Category Archives: Friends

Why Easter?

good friday
When we were walking to school at the beginning of the week, Little O looked up at me and said, “Why is Easter your favorite, mom? Shouldn’t it be, like, your birthday is your favorite – for you, I mean?”

I answered with geeky enthusiasm, “Because…JESUS!”  And he rolled his eyes in the way that a child rolls his eyes at an embarrassing mom and continued his trudge towards school.

He’s not the first one to ask me.  Even if the short answer is true, I could expand a little.

Grace is one of my favorite ideas, favorite thoughts, favorite words – it sounds even better than forgiveness.  It’s a guiding light for me in daily encounters and big huge decisions. How could I give grace? receive grace? Easter is the ultimate story of grace; God suffering for us so that we may never know separation from him.  I grew up with parents who knew grace and gave grace.  No one listened to a sermon of my father’s without hearing they were loved. By Jesus.  Forgiven. By Jesus.  All your sins are washed away….so when I get a day to celebrate GRACE ETERNAL, I’m gonna take it!

To be fair, I also had an (un)healthy dose of guilt in my childhood.  I was keenly aware of my sinful nature;  how I messed up and could try harder.  However, I also  knew in my little childhood heart that I was saved, loved, accepted, and forgiven. I always wanted to do better -for my mom, for my dad, for God.  In a way that is oftentimes harder to fathom as an adult (death is closer after all), I also knew that I would live forever.  As a young girl, I knew in my bones I’d have eternity with the Lord. More importantly, I thought that was AMAZING. Sometimes I drew doodles of heaven… and they looked a little bit like Wet ‘N Wild.  Water Slides forever!

I was also a dramatic, sensitive little soul… and the ritual of Lent and Holy Week, well, this little actress ate it up with a spoon.  Giving something up for 40 whole days. Taking Communion on Thursday.  Weeping in the Dark on Friday as the altar is cleared and the book slams shut.  Every year I got so mad again – why did they have to do that to my Jesus?

But EASTER?  Oh, Easter.  Every Easter our church was FULL.  Even as we were growing – Easter was one that everyone showed up for – they brought their families, their neighbors.  If they came once a year, they came on Easter.  My Father, who was always a good preacher, took it up five or ten notches on Easter -because he knew this was his ONE Sunday with most of these people… it better be good.

“He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”

And the music… oh, the music.  The music was so joyous, so happy!  After a Friday night of moan/singing that old spiritual, ‘Were you There’ – we get to wake up and sing “ALLELUIA! HE IS RISEN!” On Sunday morning? Count me in.  Sign me up.  Roll away the Stone!  After 40 days of thinking and praying and being somber, it is time for a festival!

Easter is shiny and new. Lilies covered the altar.  Sometimes there were musicians, a brass ensemble, to remind us ‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today’.  I always had a new Spring dress.  Some years I got up in the dark to join Dad for the Sunrise service…. The sky is always pretty at sunrise, but on Easter morning in Florida… it is truly celestial.  Easter was all dressed up in the best of ways- flowers, brass instruments, fresh floral fabric and Sunshine.

The rest of the day was colored glad.  My Dad would be in a fantastic mood – the culmination of a week of church.  His good cheer was contagious and we would have a big dinner and just be together as a family.  

I have wonderful Easter memories.  

Sometimes we need a holiday that is religious.  I know that social media and capitalism are pushing us to celebrate and spend on many lesser days through the year. National Donut Day, anyone?  Easter, to me, still feels spiritual. I take my spirituality quite seriously even if I’m not always the most reverent. I might be the most difficult person to sit next to at church. I’ve been to so many services in my lifetime – sometimes I just have to pull your hair or write on your bulletin or whisper a ridiculous story just to entertain myself. I might do a responsive reading in an accent or change the lyrics to your favorite song. Even my irreverence is dwarfed by the spirituality of Easter.  I understand celebrating the onset of Spring (moreso now that I live in the Midwest), but if you’re not celebrating resurrection -why call it Easter?  Chicks and Bunnies and Chocolate are cute… but, Alleluia! That’s trans-formative.

Why Easter? It is more than lilies, than music, than ritual and my nostalgia for childhood.  It’s the celebration of second, third, and fourth Chances. Whatever happened is done.  You are loved just as you are.  It is rebirth. It is renewal. It is redemption.  It is a reminder that today is but a bump on a road that winds forever. It is everything.


