Thursday, May 31, 2012

All I Know Is...

...I'm grateful for a good friend, a daughter who listens, and the handful of moms in her ballet class that actually read and follow directions.

We had dress rehearsal for Issa's recital last night--also known as H-E-Double Hockey Sticks! We are in a new venue on a college campus, which is an awesome experience for the girls. It is also a whole new world from a high school auditorium. The studio staff was trying to figure out the venue, which left little hope for the rest of us to figure it out. You know you are in trouble when one of the class moms doesn't show up and rehearsal starts twenty minutes late.

Thankfully, Crystal and I are the other two class moms, and we told each other about a bajillion times, "We got this." This is why I love her: she gets me and she has no ego. She looked at me early in the evening and said, "You're running this train wreck; boss me around." I know I started off saying please and asking questions, but in the interest of survival I think we ended the evening with gestures and grunts.

Here's the scenario: ten little, excited girls. That pretty much sums it up. We start in our tap shoes, and Crystal and I have to get them changed for ballet...in the wings...in the dark. Awesome. Now, half of the class consists of cherubs who listen and take care of their things. Their moms have labelled their shoes and placed them in the bag we gave them and sent all of their costume pieces. The other half of the class does not listen and, well, their moms missed the memo. Nothing was labelled. Stuff was missing.

When they came off stage from their tap number, we handed each girl her bag, asked her to put her tap shoes in it, and then put her ballet slippers on. We then tucked shoe strings, attached broaches, and put on skirts. This should be relatively simple--even in the dark. However, half the class opted for their own game plan, which essentially meant drop all your stuff on the floor, run around in the wings, and then wonder why you can't find your ballet slippers.

Crystal and I did the best we could to get everyone ready, and we all made it on the stage at the right time fully dressed. Unfortunately, some of us ended up with the wrong shoes. When we delivered the girls to their mothers--because they were too busy enjoying the show to come pick them up--they had the nerve to complain that the wrong tap shoes were in the bag. We explained we did the best we could, the directions we gave the girls, and when one mom got in my face I reminded her about the three sets of written directions and two class meetings we had instructing us to label shoes for this very reason. It was like working Central Office all over again.

On the way home, Crystal drafted an email while I drove. We reexplained the directions the girls have, that we are doing all of this in the dark, and several other notes like, by the way, pick up your child! We were very polite, though, and I only cursed a little bit when the mom who got in my face last night replied stating that she had no idea we were supposed to label anything. READ THE DIRECTIONS. Seriously, your elementary school teachers are crying right now.

But...the girls will be adorable no matter what. Issa had fun, and Crystal and I are a team. We got this.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Best Shoes Ever

Saturday, we headed to the shoe store.  I was positive Issa didn't need new shoes, but Issa was convinced she did. As it turned out, Issa was right! Her feet had grown a whole size in less than two months.

She was more than happy to pick out new shoes:
 Not only are they Sketchers, but they are the Bella Ballerina Sketchers...which means they spin very easily...which means this is all we see:
Our little ballerina couldn't be happier!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer has Arrived

If Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer, we made sure we unofficially welcomed it in a big way!

Saturday, we met some friends at a local lake to grill and hang out. The kids loved the beach and watching the boats, but they were thrilled when one of our friends' friends asked if they would like to take a boat ride.

Issa was immediately in love:
 Evan took a minute, but once that boat started to go fast he was all over it:
 I was on the land, but a friend snapped this picture of my three:
 Yes, those are very happy people.

Sunday, we broke out the sprinkler:
 Why leave it on the ground? It's way more fun to pick it up and spray yourself...and your brother:

I have declared that this picture will reemerge come graduation. You know Evan is having fun when that tongue hangs out.

It was all fun and games until Daddy got wet:
 He was trying to sweep the deck so he could set up the pool; the children were trying to cool him off. Such thoughtful, banished children.

 Eventually, the pool was well on its way to being set up, and little hands came to help Daddy set up the pump: 
 Issa also discovered our gardenia was in bloom:

 They smell heavenly right now!

Yesterday, the pool was ready for the trial run:
 Evan can absolutely touch, but he just loves his floaty. We rolled with it.

And the best Daddy ever made a run to get new water guns:
 Not only did he get two for our kiddos, but he picked up two extras for the neighbor girls to play, too. They look like such a sweet group:
Don't let them fool you! These four angels turned on me with those four water guns. Let me tell you, that water was cold!

