mexicali Turquoise – Benjamin Moore


Actual Fiesta


This is where we hit them with our beige speech.  With names like Manchester Tan and Wheeling Neutral, these neutral tones allow a buyer to see the space instead of the owner’s taste.  The fact of the matter is, when it comes to homes, beige is universally appealing, and we have three or four shades that we typically recommend to home owners.  We suggested Tapestry Beige by Benjamin Moore for our client’s living room below.  Among our other favorites, Carrington Beige and Coastal Fog.


So given my storied past with paint, you would think I’d heed my own advice and stick with a few of these tried and true colors..but what did I do the other day?  I went to the paint store.  Like a hypnotized cartoon character, dilated eyes and all, I went straight to the Use At Your Own Risk section.  A crazy voice inside my head said, “Go ahead, I dare you, maybe you’ll get it right this time!”  Staring at the rainbow of choices was enough to snap me out of my trance.  The Trusted Favorites section was more up my alley.

Don’t Do It!  


Safety Zone


I thought this would make things easier, but holy 50 shades of beige!  If you hold up the chips one at a time, they all look the same but side by side, you’ve got blue-beige, green-beige, peach-beige… How about just beige-beige??


Feeling overwhelmed and somewhat defeated, I will probably just settle for one of the go-to colors from the Blumel Adams beige speech…I mean all I’m really trying to do is give my walls a fresh look.  Come to think of it, the safest bet would be to color-match the finger prints on the stairwell.  Would it be inappropriate to ask the painters to try to scrape off a sample to bring to the paint store?

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