Monday, March 31, 2014

Very Big Weekend in Many Small Ways

This was one of those crazy weekends where we did a lot and ended the weekend feeling good tired and peaceful. In short, it was ideal. 

Friday night, we went to Issa's solo lesson, which went amazingly well after a rough week the week before, the library, and then went to a local market to get fun fruits and cheeses for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. It was lovely. Gruyere and Asian pear on oat bread is heavenly. The evening was nothing extraordinary, but I love that we find such joy in the perfectly ordinary.

Saturday morning, we headed to Evan's baseball game (please forgive the horrible cell phone pics):
 It was too rainy to play outside, and Evan wanted to wear a sweater because his coach wears sweater vests. Like you do. We have decided team sports are just not likely his thing right now. He loves the elements of baseball--hitting, catching, throwing--but he's just not that in to actually playing a game. He spent much of his time in the outfield waving and playing with his glove. He did run after the ball if it came his way, though, so Daddy was happy. As soon as he turns five we plan to try a dojo, we're thinking it might be his thing.

He also got a couple of great hits off the tee:
 This sweet dad served as first base coach:
 Please notice the fact that he is really coaching Evan. That would be because my dear sweet boy ran to first after his first hit, and when the next kid made a hit he just went and sat down. Essentially, he figured out no one was keeping score and everyone was just running the bases and decided to go hang out with his friends on the bench. The rest of the game he did make it all the way around, though.

We were supposed to go to the farm after the game, but the rain ended up closing the farm, which gave us the day to get ready for our friends coming over. We had a great evening hanging out, and woke up Sunday morning to head to church and then PetSmart.

Evan's snail didn't make it, and he decided he was done with snails and ready for another frog. Great. To our great surprise, though, Issa decided she was ready for another hermit crab, too:
 When Tiny passed, she didn't want another, but she insisted on keeping the tank in her room. Yesterday, she was ready. Meet Squirmy:
We spent the rest of the day reorganizing Issa's room (pictures to come after we finish tonight), and then we had our first family Chopped competition. It was the kids' idea, and they chose hamburgers for the first challenge. Brad and I had a blast sharing the kitchen to make our creations, and the kids narrated and judged. It was truly so fun. It may become a Sunday tradition. Brad opted for an Asian fusion burger that was quite good and topped with a great Asian vegetable slaw. However, I won with my BBQ ranch burger. I put BBQ sauce, Worcester, and cheddar in the burger and topped it with shredded lettuce, cucumber, and bell pepper tossed in a thin ranch sauce. Delicious. The kids are plotting the next challenge. 

Here's to a good week to follow a great weekend!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Our Yertle

The past two days have been big ones for Issa. Yesterday, she was recognized for being a Terrific Kid:
 This month's character trait was good judgment, and she was thrilled to be recognized.

This morning, she went to school as Yertle the Turtle:
 She did most of the work herself! I only did the cutting that required a razor blade because, well, I like her fingers. A close up:
 The three hair spikes were critical. Evan was very proud of his Yertle:
She was so excited when she first got to school. She saw several kids dressed up, the school custodian had on the coolest Cat in the Hat costume I have ever seen, and all the teachers were dressed up. When we got to her room, though, she walked in and discovered she was the only one at that point. I saw the look, and asked what she wanted to do. Mind you, every kid smiled at her and said something kind, but we're teetering on that stage where what other people thinks matters. I reminded her she had regular clothes underneath and she could slip the costume off, but she decided she wanted to leave it on. Just as I was leaving, a good friend came in dressed as Cat in the Hat. Amen. Big smiles all around. I was proud of her for making her own decision, but I am also so glad she had a buddy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Best Mom Ever

After we picked Evan up from school yesterday, we had to run to get some craft supplies to make Issa a Yertle the Turtle costume for Dr. Seuss day Thursday. My plan had been to have carrot soup and fresh bread for dinner. The bread was already in the machine, and I was feeling great about our plan.

On the way to the store, the kids decided it was too rainy and cold for carrot soup. I mentioned that the bread was already baking, and Issa informed me, "Lots of things go with bread, Mom."

True story. So, I decided we could look at the store for another option. Enter my kids' choice:
These have never entered our home. Ever. Until last night. Because they are little lawyers I tell you. Issa read the can and extolled its vegetable virtues. Evan mentioned that it would absolutely go with bread, and then Issa pulled the coup: "And it's letters. Evan is supposed to be practicing his letters for kindergarten. You want him ready for kindergarten, don't you?"