I love having these two at our house. The four kids play so well together, and I love that the girls include Evan so well. At one point, I looked out to see all four of them sitting in the hammock, just chatting. The bigger girls all help Evan, and they basically clean up after themselves. Here's to a summer full of play dates!



Friday, May 25, 2012

Home

We are home. I know that is not terribly remarkable, but usually we are headed North to celebrate Evan's birthday about now. For the first time, we are not making that trip, choosing instead to celebrate here. It's bittersweet.

It's a long trip--longer when we make a complete circuit in one long weekend. I won't miss the road time, the packing, or the unpacking.

I am missing extended family. I'm missing watching Grandma watch the kids play. I'm missing my "little cousins" being the "big cousins" my kids adore. I'm missing lawn mower rides with Papa. I'm missing giving Mom a hard time about getting cake just right when it's already perfect. I'm missing silly string fights. I miss my other home and the people there.

But I'm gaining. I loved being able to say yes to a picnic with friends. I love that Issa is already planning a party here at the house for her friends since we won't be making the circuit for her birthday, either. I love getting ready for Mom and Rich to come visit here next week--when I will give Mom a hard time as she works to get the already perfect cake even more perfect.

As the kids grow, I know traditions will have to shift. I'm sure practices and events will dictate some schedules. They may even have the nerve to want to do something with friends, and I will bite my lip as the set off on a grand adventure without me some holiday weekend. For now, though, I'll sip a little sweet tea this Memorial Day, and start a new tradition, and send a little love up North.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tea Party Dinner

Daddy was in Boston yesterday, so the kids and I decided to have a tea party for dinner! Every tea party needs yummy tea sandwiches, so we made these:
 They are English muffins topped with a veggie cream cheese we made and then topped with radishes. I love that my kids love these. I am thankful every day I don't have picky eaters.

I'm also in love with this spread! It was so easy. I simplified the recipe a bit because it called for about twelve bowls; I just did everything in the Cuisinart. It's one large carrot, peeled and quartered, thrown in the Cuisinart and chopped very fine. Throw in one cup loosely packed baby spinach leaves and finely chop. Add two tablespoons of olive oil mayo and one room temperature block of cream cheese. Combine and voila! Yum.

And...since we're Southern...and since it's a million degrees outside already:
We made sweet tea! It was great fun and a perfect meal--or tea party--for a hot day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

So Big!

This girl is pretty proud of herself:
She made her very own breakfast from start to finish this morning! Toast with peanut butter and jelly and watermelon. When I came downstairs, she already had everything on the counter. All I had to do was plug in the toaster. It may not be a five star breakfast, but she was pretty thrilled to make it all by herself. And...she cleaned it all up by herself! So big!

(p.s. The watermelon was already cut in the refrigerator; I am not insane.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ocean Inspiration

I am not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but the ocean seems to inspire me to try. I didn't grow up a beach girl, and I am certainly a very specific kind of beach girl now. I don't want the tourist beach. I want the ocean--to hear it--to see the waves roll in. If it's a little cloudy and cool, even better. There is something about the ocean that just puts the world in perspective:
 A picture hardly does it justice, but there is something to be said for the difference a few moments makes in the scene:
 I love watching those little birds. They seem so unphased by the crashing waves.

I didn't pose this:
 Our shoes just landed this way, and I love how they so capture "us." You have to love Issa's silver sparkles and Evan's balls.

I love this shot, too:
They are totally in moment, flying a kite and digging, listening to the surf.

This quiet little stretch of beach offers so very much, and I'm glad I captured at least a little piece of it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Day at the Beach

Saturday, we headed east to celebrate this little guy's birthday at the beach:
 We arrived at the beach about ten, which meant we were one of three cars in the parking lot--just our style. We love the lack of crowds and being virtually alone with the ocean.

Issa couldn't get to the water and the shells fast enough:
 We were very successful! We found all kinds of shells, including sand dollars and a tooth!
 Issa and I would run back to show the boys anytime we found a great shell. One of my favorite moments of the day wasn't captured on film. Issa and I were running back and forth, and in a rare moment she decided we should leap. Her leaping is not at all unusual, but I found myself leaping with her. We were both giggling, and I loved that carefree moment we could share.

Evan is not so much a water guy. He is more of a beach guy:
 This is how he likes the ocean:
 In a bucket.

