Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Many Faces

Happy Halloween, all! We have been creating all kinds of faces around here lately.
The Saturday before we left for California, Issa and I participated in our town's Handmade Parade. Once a year, the art council encourages groups and residents to create costumes in a Mardi Gras style parade. Our neighbor organized a group of girls to be butterfly fairies, and since everyone has to be costumed, I was their flower:
 Issa did the decorating of the wings all by herself. They were very fancy.

Evan and Daddy were proud supporters. Apparently, Evan spent much of the parade like this:
Can you blame him with costumes like this:
 Here was our motley group in comparison:
 One of the many reasons I love our town: the crowd, which packed the streets, cheered just as loudly for our little group as they did for the more intricate adult costumes. It wasn't a competition. It truly was about celebrating the arts and coming together as a community. Makes my heart happy.

When we got home, we decided it was time to carve our pumpkins. The annual Daddy scooping, crazy face picture:
 Evan's Halloween is all about Spiderman, so I managed to carve him a Spiderman pumpkin:
 And since every Spiderman needs a bad guy, my pumpkin became the bad guy:
 I just love Evan's bad guy face, too.

Issa decided to make a girl pumpkin, and she got to do her own carving this year:
 It's hard work, I tell you.

The final results:

That brings us to today. Although today is Halloween, Issa's school is celebrating favorite book character day. If your costume is a book character, you can wear it. If it is not, you can not. Are you hearing the annoyance in my tone? Let's just let the kids wear their costumes and roll on.

So...Issa is Spider Girl this year, which is a whole graphic novel series. But...that's not her favorite character. Pinkalicious is her favorite:
Yes...her hair is pink today! We blushed her whole face and used chalk to tint her hair for the day. She was even more pink than usual. In fact, she was tickled pink with herself. (I had to go there.)

Tonight is trick-or-treat, and I am sure there will be plenty of non-pink cuteness to share tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

California Bliss and the Beginning of a Happily Ever After

I spent the past couple of days trying to decide how I would write about the past week. I tried segmenting it, but it really is one fairytale week. So, grab a cup of coffee; this is a long one. The words don't do it justice, but I hope the pictures capture the sentiment.
We spent last week in Napa Valley, Calistoga to be exact. See this little green house in the middle of a vineyard:
That was our home away from home for the week. Those are olive trees surrounding the house, and the mountains in the background were the perfect backdrop for an idyllic week. Chelsea Vineyard was as warm and cozy as you could imagine. Throughout the week, our little family, Nana, Papa, and an assortments of aunts, uncles, and cousins, shared the space. We cooked, snuggled by fires, and played. It really was home in the truest sense of the word.

We arrived on Sunday, but that was a day just to settle and let poor Issa's tummy settle. The two hour drive from San Francisco after two flights just did her in.

By Monday, though, we were ready to venture out. Our first stop was Mustard's for a visit with Brad's Aunt Carolyn:
Mustard's is an incredible little restaurant that has been featured on Food Network. They also have their own garden, which the kids were thrilled to explore.

When we got back to the house, Nana and Papa joined up to explore Calistoga:
It's a charming town filled with boutiques, book stores, and wine shops. The highlight, though, was the train shops:
Yes, those are train cars that are shops. And...the one in the back is a candy store. Poor Evan was just beside himself. We also found a bottle of wine from our vineyard there:
When we got home, the kids discovered what might have been the highlight of their week:
Walnuts. Tons of walnuts. They spent so much time collecting as many as they could find nearly every day. Then, we started cracking:
In case you are wondering, the handles of a can opener make a dandy nut cracker. We enjoyed fresh, toasted and candied nuts all week, and Issa got pretty good at popping them out of the cracked shells:
At this point, I need to explain those gloves. They might be the highlight of the first part of the trip for my mother. When we went into Calistoga, we told each child that they could pick out a souvenir. Three of us got shirts. Not Issa. All of my chickens are coming home to roost with this one. Any shirt, necklace, or scarf I suggested she turned her nose up to with comments like, "That is so not cute," or, better yet, "I guess it looks like you," which translated into hideous apparently. Then, she spotted these fingerless gloves, and before I could stop myself I made a face...and they were sold. She wore them all week. She loves them. And so it begins.

