Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Big Hearted Boy

My sweet boy was terrific kid this morning:
This month's trait was kindness and caring, and it is the trait that I pray the kiddos always exemplify.

A few weeks ago, Evan came home from school very concerned. A friend didn't have a winter coat. He asked if he could secretly give the friend his old one that was in the closet. Of course! He also dug out a pair of gloves to stick in the pocket.

What made me most proud, though, was that he wanted it to be secret. He asked me to slip it to his teacher, and when some friends recognized the coat later, he said his old one had more green. (Then he asked me later if it was okay he lied.) I couldn't have been more proud. When that story was told this morning, Evan was more than a little irritated--so much for secret. But, he's still glad he did it, and I'm still glad I have such an observant and kind boy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Summer in the Snow

I just dropped the kids off at school. We made it in with only a two hour delay today! That gave me just enough time to sit on my computer and wait for the clock to strike 9 so I could register the kids for camp.

This summer is going to be interesting. When I started talking about camp, the kids had very strong opinions. (I know--shocking.) But...they took us totally by surprise. They only wanted to do one week of camp. Total. Period. They felt like the summer just went by too fast last year. They are looking forward to more down time.

Issa also slightly broke my heart when she announced she was too old for camp at the museum. We saw it coming. She only wants to do one week of cooking camp at Chestnut Ridge. So we signed her up.

Evan only wants to do camp at the museum. He said Chestnut Ridge was just too exhausting--probably because he doesn't know how to pace himself. He loves the structure and activity and the short day at the museum, so we signed him up for Lego Animal camp. He will be happily building alligator jaws and a lion that roars and all manner of fun things.

I was able to align those two camps into the same week about halfway through the summer. I will spend way too much time driving that week, but that's okay. I'm glad they will have the experiences, and I'm also glad they are learning to enjoy the art of just being.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Yesterday was a bit brutal. We attempted to get out mid-morning only to get stuck getting up the hill. I managed to get us turned around and home, but it kind if summed up the day.

It started with the realization that the ice cracked my windshield, which led to multiple phone calls with the repairman and the insurance company--always thrilling. The kids' schudules were in flux until mid-afternoon, and I had work that really needed to get finished. It was a bit of a perfect storm.

By the time all the running around was finished that night, I was feeling pretty lousy. I was convinced it was lame snow day for the kids. After dinner, I was sewing dance headband and the kids were playing blocks, and Evan announced it had been the best snow day ever.


It seems they had a great day. They got to do what they wanted and watch movies. They got to stay up late because school is still cancelled, and they got to see friends at the studio and dojo. Who knew?

I guess it really is a matter of perspective.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowed In

I spent most of last week preparing for a major snow event--including convincing Brad to change his flight and come home a day early. I was certain with all of that preparation we would see nothing, but we ended up getting about four inches of layered snow and ice! 

Friday, we made snow cream and enjoyed watching it from inside. The kids went out briefly, but sleet is really not fun to play in.

Saturday, however, we went sledding among soft fluffy flakes. It's a great deal when your big sister pulls you to the hill:

 And for the first time Daddy was in town to go sledding:
 Issa had fun for about twenty minutes before she was just too cold:
 Evan could have stayed out all day:
We went sledding again yesterday, and we introduced the kids to The Princess Bride--they are in love!

School is cancelled, but we attempted to venture out. It was not a success. Even in low gear my poor van couldn't make it up the icy hill. So...we will enjoy another day here at home. In fact, I have a feeling we will have a couple more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


We don't do cold well here in the South. Snow is coming, and it's cold...and unfortunately my office is not enjoying this cold snap. It is currently 57 in my office, which makes me very grateful I made myself these:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


This long weekend was just what my heart needed. Between being sick and the semester starting I feel like I've been run over by a train, dragged through a tunnel, and basically didn't know what the hell was going on for more than five minutes at a time. Enter a weekend with a lot of nothing.

Friday night, we went to Issa's lasagna dinner fundraiser at school. Brad proclaimed the lasagna to be far better than he had any right to expect, and it was lovely to just sit and eat. There were no activities--we just sat and ate. And then we came home and sat and watched movies. It was lovely.

Miraculously, we also had a Saturday with no plans. Nada. So we made brunch reservations at a little place we've been dying to try. The weather was gorgeous, and we settled in for brunch to find this:
Grandma's favorite flowers. We all ordered something we declared to be the best ever, and we just genuinely enjoyed a leisurely brunch together. I would be lying if I said I didn't tear up on several occasions. We spent the rest of the day ducking in and out of little shops. The kids went on playdates when we got home, but we were all home for another easy dinner around our table.

Sunday, we woke up to snow! It didn't stick, but the kids were able to bundle and go play. I sipped coffee watching big fluffy flakes fall. It was lovely. Ryan and Felicia came over for lunch and to watch the football playoff games. Issa left for a slumber party, and Evan had a friend come over to spend the night.

Here is the difference between a girl sleepover and a boy sleepover: everything. I was ready for the projects and the requests for help or to hang out. I got nothing. They played guys, built blocks, and did something in the backyard that still eludes me. I fed them when they got hungry, but aside from that they really were content to just hang out. They had a blast, and my house was wonderously back to rights within 20 minutes of the party's end. I'm still mystified.

Yesterday, we spent the day just hanging out together. I missed my girl while she was gone, and to say the kids missed each other would be an understatement.

