Friday, June 29, 2012

Ten Years Ago...

Ten years ago today, I started the best adventure of my life:
In honor of ten wonderful years together, I thought I would compile a top ten moments of our marriage:

10. He comes to my rescue when I have a moment like locking my keys in the car, locking my keys in the house, or dropping hot glue on my hand. He only teases me once I announce its funny.

9. He loves me through my melodramatic melt downs. My very favorite, though, was in our second apartment when my closet rod kept falling down. I was in tears because I was so tired of reironing clothes that he built me a whole new closet unit. That thing could have held an elephant, and he never once suggested I just get rid of some clothes.

8. We have tackled more home improvement projects than I can count, but my very favorite was putting in our little decorative pond. It was an anniversary gift, and he didn't say one word when I "helped" with the auger and got thrown across the yard.

7. More road trips than I can count, but especially the very first: our honeymoon. We drove to Maine, and I wouldn't trade that time together in the car for anything.

6. We adopted our first cat...and then a second...and a third adopted us. Brad isn't a huge cat person, but he does it for me. When we couldn't bring the first kitten home right away because she was sick, he left me notes all throughout the apartment because he knew I was heart-broken. I cried, and I still have the notes.

5. We brought home our first puppy, and together we learned how to train said puppy. We learned I was the push over for puppy eyes, but Brad wasn't quite as tough as he pretended. (Case in point, the puppy wasn't allowed on the furniture, but Brad would sleep with the puppy in her bed. It made my heart melt.)

4. Three degrees and major graduations: one masters and two doctorates. That, my love, is quite enough...and enough said.

3. We bought our first house! The second house we looked at...out of one morning. Oh, to be young, and slightly impulsive, and slightly naive, and to be blessed with a house that is still wonderful and has grown with us over the past seven years.

2. The births of two wonderful children who have made every day just a little bit more adventurous.

1. The moment I became Mrs. Brad Bower. It was the moment that started this wonderful journey, and I wouldn't trade a single day there after.

I love you so much, sweetheart. Here's to many, many happy returns of the day.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Was Missed

I taught last night, and I came home and discovered I was missed...sort of.

Since my laptop was with me, Evan moved in:
 His laptop apparently gets very warm.

Evan took a tumble last night. He wasn't hurt, but he did cry for me. Issa solved the problem:
I guess the paper version did the trick. I wonder if she does laundry?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Yesterday was one of those days where I don't have a single event to discuss, but I do have a series of observations on the day:
  1. The one day I desperately need to do some work would be the day Issa desperately needs to snuggle. Snuggling won out. I am desperately behind. My students will have to wait to get their papers back until Friday.
  2. Disney is really stepping it up with their tween movies. I hesitate to admit I actually enjoyed watching it with Issa yesterday morning.
  3. Only in North Carolina would playing in the sprinkler when it's "only" 80 degrees require hot cocoa afterwards. I had three little girls that insisted it was so, and I actually made hot cocoa while the air conditioner ran. Good grief.
  4. I have roughly 6,794,304,872 loads of laundy to do. Any takers?
  5. Evan found a movie at the library that is a fireman talking about trains. His life is complete.
  6. I mopped the floor. Evan spilled pesto on it. This is the way of the world.
  7. Issa is still walking around with her journal. This could be the death of me...but she is using little letters.
That is all.

I'm off to take the kids to the dentist--Evan's first time. I'm a wreck; they are thrilled. Pray for me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Our Little Lois Lane

Let me begin by stating my daughter is brilliant. Her comprehension of math concepts blows me away; I wish I had half of her number sense. She is becoming such a fluent reader that it is actually fun to listen to the story--not just fun because she is reading. Even though she will be the youngest in her class, we are confident she will do well in first grade.

But...I'm in education. I'm realistic. There has been one little thing that has been causing me stress: writing. Issa can form a sentence that will blow your socks off. We're talking long, complex sentences with phrases and adjectives. Her spelling is spot-on phonetic, and she's becoming a better "real" speller. It's the handwriting! We're talking a mix of capitals and lower case that may or may not be on the line. She can do very well; she just often doesn't. It wasn't stressed at her old school, and I walk that fine line of pushing her to do what I know she can and not wanting to make her hate writing. It's in these moments that I wish I was not in education; I would probably stress less.