Well played, little ones. Well played.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

But Of Course

Evan is back at school today--no longer contagious and his eye was barely even pink with no goop this morning. I did snap this picture yesterday afternoon when Daddy asked for an eye update:
I can't begin to tell you how much better this is than what it was. What really amuses me, though, is the wardrobe. Yes...he is in a cow costume. In fact, that is the cow costume that Issa wore for his first Halloween. Yes, it is way too small, but somehow both kids can still get it on and zip it up. The hooves just don't quite reach the ground or the wrist. It's quite a sight, but they love the costume and refuse to part with it. So of course, it's what you wear when you are hanging out with pink eye. Clearly.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Good, The Great, and The Ugly

This weekend has been a bit of a roller coaster.

Friday at work was rough, so I was so glad when I came home and Brad was home. I was even more glad when he announced he would come with us to the library and then take us all out for dinner. It was the best way to start the weekend.

Saturday, we made our first trek to the Community Farm we joined. Best. Decision. Ever. The very first thing Issa was asked to do was gather the eggs from the chicken coop; she was in heaven. The next project was meeting Bo, the baby goat. I had no idea goats are so much like puppies. He's still little enough that he just followed us around for the morning. It was all well and good until he started nibbling on my pants. The rest of the morning was spent starting a fairy garden, prepping and seeding two long beds, and harvesting greens. The kids loved feeding the weeds to the pigs, and we all loved just spending the morning on the farm. You will find us there every Saturday morning barring other commitments. We love that the kids are learning where food comes from. We love that several of the beds go straight to a food kitchen. We loved the greens we were able to bring home. We love spending time working together. We also love that everyone there is so kind. We chatted, and they helped the kids learn how to use the tools. (I wish I had video of Issa learning how to use a pitch fork.) The kids are encouraged to help, but they are also encouraged to just wander the farm. There is a little section set aside for them to play in, and Bo loves having the company. It's a little slice of heaven.

Sunday, I took Issa along with me to work. We were taking the students to see the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Issa was entranced. It was beautifully done, and I had told her the story so she could follow what was happening. She is already asking to go see Sleeping Beauty when they perform it in May, and I'm quite certain we will make that happen.

In the midst of all of this, we had one major glitch. While Issa and I were at the ballet, Brad had Evan at the Minute Clinic. He has a raging case of pink eye. Poor kid. They gave him the drops, and we are home today. By this afternoon, he will no longer be contagious, and he already looks a lot better. His eyes weren't even matted shut this morning. We'll take it!

For now, though, I apparently need to go be the Joker...

Friday, March 21, 2014

To My Tree Frog

My sweet boy,

It occurred to me that I don't write to you often. I guess it's because I tend to write when I'm in the midst of figuring things out, and for the most part you and I figure things our pretty easily. Here's the trick about being a second time parent: it's a trick. You think you figure things out on the first go, but then I met you, and I realized you are your own little person who needs me to be a very different mommy. I'm learning. We're learning.

It's a good thing you are so super cute: 

You asked to take these selfies with me this week. You have also become known as Tree Frog by me because you have taken to jumping on me, wrapping your arms and legs around me, and hugging until I can barely breathe. That is kind of your gig. You live life a little larger than anyone I know--hugging the life out of everything. Sucking the marrow of life, I believe they call it.

You are also in the midst of redefining your lines. That is a kind way of saying you have dug in your heels about some really stupid stuff and might drive me bonkers. Last night you growled at me for thirty minutes because I wouldn't let you wear three sweatshirts to bed. Growled. Literally growled. It was funny for about five minutes as I sat downstairs and listened, then it got real old real quick. Just when I thought I might really lose it, you stopped, came to me, crawled into my lap, and apologized for "being a punk." Melt my heart.

Here's the deal buddy. You are so stubborn, and in some aspects of your life that will serve you so well. Here's the flip side: where do you think you get it from? Tree Frog, I will love you forever, and when I draw a line it's because I love you and there's no crossing it. When our lines overlap, I have a feeling you and I will have many late night growl sessions. But know I will always be there to hug afterwards.

