Friday, July 31, 2015


I finally captured it:
My little matching campers! They're off to their last day of camp, and I think these smiles say it all!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

He's Home!

Brad is home! He had been gone for 10 days, which hasn't happened in a very long time. 10 days is a very, very long stretch--even though we talk multiple times a day.

He got home in time for dinner yesterday, and he barely had the car in parked before he was mobbed by small children. As we were all snuggled up on the couch last night watching Food Network, I heard everyone take little sighs--little breaths of peace because we were all back together. When we went to bed last night, a certain puppy wedged herself in between us and let out the most contented puppy sigh I have ever heard.

It was in those little moments that I was just overcome with gratitude. Our family isn't always blissfully happy. We have moments when we get under each other's skin. But...there is a sense of peace and love in our home. It's all of our safe place, and that is an answered prayer. I hope this will always be everyone's safe place--somewhere they can land and take refuge when the rest of the world is a bit much. Even when our family is a bit much.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I have very weird children. This week at camp, they have decide to wear matching t-shirts every day. As of yet, they will not allow me to take a picture, but I wanted to record it here for posterity. Monday, they wore UNC shirts, yesterday they wore Quest shirts, and today they wore their camp shirts from this week. Sometimes they drive each other crazy, but I really hope they always stay this tight.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Puppy Love

Yesterday, I dropped the kids of at camp and then did very mundane adult things like getting an oil change. I am working from home most of this week wading through data and creating all the end of year reports, and I can do that from an oil place just as well as my desk.

When I got back home, the cleaning lady was still finishing downstairs, so I slipped up to my room where I could spread sheets of data across the bed to try to start making sense of numbers that don't add up. I was sitting at the head of the bed surveying the chaos when I heard Neela come back inside. I heard her thudding paws come up the stairs and down the hall, and then I saw her head snap up when she saw me--she didn't know I was home. She vaulted over the foot of the bed, knocked me into the pillows, and starting smothering me in kisses. Paper was flying everywhere, and I just didn't care.

There truly is something so magical about a dog's love. It's very difficult to stay grumpy about a project when you are literally knocked over my 65 pounds of pure love. I think I'll keep her.

Monday, July 27, 2015

So Tired

I am in need of a weekend to recover from the weekend. Daddy had to be at a conference, and I have learned it's critical for us all to keep busy during those weekend, and boy were we busy!

Friday afternoon, I attended the camp closing ceremony. It was so fun to watch the kids do some of the songs and games they had been playing all week, and I brought two exhausted kids home with me. We ordered pizza and called it an early night to get ready for the very big weekend!

Saturday, we had our last ADF performance. Since Daddy couldn't go, Issa asked Abby to go along and then spend the night. The occasion required a selfie:
 We saw the Doug Varone company, and they were a more traditional contemporary company. The girls loved seeing dance that they felt like they knew; Evan was not entirely sold on the idea, but he said they were pretty good. The second piece was a new piece for them--we were only the second audience to see it--and it was based on the art of Joan Mitchell. They used the scrim as a canvas and the dancers as the pastels. Again, the girls and I were enthralled; Evan thought 45 minutes was a bit much of anything.

We headed home and the girls went straight to crafting while Evan waited outside for Henry to come. He came back in five minutes later with this:
 That would be a lizard tail. I was not happy. He was quite proud of himself.

As soon as Henry got there, the boys headed upstairs. I got exactly one picture of the boys:
 We had finger foods for dinner, which was a huge hit. We also baked cookies. I think my kitchen has recovered. They were so funny measuring and scooping. It's a miracle they came out well!

I was also so thrilled by how well all four kiddos played together. They put together a whole puppet show, complete with scenery and refreshments. It was too funny, and I loved listening to all of the laughter coming from upstairs.