Daddy and I swapped kids, and then Daddy and Issa headed down to the water:
 Does it get any sweeter than this:
 After lots of jumping in the waves, they just sat in the ocean. Melts my heart.

Evan kept digging and building:
 I tried to help, or at least talk with him, and he was not interested, "Mama, my building and listening to the water. No talking." Alright then; at least he appreciates where he is. It was fun to just sit and take it all in.

Eventually, Issa realized the water was a bit chilly:
 I promise she's in the towel. She warmed up, and the sun came out. We spent a few more hours playing in the sand and enjoying the beach. We had a picnic, and just generally soaked in the ocean.

Eventually, we packed up and headed for the aquarium. The first stop was the alligator exhibit:
 And Evan reunited with his friend:
 Issa headed straight for the crab:
 I don't completely understand the allure of this, but she loves it!

We spent most of our time at the big coral reef tank, looking for sharks, eels, and rays:
 Issa actually got this shot:
 There is something magical about rays. While we were there, we also got to pet a sea star and watch the baby sharks and rays eat. It really was one of the coolest things. The same caretaker feeds them daily, so when she opened the door to get to the tank, you could see the sharks and rays start swimming faster. Eventually, you could barely see them because the water was so choppy. The rays came up to eat right out of her hand, and the sharks are stick fed. It really was amazing.

We stopped by the gift shop, and Issa added to her dolphin collection. Evan found a container of sharks, dolphins, whales, and turtles. It was perfect. He had them all swimming in a bowl yesterday, and he loves to dump them out, sort them, and name them.

On the way out, we followed the board walk, enjoying birds and turtles galore. We also were on the lookout for any alligators that might wander on the path. That really happens, but we managed to avoid any close encounters. We did have a close encounter with a little lizard, but he was just fun to watch once my pulse steadied. I had leaned on a railing to look at the birds and very nearly put my hand right on the little guy.

The last stop is always the frog:
I think it was a perfect day. Evan said his favorite part was building sand castles with Daddy, which was really Daddy building and Evan playing Godzilla. Issa loved the shells and being in the ocean. I don't think I can pick a favorite...there were just too many perfect moments.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Keeping it Real

Lest you think life is all celebrating and roses around here, let me tell you about yesterday. It was not a joyous, I-love-being-a-mom day. I spent most of the day looking for one moment to like--not love--like.

The morning started off fairly routinely, aside from one meltdown from Evan about wearing socks. He told me they were squishing his feet, which meant he couldn't  breathe. Not dramatic at all. I came back home, threw in a load of laundry, and went about my morning routine.

Then the day went south. When I went to move the laundry, I discovered someone had left gum in a pocket. Gum was now all over the clothes and washer drum. I wanted to cry. I got as much off the clothes as I could, pretreated the rest, and used ice to scrape the inside of the drum.

While the clothes were rewashing, I set about cleaning the house...and found permanent marker on the toilet seat. The kids had been coloring on balloons, and the ink transferred from the balloons to their hands to the seat.

Repeat the laundry process again, removing a little more gum.

I then attempted using, in no particular order, Scrubbing Bubbles, Soft Scrub, Magic Eraser, nail polish remover, bleach, hair spray, and dry erase marker on the toilet seat. The marks are lighter, but they are still there. I think they are staying.

Repeat the laundry process one more time.

As I was sweeping all the mulch and mopping the red clay off the floor, I was in a real funk. Sometimes, I just get so tired of the cleaning. I wanted to be doing my career work, but it just wasn't in the cards, and then the emotions got overwhelming. I felt so guilty! I should be grateful that I have a job that can wait when gum happens. I see my prayer post-it of really sick kids, adults fighting cancer, relationships struggling. In so many ways, I am so lucky. Then I got angry! I should let myself be grumpy and pouty. It was a bummer of a day! I was d.o.n.e. I just wanted one glittery moment--and not the one where I found blue glitter of an unknown origin on the back of one of my kitchen chairs yesterday. (It is still there, by the way. It might eventually come off...maybe.)

Finally...finally...I got my moment. After ballet, Issa wanted to practice the circle part of her ballet number, which meant she needed a circle. As she taught the three of us this piece of the dance, we were all giggling. Watching Daddy attempt a leap and Evan attempt a tendue was priceless. It was the laugh I needed.

And the rest of yesterday is almost funny this morning--almost. By the time I read this years from now, I'm sure it will be...I might even miss a little mess in the morning.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Clearly...

