Tuesday, November 29, 2016

So Very Thankful

Despite the appalling lack of photographic evidence, we had a great Thanksgiving in Ohio.

We started the trip at Brad's dad's. He allowed Brad and I to do the cooking this year, and we had a blast. He also snapped this picture which is the only evidence we actually left the state:
 From there, we went to Brad's mom's, where we met her new puppy! The next day was spent playing with Rosco and the cousins. I never get tired of watching my two play with their cousins, and they can hardly wait for more at Thanksgiving.

Friday, we headed to Napoleon. After lunch with Papa, we went to Nana's for one last Thanksgiving. Saturday, we were able to visit Granddaddy before a cold took me out. We had plans to go to the zoo, but we ended up staying home to start the decorating. We were terribly amused as the kids arranged everything in conversational groups:
 I also love the Santa Wolf:
 On the way home Sunday, we picked up our tree:
 Yes...it is short. We are going a different route this year and doing a table top tree. I'm adjusting. It was just easier this year. Brad is moving to a new office,  and we still have a puppy. The kids are in love with the idea, though. They are also thrilled that this guy is back:
He was waiting for us when we got home Sunday, and this appeared Monday morning. He hung Christmas light balloons in the doorways--super fun.

I'm still down with this pesky cold, but I'm so grateful we had time with family. Bring on the holly jolly!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Our Nation's Capital

We had a great trip to our nation's capital with a great group:

We arrived on Thursday and toured a really cool high school before settling into our hotel. After a brief break, we headed out to dinner and then took a tour of the monuments at night. FDR's memorial is so powerful, and we were all struck by how very much his words apply today. This depiction of his fireside chat was particularly powerful:
This was also my first visit to the MLK memorial:
And the Super Moon beside the Washington Monument was quite the view:
We ended our tour with Lincoln, which I always find to be such a powerful place.
Our guide was incredible, and this was such an interesting time to be in DC. In the aftermath of the election, there was something very compelling about watching government continue. Watching the city prepare for the smooth transition of power that has been our hallmark.

Friday morning, everyone scattered to various museums. It was one of my proudest moments when I watched them divide not but typical friends groups but by museum interests. They all ventured out in little groups and met back up in the afternoon for another great school tour.

I spent Friday morning touring the botanical gardens, which I had never seen before. The replicas of the monuments made from living materials were amazing:
They were also starting to decorate, and I loved the tiny Christmas tree beside the Washington Monument:
Friday night we went to see a play at the Kennedy Center, and then Saturday morning we hopped on the bus and toured Mt. Vernon on the way home. I took three terrible pictures, but Mt. Vernon was by far the highlight of my trip. Washington was such an interesting man, and to see how he designed his estate and the way he lived was fascinating. I learned so very much, and we ended our tour with a wreath laying ceremony at his grave. We performed the same ceremony that heads of states observe when they visit, and it concludes with someone reading Washington's Prayer for His Country:

"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you and the State over which you preside in His holy protection ... that He would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation." -George Washington June 8, 1783

My student did a phenomenal job reading it, and I might have gotten teary.

I was home by dinner on Saturday night, and then we had our annual Thanksgiving for friends last night:
I continue to be so very thankful. Thankful for amazing students. Thankful for the ability to travel and the opportunity to learn. Thankful for good friends. Thankful to always come home to my family...

Thursday, November 17, 2016

On the road...

I'm writing from a bus on the way to D.C. with 15 future teachers. We will spend the next three days drinking in history and culture and education. We will tour schools and reflect. We will laugh.

And right now, I'm listening to the low hum of voices and giggles. Watching smiling faces. Loving life. Bring on the adventure...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Because We Need a Little Christmas...

We really try to take holidays one at a time at our house. But...work is super stressful right now. The end of the semester always is. It makes looking forward to the holidays even more special.

I'm so excited for Thanksgiving next week! We can't wait to see family, and I'm already starting the prep for our Friendsgiving on Sunday.

And...we are starting to let a little holly jolly slip in. We've always had Christmas weekends in November. We do most of our shopping and creating and prep so we can slow down and truly enjoy December. And...I have discovered end-of-semester grading is much more lovely with Christmas carols. They might be playing in my office. I'll never tell.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Chicago Adventures!

We had a wonderful weekend in Chicago with Aunt Shannon and Uncle Jeff! 

We arrived Friday evening, and went straight to Eataly for dinner and exploring. I think both kids ate their weight in meat and cheese, and I am a huge fan of their pizza. After a little research, I have discovered he adds white wine to the crust dough, which I am quite certain is the reason it is so perfect!

The kids loved falling asleep watching the sky line, and I loved staying with Shannon and Jeff. Usually, Brad and I stay somewhere else and sneak in a date, but since this trip was so fast it was great to just have the time to spend with them.