So...I've been encouraging more writing. You want a white board? Awesome! How about some new lined paper? Cool! Sunday, we read The Diary of a Worm, and when we were out running errands yesterday she announced she would like to keep a diary. Fantabulous! We made a deal that I would buy her a journal if she promised to practice using little letters in it. I had no idea what I had just bargained for. Enter our little Lois Lane:
This is how she walked about the house yesterday. Pencil in her hair, journal in hand, writing down everything. I wasn't out of the shower yet this morning before she was asking me for the date and writing in her diary. But...she's using little letters, and this is a good thing.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bubbles and Ballerinas

Our museum just never disappoints. Saturday was the Bubble Blitz, and the kids and I headed out while Daddy went to a grown-up field day for work. I never knew you could do so much with bubbles!

We bounced bubbles:
 Extra glycerin made them strong enough to really bounce on your hand.

We caught fog bubbles:
 Dry ice made them sink and then pop into a really cool fog.

We danced in bubbles:
 Because really, that's just fun. We also made our own wands, played with bubble wrap, made bubble rockets, and blew more bubbles of more shapes and sizes than you can imagine!

There was the traditional festive face paint:
 And as usual, Evan was not interested.

And lest you think I've finally lost my mind, there was a reason Issa wore her Angelina Ballerina costume:
 PBS visited the museum with an Angelina themed event.

The kids got to see Reada-roo again:
 But the highlight was the dance workshop with the American Dance Festival:
 Miss Leah from the ADF company led one of the most engaging, warm, modern workshops I have even seen:
 Evan loved watching the workshop, too:
They danced like bubbles moving through all kinds of environments: air, water, honey. They had a live bongo drummer to provide the music, and she made the kids feel comfortable dancing just how they were while she danced like she would on stage at ADF. It was beautiful. In fact, we are going to another ADF event this weekend--we can't wait! Have I mentioned we kind of like this museum?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fun on the Farm

 I just dropped Issa off for her last day of camp. Needless to say, she has had a fabulous week! I am continually impressed by our museum, and I have loved listening to her talk about everything she has learn and done this week.

A week in review via lunch box notes (please forgive the horrible pictures; I was being sneaky so Issa wouldn't see them until lunch):

 The first day was devoted to learning about farms in general. They learned all of the safety rules for working with the animals in the farmyard, how plants grow, the differences between fruits and vegetables, and how worms help plants. Issa's favorite part was getting to feed the pigs! She decorated a paper bag, hid a carrot in it, and then watched the pig root around until he got the carrot out. I loved listening to her explain that it was important to keep the animals' brains busy, too, and how they use these treat games to help do that.

 It was goat and sheep day! Issa was most interested in the fact that sheep and goats don't have upper teeth, so they grind rather than chew their food. Who knew! She also "got" to muck the goat and sheep pen and feed them. She has loved caring for the animals! She also got to comb and dye some wool from the sheep there, which was very fun.

 Chicken day! They also learned about other animals that come from eggs, explored the dinosaur trail to look for dinosaur eggs and characteristics of birds, and met a real silkie chicken! Issa got to clean the falcon's stall, and she loved spreading the new saw dust for him. This is an area the general public doesn't get to see, so she was extra excited. They also made egg crafts, including shell art from broken shells that they had dyed with fruits and vegetables.

 Cows, pigs, and bees were today's featured animals. They learned a lot about dairy farming and how milk becomes other things. She also learned how bees dance to communicate and led the family in a recreation of the dance last night. (It involves lots of figure eights and tail shaking.) The highlight was a bonus train ride, and she also got to muck the duck and pigs' stalls.

 Today is the big barn bash! They will be reviewing all that they learned and saying goodbye to their new animal friends. I get to go early for a square dance and to taste the pickles and jam they made on Monday. I can't wait!

Issa has loved this week and is a little sad to see it end. In a moment that made this mama very proud, she asked to make each of her teachers a thank you note:

They are each two sided and feature all of the things she learned about. We spent a lot of time trolling the internet for the perfect pictures and even more time arranging them just so and adding the necessary fanciness. She was so excited to give them to her teachers today, and I am so grateful she had such a great week.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Heart Breaker

That was a dagger to my heart last night.

I started teaching again last night, and it's a great group of teachers and a topic I love, literacy across the content areas. It felt good to be back in the classroom again. That being said, it's an evening class, which means I miss Wednesday evenings around here for a while.