Poor Henry did not make it all night. As we started to get ready for bed he got homesick. Poor Evan was so scared he would catch it! It took a lot of explaining. The girls were so sweet, though:
 After they were ready for bed, they invited Evan to be part of their party. Those children were up reading and giggling for-e-ver. I was so tired when they finally fell asleep.

They were up by 7:30 Sunday morning, and we had pancakes. The girls played dolls until Abby got picked up, and Evan contented himself with me.

Once we had the house put back to rights, the kids and I went back to school shopping! I am a huge fan of getting that out of the way at the end of July. The year round kids are already back, and most people aren't thinking about it yet. The stores start to panic about inventory overhead and we get great sales. Yesterday, everything was at least half off--and now we're finished! Poor Evan was less than enthused about his lack of options compared to Issa.. It is tough to see Issa pick out all kind of colors when his list is very, very specific. But I was feeling generous and let each kid choose a treat--which never happens--so he was pretty excited Issa chose an American Girl movie, and Evan chose a small Lego set, which he promptly built all by himself:
He was so proud! We also made peach roll-ups and gave Neela a much needed bath.

And that was the weekend. The kids are at the Museum for camp this week, and I'm back to working on all kinds of data. Here we go...

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Lifetime Ago

In what feels like a lifetime ago and what was several jobs ago, I was a high school English teacher. I truly believed that was where I would be until I retired--in a classroom with high school students writing and reading and growing together. I loved it. And while I don't regret moving in to other realms--still writing, reading, and growing--there are days I really miss the classroom and my freshmen. I miss their quirkiness and seeing the light bulbs when they discover a book they love. I miss seeing them get connected to characters and each other. Part of my heart will always be there.

I have found myself really missing it this week. I've been reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, and I find myself wishing I could go back and teach my To Kill a Mockingbird unit again and add this novel. (Spoilers coming) While I will never understand why she killed off Jem so subtly, I am finding myself believing these characters' stories. Yes, they are messier, but Scout is older. The world is real, and I would love to enter into that world with a bunch of 15 year olds who are just discovering the bigger world themselves. I guess some parts of us stay deeply nestled inside no matter how far we roam...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Camp

The kids have been having a blast at Camp Chestnut Ridge this week! They chose the day camp option, and they have been coming home filthy, stinky, a little scratched up, and blissfully happy.

Issa is in art and crafts camp, and she is loving making all kinds of traditional camp crafts: dream catchers, painted pots, lanyards--oh, the lanyards. She is also swimming and hiking and gardening and having a great time.

Evan is in the general camp, and he has been rafting, swimming, hiking, cooking, scavenger hunting, and climbing trees. 

I love that they are getting to just be kids outside. I love listening to them chatter when I pick them up, and I love the way they crash hard at night. Good tired.

They are both saying the want to do residential camp next year, so we'll see!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I'm a Mechanic!

I'm a mechanic! Okay. That might be a bit of an overstatement, but I'm absurdly proud of myself.

I was mowing the grass yesterday, and the mower just shut down. Now...this is a 10 year old mower, so it's a bit temperamental. I tried the usual: emptied the bag, checked the gas, checked the oil. All fine. Not good. Then I realized not only had it shut down but the cord also wouldn't pull at all. This was new.

Brad wasn't home, and calling him to try to diagnose over the phone seemed ridiculous. I also didn't want to wait for him because I can't stand a job half finished. So...I turned to the trusty Google!

Thankfully, Toro has a great site! As it turns out, the diagnosis was likely something jamming up the blade. All I had to do was unplug the spark plug, tip the mower, and then clear the jam. (I did learn that if you don't unplug the spark plug and then try to move the blade you can actually start the mower. So glad that was in big, bold print! Not a lesson to learn the hard way.)