Free – the Second Half

Little O remembers clearly the Truck Cake from his second birthday.  In fact, on GB’s birthday this year – he suggested we make her a truck cake.  While the Parakeet wasn’t even sure she could do that again – she was very certain she could not MAIL a ‘truck’ cake to Florida. So instead they sent her a nice video text.
Anyway, this year Little O was very clear he would like a “train” cake and he wanted it to have “lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of cars”.  Well, the Parakeet became a bit fixated on making sure this happened for him.  In fact, she googled ‘train cake’ and wouldn’t you know that Betty Crocker has a nice little video on just how to make one?  Since the Parakeet had specific instructions that there be “lots and lots and lots of cars” – she went the cupcake route with a cake engine.
The night before “THOMAS!!!” the Parakeet made a LOT of cake batter.  She filled a loaf pan (or two) and two cupcake tins.  She planned to send the “cars” to playgroup with O on Monday for his bday celebration there.  When the cakes were finally done near 10PM or something ridiculous – she let them cool a bit and wrapped the little guys’ presents sent from far-away relatives.  About 10:45 or so, she went to the kitchen ready to assemble the most beautiful cake engine.  She tipped out the loaf cake only for half of it to remain stuck to the pan! She was crushed and frustrated.  When would there be time to make another cake??!
She crawled into bed with the Huz (who has passed out much earlier after a long week) and bemoaned the birthday celebration, “I just want him to have such a good time and love it all”.  The Huz mumbled something along the lines of “He’s three. Of course he’ll love it. Get some sleep.”

SO…..It was after the Thomas outing while the O-ster napped when the Keet got back to the Cake business.  She salvaged what she could and made a smaller engine.  She frosted the cup cakes with different colors and threw candy all over that thing.  It looked like a Sugar Explosion on rails.
Then she put all his presents on the table.  The Huz napped too – because he was in a bad mood from Thomas rain and traffic.  When he got up, he got Little O’s bike from the basement and put it in the living room covered with a beach towel.
The O woke up from his nap and discovered “Cake! Presents! A bike!” He was totally beside himself.  His godmother B and her friend C both came over to join in on the Birthday dinner and present mania.
Little O opened each present as if he had never seen anything more amazing in his life! He kept saying ” I wonder what it could be….” as he pulled the wrapping paper.  He got LOTS of pieces for his train set – that was just too much.  It was all quite adorable.
The ‘grown-ups’ had fajitas and cake and beer and smiled at the O.  The O had cake and tortillas and maybe a couple pieces of cheese and talked a mile a minute playing with everything at once.  A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, INDEED.

Yearbook 2011

Little O started going to a co-op preschool playgroup daycare type thing just a few short weeks ago.  It was so exciting for him and his mom.  He has taken to it really well.  He is there two full days a week while the Parakeet works.  He is with other children ages 2-4.  His teachers are lovely – one in fact has been a dear friend of the family for about twelve years.  The other parents have been so welcoming. The whole thing has just been a blessing from the start.  As a family, the Russells are thankful about how it is all working.

Little O transitioned into his two full days, first attending song-time with his mom, then staying through lunch, then staying through nap, and finally a full day.  This four day process made the whole thing go very smoothly.  Obviously, the coordinators have been at this for a few years.

After about his second full week, some of the older kids were “graduating”.  The teachers created ‘yearbooks’ for all of the enrolled students.  Little O was included in this special tradition.  The Parakeet now has his hand and foot-prints forever in posterity – which feels very fitting on the eve of his third birthday.  The graduation was really informal and sweet and pot-luck and outside and all things that seem like preschool and family.  It was lovely.

Little O also got to bring home a yearbook.  The Parakeet has decided to share the list of “favorites” he gave his teacher at the time of putting the book together.

favorite toy – train tracks (not a surprise – he is playing with them when he is dropped off and picked up)
favorite song – where is thumbkin (the keet and huz have not gotten to hear this one yet)
favorite food – bananas (not sure where that came from – he now tells the Huz it is waffles)
favorite book – digger truck book (also not a surprise)
favorite playgroup activity – playing play-doh
favorite costume – ” i dont have a costume” (he has since decided robot)
the most important thing in my cubby is – all my sleeping stuff (oh man, not sure he’ll ever not use that ‘cozy’ blanket or his pac)
my favorite playgroup room is – the kitchen
my favorite outside activity is – driving the big car (surprised? anyone???)

that’s all for now.  Cant wait to see how next year’s answers compare

also of note was a picture that Little O drew of playgroup.  there are lots of colors and scribbles on the page and at the bottom one of his teachers wrote, ‘this is not playgroup. this is a zig-zag hat’.   It seems Little O had a different interpretation 🙂