You and I, we'll figure this thing out together. I will always be your mama; thanks for teaching me how to do it.

Love you forever and always,

Your Tree

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nana ate Darth Vader

As a parent, you find yourself uttering things you never imagined possible. For instance, "Nana ate Darth Vader."

Poor Evan. After Papa Frog passed last week, he chose a new frog and snail and promptly named them Darth Vader and Dart. Dart was the snail. Yesterday morning, everything seemed fine in the tank. But last night, well last night was ugly. I looked in to see Dart stuck to the filter and Darth Vader very, very dead with his insides coming out. Not pretty--literally and figuratively.

Poor Evan asked why Darth Vader's insides were outside, and the first thing that came out of my mouth was, "Well, I think Nana ate Darth Vader." And then I fought to not laugh hysterically, because really, that is a pretty funny sentence. Poor Evan was crushed, though. He is trying to decide if Nana needs a new friend or not. He's a bit afraid of her cannibalistic tendencies. I can't say I blame him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

True to Mission

Tomorrow is officially spring, which is glorious. Especially considering we got yet more ice yesterday. It all started Monday night, and by yesterday morning the kids didn't have school and Viv was giving me the you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me puppy face when I tried to get her to go out.

Usually, snow days are no big deal. I work in an incredibly flexible place, and with Skype and cell phones I can usually just work from home. Unfortunately, I have been involved in a comprehensive program review the past two days that works much better if I can actually be on campus to talk with people. Monday, when we were talking about the possibility of the weather impacting Tuesday, the dean looked at me and said, "Just bring them. Worse case, I'll babysit them in my office. No problem." The dean folks.

Here's what I love: that is the culture of Meredith College. The kids did come with me yesterday, and they happily played in the corner of the conference room while I did program evaluation. Every single person said hello to them and made them feel welcome. I apologized to every group, because I'm aware that two small things can be a bit distracting, but every group looked at me like I was insane, assuring me children were always welcome. "After all, we're a women's college; it's who we are." True to the mission--even for the faculty and even in the details. And they mean it...even a VP stopped by and actually thanked the kids for coming--genuinely. Humorously, they were a little perplexed by that and while Issa said, "You're welcome and thank you," Evan responded with, "We're not allowed to stay home alone." I guess you could say everyone showed their true colors yesterday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Leprechauns Came!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I have to work late tonight, so we started celebrating last night with Guinness stew and Irish music.

This morning, though, the kids were thrilled to find that the leprechauns paid us a visit. They left green streamers everywhere, and they even left green shamrock muffins. The kids decided they made them at our house because they were sitting on our trivet, but they used their own magic to make the shape. They were even kind enough to clean the kitchen. Such thoughtful little sprites. Although, they were apparently very giggly last night according to both children who heard them up to their mischief.

May the luck of the Irish be with you! I know it's with me; a certain someone asked me to marry him thirteen years ago today. Love you, babe!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Proof that I want to keep it real on this blog:
Friends, that is clean laundry. The sad thing, it does not include the load in the washer, the load in the dryer, or the two loads still in the hamper. I might have been a bit behind.

It's scenes like this that make me laugh when people ask how I do it all. Simple. I don't. I've said it once; I'll say it a million times.

What would happen if we all posted our pictures like this? What if we stopped pretending we had it all together and embraced our messes? Maybe we would be more likely to show ourselves a bit more grace. Maybe we would be able to stress less and enjoy more. Maybe it's worth a try...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Yesterday, we realized our crocuses and hyacinths are blooming. There is nothing I love more than the sight of spring bulbs popping up. It's like a visual breath of fresh air. I love smelling flowers again instead of cold. It's spring!

Yet, there are are still trees sprawled in all manner of odd directions in the neighborhood. Our backyard remains untouched--branches scattered everywhere. Piles of branches line the streets waiting for the brush truck, which is running every day and still can't keep the curbs clear. And...they are forecasting more ice next week. It's surreal.

Issa and I were talking about it on the way to school today. I was fumbling through an explanation of seasonal transitions and how sometimes winter and spring overlap a little bit--especially in North Carolina. Her response: "Or maybe we should just enjoy the flowers and use the branches to remember how much God loves us."

"What do you mean, baby?"

"He kept us safe, Mom. And He is giving us flowers right after to remind us spring is coming."