Tuesday, we headed out to our first winery:
Yes, folks, it was a castle, complete with everything a castle would have had: a moat, drawbridge, banquet hall, burning fireplaces, a chapel, and beautiful artwork. We learned about wine presses throughout the ages, and we climbed parapets:
Our little princess:
Evan was on the lookout for a dragon:
But the courtyard was the most exciting:
Because of these:
We had been there only a few minutes when we heard the first rooster crow (and yes I know there are turkeys in the picture above--all poultry are thrilling). Evan's little hands came straight out as he shouted, "Mama, I heard cockel-doodles!" We couldn't find them fast enough. We tasted wines and grape juice, and in a moment of divine intervention, we met Jeff's family who happened to be touring the same winery. They are warm and wonderful and feel like family already.

Wednesday, Brad and I snuck off for a morning date to two bakeries also featured on Food Network. Folks, these are the cookies that stopped the world:
These macarons are incredible, and I will be trying to figure them out over the next few weeks. They are light and lovely.

Wednesday afternoon, the kids discovered new fun:
Sweeping the driveway. We don't get it, but it's apparently hysterical. So is skipping through a vineyard:
That night, Shannon and Jeff came over for dinner, and we sadly watched the Tigers lose:

(For the record, that is a ring pop in Evan's mouth.) Growing up, I remember Daddy and Gramps watching every Tigers game, and watching my boy watch the game with the Stucky men is a moment I will be forever grateful for--even if we would have preferred a different outcome. Somehow, listening to Lyle "coach" the team just made it all the more perfect.
Thursday, Mom and I headed off with Shannon to do some wedding prep, and the kiddos headed out with Daddy, Papa, and Aunt Carol to tour another vineyard:
This vineyard featured a gondola ride and a tour that explained wine making. The kids loved the ride and tasting different grape juices. I think they also loved a little bonus Aunt Carol time:
Thursday afternoon, the vineyard owner stopped by. As it turned out, he had harvested all of the grapes they needed, and anything left on the vine was fair game. The kids couldn't find a bowl fast enough after a week of being told that they were not our grapes. The three of us headed out to the vines:
Cabernet grapes are yummy:
Although we did figure out the ones left on the vine were there because they were harder to get off:
I would say it was a successful harvest:
Daddy made a Cabernet sauce that night to put over ice cream, and it might be the best ice cream I've ever eaten.

Friday, we had the wedding rehearsal and luncheon. The kids loved playing with Jeff's nieces, and the two families melded beautifully. The highlight for the kids, though, was the train that went past the luncheon venue:
The woman in the middle is Jeff's mother, and our kids proclaimed sometime Friday that, "We have two Grandma Judies now." Beautiful.

Saturday was the big day! We girls all got our hair done in the morning and then had a lovely bridal lunch with Shannon's closest friends before we headed to the vineyard to get ready:
 Shannon was a beautiful, calm, blissful bride, and I am so glad I could be with my baby sister on her big day:
 Issa was a beautiful flower girl:
 And Evan was a very handsome ring bearer:
 And that is one adorable bridal party:
 Always a ham:
 Dinner in the wine cave was beautiful:
And it was followed with a lot of dancing and laughter and family.

Jeff and Shannon are so clearly very, very much in love, and it was a beautiful wedding...a prelude to a beautiful marriage and what I am sure will be a very happily ever after.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Little Bit Wiser

Friends, I am in a so much better place this morning. Yesterday, I gave myself permission to take care of my soul. Sure, I did six million loads of laundry, the dishes, reviews, and the errands, but I'm a little bit wiser than I was a few years ago so I did it differently. A younger me would power through to do lists, mindlessly checking things off because I had to finish the list, killing myself in the process. A younger me prioritized based on my perception of other people's priorities.
At some point, I shifted, and I think it has a lot to do with this blog. Focusing on the every day has helped me to realize that when I start to have nothing to say here, when I'm posting about drowning, my priorities are jacked up. No other way to say it. If I don't fill myself, if I don't tend my own soul, I have nothing left to give and I'm back to checking off the list--and I don't want to go back there.
So, yesterday, I let myself cry in the morning. Just because. Just because I was tired and needed a good cry. Then, I went outside. Someone far wiser once said, "One is closer to God in the garden than anywhere else on earth." I would add one more addendum: One is closer to God in the garden in the rain than anywhere else on earth. Yesterday, there was a gentle rain, almost a mist at times, and I cleaned my flower beds for fall, sprinkling seeds and pruning crazy branches into beautiful trees. I came in sore and so happy, and a little piece of my soul was restored.
I picked the kids up and we went to get flu mist, and then we went to Starbucks. I turned off my brain and really listened, listened to them giggle and chatter. No running list. No rush to get to the next thing. Just be.
We came home, and I knew balance was restored when I saw this:
Two content children, playing sweetly without bickering. I folded laundry--oh the laundry--as they played. I had so much clean laundry I couldn't fold it in the laundry room and had to cover every flat surface in my kitchen with laundry, but I did it to the music of laughter and chatter. 