Sure enough, the mower started right up and I finished the job. Sometimes it's the little victories.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Issa's Selfies

I posted about our trip to Asheville yesterday, but one little aspect deserves its own post:
The Issa Selfie. In fact, Brad created a whole album; Issa's Selfie Album

She took some great pictures, but she also too a few million of these:
I love that cute face, and we did love watching her take all these pictures:
Oh how I love this crazy kid.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Asheville Magic

I had a conference in Asheville at the end of last week, and the whole family decided to tag along! Brad was the lead photographer, and compiled another photo album of the trip! We also have a much larger album that includes all of Issa and Evan's pictures, too.

We drove up Wednesday afternoon, and our first stop was the Asheville Outdoor Center, where I conned the family into a picture:
The kids had been begging to go panning for gems, and the AOC did not disappoint. The kids found all kids of gems, and they each found an arrow head, which was pretty exciting!

Brad had done some restaurant research before we left, and we knew we needed to make an afternoon snack shop at French Broad Chocolate. However, I punched in the wrong info into the GPS, and in a fortuitous oops, we ended up at their factory. We were able to tour to learn how they go from nibs to chocolate bar, and then we sampled way more types of chocolate than we really should have before bringing home some lovely truffles. From there, we checked into the hotel, ate dinner at a local burger place, and then went for the obligatory hotel swim.

Thursday, I was in the conference all day, but the kids and Brad explored downtown Asheville and spent the morning at the Earth Museum. They learned more about gems and minerals and came home with their very own geode! They were able to have it split on site and loved being the very first people to see inside. They spent the afternoon seeing the Minion Movie, and we all met up for an Italian dinner before the obligatory hotel swim.

Friday was the highlight, though. We ate breakfast at a phenomenal biscuit place before spending the day at the Biltmore. We opted for the audio tours, which was brilliant! The kids' version was told by the family dog, and they learned different things than we did about each room. It made for great conversation and we all thoroughly enjoyed the house tour. The home is truly remarkable, and it was beautiful to see everything green and in bloom! We ate lunch at the Stable Cafe, and then toured the gardens. I think the Italian garden with its statues and lily ponds was the highlight for the kiddos, but I fell in love with the conservatory. I really felt like I was in a Wilde novel.

We ended the trip in the Village, where we all enjoyed the winery tour and tasting. The kids declared it the best grape juice ever, and Brad and I found a few bottles of wine we really loved. We visited the farmyard and sampled the famous ice cream before heading for home.

It really was a perfect few days, and it was nice to come home to a weekend to unpack and recover before jumping in to another busy week!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Phone Calls

Brad and I got a bad case of the giggles yesterday. One of Issa's friends moved away this summer, and yesterday afternoon we heard her little voice on the answering machine lamenting her new home. To say she hasn't fallen in love is an understatement. Issa immediately called her back, and Brad and I witnessed a rite of passage as she spent the next forty minutes wandering around the house talking on the phone. Thank goodness for digital phone. I have a feeling this will become a much more frequent occurrence. It really was so cute.

As if that wasn't enough, poor Evan had to deal with being relegated to little brother status. The kiddos have been inseparable this summer, and the fact that Issa was on the phone and really didn't want him in on the conversation was more than he could bear. We then had the audacity to suggest that this might be happening more frequently. Pitiful.

We are definitely growing up around here, and I think I'm ready for this next stage of life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Thrown Under the Bus

My children are slightly evil. I took them to the dentist yesterday, and thankfully all is very well. No cavities and they are apparently great brushers and flossers. I have turned this completely over to them, and I have been hounding them about not spending enough time in this arena. the end of the appointment yesterday, the dentist was very quick to explain that they were doing a great job. And also explained they had shared that I didn't believe they were doing a great job. Apparently I have very trustworthy, perfect children according to the dentist--and I really should believe them. Thanks children.

Monday, July 13, 2015


We had a lovely weekend. We helped friends move, had friends over, and spent a good portion of yesterday in pajamas just having some much needed quiet family time.

My favorite moments, though, all involved playing gin rummy with Brad. We started to try to teach the kiddos, but they quickly lost interest. Brad and I, however, had a blast. We even played more after they went to bed last night.

