Monday, November 25, 2013

A Weekend Away

Our sophomore trip went ridiculously well. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Charleston. It is a lovely town, and everyone we met was kind and gracious. I also learned more history in one weekend that ever before. We toured on land and sea, participated in a dinner theater, and saw dolphins. Plus...the beauty of traveling with young adults is I actually was able to relax a bit. It was lovely.

Meanwhile on the home front, much fun was had by all:
Yes, they lived in a sheet fort for the weekend. They also saw a movie and had all manner of fun. My kiddos sure do have one awesome Daddy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Life is crazy right now, and so it feels like a random list kind of day:

1. I leave for Charleston with my sophomores tomorrow. We're touring schools and historic sites and catching a play. It should be much fun.

2. We have hit that point in the semester where I just had to look at my calendar to see what time my class starts today. The light is at the end of the tunnel, but it feels like a train at the moment.

3. Grading. See number 2.

4. Packing. See number 1.

5. Packing library bags, dance bags, lunch get the idea. Mom is leaving and bags must be lined up for all occasions--including the field trip lunch.

6. Thank goodness for Merry Maids. I am now able to keep the laundry tamed and the dishes clean because I'm not also trying to clean the house. It's a small miracle and a huge gift.

7. Next week is Thanksgiving, and it can't come soon enough! I am in desperate need of some family time and holiday love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Still Little

First, let me say we had a morning that did not involve anything beeping, spilling, or dying. I am quite happy. Now on to the real story...

In the midst of the kids growing up way too fast, every once in a while I'm gifted with a moment when they are still really little. Last night, about two am, Evan came pattering into my room and didn't stop until he was literally lying on top of me with his little nose nuzzled into my neck.

"Mama, I'm vewy scawed."

That little voice only comes out when he is really tired or really scared, and last night he was both. He had a bad dream, and I knew from the way he nuzzled there was no tucking him back in to his own bed. He went pattering back to his room and came back with puppy pillow, Booboo, and his water glass.

Sleeping with Issa is roughly akin to sleeping in a den of lions. Evan, however, sleeps like me--very still and snuggled as much as possible. He even slips in without untucking sheets, just like me. He settled his special friends, and then snuggle into me, nuzzling that sweet little nose into my neck and wrapping his little fingers in my hair--just like he did as a baby. Before long, I heard the rhythm of deep, sleepy breaths. His little scared body relaxed, but he didn't let go or move away. He just needed his mama last night, and if I'm honest, it was awfully nice to have his little snuggles and to know that even as he grows up he still needs his mama.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Morning

So...just when I tell everyone I have this morning without Daddy thing down, the mornings this week are trying to kill me.

Yesterday, we awoke to a dead hermit crab. Tiny had been doing just brilliantly, but alas he was very dead yesterday morning. There were many tears and a swearing off of hermit crabs. Issa rebounded fairly well, but suffice it to say it was a rocky start.

This morning, I awoke to that familiar chirping of a smoke alarm. So at o'dark thirty I was hauling in the ladder and replacing a battery before it woke the kids or drove the dog any more crazy.

I could handle those two things, but then the unthinkable happened. I made a cup of coffee, just like always. I have a system where I make the first cup, pour it in a travel mug, and then make a second cup to drink before I go. It allows the travel mug to be the perfect drinking temperature for the drive. I set cup one on the counter and reached for the travel mug in the cabinet above. Then...I just sort of let go of the travel mug. I don't really know how it happened. All I do know is it fell and hit the edge of my cup of liquid gold causing it to spill all over the counter and run down the front of my dishwasher into a little puddle. I am not proud to say I just sort of stood there, watching it run, making note of the fact that everything had just been cleaned yesterday.

Thankfully, Issa was there to hand me the roll of paper towels and remind me, "We don't just watch spills get bigger, Mom," as she picked up the coffee cup on the way by. I cleaned up the mess, but I was one cup of coffee down on a day when I clearly needed an extra. In short, we had a morning.

Thank goodness Daddy comes home tomorrow!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blooper Reel

By and large, we are one holiday at a time people. Christmas is not allowed to begin until Thanksgiving has been thoroughly celebrated. There is a notable exception, though: the Christmas card photo shoot.

I am a big fan of a coupon, and I always get our cards from If you order by today, they are 60% off. This is a no brainer. So...we decided Friday night was the night for card making.

