Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One For the Record Books

Well...this happened yesterday:
In case you are wondering, that's Issa's new reading log. Neela thought it was tasty. Poor Issa crumbled, "There is no way Ms. Alge is ever going to believe the dog really ate my homework!"

We decided to create a new reading log, and I wrote the following note:

Good morning,

We had a bit of a mishap at our house last night. Issa put her reading log on the table for me to sign. Unfortunately, our Great Dane puppy got to it before I did. Issa was quite certain you would never believe "the dog ate my homework," but in this case, it really is the truth. And we have now learned the puppy can reach the table.

We have recreated the reading log; I hope that is okay.



Just another day in our world, but I sometimes wonder if we are in fact "that family" in the teacher's lounge.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What a Difference a Year Makes

Issa had her first dance convention of the season yesterday. What a difference a year makes. She was calm and excited when we got there--no nerves at all:
 After the whole company huddle, Issa circled up the Tinys:
 And then they were off. I remember being a wreck the entire day last year. Issa just kept looking at me wide-eyed, and I knew she felt so lost and out of her element. Not yesterday. I'm a realist: she was not the best dancer in the room. But...she worked for hard. I can't believe how much more choreography she caught. She was smiling, and when she didn't get it she asked for clarification. I about fell over. She left it all on the floor. In fact, one of the teachers came over to high five her for the effort. That's what I want. I don't want perfection, but I do want her to get out of her head and try. And she did it, and I really couldn't be more proud. I couldn't be more proud of the whole group:
 And Issa was more than a little excited to take this pic:
Those were her teachers--all from So You Think Can Dance. The blonde played Giggles in Teen Beach Movie; Issa was thrilled.

It was a great start to the season, and I'm looking forward to the rest.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Dissenter

These hind quarters destroyed her zebra hind quarters yesterday:
Neela is apparently not a fan of fall. Her short hair makes the chill a bit more apparent than Viv's chow coat does for her. I'm having to drag Viv in and truly push Neela out. Since she doesn't want to be out, she doesn't get to run, which means she lost her mind yesterday. Poor zebra took the brunt of it.

Thankfully, she is also sweet and cute. Last night,  I sat down to work after the kids were in bed, and she wedged all 55 pounds of her between me and the laptop. I put the computer down, and then Viv hopped up. I had over 100 pounds of puppy love snuggling me last night, which was way better than more data analysis. I am hoping Neela learns to love fall, though, or I will spend the whole season restuffing and mending dog toys.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall Coziness

I am in my very, very happy place. Fall is here--my favorite season--and last night I was able to just settle into its coziness.

Issa had a great day, including the bus. I have never been so grateful to see her smiling, laughing face come off the bus. We also are enjoying a blissfully normal week filled with nothing but the routine. All of that meant that when we got home from the dojo we were in--at 5:20. Ahhhh.

The kids headed up to take an early bath, and I puttered about getting everything put away from the day. The temperature had turned chilly, and it was drizzling. We all settled into flannel pajamas and the kids hauled out cozy blankets. I poured myself a nice glass of a full-bodied red and set to work kneading bread. I glanced out the window to see crimson leaves as I listened to Issa read to Evan. The book was wildly hilarious, and I couldn't hear the story for the laughter. We all settled down to spaghetti and fresh bread and listened to the rain.

After dinner, we pulled out a recipe for pumpkin muffins. Before long, the house smelled like fall. As the muffins baked, we piled under the blanket and ventured into Narnia, our latest world since Alice awoke for a second time.

Today, I'm working from home--in yoga pants and a sweater. It's still chilly and rainy, and my mug of coffee is steaming beside me.

Blissful. It's all so very simple, nothing extraordinary, but it makes me so very happy. I think I'll let myself just sink into this fall coziness...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Laugh

Yesterday afternoon started off way on the rocky side. Issa got off the bus and promptly burst into tears because of a bullying situation. She told us the whole story, which we are so thankful for. Brad and I exchanged looks, and then he headed to talk to the parent while I put Issa back together. I didn't think I could love him more until I saw him walk across our lawn, calmly but with purpose, for our baby girl. He came back and did some awesome pep-talking/coaching, and the other family responded as we had hoped. We are hopeful. We have also made it very clear to all involved that the next step is going to the school.

The most important piece in all of this is Issa's response. First, I am so glad she came straight to us. She knew it was not okay and she knew she needed help. I'm also glad she bounced back. We circled the wagons and gave her some extra love. We all went to watch her solo lesson, which went really well, and I was grateful she had time in the studio--her happy place--after a rough afternoon. Then we all went out to dinner and laughed. Like...we were that family. I'm sure people thought we were insane. It was great.

