Thursday, April 30, 2015

Follow the Path

Whenever I am asked my expectant mothers what my biggest piece of advice is I always give the same answer: assemble a team of three. You need three good mom friends: one who is a few years ahead of you, one who is right there with you, and one who is a couple of years behind. The one who has walked the path will save you when the baby is making no sense and you are clueless. The one who is right there with you can cry and laugh with you and make you feel less alone. The one who is a few years behind helps you remember that parenting is all about phases and makes you feel like you might possible have your proverbial stuff together. If you have this team, everything seems to work itself out.

Yesterday, I was reminded how critical this team is. Doing homework with Evan is often a bit of a challenge. It's not that he struggles with the work; he struggles with the motivation. Last night, we were trying to work on homework at the studio. All he had to do was draw and label a spring pattern. You would have thought I asked him to cut off his arm and leg to make the pattern. I was two seconds away from melt down when Ms. Paula chimed in. (She is one of my few years ahead village when it comes to boys.) "Hey Evan, how do you feel about circles?" Evan conceded circles were a good deal. He made a whole row. "Now, if you add some lines and moons, you have suns and flowers. Problem solved."

He happily finished the pattern, and I looked at Paula in awe. "Sometimes with boys, start small and get them going. It gets them over the hump." Everyone with older boys agreed, and I have a new strategy for homework.

Clearly brilliant advice. And this is why we need our team, and this is why sometimes its best to just follow the path already made before you. There is wisdom on that path.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Issa has had a Claire's gift card burning a hole in her pocket, so we braved the mall Sunday so she could use it. You know what's worse than a child with $35 to spend at Claire's? Arriving to find they are having a buy two get one sale. I mentioned that she didn't need to spend the whole $35 in one day, but that was clearly crazy talk. So she shopped.

She found a hair bow that has every color in the rainbow, matching necklaces for she and I, a set of friendship bracelets for her friends, a locket, and these babies:
 Fake glasses:
She has worn them since Sunday as though they are real. She takes them off right before her head hits the pillow and put them on while she makes her bed. It's hysterical. I must say, though, she does look fabulous.

Monday, April 27, 2015

End of the Season

This weekend, we closed the dance competition season:
The Tiny Company ended the year well, and we couldn't be more proud of Issa. For the first time, she got super nervous before her solo, and at one point she wasn't even sure she could go on. In a moment that will be engraved in my heart forever, one of the older dancers came over and just started rubbing her back and chatting. She is the one who got Issa on stage. Issa danced better than the last competition, and she came off smiling.

When she competed with her team, she genuinely had fun. They danced their little feet off and scored well. Most importantly, we won top studio, which is a combination of performance, team spirit, and character backstage. For us, that is the highest award there is.

And...the icing on the cake is Ryan and Felicia were waiting for us at home with dinner. They made spring rolls and what Brad has deemed beef candy. It was lovely.

We still have a performance at Relay for Life and the recital, but the competition part of the year is over. Now we just celebrate with our little dance family, which is always my favorite part of the year.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One of the Big Kids

I have gotten used to Issa being one of the big kids. Aside from the tween eye roll she is working to perfect, I have seen her be the cool big kid to littler kiddos. I have watched itty bitties follow her through the studio. I have seen her polish tiny toe nails and play baby dolls when she truly has no interest any more because a beaming little face is looking up at her. I have come to love those moments.

Last night, though, my poor heart was thrown a bit of a sucker punch. I was sitting at ninjitsu watching Evan. They were doing some partner sparring, and I was lucky enough to have a seat closest to him and his partner, a little boy a couple of belts below him. For the first time, I saw Evan as the big kid. I watched him correct his partner's form and encourage him to try again. I watched him walk him through it several times until he had it. I saw them both beam when his partner got it, and I choked back happy tears when Mr. Brian complemented his coaching.

How did this happen? When did my baby become one of the big kids? They just keep growing up, and I'm so grateful to be along for the ride.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stripe Week

This is stripe week at the dojo:
 And our little ninja got the first stripe on his candy cane belt:
 Which required the traditional Mr. Justin picture:
Oh how I love seeing my boy this happy doing something he loves.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Angel Dog

We all made it through yesterday. By all accounts the kids had a good day at school, and I will be forever grateful for the fairly steady stream of emails from teachers in the building letting me know my kiddos were okay. One of my friends had put the word out, and every one was on watch and ready to hug. I sure do love our little school.