Issa and Evan planned the whole card this year, and I want many, many points for rolling with their creativity. The short version is Issa planned to be a Christmas tree that Evan was decorating. She chose white tinsel and blue and silver ornaments, which clearly meant she needed to be in her blue dance clothes, and Evan clearly needed to be in his blue footies--his choice. They also needed candy cane antlers for some inexplicable reason. Although the actual card photos are still classified, the blooper reel is too good not to share.

We had to get Issa mostly decorated first:
(Please ignore the fact that I am wearing Brad's sweatshirt which is way too big. I was cold and he is chivalrous.) And that was supposed to include wiring a star tree topper to her antlers. It was not going well. In this picture, I am trying to wire the star and the antlers to her leotard:
Issa was not at all sure about this:
We recruited a better engineer:
We gave up. Instead of the picture being of Evan putting ornaments on her, it ended up being of Evan putting the star on top. No wiring required.

Not to be out done, Evan decided her also wanted to be a tree:
In case you are wondering, it is possible to say, "Stand still," roughly six million times in the fifteen minutes it take to decorate a four year old for Christmas. Thank goodness the ornaments were plastic.

A great time was had by all, and these may be the cutest cards yet! And now...we return to Thanksgiving...

Friday, November 15, 2013

So Happy

I try not to gush on here--I really do--but I am just a little bit super happy today. Brad came home yesterday, and we both collapsed on the couch after we got the kiddos wrangled into bed. Here is what I love about this man: he makes me laugh. He also listens to me babble because I have been short on adult conversation until he thinks his ears will start bleeding. Then he gives me this dopey face and says, "Shhhh," in a way that can only make me laugh.

Tomorrow, we get to go out on a real live date. We are going to our favorite restaurant, which we refuse to take other people to so it can stay ours, and then we are going to see a play. I am giddy.

I love that after 11 plus years, we are still excited to see each other. Love you, babe.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scientific Discovery

For her birthday, Issa received several spa science kits. At first I was a bit skeptical. Why do science kits targeted at girls have to be about beauty products? Then I saw Issa dive into them, and all that melted away. They are actually pretty cool little kits. We both learned all of the science behind manicures, but the real highlight was the perfume kit. It had all manner of essential oils, test tubes, and pipettes. The book walked her through a series of experiments about your sense of smell, and then the fun started:
Daddy coached and Evan looked on as Issa made Cleopatra's Secret and Napoleon's Gloves:
Then she moved on to making her own concoctions:
We ran out of test tubes, and because somebody has Daddy's number, she mentioned she sure would love some more science equipment. Fifteen minutes later a test tube rack, 50 test tubes, pipettes, and a real lab notebook were on their way. I promised we could go find a few more oils, and our house is about to be very, very fragrant thanks to our favorite little scientist and her discoveries.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Basketball Boy

Last night, Evan announced he had found "his thing." Basketball. I have to admit, if this sticks, I will be thrilled. Maybe it's because I remember watching so many basketball games as a child. Maybe it's because at my core I will always be a Hoosier. Maybe because it's a game I actually understand. Maybe it's because I do not have to sit in the freezing cold to cheer on my child. I digress...Evan is in love with basketball in a way that he has never been in love with anything else--even soccer. 

He's doing Smart Start this season, so a grown-up has to play with him. Last night was my turn:
 Let me tell you something: I never played a sport. Not one. I am not athletic. I own that. I was a bit (like twelve miles) outside of my comfort zone last night.

When we arrived, the kids headed off to warm-up with one coach while the head coach walks the parents through the skill stations. This picture amuses me greatly:
 Here's the deal: Coach Lyons doesn't play. I believe the words, "If you mess up your child's shot now you have ruined him for basketball forever," may have crossed his lips. I will say I learned more about basketball technique last night than I did in ten years of PE classes.

We started at the shooting station:
 What really impressed me was that a coach was assigned to every station. They worked their way from child to child coaching the child and the parent. The shooting coach's advice to me: "He has really great form. Don't mess with it. Just let him shoot and clap a lot." Thank goodness! Now I just have to not screw him up for life by trying to help.

From there we moved on to bounce passes and then to dribbling:
The coach was really pleased with Evan's standing still dribbling and his straight back and forth dribbling, so we were able to move on to weaving in and out of cones. It was messy, but Evan had a blast!