I think that might be the secret for our little family. We laugh together--a lot. When things get hard, we find joy. We laugh. Here's praying we are still laughing when she gets off the bus tonight.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Just What We Needed...

This weekend was just exactly what we needed. Issa hit a wall Friday. She was over-tired, missing Daddy, and just done. Thankfully, Miss Anitra was there to step in and have lunch with her, and she was able to vent all of that. When I picked her up after school, I got the full story from both of them. I will be forever grateful that Anitra took the time to be there and then fill me in. I am also so grateful that Issa spilled her guts without any prompting. It started the weekend well...

Saturday morning the kids and I headed to the farm, and there is nothing like chicks and piglets to soothe the soul. After a few hours of harvesting and repairing, we came home to Daddy and some much needed family time.

We took off to ivivva for the last of Issa's birthday celebration:
She helped pick that paint color. She spent an hour trying on dance clothes and playing with the store puppy. Daddy asked great questions and made her feel like a queen; Evan survived the ordeal. With new dance wear in hand, we headed out for fro-yo and then Italian. We came home to card games and snuggles and life got better.

Sunday, we spent the morning just playing and being together. Then we split boys and girls. The boys went to the ninja turtle movie. We girls went to the ballet. Everyone thinks they got the better end of the deal. We came home to a family dinner and a walk with the dogs. This morning we were all together around the breakfast table, and all is right with the world. Here's to a much less hectic week...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

People Are Good

So...I might have hit the roof yesterday. A segment of the PTSA and I had a difference of opinion, the details of which are not important, but I sprang. One of my goals is to decide if I'm willing to commit to being a part of the solution before I raise an issue. Since this had to do with literacy and kids, I decided to jump in...in the form of an email grenade to the PTSA leadership. I also offered to become a member of the team.

What happened after was beautiful. The initial responses were understandably shock and a bit defensive. From there, though, solutions started to emerge. Relationships were strengthened. Plans were made. Phone calls and emails and quick parking lot meeting this morning.

Most importantly, I was reminded, again, that people are good. Individuals make some terrible, horrible, no good decisions, but at their core people are good and well-intentioned. And so we move forward together...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I have the best village...

My village rocks. Truly rocks.

Last week when the sitter's car had issues, two members of my village picked up when I called at the eleventh hour and took Issa to and from dance. No questions asked.

Yesterday, when I couldn't be there to see Evan get his read stripe, I got this text from another member of the village:

When I mentioned we were on the quest for a new sitter, two members of the village stepped in to fill the gap--insisting to fill it. That means I can search without stress or pressure to hire quickly.

It's an amazing feeling to know that we have these people to step in and step up. I've learned to just be grateful not guilty. That's what the village is about. We all step in when needed, and I've learned to allow myself to feel just as warm on the receiving end of that support as I do on the giving end.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, Issa!

Our baby girl is officially eight. She awoke Friday morning to eight glowing balloons hanging in her doorway and Daddy making bacon and beignets:
It was a good way to start a birthday. I had lunch with her at school and took in fruit and juice for the class at the end of the day. Fruit was definitely the best option with the gluten, nut, and chocolate allergies in her class.

When she got home, it was time to rock and roll--her chosen birthday theme:
Issa is at that age where gifts are getting tricky. She really wanted new dance wear, but there is no way I would attempt to guess on size or style. But...we wanted something to wrap. Enter the puzzle:
It was hysterical to watch her unwrap each piece and try to figure it all out:
Once she did, though:
We are taking her out to lunch next Saturday and then to a new dance wear store in Raleigh. There was squealing.

It almost killed me, but Issa also decided she wanted to do her own cake this year:
But I did pull off rock and roll candle. The flames matched the color of the candle:
The funniest thing about her actual birthday was her dinner. What she really wanted was to cook her own meal: egg drop soup, lettuce wraps, and edamame. The wraps came from the freezer section, but she did it all on her own and was quite thrilled. We spent the rest of the evening having a dance party and playing Uno. In case you are wondering, eight is the perfect age to learn how to dance to Cotton-Eyed Joe.

Saturday, we had her friend party. For the first time, we took the party out of our home and to our museum. Best. Idea. Ever. Issa wanted an animal party:
Hedgehog melon:
Chinchilla cupcakes:
I was pretty proud of these guys:
Zebra water:
Happy girl:
The museum was awesome! We arrived to a decorated room complete with paper products and shiny banners. All we had to do was set up the food table. We even had time for a pre-party selfie:
Which Daddy photo bombed:
As soon as all of the girls were there, our educator started:
She was thrilled that we hadn't planned anything else, so she took nearly an hour introducing us to some friends. The first and favorite was the chinchilla:
Then the silkie chicken:
And finally the bearded dragon, but we didn't get a good picture of him. She did a great job teaching and letting the girls just have fun meeting them.