Issa was able to go to her happy place for a solo lesson, and I could watch her relax. Evan talked with Mr. Chris about his angel dog, Viv, who now watches over him from heaven just like she did on earth. Oh how I love that image.

And Neela, well Neela has a new mission. Viv loved raw hide bones, but she never actually chewed them. She was more of a raw hide hoarder. We now know how substantial the hoard was because Neela has made it her mission to retrieve them all. We were all in hysterics last night as she kept coming in with yet more rawhide. I thought at first she was just taking it in and out, but then we saw the piles inside.

Evan has decided Viv gave her permission to dig it up and told her where it all was. We do find it so funny that Neela never once touched it until yesterday, and now that pile is making her absurdly happy. Thanks, Viv.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Goodbye, Sweet Friend

We had to say goodbye to Viv this weekend, and while we are all still so very, very sad, Brad and I are so amazed by how much of God's hand we saw this weekend.

A week ago, Viv had 12 hours of nose bleeds. Each one wasn't as bad as the last, and they stopped. We had hoped they were allergies, but our vet had warned us if they started again it was likely cancer.

Friday night, Viv had another nose bleed, although it really wasn't bad. She got two more during the night, each a little worse. Saturday afternoon, she had a terrible bleed that we couldn't stop.

Thankfully, Uncle Tim was in town visiting, so he stayed with the kids while Brad and I took Viv to the emergency vet our vet had recommended the week before--just in case. The ride gave us time to have one more conversation about the decision we had already made: no extreme measures. No surgeries. Just keep her comfortable, and when that wasn't possible say goodbye. She was the world's best dog for 12 years, and we wouldn't ask her to suffer for us.

By the time we got to the vet, the bleed was the worst we had seen. I knew by the way the triage tech took our information it wasn't good. When the vet came in to talk with us, we knew. He talked about diagnostic options, but treatment was never mentioned. While he couldn't tell us the exact type, he could tell us he was confident she had cancer. He gave us time to call our own vet, who confirmed that had been her fear. Everyone also fully supported our decision to say goodbye. There is no treatment, and our only option would be to sedate her to stop the bleed, which may have given us a few days at best until she started bleeding again. We just love her too much for that.

So...Brad went home to tell the kids and bring them back to say goodbye. I stayed with Viv. The staff at Triangle Veterinary Referral Hospital was incredible. They brought in a blanket for Viv to lay on and for me to sit with her. They brought in pads to catch the blood and changed them often. They helped me keep her clean as best we could. They brought us water and told us again and again that we were making the right decision.

The kids were able to say goodbye at a time while the blood was minimal in a room that had been cleaned. They never saw the very worst, but they saw enough to know it was definitely time. We had been having the conversation with them for months about this possibility, and although they were sad they were at peace with it, too.

Tim stayed with Brad while I took the kids out of the room when they were ready, and in a moment that made me feel like I had done something right they asked if we could go out to dinner to celebrate Viv's life. Evan requested cupcakes. The nurses told them how incredibly brave they were and remarked how much they loved Viv, and they listened as the kids told them happy stories. Knowing they were okay, Tim and I traded places so Brad and I could be with Viv at the end. It was possibly one of the most peaceful moments I have ever witnessed as she laid her head down and truly relaxed in a way she hasn't been able to in a long time.

Unknown to each other, Brad and I had both been praying that Viv would either pass in her sleep or it would be perfectly clear when it was time. That prayer was answered. It was also such a gift to have Tim here to help. I learned after he left that he shared with the kids how he had to say goodbye to his own dog while we were gone. It made it easier for them.

We are also so grateful to have Neela. When we got home, Evan explained to Neela what had happened, and I think it helped him process the day. Issa has been sharing how she thinks Neela feels and what Neela wants, which I think is really her way of processing. And whether she needed the extra love or she knew we did, having Neela snuggle up to us yesterday was a blessing.

It's going to be a hard stretch--mostly for Brad and I. We keep looking for her on the deck or yard. The house is entirely too quiet at night without her ridiculous snoring. There's a void that won't close quickly.