It's in those very mundane moments when he and I are just hanging out that I look forward to empty nest a bit. That might be an overstatement, but I at least mind it less. I have a feeling he and I will just have a different set of adventures and a new normal, and I also know that will be pretty amazing, too.

Friday, July 10, 2015


I think we are now in the calm after the storm. I declared our usual summer routine out the window yesterday and gave the kids the day off as long as they were quiet when I was on the phone and understood Mom might be a lot stressed. They agreed, and they were awesome. Thankfully, I was able to handle all of the damage control from the comfort of my desk at home. I also talked with security many, many times and they have almost caught the thief, which I honestly didn't think would happen.

As I was making phone calls and confirming transactions and such, the kids were very content to do their thing. Evan spent most of the day building things, and Issa spent most of the day knitting:
 Miss Hannah taught her how, and she's been happily working on a scarf:
I had to help a bit at one point because she had picked up stitches, but she wasn't at all flustered. She is really enjoying the clicking of the needles, and I have to admit it was a nice calming soundtrack in the chaos.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Well...That Sucked

No other way to say it. The past 14 hours have been a bit sucky. While I was teaching down the hall last night, someone stole my wallet from my office.

Aside from the obvious feeling of invasion and annoyance, I have to say it could have been so much worse. While I was in class, my phone kept getting calls from unknown numbers. It turns out they were my credit cards alerting me to odd activity. I had emails at the end of class, too. Every company had already shut everything down. I had a dollar and change in the wallet.

Campus police came immediately to take a report and were beyond kind. I came home and started the rounds of calls, and every person I talked to was kind and gracious. New cards are on the way. Charges are already cleared. Expedited fees and replacement fees were all waived. I had extra checks at home. Driver's license is on it's way. I have a passport until it gets here.

Honestly, I am most upset about the loss of my kids' school pictures and the brand new wallet! But...I have copies of all the pictures and can replace the wallet. It was from 31, and my generous friend is selling it to me at her cost.

The best part if the Chief of Police at Meredith is on it. This kind of thing just doesn't happen on our campus. I have left my office open while I teach for five years without incident. The chief is taking this a bit personally. Thankfully, whoever stole my wallet was a special kind of stupid. He bought $100 Walmart gift cards one at a time at the same Walmart. I have the address and the transaction numbers, and as I type campus police are on their way to the store to review security footage.

In the grand scheme of life, this isn't tragic. It's just stuff. They left everything else, including my briefcase and car keys. No one was hurt. I wasn't in the office. I told the kids what was going on since I have to make a million phone calls and don't have my new wallet, and I mean what I told them. It's just stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Our life will go on. I am more concerned about the thief. If they really needed financial help, I hope they get it. If we fed a family last night, that's not a bad thing. If they just went on a spree, I hope they get a very different kind of help. Either way, it's not really about us. We weren't hurt aside from a little lost time. And this is also why I never carry cash.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A Big Kid Playroom

The kids and I have been very diligent with our 30 minutes of parent jobs this summer. Last week, we spent way more than that a day and finished the playroom! It was time for a major overhaul, and the kids did wonderfully! I waited a week to see if it was really functional, but here are the results:
Please notice the table is actually empty for playing, and the toddler doll houses are gone, making way for completed Lego creations:
Art supplies are neatly organized:
Craft kits are accessible in a cupboard:
And look at those craft books and papers:
And the art table can actually be used for art--no more baskets and bins lining the back:
This room continued our theme of purge and simplify. The kids really get it, and they've done a great job only keeping what they will actually use and letting the rest go. They also have done a great job of actually keeping their spaces clean, which makes this mama's heart very happy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


The kids and I try to do one fun thing a day. Most days, the local library obliges. Mondays, though, have become museum days. For the first time yesterday, I even agreed to get tickets for the bungee jump. Both kids had done it at camp last summer, but they really wanted to me to see them jump.