Saturday morning, we went to brunch right across the street from Shannon's place, and the kids ate the best breakfast ever: pancakes with sprinkles inside, whipped cream on top, and syrup on the side. It was ridiculous. And they made a vanilla butter that Evan insisted on calling vanilla ice cream and would have happily eaten all by itself. 

Once we were all properly in a food coma, we headed to the Museum of Science and Industry to explore the super cool Lego exhibit there. I will have to get Issa's pictures of the actual Lego displays, but they were recreations of several architectural wonders, including the Colosseum and the Golden Gate Bridge. The whole exhibit was designed to help kids think like engineers and architects, and the giant pulley experiment was a clear favorite:

 They also loved building:
 Issa added her name to the wall:
 Evan made this:
 Shannon and I were excited to explore parts of the museum we remembered visiting. The baby chicks we remember as being part of the farming exhibit are now part of the genetics exhibit, which was a clear winner for Daddy:
 The new business exhibit was one of Evan's favorite. I've never thought of a business plan as a rock wall, but they made it make sense:
 We also got to tour the coal mine, which was just as cool as we remembered!

From there, we made the requisite trips to the Lego store and American Girl before going home to swim and make a feast from ingredients acquired at Eataly.

Sunday morning, we enjoyed very special donuts at Aunt Shannon's. Evan is still grumpy I didn't let him eat the entire two-layer sprinkle donut. We then headed out to the Art Institute to see the Thorne Rooms, and Aunt Shannon captured this great shot:
 Issa has read a series of book about the Thorne rooms, so we were all a little stunned when Evan enjoyed them more. He loved looking at the tiny rooms and trying to place them in history. Later, Issa explained that she loved the rooms she hadn't read about, but the others weren't quite as cool as her imagination. That's my girl! The glass paper weight exhibit was a huge highlight for both kids, which was another big surprise.

We ended our trip with deep dish pizza because...Chicago:

We are so incredibly grateful Shannon and Jeff allowed us to invade their world for the weekend. We made fabulous memories, and I will be forever grateful for the time...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

And Still I Rise

I don't talk politics here. But...today is feels different. It feels necessary.

Last night was brutal. We tucked the kids in, and Brad and I snuggled up to watch the results full of hope. And then the night wore on...

I felt the same pit in my stomach that I have felt only a few times before.

I vividly remember sitting on Gramps's lap watching the tanks stand still on the Kuwait border, watching the clock literally tick towards war. I was little and unsure of what this all meant. I could feel him willing movement. I also saw Gram making applesauce in the kitchen and doing laundry. When I asked her how she could do that while we were waiting to see what happened she simply said, "You will still want lunch and Gramps can't sleep without his pajamas." Life went on.

I remember watching the Towers fall in 2001. I remember my advisor being the first real adult I talked to, and I asked if we were going to be okay. She said she didn't know. I wasn't little any more and there was no protection from this new reality. I also remember my mom driving to Toledo that night for a Girl Scout meeting because the girls would need that community more then than ever. Fear wouldn't win. Life went on.

That feeling was back last night, but for the first time I was the one with little ones I would need to answer to this morning. I couldn't rehearse the conversation. I had no words.

While I was desperately trying to sleep, I heard Maya Angelou's voice: "And still I rise."

I'm holding tight to those words today. For myself. For my children. For my country.

This morning, the kids asked as soon as their eyes were open who our president will be. Evan was pragmatic. Issa cried. Then we got dressed, ate breakfast, and went to school where we picked our ornaments off the angel tree. Still we rise. This doesn't define us or our day. We will not succumb to fear or despair. We practice what we preach. We hug those who need one. We find a way to be the light. We face uncertainly with dogged resilience.

I know good people whom I love dearly who have voted both ways in this election. I know good people who are breathing a sigh of relief this morning and those that are truly grappling with grief and fear. But we can't stay here.

The world is watching. More importantly, our children are watching. I believe in us. Not a system. Not a single leader. I believe in the good of us as a nation. I believe that we will rise. I believe it's not wise for us to wait for anyone else to start the healing. We have to do that. We have to start with those closest to us. We have to rise above the noise and listen. We have to rise above the vitriol and start forging a path forward. We do. If we preach love trumps hate, we have to live it--for everyone.

And so...I rise. I refuse hate. I refuse defeatism. I refuse to believe that one night is a destiny for our nation. It's always darkest before the dawn. Let's be the sunrise....

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Happy Fall!

This weekend, we were able to get in our annual leaf raking/leaf jumping day in! I will be so sad when leaf piles no longer sing their siren songs:



 The jumping was so fun, and they looked so little sitting in the giant piles:

 I believe the pile then became a canoe:

 It was too much fun.

We also did our Christmas card photo shoot. It went nothing as planned, and it is of course top secret. However, this is too sweet not to share:
This is my most favoritest time of the year!