Three year old logic defies logic. The conversation this morning:

"My would like peanut butter and jelly toast for breakfast. With the jelly on the bottom."

"Why does the jelly need to go on the bottom?"

"Because."

"Because why?"

"Because my not want to see it."

"You don't want to see it?"

"Just taste it," with a look that translates to what-part-of-this-is difficult-to-understand-crazy-lady.

So...Daddy made peanut butter and jelly toast with the jelly on the bottom, but you could still see it in streaks across the top. I pointed this out to Evan, because clearly I felt the need to poke a bear with a stick.

"NO! That not jelly! That stripes!"

Clearly...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On Humility

Every newly minted PhD should have a kindergartner at home to keep them honest. Because you know, kindergartners know everything. The conversation Issa and I had last night:

"Mom, Morgan needs you and Daddy's help."

"What's wrong with Morgan?"

"She got a poinkey thing in her finger from a rope today!"

"A splinter?"

"Yes! And she was bleeding when she ripped it out. Can you help her since you and Daddy are doctors?"

"Oh, baby, she needs an MD. Daddy and I are PhDs."

"What's the difference?"

"Well, MDs are doctors of medicine, and they help people get healthy or stay healthy. PhDs are doctors of philosophy, so they help people think about ideas or come up with new ideas."

"And you are PhDs?"

"Yes."

"So you just think?"

"Well...I guess so."

"Well, I think of new ideas all the time, and I didn't even have to go to school for that. Do I get a hood, too?"

Thank you, dear, for keeping me humble...and honest...and no, you can't have a hood.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day

I love Mother's Day! When the kids are little, it's as much about them and their ideas as it is about me. Let me tell you, Daddy does it right! I am thoroughly spoiled, and I'm still laughing about the whole day.


I got to "sleep in," which translates to laying in bed listening to the chaos. I could hear the giggling, squealing, and cooking. Occasionally, I would hear little feet running to see if I was still asleep, and I would do my best fake and not laugh until they were safely downstairs.

The day officially began with breakfast in bed, and Daddy was thoughtful enough to snap a picture before they brought it up:
 Homemade crumpets, fruit, bacon, and coffee. The kids wrapped their own gifts, too!

When they came up, I was handed the official post-it itinerary:
 And then I was presented with gifts the kids chose all by themselves. Evan chose a bear:
 And this super snazzy sunglass case:
 Yes...it is in my purse right now. He checks daily.

Issa chose this travel mug because she liked the purple and flowers:
 I find the poem hysterical:
 Yes...it begins "friends are like bras." I am so glad Daddy didn't censor. I'm still laughing, and I used it this morning.

She also got us matching pajama shirts:
 I'm quite certain I glow in the dark.

The first item on the list was to make this craft, which was presented along with the gifts:
 It is a little book of all the reasons they love me. We then enjoyed breakfast and some great snuggles.

Lunch was a picnic in the park, and even Viv got to come along:
 And...Evan picked me flowers:
 And...he put them in his pocket so I wouldn't have to carry them. They never made it to a vase.

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for dinner ingredients and snuggling. They made me dinner, and we watched a couple of really great movies while it rained. It was a perfect day.

And this is what the kitchen looked like yesterday morning:
Scary. Brad asked me not to post this, but it shows just how perfect the day was. The kids helped cook, which makes a bigger mess, but no one was worried about it. It all cleaned up yesterday. I'm sure I'll miss these messy Mother's Days someday, so I'll enjoy it--and laugh about it--while I can.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Celebrated!

There was too much celebrating this weekend to contain it to one post. So...let's just focus on Saturday today. I was able to participate in the official doctoral hooding at UNC:
video
 It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. After four years of the hardest work I will most likely ever do, I received the hood from my advisor and provost and was greeted as Dr. Bower by the chancellor of the University.

My advisor:
 She and I suddenly have a completely different relationship now. We're colleagues, and she's fun. Surreal.

My friend:
 It was great to walk with Karla! She and I were there for each other for every bump in the road. It was wonderful to celebrate together!

My family:
 These four have been so patient through the whole process! Evan is holding my diploma tube, which is only given to doctoral graduates.

Shannon and Jeff:
They flew in for a whirlwind trip to be here to celebrate. We had dinner and lunch together, we played, and they dealt with my panic about getting there on time.

Pictures just don't do the day justice. It is finished and official! I am one happy lady.