I put mints on pillows, dinner in the crock pot, and jammies on bed corners. We got some extra snuggles in the morning, but they were already in bed by the time I was walking out of class. I didn't get to hear about camp or playing basketball. I didn't get to say goodnight. And then...I saw this on Issa's board when I checked on her. I missed you, too, baby girl.

Four more Wednesdays. I can do this.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shared Memories

Sometimes, I can't help but think about how very different my children's lives are from my own childhood.

Part of this is the span of decades. I marvel at the fact that Issa can log in to the computer, pull up her games, and play on her own; my first memories of computers were either the big chunky ones that glowed all over and had four buttons that made big clunking noises when you pushed them or, a little later, computers that required a really floppy floppy disk and made big chunking noises while it thought about maybe playing a school...if you were very good and finished your work. Play dates just showed up on the porch asking to play and didn't come with allergy lists or Mom's cell number because if you were allergic to something everyone already knew it because it was really life threatening, we had never heard of gluten, and there was no such thing as a cell phone.

Part of it is location. Growing up, trips to museums took planning, college campuses were far away, and real highways were few and far between. Museums and college campuses are a regular Tuesday around here, and my kids know the highways by name. I grew up identifying soy beans and corn in the field; I'm not sure my kids know what a soy bean is and we work to help them understand the origin of dinner is not the grocery store.

In other ways, though, our childhood stories are so similar. There are the big things: holiday traditions, seasonal decorations, and shared stories. Some things are far more mundane: family recipes, family dinners, favorite books, and old folk songs. My favorites, though, are those moments that are just a little big magic--the memories that make the kids' eyes sparkle and make me feel like a kid again, too.

This weekend, we put one of those magic pages in the kids' childhood story books. For the very first time, we caught lightening bugs.

We waited until it was barely dusk and we could see little lights flicker across the backyard. We poked holes in a jar lid, and we headed out for the adventure. Evan had a little trouble, but he loved the pursuit:

 I ended up catching them and passing them off to him. Issa, however, was a natural:
 Daddy was keeper of the jar. Let me tell you, these lightening bugs are bigger than their northern cousins! We were very glad we had chosen a big jar.
 The kids had a blast chasing little lights around the yard:
 And then we brought them inside to our bathroom, the darkest room in the house, to watch them flicker for a bit:
 We all giggled, naming the little lights and clapping whenever they twinkled.

Soon, it was time to let them go, and we waved as our little friends flew back into the yard, lighting a path:
 Twinkling as they went:
And if that's not magic, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Daddy Day

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post (with a full camp review at the end of the week): Issa loved camp and she is still Issa at home! My heart sings.

Now as promised....a recap of Father's Day around our house.

Since it is a holiday, you know we celebrated full throttle! Issa and I had been plotting for weeks; we didn't tell Evan until Friday, and parts of the day were a complete surprise to him, too. You see, our little man sings like a canary!

I took the kids shopping Friday so they could each choose one small gift just from them. Issa and I were really hoping Evan could keep the secret for two days; he made it about 40 minutes: "Daddy, my got you a hammer!" He did get daddy a hammer--a two and a half pound sledge hammer. Please visualize him carrying that beast through the store because he refused to let me put it in the cart. Issa chose a nail bag to hold said hammer. That did manage to stay a secret.

Sunday morning, Issa woke Evan and I up at o'dark thirty to start the celebrating. The kids wrapped their own gifts:
 Yes, friends, that is Spiderman paper and painter's tape.

I loved watching Evan try to wrangle his gift:
 There was also the requisite pile of homemade cards and painted rocks:
 The bag of pebbles was a placeholder for the Pebble watch that we ordered for Daddy; the real thing should arrive in September. (This was most definitely news to Evan.)

We then started the caravan upstairs. Issa, Baboo, and her gift:
 Evan, Booboo, and his gift:
 Me carrying the aforementioned stack and French toast with sausage and coffee:
Daddy did a great job pretending he had slept through all the commotion. We all enjoyed breakfast in bed, and then we enjoyed a very low-key day. Daddy got a high quality nap and some even better quality time with each child individually. We made a special dinner of steaks and twice baked potatoes. I also made marscapone and fig stuffed phyllo pouches as an appetizer. Yeah...they rocked.