Evan was first and channeled his inner Spiderman:
 He even pretended the ropes were his webs:
 His face doesn't show it in these pictures, but he had a blast!

Issa was a little harder to catch on camera because she bounced a lot higher:
 And she has a lot of hair that she refused to pull up:
 And she loves to flip:
The giggles were totally worth the investment!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fabulous Fourth!

We had absolutely fabulous weekend! It started Friday when Issa made a very fancy tea party for lunch. I must admit I never imagined serving little smokies from my good china when I received it 13 years ago, but her recipe was particularly good. Along with the crudite and pita chips, we also had blooming tea:
Very fun indeed.

While the tea was pretty outstanding, it couldn't compare to dinner. We left the kids with Miss Hannah and Brad and I went out for an anniversary date to Pancuito. Heavenly. We enjoyed a fabulous bottle of wine and an incredible meal. We decided to just share many things, so we started with their cheese plate appetizer. It might have been the highlight of the meal. It was five cheeses each paired with a different house-made preserve on perfectly toasted good bread. I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite, but the goat with strawberry and the stackhouse with fig rose to the top. We then had a lovely salad in which I discovered fennel with radish is actually quite lovely, and the steak with gnocci was incredible. We ended the meal with a strawberry panna cotta with lavender syrup. Blissful.

Saturday, we decided to spend the Fourth at the zoo. Because Brad was the photographer, you can enjoy this very fancy slide show of our day. The highlight was definitely feeding the giraffes. They are such graceful creatures, and their prehensile tongues are just amazing. We were also very surprised that the zoo was not at all crowded. We were also very proud of ourselves for being prepared with ponchos in our pack. We got caught in one downpour, but it made the rest of the day even more enjoyable! The animals seemed to enjoy playing in the puddles, which was very fun.

We came home and grilled burgers and corn, and then we settled in to watch the NYC fireworks on TV followed by sparklers in the front yard.

Yesterday, we enjoyed a quiet day at home, and now we are ready to start a new week!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Breaking News!

Evan proved once again this morning that he is our no fuss child. I hadn't even had my coffee yet when there was much excitement because someone had just popped out his first tooth:
We didn't even know it was loose! There was no constant wiggling or daily mom checks. He just popped it out and let us know. He is super excited about the Tooth Fairy's visit, though!

It did occur to me that I should check the rest of his teeth, and he does in fact have another loose one. I told him, and he wiggled it and announced, "That's not really loose." Apparently it's not loose in his world until it comes right out in your hand. Life with this boy is never predictable, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Camo White Belt!

Evan had a very big night last night at the dojo! First, he was surprised with his exceptional attendance patch:
He has been training two days a week every week for over a year now. He takes that so seriously, and we are so proud of his commitment. Brad and I also thought we should get patches or driving the taxi.

The big news, though, was he graduated to his camo white belt:
He is officially half way through his ninja training and out of white belts.

To commemorate the occasion, the best daddy ever designed and had printed a very special shuriken ball:
All of the teachers were a little jealous of that one.

Evan is still loving life at the dojo, and we are still loving being a part of that community.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Farm Fun

The kids and I headed to the farm last night. We enjoyed the Tuesday evening potluck and caught up on all the farm news. Little Guy, the cow, is doing much better after a run of weepy eyes. Crops are coming up well, and the shade garden is completely finished. We also had 15 new chicks delivered to the farm Monday! Unfortunately, 4 were eaten over night even though they were in a kennel in the shed. The only explanation is snake, and so the main project of the evening was to be snake proofing the chicks. We pulled an unused, solid water trough to the shed, and about that point the heavens opened up! We crowded in the shed and started making a new home for the chicks, and the kids were more than happy to hold the babies while we made the move.

And then the rain stopped...and the puddle appeared...and the kids had a blast:

I am so thrilled that we found this community farm. I love that the kids are learning where food comes from, and I love that they have a place where they can also just be kids outside splashing in giant puddles. Life is good.