I am always amazed by how my sweet girl can see so clearly when I'm rambling.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Two Inevitable Things

They say there are only two inevitable things: death and taxes. We attempted to deal with both at our house last night.

As it turns out, Papa Frog didn't not survive the freeze as well as we had initially believed. At bed time, we realized he was in fact very dead. To add insult to injury, we were out of pretty little boxes and Papa Frog's coffin was a toothpaste box. Poor Evan was so sad. We will have the funeral today, and we have big plans to find an appropriate new Papa Frog.

Once Evan had settled into bed, Brad and I settled in to do our taxes. We got just far enough to realize we needed to click that "Schedule an Appointment" button. It seems living in one state while working in another makes filing taxes way more complicated. They were asking all kinds of crazy questions and ugly red exclamation points kept popping up. We have an appointment for Thursday.

Here's another reason why I love my husband. He knows when to call in the professionals. He has brilliantly done our taxes for years, but last night he clicked that little button so fast it would make your head spin. And then we snuggled in to watch a little comedy, enjoy a glass of wine, and call it a night.

Here's hoping for a much less dramatic day today.

Monday, March 10, 2014


Well...the end of last week was a bit of a crazy adventure. All week, the weathermen had been mentioning the possibility of a winter mix on Thursday night, but it was just to be a trace--probably not even enough to get a school delay. But as Thursday approached, the estimates for our county kept rising. By the time I was driving home Thursday night, they were talking about the possibility of an inch of ice. Unfortunately, they were correct.

I got home from class just in time to watch sleet start to collect on the deck. By 3 am, our power was flickering. By 6 am, it was out. We spent the morning cuddling and playing. Thankfully, smart phones let us know that some power had been restored by lunch, and Brad went out to bring home a hot lunch. By the time he got home, he announced it was a mess out there and he would be shocked if we got power before dinner. After lunch, we all piled into our bed with lots of blankets and took a nap. When we woke up--still no power. By dinner, Brad had made a hotel reservation and we were throwing things in suitcases in the dark.

The kids loved our night at the hotel, and even Viv got to make the trip. The house was getting cold and dark. The real problem, though, was the falling branches. In the dark, you could hear the crack but you couldn't see where they were landing. The kids and Viv were on edge.

About 10 Friday night, we got word that we had power, so after breakfast Saturday morning we made our way home. We were beyond blessed. We didn't lose a thing in the refrigerator, and we only had small branches come down. Issa cleaned up the front yard in less than an hour. The investment we made last year in an arborist to come out and do some serious work is looking like one of the best decisions we ever made.

As we drove home, though, we realized we were one of the few. Many, many neighbors lost whole trees. One had a tree come down on the house; another lost a truck to a tree fall. Many people in the county are without power. Schools are still closed today. Even though it is supposed to be 70 today, the ice is still wreaking havoc. They are not expecting life to be completely normal around here until late this week.

In all of this, I have been so grateful. Grateful that we are all safe and we didn't have any real damage. Grateful that we are in a place where we could just pick up and go to a hotel. Grateful to know that even if we couldn't have found a room we have friends we could have called who would have taken us in. But more than anything, I am grateful for a husband who stays so calm in these situations and takes such good care of us. He really is our rock. Love you, babe.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I'm finally back on the blog! My absence has not been for want of something to write. We've just had ice and snow days and meetings and life--oh my! But...we also had a fabulous trip to visit Aunt Shannon and Uncle Jeff in NYC this weekend!

Friday morning, the kids and I headed to the airport while Daddy took a red-eye from Arizona. The kids got ready in record time with the promise of extra airplane watching time:
I really do have the two best travelers on the planet. They navigate the airport like little pros, and they do so well on the flight itself.

As soon as we landed, we headed straight to meet Aunt Shannon at her place. Evan cracked our cab driver up as he pointed out every piece of construction equipment, helicopter, train, and airplane. Once we arrived, Aunt Shannon revealed the two big surprises of the weekend: lunch at American Girl and a night at the Circus.