We ended with shuffling and chest passes, and then the kids had their end of practice huddle. There is nothing cuter than a 20 year veteran coach, who talks a tough game, helping all these little people get into a circle with their hands in. I have a feeling Coach isn't quite as tough as he wants to be, but I'm not complaining.

(A special thanks to the guest photographer Issa!)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Issa's Year in Review

At long last, I finished Issa's Year in Review. As always, I was struck by how much she has grown and changed in just one year. She still looks like a little girl in the pumpkin patch, but by the end I am seeing more of the big girl she is becoming. And mother's year in review for my girl...

My dearest Issa-bug,

You are seven. Seven. I really don't know how that happened. It seems like yesterday I was holding you in my arms for the first time, amazed that I was your mama. Now, you are becoming a big girl, a real big girl, complete with opinions and questions and moments when I just stand in awe of you. There are also moments when I see the teen years before us and I get very, very nervous, but I need you to know that even in the moments when you know I am beyond frustrated, I love you with every fiber of my being, and I always, always will. No matter what. Period. End of story.

As I was looking through pictures, as always, there were memories tucked between the images, moments that just can't be captured. The one thing pictures do capture is your need to dress the part. Your sense of style is something else, kiddo. You know what you like, and that is the end of that conversation. You also know just the right thing to wear for every occasion, like wearing animal prints to everyone of Evan's soccer games since he was a Zebra.

You also went to every one of Evan's soccer games because you truly are the best sister ever. You are (generally) so patient with your little brother. I love watching the two of you curl up so you can read to him, and I have been very amused as you have created homework for him so he can start to practice his letters. You are his mother hen, watching out for him and shepherding him where you think he needs to be. Sometimes this makes him a little crazy, but then I watch the two of you in crowded places--museums, parks--and he gravitates to you. You make him feel safe and loved, just like you do for so many, many people. I pray you two always stay so close.

First grade was a really fun year with you! I watched you become a reader and a writer and a scientist and a maggot in the school play. The last one threw me, but you really were the funniest maggot that ever lived.You did your first science project, and I loved watching you and Daddy (you are still very much his girl) design and complete your experiment on those potatoes. I did not enjoy them living on my counter for six months, but I have a feeling that this is only the beginning. You are intensely curious, and now that you can read books or ask The Google or experiment to see what happens, I am learning so much with you. You help me see the wonder in the world, and you remind me that when we stop imagining we stop living. Never stop wondering, baby girl.

This year at dance started the beginning of a whole different kind of adventure. You were invited to join the Company, and you jumped in with both feet. I thought you danced everywhere before, but I had no idea what dancing everywhere really looks like. You are in constant motion, and if you aren't dancing you are stretching. To be honest, if I trip over a leg because you are practicing your split while doing something in the family room one more time, I might lose my mind. But...I am so inspired by your dedication and your passion. Saying yes to dance has meant saying no to some other things, but you have never wavered. You have also had to work much harder at the studio, but you have not once given up. You practice harder, and I see that look of focus in your eyes. No matter what you choose to do, that passion and that focus will serve you well--and the ability to strike a pose at any given moment never hurts, either.

The one thing I have been most thrilled by, though, is your heart, sweetheart. Even as you explore the world and follow your passions, you have never lost sight of people first. Your ability to give and to empathize and love without condition gives me hope for the future. I have watched you and your friends rally around a peer who was hurting. I have seen you cry for a friend, and although I hate to see your heart broken I am so very, very glad it has the ability to feel that much. You and I share that tender heart, sweet girl, and although there are days I want to shelter it from the world and heartache, I never want you to lose it. It's a fine line we walk. If we let ourselves feel too much, you and I can get swallowed up in it. But...if we stop listening to it, we stop feeling for others. The trick, and I am so very glad you are learning this now, is to not stop at the feeling. The trick is to be brave and kind enough to do something with the feelings. To follow your heart and to just be with people. Not for them--with them. You are learning sometimes people just need someone to stand beside them and with them. The beauty of it is that when you are that person, you find kindred spirits, and they stand with and beside you.

Baby girl, you are not a baby anymore. You are becoming more and more grown up with every passing day, and just when I think I can't love you more or be any more proud of you, we enter the next piece of the journey and I fall a little harder. I love that we can really talk now, and I know that the tween years are ahead, and you may feel like talking a little less. Here is what I need you to know: I will never want to listen less. I will always be here for you and that tender heart. I am your biggest fan, now and forever, and we'll keep dancing through this life together.