But...I wouldn't change a thing. She was the first dog I really liked much less loved. She snuggled when we needed it, and she was a fierce protector. Hell...she even kept Nana from getting to the kids when they were crying.

This morning, the kids were giggling watching Neela chase squirrels. I thought they were laughing at her. Instead, they were giggling thinking about how much rawhide there must be in heaven and how Viv is finally chasing squirrels without being sore later. That is a gift.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Academic Achievers

Last Friday was report card day. We don't generally make a big deal about report cards. We are so blessed to have kids who love school and who generally don't struggle. Evan had a slow start to decoding, but he has more than caught up and all is well.

However, the dojo does make a big deal about report cards:
Evan earned his Academic Achievers patch. For those keeping track, he now has three patches on his gi. We couldn't be more proud of these two. I think I'll keep them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Today is Celebrating Student Achievement at work, which is always one of my favorite days. I listen to research presentation and meet families and boyfriends and fiances. I love that we as a campus stop regular life for a day and just stand in awe of the work our students do. I will nod until my head falls off and beam and take a moment to just soak the day in. I will run around like a lunatic to see as many of my students as I can, and I will listen to my younger students wonder at what they will do themselves in the near future.

And for one brief shining day, I see the fruit of a lot of seeding and tending, and it is a good thing.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pollen is the Devil

We are experiencing the annual dumping of the pollen around these parts. There is nothing quite so gross as a film of yellow covering everything--especially since it makes your throat itch and your eyes burn. It's the one aspect of the spring I could really do without.

This year it seems to be particularly awful as evidenced by the fact that it even attacked poor Viv.

Last Thursday, Felicia was saving me and getting the kids off the bus. Imagine my surprise when she called to say Viv had a bloody nose. I called my vet who ruled out everything awful and suggested it was the pollen. By that time, Viv's nose had stopped bleeding. We put her on Benedryl and went on our merry way.

Until 10:30 Thursday night. Viv's nose started all over again. And I had stupidly given her the aspirin for her arthritis that evening. I texted the vet to say she was bleeding again, and within moments she was on the phone with me. It took nearly at hour to get it all the way stopped because poor Viv just kept sneezing and starting it again. kitchen looked like a murder scene with all the blood spatter.

She had two more at 1:30 and 3:30, but then she was fine. Poor baby. We were all on pins and needles this weekend because Dr. Wilson said it could go on as long as 48 hours, but we seemed to have had the 12 hour version. I'll take it.

In conclusion: bleach is a good thing, Viv is a very sweet dog, and pollen is evil.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Candy Cane Belt

Evan had a great night at ninjitsu. First, Mr. Brian and Mr. Justin were back from a training quest in Japan. Evan has missed them, and they came back with some really cool things to share with the kids. 

Then, Evan finally got his ninja back roll:
It's not perfect, but he went backwards instead of sideways so we'll take it. He has also become a much better blocker and striker. He might have knocked his training partner over. Mr. Brian was very impressed.

And then, Evan graduated to his candy cane belt--the last white belt:
He couldn't wait to go home and put the green and white belt on his rack. He is also very excited because the best Aunt Shannon ever sent some sketches of a new ninja room. He is clearly way too big for fish, and the idea of ninjas on his walls is almost more than he can handle.

Evan is clearly still loving being a ninja, and I am loving watching him grow. I am so thankful that both kiddos have found a place that challenges them to grow in all ways and where they feel at home. Now...if I could just not have to dodge shuriken in his bedroom.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It's Really Happening

Five years ago, around Brad and I's  eighth anniversary, we started talking about a second honeymoon for our tenth anniversary. We hadn't been on vacation just the two of since our honeymoon, so it seemed like a brilliant idea. Our tenth came and we had small children and I was finishing a doctorate and that was that. The date for the trip just kept moving forward.

After Christmas, Ryan and Felicia started talking about the four of us going on a week-long cruise, and we thought it was a brilliant idea! We even had some dates and cruises researched, but then the kids heard of this and they weren't too sure they wanted us gone that long, which made us not too sure we should be gone that long. To this point, we've only both left them overnight--like leave at dinner and back by brunch.

Last Tuesday, over many glasses of wine, it came up that I had never done anything big for my birthday. Somehow, that turned to us taking a three night cruise near my birthday. By the next day, Felicia had sent links.