As a parent, the parakeet does want O to be a free spirit – no need for rules for rules’ sake?  So this morning, when he thought it would be fun to wear one red shoe and one blue shoe – she  saw no good reason to say “No”.  They were getting ready to meet a few friends at the beach where he would take them off anyway.  No big deal.
Little O had a barefoot blast on the beach and so did his Mama. Who wouldn’t? it – it was 82 degrees at MOST.  There was sun and breeze.  Just perfect.  She had a little trouble wrangling the nearly three-year old when it was time to go.  He has a not-fun habit of running very far and very fast when he doesn’t want to leave.  This time he also had a large dump truck.  She scooped him under one arm, the dump truck in the other and threw all of their stuff in the ginormous red wagon.  Little O pulled it himself all the way back to the car.  He was sandy from head to toe.  Surely – he would go straight to the shower.   The Parakeet got some resistance on that front as well and the nap.  When he was finally clean and sleeping, she felt accomplished and worn out.  She picked up her cell phone to see a text message from her friend, “I have O’s shoes”
OH.MAN.  Now, he is essentially out two pairs of shoes – it could be a weekend of one red and one blue.  But he will have a bonus play-date in the near future.

Easter 11

The Bird has to tell you about Easter – like every year – it is still her favorite. This was no exception.  It felt low-key and easy.  Mimi sent O a cute Easter outfit.  GB sent enough goodies to fill his basket.  The Keet and Huz recently reconnected with some dear, old friends who came over for Easter dinner (and brought half the food).  It really was relaxed and lovely.

Little O dyed eggs this year.  It felt nearly cliche to be so excited watching him get so excited.  He didn’t know the egg was going to come out of the cup a whole different color! So genuine and so sweet.

He woke up bright and early and was excited to see “new stuff” on the living room floor in his Easter basket.  The Keet and Huz rolled out of bed to watch him look at each thing.  By 8AM, the Keet had to take him outside where he could use his new shovel and gardening tools and look for bugs and worms with his new magnifying glass.  Church wasn’t until 11.

Service was lovely.  They decided to try and keep O in the pews through the children’s message.  He loved the processional and was mostly quiet.  He did ask to go potty  – of course.  The Huz left with him and as they came back into church, Pastor had moved into the central aisle.  O came trotting in and yelled “I’m back!”  Pastor acknowledged, “good to see you, O” and everything continued on – oh JEEZ – I think you know whose kid this is!  The Huz and Keet had been telling him that Jesus came on Easter until he got too scared that Jesus was going to be in his room or something and the explaining got too confusing for all involved.

After his nap, we had a lovely dinner with friends who were way too indulgent and helpful with the two-year old.  He had his Easter Egg Hunt party of one in the backyard.  Hilarious! 4 adults cheering him on with each discovery – might have to find him some competition next year.
The food was scrumptious.  They all went to bed early and full, the perfect way to end any Holiday.

Baking away the Day

The Parakeet was able to score a Groupon to this cool place a few months ago.  She finally coordinated with a friend and they took Little O and Little Z to a class together where they made Sweet Potato Black Bean Quesadillas.  YUM!  The kids were all 2 and 3 years old.  Their parents helped them, of course -but there was a lot for the child to do and the moms agreed they would definitely recommend the place, especially with a Groupon.  O told the teacher he didn’t like every ingredient – sweet potato, garlic, onion, black bean – but always helped chop it.  Then, when his quesadilla came out of the oven, he took a bite looked up at her and said, “I DO like it”  He was as surprised as everyone else.

That same week, GB had sent a box of new toys and other fun things to help Little O get through the last of winter.  Hopefully.  It included a wonderful child’s baking set with real utensils, pans and a great Teddy Bear cookie cutter.  One Chilly morning the Parakeet and Little O decided to make spring cookies and pretend it wasn’t cold outside.  They made bunnies, teddy bears, flowers, and stars.  Little O picked the color orange for some of the icing.  With orange and white icing and a variety of random sprinkles, they decorated a full batch of spring cookies.   Below is a video of a moment or two of that activity – Little O seems to be very careful with the sprinkles.  It might be because the night before he had learned to “pinch” the salt and pepper during his cooking class.

For a Friend

The Parakeet is lucky to have some pretty great people in her life and to have crossed paths with many, many great people along the way.

Two of her dear friends, Dana and Hunter, moved to LA four (?) years ago from Chicago to pursue their acting dreams.  They accidentally started a successful blog while planning their wedding.  They have also both scored some pretty sweet performing gigs as well.
Dana, though, has battled an unique illness through all of this.  The Parakeet sends her love to Dana out in LA and asks all of you to read Dana’s post below on dealing with this autoimmune disease.  She has started a fundraiser and you can help with recipes or dollars – but her story also gives some real food for thought to the whole I-want-to-be-an-artist-but-I-still-need-Health-Insurance thing.  It’s tough and this is a great human example of the situation.
Thanks for checking her out:

Dishing for Dana