Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Whole New World

Oh, how I wish I had a better angle for this picture:
 You can see how excited he was when he opened this gift from Grandma Pat and Grandpa Kevin:
 His very own soccer goal. And it even cheers every time he makes a goal! He couldn't wait to try it out:
I am happy to say I assembled this one without any bloodshed or ice packs. I am also happy to report that Evan is rapidly filling our backyard with sports equipment. It's a whole new world for me. He is in heaven, though, and I love looking out the window and seeing him happily doing his thing.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Birthday Boy

This weekend, I discovered the art of planning little boy birthday parties--surrender. We had a fabulous time at the party, but it didn't go at all as planned.
I had been planning for weeks, but Friday night, Daddy and I started in earnest. He made Lego cars for balloon races:
 And I started the cake and made Lego jello and ice cubes:
 The ice cubes worked beautifully, but not so much the jello. They didn't hold their shape well, although the boys declared them delicious!

Evan had chosen a Lego city theme, and I made a cake to match:
 We used black sheeting and duct tape to make a road table:
 And we set up a Lego city buffet:
 Complete with stop light fruit and axle and grill pretzels:
 We even made fun race flag signs:
 And drank motor oil (grape juice) and anti-freeze (watermelon juice):
 The stage was set with a pinata:
 And each child had their own car tunnel to decorate:
 Stickers and hot wheels were waiting in the striped boxes.

The Lego cars were ready for balloon races:
 And our boy couldn't wait!

His friends arrived, and they colored and raced for exactly five minutes before they headed outside to play:
 Two of his little friends were no shows, and I was worried Evan would be disappointed, but he was unfazed. He had a blast with the two friends who did come, and in some ways it was probably better that it was smaller. They had less to negotiate about what to play, and they could all play in his room without it being too crowded. His two best buds were there, and he was happy.

We did convince them to come in long enough to do the pinata and have a snack:
They had quite the haul since I had planned for more kids!

They sang happy birthday:
 Evan blew out his candles:
 And they tore into the gifts:
 Issa gave Evan a set of Hulk gloves he had been eyeing, and everyone else brought Spiderman gear:
Evan was elated...and then they headed right back outside:
 Evan's Hulk face:
 The best big sister played with the boys and made suggestions:
 She was less thrilled about the gloves.

They did come in for car races, and they ran around the backyard playing tag and swinging. This face, though:

That sums it up. It may not have been the party I planned, but it was absolutely the party he wanted. He had a blast, and declared it the best party ever. The boys all asked to take their tunnels home, and they all asked to come back to our house again, which is the truest measure of success.

Happy birthday, little Hulk, and may you always be this easy to please.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The First Gift

Evan's first birthday gifts arrived yesterday. To say he was excited is a mastery of understatement! Because he is such a sweet little brother, he let Issa help open:
Papa Don and Grandma Nancy know this boy well. They sent his very own pitch back:
 And a batting trainer:
 He was elated. Issa announced we would have to wait for Daddy to put them together, which meant I immediately needed to put them together:
 Here's the deal: I know she probably means that Daddy is just better at these sorts of things--which he is--but I hear my girl say she needs to wait for a boy and I need to prove a point. For the record, though, I only had to take two pieces apart, redo the net twice, and got one fat, split lip when Evan was helping and hit me with a pole on accident. My lip looks really fabulous this morning. Maybe next time we'll wait for Daddy.

But, I was successful and we headed out try out the new toys:
 Evan was in heaven:
 He even let big sis take a turn:
 Look at that mighty swing:
 Look at that mighty swing that knocked him down:
And the birthday celebrations are off and rolling! Issa and I are going shopping for the last of the supplies for his friend party today. Big excitement this weekend, folks!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


We all know I am a little bit of a holiday and tradition fiend. I have so many wonderful memories of celebrations from my childhood, and I want to pass those along to my children. Admittedly, I may have jumped up another level on the holiday scale, but many of the traditions are still the same at the core.