All in all, I think it was exactly what Daddy was hoping for, and he was, and is, definitely well-celebrated and well-loved.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Little Camper

We had an absolutely fabulous weekend, and Daddy was well-celebrated. But...we have some breaking news this morning that trumps that celebration post. We have a camper:
 Issa is having Fun in the Farmyard at our museum this week. And she gets to take a backpack:
 And she wanted to be sure everyone saw the day lilies, too:
 We arrived at the museum ridiculously early because Issa was ready to go to camp at 5:50 this morning. So...we took more pictures:
 Please notice she is still proud of the backpack:
 And she wanted you to see the rocket ship:
Every once in a while, I have one of those mom moments where I feel like I'm in a novel or film. You know the ones. In novels, characters close their eyes and see key scenes that brought them to this moment. In films, hazy visions of the past play against the action of the moment.

My moments always start with the moment in the hospital when I'm sitting in the wheelchair at the front door, waiting for Brad to pull the van around, and I have the realization that I am holding my baby and have no idea what I'm doing. There is this tiny little life in my arms and no instruction manual. I can still feel the lump in my throat, and I can still feel that weight in my arms. The moment hits when we are crossing milestones--especially milestones I am not properly braced for.

This morning, I walked a confident, bouncing little girl into camp. I was fine until I saw the sign on the door: "Fun in the Farmyard for Rising First and Second Graders." Gulp. It's not like I didn't know she was a first grader; I guess seeing it in such big, bold letters made it more real. Then my little angel looked at me with earnest eyes, "Mom, will they call me Issa or Clarissa?"

"They will call you whatever you want, baby."
"Then I'm Clarissa; it's a better big girl name."

Gulp. The montage begins. I bit my lip as I signed her in, and she gave me one very quick hug before she dashed off to meet new friends and do a puzzle. We named her Clarissa knowing it was a name that would grow with her; I just had no idea that she would want to shift at the ripe old age of five. Where did my baby go?

I made it to the car, and I melted. I want to say I shed a tear, but the reality is I slumped over the steering wheel and sobbed. My my Clarissa...the happiest camper in the farmyard. I just hope she's not too big to appreciate this little note I tucked in her lunch box:

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Someday....someday I am going to read these magazines:
 I had high hopes for yesterday. All of the kids (all six of the kids) were playing in the pool, and I really thought I could thumb through some magazines while I watched them. I was delusional. Between lifts in and out, wrapping towels around chilly little girls, and chatting with swimmers taking a break, I read one article.

After an hour and a half, they moved the party down the street, and I was left with the aftermath:
They did carry all of the toys to the deck, but I moved them all back to the garage and cleaned up the pool. By the time I was finished, they were back--at least four of them were back. I have a feeling this is going to be my summer...and I have a feeling I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, June 15, 2012

On Building

Yesterday, Issa was down the street playing with the neighbors, so Evan and I got to hang out. When he asked to build a city, I thought I knew how to play. I quickly learned I did not; Mr. Man suggested I just sit back and take pictures. Nice. to build a city according to our little man.

First, start with the fire stations you already have. Line up the firetrucks beside the stations:
 Then, you have to build a gas station:
 This is what a gas station looks like:
 Then you fill up your trucks and drive them around the town:
I started to build a building, which is clearly not part of building a city. This kid cracks me up!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This is How We Learn

That's my mantra for the summer: "This is how we learn:"
Issa helped me clean yesterday. A few things were running through my head at this point:
  1. Isn't it sweet that she wants to help me clean?
  2. When did she get so big?
  3. Good golly how did she completely miss the entire corner on the top of the piano?
  4. I really need to get more Pledge at Costco...and possibly stock in pledge...and more dust cloths. (Yes...that is Pledge on the cloth; it was almost enough to do the entire room; it dusted the piano bench. Downstairs took her four dust cloths.)
I resisted the urge to point out every little spot she missed (although I did point our whole pieces of furniture she missed), and I didn't dust behind her. She is helping, and this is how we learn. She also vacuumed about half of the house. She got every feather (it is so frightening that I can type that phrase like it's the most normal thing in the planet), but we might have a few dusty spots. She was so proud, and this is how we learn. house is cleaned but not spotless. My daughter is happy...and proud...and learning...and that is worth far more than a little dust. (And consider yourself warned if you come to our home this summer.)