Then, we dissected owl pellets:
I love that these girls had so much fun inspecting skulls and bones:
We found some pretty cool stuff, and Miss Desiree helped us figure out exactly what we had:
I love these sweet girls so much:
Issa had a great day celebrating, and she announced eight is going to be the best year yet!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stealing Sticks

I'm tired. Really tired. And if I'm really honest I'm struggling. I usually focus on the positive here, but I also want to capture the real. Someday, I imagine the kiddos reading these, and I want them to know that sometimes the behind the scenes was really messy and sometimes I struggled. It's part of life. Life is just hard sometimes. That's okay. It's in the hard that we grow.

I have a fairly demanding job. It's not physically difficult, and while it's mentally engaging it's not overly difficult most days. It is emotionally draining, though. I have tools in my toolbox to compartmentalize and not own everything that comes into my office, but I have a point where the tools start to falter. I'm there. A lot of heavy stuff has come through my door this week, and I'm running on fumes.

Add to that emptiness the fact that life is really a series of spinning plates. Juggling work and home, house and home, ninjitsu and dance. It's a bit much some days. But, I have great support sticks that keep it going.

I have fabulous sitters, but one just hit a deer. While she is fine, her car is not, and she's out of commission for the next two weeks. Stick gone. Another stick in the form of a great friend stepped in to pick up that plate, and I kept moving.

Our primary sitter just gave us two weeks notice last night. Stick gone. I totally understand her school schedule needs to shift and that absolutely comes first, but boy was that a sucker punch. The plate is still spinning, but I'm on the quest for a new sitter.

This is crazy season for Brad and his travel is heavier than usual. Double stick gone. Plates get wobbly.

The kids' school is full of beginning of the year meetings, which means extra stuff and shuffles in the schedule, the schedule that I rely on. Stick gone. Plates still spinning, but it's a little fast and wild.

And then the stick that broke me last night: we had some fruit go funky on the kitchen counter. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was just the last straw. I walked in the door to some serious funk, and soon found it. I don't even know how it happened so fast, but I got rid of the fruit and thought all was well. I realized late last night the funk was still there. I realized juice had leaked onto my cookbooks--two I thought. They got hit pretty hard, but I wiped them down and put them out in the garage to air out and hoped for the best. This morning, I realized 14 others got just a little hit. So...instead of eating breakfast and drinking my coffee I dealt with that.

All the plates are still spinning, and I have Faith that nothing will fall that is not supposed to. The silver lining in all of this is the kids seem blissfully unaware. My new mantra, "Unrush Me," has kept me fully present for them. We have been snuggling and reading at night. I'm getting up early enough to be ready when their alarms go off so the morning isn't rushed and frantic. I hear them laughing and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt they feel safe and loved. That's what is keeping everything spinning right now.

I'm looking at this feeling right now as an opportunity to grow. I'm leaning more on the Father who can fill me and is the only stick I truly need. I'm trusting the details to Him and knowing all will be well. I'm trying to Be Still. Honestly, though, I'm also very much praying He sends a few earthly sticks my way...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


We have a new friend at our house. Her name is Alice and she is a wild dreamer with a tendency to fall down rabbit holes.

We started into Wonderland a few weeks ago, and it's the first book in a long time that has grabbed all of us. At first, I wasn't sure the kids were engaging. They were so quiet and still when I read, but as soon as I closed the book the commentary would start. They had just gotten lost in the adventure.

Last night, Alice awoke from her dream. I read the last page, and closed the book. Evan and Issa were silent. Finally, Evan whispered, "Is that the end?"

"It is."

"But I don't want to leave Wonderland," chimed Issa.

Magic. They have found the magic of getting so lost in a world that you are actually truly sad to leave.

But then it was my turn to whisper, "She can fall through a looking glass tomorrow..."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Community Weekend

Every once in a while, I am reminded that we live in a really cool area. Not only is our little community a great place to live, but we are surrounded by bigger communities that have some really cool opportunities. This was one of those weekends.

Saturday, we headed into Chapel Hill for a UNC football game. Issa had earned the tickets as an Academic All-Star last year, and we were all really excited to go. Kick-off was at 8, but we headed into town to enjoy the pre-game festivities about 5:
The bounce houses were big winners with the kids. Brad and I enjoyed watching the marching band warm up, and Evan was in heaven watching the team walk in. Issa was excited to see the cheerleaders and dance team up close, and somehow we even ended up with a Carolina Blue football and pompom on our way into the game.