Sometimes, though, little moments sneak up on my with waves of nostalgia. Last night, I was trying to undecorate from Easter (I know...the bunnies had long over-stayed their welcome), when I got completely distracted by the sounds of our backyard. Issa, Evan, and Briana were outside playing some kind of imaginary game with nothing but some sticks, a jump rope, and themselves. They were climbing bushes and I think Evan might have been the Hulk. It was hard to tell through all of the laughter. I watched from the window, unseen, and was transported back to my own childhood...

I remember playing with the neighbors in our yard, climbing the big pine tree, and making up the rules as we went. I remember the laughter and never knowing what the day would hold. Aside from my cousins, I haven't spoken to any of those childhood neighborhodd friends in years, aside from an occasional facebook post. We lost one in high school, and the rest of us have all gone our separate ways. But I still remember the laughter and freedom as one of the highlights of childhood.

In the wake of recent events, I am so grateful to live in a place where I can still let my children just play in the backyard. I love that I don't need to watch every moment, and I've almost stopped holding my breath while they climb branches. I want them to remember the same laughter and freedom, and I am so happy to recapture a little of that feeling myself.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Howling Good Time

This weekend, we finally redeemed the kids' Christmas weekend at Great Wolf! I really don't know who was more excited this year--the kiddos or the parents. This trip has truly become a vacation. We know the resort and the routine so well, and as the kids get older we pack less. It's fabulous. By all accounts, this was the best trip yet!
We hit the road Friday evening as soon as Daddy got home from work. This year, we opted to just grab a snack on the way and then order pizza when we arrived there. It is now tradition. It allowed us to settled into our room an hour earlier, and the kids were thrilled to be able to hang out in their wolf den for a bit longer before we finally declared lights out.
This year, the wolf den was especially fun for some reason. The kids decided to share the top bunk, and they hauled all manner of toys up there to play during the day. I had tucked some new art projects in their trunkies for the trip, and they were a huge hit!
Saturday morning, the kids woke up bright and early, anxious to eat the cereals that they are only allowed to have on vacation. They also decided that no one actually uses a door in a wolf den; the window is more fun:
 Evan really thought he had pulled off something with this trick:
 We stalled as long as we could and then went down to wait for the water park to open. For the first time, I checked in online, which meant we got a room that was much closer to everything, which is awesome except when you have twenty minutes until the park opens. We did a lot of wandering. Fortunately, Oliver the Raccoon was a little early, too:
 And then we had to do the Great Wolf cheer to open the park! Issa loves the cheer and would be devastated if we missed it, but she really wishes people would cheer a bit more quietly:
 We didn't take many pictures in the water park because, well, we were enjoying the park. That was actually a theme for the weekend. We snapped a few, but we really were too busy enjoying to worry too much about documenting every moment. Evan did pose while we were waiting for Issa:
 This is a terrible picture, but you can almost see Issa and Daddy:
 Issa went down the big slide for the first time, and she loved every minute of it!

After showers, we headed off to use our Paw Passes. The first stop was the animal station, where Squirrely and Bearby joined our family:
 Then we headed to the Cub Club for some art fun. Issa chose a backpack this year:
 And Evan opted for a pillow case. I love how earnest he looks here:
 We headed back to the room for some lunch, and then went to the newest addition--bowling:
 All of the pictures are a blur of excitement, but I am so amused by Issa's little foot out here. And Evan celebrated every roll:
 We also spent some quality time in the arcade winning all manner of junk. Bottom line: it would have been a great weekend to take Issa to Vegas.

We spent the afternoon with Princess Ballerina and King Roar questing to save the kindgom in Magiquest:
 Issa defeated the bear, helped the fairies, and conquered the dragon this year! She was on a mission. Evan opened a lot of treasure and then called it quits when a wolf eluded him. That's what I love about this trip. We really follow the kids' leads. I think that's what makes it fun. When they wanted to move on, we did. When they wanted to play, we did.