The timing is perfect. It's the weekend after Issa's recital, and over Easter we asked Nana if she would mind staying a little longer so we could go. All parties were thrilled. The kids were totally fine with three nights.

By Monday night, we were booking cruises. Felicia found a great deal that was expiring that night, and after a flurry of texts and emails--many of which while Brad was on a flight--we had a plan. Brad landed, called Ryan from the airport, and they booked at the same time. Our rooms are side by side. As they're booking, Felicia and I are texting and I'm crying. It's really happening.

We have an ocean view room with a picture window, and as of last night, we have flights. After a whirlwind, we're ready! It's really happening, and I can't wait.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Spring Break Flashback

Last week, the kids and I spent another fabulous morning at our museum, but with all the hustle of break and Easter I never posted about it. This is especially tragic because they were both actually wanting to have their picture taken! So, a flashback....

Our trip started, as always, at the farmyard:
 The added attraction this time was that they have two new pygmy goats to visit! From there, we headed out to watch the birds. This was the first time we had made time to visit the bird glade, and I am so glad we did. We had gone so early that we were the only ones there, and the birds were busy. Even a little bunny hopped up to say hello.

Issa asked for a selfie:
 While Evan was elated that the boats are open for the season:
 After spending a long time watching the lemurs jump around like crazy critters, we got a huge surprise:
 The wolves are usually up at the top of their enclosure, but first the first time they were playing and running down low. They are such amazing animals.

While we were watching the bears, Evan shocked me with a selfie request:
 And then asked for a sibling photo:
 And then Issa became a bear:
 We ate lunch outside and finished with popsicles. The last stop was the dig pit:
 Issa is a shark tooth finding queen:
We left early afternoon with two tired kids and another morning of memories. I love that after all these years the kids still find something new and love going to our museum. It makes my heart happy.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Easter!

We are back from an incredible Easter weekend. We drove up Thursday and went straight to Brad's brother's house. We haven't stayed there recently because, well, chaos. When we get the two families together in his house, we have four adults, six kids, four dogs, four cats, and a bunny. It's a lot. But...after Christmas we all recommitted to it. If we don't stay there, the cousins don't get the kind of quality time we all want, and the quality time that we want with our nieces, nephews, brother, and sister. Plus, there is a new baby that needs snuggled. So we did it. And it was the best decision we ever made.

I don't have any pictures. Brad has some on his phone, but my time there was either spent holding Hadley or leaning over the island with my oldest three nieces and nephew. This weekend was perfect timing. Poor Hadley was having some acid reflux issues, and much of Thursday was spent letting her scream at me so poor Brian and Danielle could get a break. Thankfully, we saw a turn on Friday, and I got to see some sweet smiles. Both days, I got all kinds of bonding time with my newest niece. And in the moments I wasn't holding her, I was basking in what cool teenagers the oldest three have become. All of us standing around the island talking, laughing--brilliant. I wouldn't trade that time for anything. I am also steeling myself to play Cards Against Humanity with the oldest two next visit. I'm just not sure my heart is ready for that one.

Friday night, we drove to Napoleon. Aunt Shannon couldn't join us this year, but she sent outfits:
Evan is a weirdo:

Saturday morning, we were able to go down and visit Granddaddy. He was having a great day, and I will be forever grateful for that visit. He joked with Brad and snuggled my kiddos. I saw the same twinkle in his eye, and all was well with the world. 

After a milk shake stop on the way home, we returned to color eggs:
 Becca came over to help, and the magic crayons were a huge hit:
Evan spent most of his coloring time like this:
 Three eggs in and he was over it.

Brad made cream puffs, and I listened to Mom and him banter. The Slights and Rachel came over for dinner, and we laughed and just were together. It was lovely. And the kids were so exhausted by the end of the day they asked to go to bed.

Sunday morning, the bunny had arrived:
And Buddy the Elf even made an appearance:
 And then the hunt was on:
 I love Evan's tongue sticking out in that one.

 We nearly lost one hard boiled egg, but Issa finally found it. We are seriously considering asking the bunny to leave a sealed answer key next year.

 And of course there was an Easter outfit:

It took Easter candy to get Evan to pose, but I'll take it.

It was a quick trip, but on the way home Brad and I just decided it was absolutely worth it. Happy Easter, all!