Daddy sure does love his kiddos: 
It was roughly the temperature of the surface of the sun but he carried Evan so he could see better. And please note that he is in a UNC shirt. He was a little afraid it would give him hives, but he managed, and Issa was thrilled.

A family selfie before the game:
We were up pretty high, but it was a great view of the field and the big screens. And, the fireworks were right above us. Since the game was on ESPN, they had pulled out all the stops. We only made it until after the half-time show, but it was so much fun. Daddy even finally learned how to say, "Heels" when he heard, "Tar."

Sunday, we headed into Durham for the tenth anniversary celebration of the Historic Tobacco District. Really, we went to see Issa dance. A little pre-show Tiny huddle:
Several small groups performed, and then the whole Company took the stage:
Issa was a bit nervous, but she said it was just fun to dance for "real people." There wasn't a huge crowd, and  considering the Company had spent an hour learning the dance, expectations were low.

After the performance, we enjoyed some street performers, food trucks, and live bands. It was just plain fun.

This week is set to be a blur of busyness, but I'm hoping for some quiet in the storm. If nothing else, I'm grateful for such a fun weekend going into it.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sacred Priviledge

Wednesday at work was just awful. Awful. It wasn't one thing in particular, but it was one of those days when you go home and wonder if you have made a poor career decision. Poor Brad had to pick up the pieces.

Yesterday, though, yesterday was a gift. It was hard. I was pretty emotionally empty at the end of the day. But...it also made me remember my work is a sacred privilege. I spend my days working with young adults. Young people who are learning who they are and where they fit in the world. They are deciding what they believe and how they can make this world of ours a little better. They are trying to figure out what being a grown up means. I get to be the coach and the guide. Sometimes, that means all I can do is wrap them in my arms and let them cry. Sometimes, it means I have to help them develop some tools and brush themselves off. Sometimes, like last night, I get to just sit back and watch them dream. They remind me that nothing is impossible. They remind me that one small step can have a huge impact, and they remind me that you never know until you try.

They are brave and fierce and sometimes a little naive around the edges, but it is my honor to get to be there for it all.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Poet Laureate

Issa is the official family poet laureate. Our vet hosted a poetry competition last month, and Issa was one of the two winners. The original call for entries was a poem that said Dr. Wilson would recognize the winner by arriving on tricycle, and yesterday she did not disappoint:
 Issa was so surprised and excited.

The certificate included a copy of her poem, which was written shortly after the honeymoon phase had ended with Neela:
She amuses me. As proud as I am of Issa for entering and writing, I am also just as proud of our vet. She is amazing. She loves our critters they way we do, and I'm so very grateful she is part of our team.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Birthday Begins...

We began celebrating Issa's birthday this weekend! My family all flew in Friday for the occasion, and much fun was had by all.

After dinner out on Friday, Issa and Nana got to work on her cake:

 It was by far the most involved Issa has ever wanted to be in the decorating, and I loved watching her and my mom work on it together.

Saturday morning, we girls took Issa shopping. She wanted to check out a new line of Disney clothes, and Nana and Papa thought that taking her shopping might be a bit easier than picking clothes for her on their own. We had a blast. Issa has a quirky sense of style, but she was so fun! She's not an easy one to fit, but she never got fussed when things didn't work. We just kept trying, and we all laughed when she gave pants the jump test to see if they would stay up.

When we got home, Nana and Issa got to work on the cake again:
 Issa did about 75% of the decorating, and she was pretty thrilled with the end result:
 I believe she pronounced it: "Hello Kitty Birthday Bam!"

With the cake finished, Issa provided us with a fashion show of her finds from the morning, and the best big brother proclaimed everything, "stylish:"
 This was the favorite dress:
 Such a grown-up, sweet girl:
 Aunt Shannon and Uncle Jeff also brought some surprises, starting with Evan's new Spiderman jacket:
 He was a little excited.

So was Issa:
 The boots were awesome, but that face was for this dance outfit:
 That's a sports bra under there. She was thrilled. Aunt Shannon is also miraculous because everything fit!

Evan just couldn't wait to give Issa his gifts:

 He got her spy gear--walkie talkies and a laser alarm. The love between these two is palpable. However, they don't quite get the walkie talkies. They spent much of the weekend walking side by side and talking into them.

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying cake and being together. Sunday and Monday offered more of the same. Playing Uno, playing outside, building Legos, face painting, and doing art projects:
 Crayon art is always a favorite:

In so many ways, it wasn't an extraordinary weekend. We didn't run around all over the place. We didn't eat anything extravagant. But it was exactly what Issa wanted--time with her family--time to just be. I will be forever grateful that they made that possible...