Sunday was spent in the water park, questing, and just hanging out playing in the room. I did Issa's nails, and Daddy and Evan built a felt truck. In short, it was perfect. In fact, it was one pretty sweet weekend:

Friday, April 19, 2013


Issa is absolutely fine, but this is what greeted me yesterday after school:
She has knees that match her nose. As I gasped, Issa asked me, "What?"

"Uh...your face? It seems to be a little scraped up?"

"Oh, yeah, I got run over by some fourth graders."

"Um...can I have a few details? Are you okay?"

You see, I'm not really used to Issa being so chill about, well, anything. She may get that from me. Usually a paper cut comes with an epic poem. As it turns out, she was walking across the playground and two fourth graders were running towards the door. They didn't even see her, and, well, they ran her over. I guess the girls stopped and helped her up, and the PE teacher was there in moments to check on her. By all accounts, Issa never shed a tear and her teacher got her all patched up. She said it was more annoying than painful.

I guess I'll take that. I did suggest that maybe next time she should try to keep her head up on the way down.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Super Boy

This picture hurts my heart in the best possible way:
At some point, my baby became a boy. Now that he's in shorts, I notice that his little legs have lost all their rolly-polly babiness. He's strong--really strong--and fast. He strides rather than walks; there's almost a swagger there.

And he is beginning to understand more of the world. He is wearing his class shirt here. They made these shirts to wear for the mini-march for cystic fibrosis. I love that his school is helping the children learn about helping others, and when I picked him up yesterday he proudly announced, "I helped really sick kids today, Mom. They're going to try to make them better." His teacher also told me that he asked if his class could make cards to send to the kids, too. He's a pretty great little boy...and will always be my baby.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Too Much

I feel too much, empathize a little too much, sometimes. I used to look at this as a fault, but I've learned to accept it. It's who I am, and I think it's part of what makes me good at my job--both professionally and as a mom. Because of the "too much," though, sometimes days are a little too much; they have the potential to swallow me if I let them. Yesterday was one of those days.
I spent my professional day meeting with students, students who are drowning and can't or won't see it yet. My heart breaks for them. I can throw out the life preserver, but they have to grab it, and when they don't a little piece of my heart breaks. When that stops happening, it will be time for me to move on, but it makes some days so hard.
Midway through the day, I learned that another mama, a woman I never formally met but feel like I know, lost her baby boy, a little guy about the same age as Evan who is now the littlest super hero I know--whose life is now saving many, many others and whose mama taught me more about grace and courage than I can imagine. I grieve with her.
On the way home, I heard the headlines about Boston, and my heart broke a little deeper. I got home and watched the news while Issa played next door and Evan was still at school. I saw people rushing to help, tearing down barricades to run towards the danger and the hurting. I saw runners who I know were exhausted and hurting turn around and run back towards those still coming to warn them. I saw so much good and light, but my heart still broke. It was too much.
And then I went to get my little guy, anxious to hold him a little tighter, and I met his teacher at the door. She was on the way to the hospital. Her step-father, Evan's favorite teacher's husband, a man Evan calls Poppy John, had been badly burned in a lawn mower accident. All she knew was that his face had caught fire and she needed to get herself and the boys to the hospital quickly--just in case. I couldn't take any more. It was all just too much.
I fumbled through making dinner, hiding occasional tears from my blissfully unaware kids, collapsing into Brad's arms when he got home. On these days, I mourn and grieve with others but I am also unbelievably grateful. Grateful to be able to hold my kids a little tighter. Grateful to be able to protect them from all of the too much a little longer. And so grateful they can take away a little of the too much...because they see the magic everywhere and remind me to look, too.
This little guy spent his evening being a super hero smashing bad guys:
 It's that simple. Good wins. Love wins. Thank you, little man.

This girl finally lost that other front tooth and the Tooth Fairy came:
Magic is real. Joy is simple. Thank you, baby girl.

I texted an offer to come to the hospital and help with the boys only to learn the burns were amaingly minimal compared to what they should have been. Poppy John will be home by the weekend, in time for a very important grandson's birthday party. Miracles happen every day.

The too much can be heart-breaking, but it is also so incredibly joyful, magical, good.