All my love,

Your Mama

Monday, November 11, 2013

This Is Fall

We love fall at our house, and the kids have been waiting and waiting and waiting for their favorite fall tradition: 
They love playing in the leaves, and we headed out Saturday afternoon to start raking and jumping:
Last year, I managed to catch the perfect leaf throwing shot. I thought I would try my luck again this year:
Not perfect, but I love Evan's face!

We had to head in because it starts getting dark about 2.5 seconds after the sun comes up around here these days, but we headed back out yesterday afternoon. A new pile and more smiles:
Another attempt at the a leaf shot:
Please notice Evan is throwing his leaves at Issa instead of up. There is something fabulous about playing in leaves:
Evan is more of a leaf unpiler than a raker:
We did get the front finished, though! We also got the fall pruning and bed cleaning finished:
Not bad for one weekend:
That is quite a pile of leaves, and I am so glad the city will come by with their leaf vacuum. The kids did a great job helping load the wheelbarrow and dump them along the curb, but we would still be bagging if we couldn't just get them to the curb!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Finally Goodbye

You may or may not remember that last February Issa started a science project with two potatoes. One she kept in the dark, the other lived on a plate in the light. It has been sitting on my counter every since.

We have watched it grow even more, but it was finally starting to shrivel--and stink--and did I mention stink? It was time to say goodbye. We took a few last photos:

It really is amazing that is made it this long--no water or anything. The one didn't even have light! But alas and alack, they are now compost. I am not that sad, because did I mention the stink?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Daddy, Don't Read This

Seriously, Brad, don't read this until you are home--you will ruin a surprise.

So...every once in a while my kiddos accidentally throw down a gauntlet while Daddy is travelling. It's always innocent, and I always recognize I am being absurd, but I must pick it up. Maybe it's because I take my  job of raising a strong woman so seriously, maybe it's because I don't like to admit I have weaknesses, maybe I'm just crazy. But, I always find myself knee deep in mess and unwilling to admit I might have bitten off more than I can chew. I always win, but it is not always pretty.

Last night, a gauntlet was thrown. We ordered Daddy a new desk chair, some assembly required. The box weighed roughly two million pounds, but thankfully it arrived before I got home Tuesday and Mr. Ryan carried it into the office. Last night, Evan innocently asked why it was still in the box, and Issa replied, "We have to wait for Daddy to put it together." Gauntlet. Thrown.

Granted, Daddy is clearly the superior builder and assembler, but that does not mean I can't. Five minutes later we were cutting tape and pulling pieces out of the box. Here is the astounding part, the kids were actually helpful. Usually, them helping with a project like this is akin to them holding my already hampered hands behind my back. Last night, though, I truly don't think I could have gotten the casters on without them helping to hold the base still. They held pieces at the right angles to screw them together, and had they not helped lift the assembled seat onto the piston on the base it just wouldn't have happened. It was awesome.

We are all still a little proud of ourselves, and we can't wait to show Daddy what we did!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wondrous Things Abound

The past few days have been difficult in a lot of ways, mostly because my baby sister, my very best friend, had surgery and I was states away. I dissolve into tears at the drop of a hat these days. In the midst of all that, though, God has blessed me with an overabundance of truly wondrous things, in no particular order:

1. Shannon is doing great! The surgery was a success, and she is recovering as we had hoped--Amen.

2. Every morning, I have seen a rainbow on the way to work. Mom used to sing, "God gave us a rainbow; he hung it in the sky. He wanted to remind us he loved both you and I," when we were little, so rainbows have a little extra meaning for me. Seeing one every morning this week is beyond wondrous.

3. Evan started basketball last night, and he is in love. More importantly, he actually has some talent.

4. I had to teach last night and Brad was away, so Mr. Ryan took over basketball duties. I will be forever grateful to our friends who step in and are a part of our kiddos lives. To make it even more wonderful, he stayed to help me tuck everyone in and then have some actual adult conversation.

5. My colleagues have been beyond patient this week. They understand that I am attached to my phone for updates, and they ask about Shannon every time they see me.

6. Issa is still thriving in school and at dance. My sometimes anxious, super type A angel has been so much less anxious and so happy, which make me much less anxious and much happier.