Our lunch was the first thing on the agenda. Issa knew we were going to the store, so Saige made the trip, and Issa wore her matching dress:
At first, Evan was none too thrilled about this whole lunch idea, but Darth Vader was allowed to come along, which made things a bit better:
As it turns out, we all really loved lunch. We were pleasantly impressed by the actual food, and the whole experience was fabulous. When we arrived at our table, we were greeted with warm cinnamon rolls and a box of tags with fun questions. Issa loved asking everyone about their favorite memories and would you rathers. The appetizer tray of fresh vegetables, cheese, chicken salad, and pretzel bites was lovely, and we each chose an entree that did not disappoint. Dessert, though, was amazing. Shannon and I swear it was the best chocolate mousse we have ever eaten. We were also very impressed by the staff who never once offered a sales pitch and who only looked a little surprised when we asked for a tea cup for Darth Vader, too.

After Issa shopped her little heart out at American Girl, we headed over to FAO Schwarz, also known as the Lego store:
It was all just too much for Evan:
I cannot tell you how many laps we made through the Lego department. And then the trucks. And then the Legos. And then the sports stuff. And then the Legos. Too many choices:
Evan finally made his decision: a die cast airplane set--complete with helicopter--and a police car/motorcycle Lego set. With our purchases in hand, we headed back to rest a bit at Aunt Shannon's before our big night!

Friday dinner was Korean barbecue, which was quite good. The flavor was great, but Uncle Jeff was not too thrilled about having to work so hard for his dinner. The kids found it hysterical, though, and we finished just in time to sprint to Cinderella. I love, love, love that my kiddos are so enamoured with the theater:

They were this excited about the set! Some pre-show pics:

Uncle Jeff even took them down to peak in the orchestra pit before the show. It was a great show, and Carly Rae Jepsen was an amazingly good Cinderella. Issa was so excited to see her in person. The adults had as much fun watching the kids as we did watching the show, and they were troopers all the way until the final curtain a little before 11. They both passed out on the subway, though:
Daddy and I got a hotel room, but the kiddos got to have a slumber party with Aunt Shannon and Uncle Jeff. The best part of that deal, Dunkin Donuts in your PJs:
Saturday brunch was another fabulous meal! We went to Max Brenner's. Brenner is an amazing chocolatier, and he has the imagination of Wonka. The kids menu was hands down the best I've ever seen. Issa loved her Make-Your-Own Hot Cocoa:
The little pot was over a tea candle, and she could add just the right amount of milk and chocolate with her silver spoon/straw. Evan and Daddy settled on milkshakes:
Whip cream smiles from all:
The food was also incredible! I had the best granola parfait--I mean it was incredible. Brad and Shannon announced I was dangerously close to a When Harry Met Sally moment with it. It was that good. 

The kids loved painting their ketchup on their fries:

After brunch, we headed to the Natural History Museum, where we were greeted by a great museum staffer who taught us all about dino teeth. I expected a one minute pitch when she asked the kids if they wanted to learn more. Instead, she lead us through the whole exhibit. Cool stuff:

After the dinosaurs, Evan was desperate to find the whale. I was not doing so quickly enough, so the kids took over the map:
On the way to the whale, we also explored the African animals, where the elephants were the highlight:

After a very fun adventure there, we headed down to the subway to head back to Shannon's. If you ask the kids, the subway is still one of the highlights of New York. So much so, they consented to a picture:
Daddy and I missed the memo that the shark was trying to eat us.

Saturday night, we parted ways. Jeff and Shannon sent Brad and I out to a fabulous dinner and then an evening and the Metropolitan Opera:
We saw The Enchanted Island, in which Placido Domingo played Neptune. To say it was incredible would be an understatement. It was funny and so well sung and a definite check off the bucket list for me.

Meanwhile, Shannon and Jeff actually left the island to take the kids to the Circus:
The kids loved all of the animals and acrobats. They are still talking about the elephants.

Sunday morning, we had a leisurely start before we headed out to a local burger joint and then the Met:
Evan was desperate to see the armory:
Issa was beyond excited to see the real Monet she was studying in art class. They were exhausted, but I am so glad we made the trek.

We flew home Sunday night, barely beating the storm out. Both kids slept in the taxi to the airport--a sure sign of a fabulous weekend.

It truly was fabulous. It's always good to spend extra time with Shannon and Jeff, and I will be forever grateful that they make it possible for our kiddos to experience so much of the culture that New York has to offer. I announced to Shannon when we were coming, and she made all the magic happen. Their Christmas gift to us is our date night out, but the greater gift is the wonder and magic in my kids' eyes and the memories we make. Thank you will never be enough...