That's why I blog. I'm a little bit wiser because I have a barometer that I can reread. It gives me a place to get perspective, and I hope, maybe someday, Issa especially will be able to read this and find a little wisdom...a little grace for herself from herself.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wondrous Thing

This week is a zoo. A messy, complicated zoo. All of my students are taking midterms, which means I'm grading and writing midterm reports like there is no tomorrow. I'm trying to get everything in place for our week long adventure, which means packing and making arrangements for the zoo we have here at home. Add the normal housework, homework, and play dates, and I'm drowning and exhausted.
In the midst of all of this, though, I see this:
Fall color. I can't help but breathe a little deeper and smile a little every time I see it. As I'm driving to see all my student teachers, the trees are ablaze, and I feel peace. It's a wondrous thing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Soccer Champ

Evan had his last soccer practice last night, and he was so proud of his first trophy:
 As if that cuteness wasn't enough:
Did I not tell you? Be still my heart...I love these boys.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


This weekend, Crystal and I took a blissful break from reality. Our wonderful husbands sent us to the beach for the weekend...alone...with a hotel room.

For 48 hours, we did not cook. We did not clean. We did not do laundry. We walked the beach. We went shopping. We got our nails done. We talked about life the universe and everything, and I'm pretty sure we solved all the world's problems.

By Sunday afternoon, though, we were both missing our people, and it was so good to see them again. I came home to flowers and very happy children. Brad made my favorite dinner, and I refused to open the computer or the laundry room door.

Reality came crashing in yesterday--hard--but it was so worth it. And now, I need to get back to the reality that is still waiting: laundry, dishes, and work, oh my!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Soccer Star

Check out our little soccer star:
 He and Daddy have been going to soccer for the past month, and Issa and I got to go to his first scrimmage last night! He was pretty proud of his new team shirt.

Our little man has a pretty powerful kick:
 And a maniacal laugh that follows that kick:
 Look at him run up to that ball:
The warm up was awesome. He was rocking it, and his first sports picture--be still my heart. I will post it when we get it because it may be the cutest thing ever, my little man with his foot perched on the ball. And then Daddy knelt in the picture and I nearly swooned.

After pictures, it was time for the scrimmage. Evan was on the jerseyed side:
 I'm not going to lie. It was a very rough start. It was the first time the kiddos had played without their parents beside them, and it was the first time they had done anything but drills. The coach was awesome, though, and just made it fun and about getting the ball down the field into a net...which is something for a field of three year olds.

Evan spent the first half miserable, his little hand up by his mouth and a pitiful look on his face. He didn't quite understand why everyone wasn't taking turns and why a couple little ones were trying to take the ball from others (also known as playing soccer--they came with experience). Daddy did some awesome coaching, though, and Evan finally started to have fun:
 See this:
That's my boy scoring a goal!

I will also be forever grateful to Carson's mom. She has an older son and is a soccer pro. She also understands that we are all in this together. When Evan was struggling, she started cheering, too. Calling his name like he was hers. When Evan landed hard on his back after a mighty kick and I fought every urge to run out there, she took my arm and said, "It's harder on us. He's great." I thanked her after the scrimmage: "That's what it's all about" was all she said, but I heard "It takes a village."

Evan ended up loving his first scrimmage, and we went out to dinner to celebrate. I have a lot of learning to do before I can do this sports mom thing, but his smile and that laugh make it all worth it...and I'm glad there is a village of mamas to help.