7. It's fall. The leaves are gorgeous, and I get to drive to work when the sun is hitting them just perfectly. There is no better time of day or year.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Here They Are!

Now those, my friends, are some bookshelves. I am so incredibly proud of Brad. I give him a hard time that they are the eight year bookshelves, but he designed and built every inch of those shelves, and the detail work is more than I ever imagined. They fit perfectly into the space, and they will create so much storage for us. It was his idea to paint them white, and they truly are beautiful. (By the way, choosing a shade of white was possibly the most stressful painting decision I ever made.) They are also strong and sturdy enough to hold an elephant. I can hardly wait for the paint to cure so we can take some of our books out of storage and move the things that were in the space off of the floor and onto the shelves.

Brad's new job was the impetus to creating the new office space, and it also gave us the ability to hire a cleaning service to come clean the house. I spent a lot of time researching and interviewing, and we finally decided on Merry Maids. Y'all. If you are looking for someone, I cannot say enough good things about them. They came yesterday, and two women spent five hours cleaning my home the way I wish I had time to do. Baseboards, walls, door frames--everything. They actually moved furniture to get to baseboards. They took the time to arrange the kids' animals on the beds after they changed them, and they gave me the gift of guilt free time. I could just sit and listen to Issa read last night without mentally running through the list of things I needed to do after she finished. We just snuggled up instead of me trying to clean the bathrooms before bed time. I feel so ridiculously blessed by the luxury of time and a very, very clean home.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Avengers Assemble!

We had another great weekend! It all started Friday when we went out to celebrate Issa's awesome report card, and it finished last night with dinner with a good friend. In between, we finished reorganizing the house (do you hear the angels singing?) and went to a Halloween party. I volunteered to bring a salad, and because I love a good holiday celebration, I raided Pinterest to find this:
How cute is that?! It was insanely easy (even the cucumber jack-o-lanterns were easy--just time consuming), and it was a big hit with kids and adults. I added food coloring to the boiling pasta water for the pasta, carrot curls, broccoli, cheddar cheese witches' hats, celery, and Italian dressing. Voila!

And, for the first time ever, our whole family went in costume, thanks to Issa's insistence:
Tony Stark, Black Widow, and Captain American ready to defeat a very cute monster. It's hard to see in this picture, but Brad really did have an arc reactor. He broke out the soldering iron on a cheap laser tag vest to make it stay on and blue. It wasn't a huge stretch for him to get into character.

On a whole different note, today is kind of a big day around here in a very surreal way. We are getting our house professionally cleaned for the first time, which still feels so odd to me, and Brad is on a plane headed to his first day at the new job. Meanwhile, my sister is having surgery. Extra prayers are much appreciated.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Halloween was a tremendous success again this year. As always, I had delusions of sending my children out trick-or-treating with full tummies of healthy food, but the fates were against me. They both came home from school full of party, which thankfully included fruits and vegetables in addition to candy and cake. I even made chicken noodle soup complete with crescent moon celery (easy) and witches hat carrots (that took some cutting). Alas and alack, they nibbled a bit before we called it a wash and put on costumes.

Without further ado, meet Captain American and the friendliest monster on the planet:
Issa received lots of compliments on her unique costume:
Evan was in love with being Captain America:
The shield was the best part. (Please notice the motion blur on his treat basket; I have resigned myself that all pictures of him will have motion blur somewhere.)

As tradition dictates, the kiddos trick-or-treated at our house first:
And then they headed out with Daddy:
For the first time, Evan made it all the way around the block with Daddy and Issa. I stayed home to pass out candy. We went through three Costco bags of candy in an hour and ten minutes, which is about how long the kiddos were out, too. They came home, and we turned off the lights. Then we drank hot cocoa and did the great candy sort. Issa's teacher even made sorting, counting, and adding categories of candy her math homework for the night. Have I mentioned her teacher rocks?!

Captain America and Friendly Monster had a fabulous night, and I was once again reminded of what a great neighborhood we live in. I offered two pieces of candy to many children who said one was plenty. Every single child said thank you. I had bigger kids who were rightfully there first step back unprompted for toddlers to trick-or-treat first. I watched a group of middle school boys run to a little guy who fell and help him pick up his treat basket; they even gave him some of their candy to help him feel better. It was a great reminder of all that is right with the world, and a great way to start a month to remember how very thankful I am.