Then this morning I found this on my phone:
I have no idea what is going on here, but I do love that smile. Here's to a new week with a full heart.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Power of Showing Up

Since August, I have been showing up twice a week to read with a little boy at the kids' school. He is not in their grade, but his teacher and I thought maybe he just needed a person. When we met, he had very little English and never said a word. In December, I started checking in every day with a little girl in the same class who has seen more of life than any one her age should. When we came back in January, I started taking a book every morning. I read or chat or whatever with both kids every morning.

This week, they had a class performance, and they both asked me to come. The little girl asked, "Will you be my person? I'm tired of not have a person."

And my heart broke. And you better believe I cleared my calendar. As I sat there yesterday watching my adopted kiddos dance, I couldn't have been more proud. I even got a little teary.

This morning, my boy interrupted my reading to make a paragraph long connection to the text. I couldn't have been more thrilled.

Here's the deal: I am nothing special. I haven't done anything dramatic. And I certainly won't take credit for the growth I'm seeing in these two kiddos. I'm watching their teacher work miracles every single day.

But...I absolutely believe just showing up makes a difference. Having a grown up who doesn't have to be there but chooses to show up--even when the child is evil--makes such a huge difference. There are no performance expectations. No real rules. Kids just sometimes need a person, and I am very good at being a person.

So, I'll keep showing up. And my heart will probably break into a million pieces at the end of the year when I say goodbye for the summer. But, I will still be a person next year, and I hope I can keep showing up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

I'm Sick

I have a terrible head cold. It's nothing major, but by the end of the day, I'm wiped.

Last night, I was pretty much done when we were tucking the kids in. For the first time, my children joined forces with my husband to make me go to bed. Bless their sweet hearts. Issa pulled the, "If it was us you would make us go to bed." Evan pulled the, "You always say we should listen to Daddy." Brad pulled the, "I'll sit in bed with you to watch the State of the Union."

They won. I did watch the address, from my bed, and I was asleep about thirty seconds later.

I am so grateful for a family that takes care of me--even when I'm not taking great care of myself.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dress Rehearsal

This weekend we had Issa's dress rehearsal:
Our third year in, we have a system. We had fun together. Hair is a breeze. Only eyeliner causes angst. We have a code that keeps us both calm. We laugh.

All of that is so good because the day itself is so stressful. So many opinions and wardrobe malfunctions and changes. But the two of us, we are solid.

And here's the deal. I'm hoping that is our pattern. I know life is going to get crazier for her. We are entering uncharted territory. But...we are solid. As long as we have that, we will be just fine.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Christmas From My Sister

By now we have established I am not the family photographer. In fact, I flat out can't be trusted to take pictures of any actual important events--ever. Thankfully, I have a fabulous sister who steps into the gap. She sent me her Christmas photos this weekend, and some of them were just too fabulous to not warrant another Christmas post. In fact, this may be our best Christmas photo year ever.

Ugly sweater jammies were super fun:

And I think I actually snapped this one:
Shannon reminded me to take pictures of the tree trimming, and by some fluke I managed to catch this spontaneous hug. These two. My sister and my daughter. I'm crying and I have no words.

How fun and festive is this shot:
And I think it also captures Evan's ornery perfectly.

I believe this is when they pulled off a Christmas coup and managed to convince Aunt Shannon to let them open one present before dinner:

My heart. When did this girl grow up?

And thank goodness for Aunt Shannon because you know how many pictures I took Christmas morning? Zero. Even with bronchitis she is more together than I am. My two little elves:
I mean can they get any cuter?
I feel like this one is growing up right before my eyes:
Santa came through:
I love that she captured the pure delight of a Nerf bow and arrow:
Grace is a lovely addition to our home:
Such adorable siblings:
And I love this family photo:
You can't even tell I had to threaten Evan to get him in it.

And our annual trio:
Thank you, Aunt Shannon, for being the best sister and aunt a girl could wish for, and thank you for capturing these moments for me. I love you more than words can say,

Thursday, January 7, 2016

This is Love

Yesterday I worked some dance mom magic.I finally finished Issa's solo costume! 

I have had the costume for a while, but my quest for the perfect headpiece was alluding me. The problem was I found one that cost roughly as much as a house--damn real diamonds and pearls--but everything else looked sub par after I had seen it. Fortunately, I finally ordered one on Etsy I loved and could afford...and then I discovered it was coming from Lithuania. It takes a long time to get here standard post from Lithuania--like months. arrived yesterday (or rather I claimed it from the bowels of the post office yesterday), and it is perfect:
 With it in hand, I was ready to start stoning the costume. And then I realized I had chosen the tiniest stones on earth (please notice the straight pin for reference):
 But...over 400 teeny tiny stones later Issa and I are thrilled:
 The back is my favorite:
The pictures really don't do it justice, but it just might be my favorite costume yet.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Happy New Year!

We decided to enter the new year with a new house. While we certainly didn't move, we absolutely did completely reboot our space. We've been talking about it for a while, and when we came home we decided to make it happen. Instead of doing our annual fit the new things into existing spaces, we reorganized spaces to create zones in our home. All of this is made easier by the fact that the kids are old enough to need less of a playroom!

We converted downstairs into a craft and quiet space:
 All of our art supplies have been merged, making Issa one happy girl:
 The storage cubes and the bench were the only two purchases we made. Our armoire now holds board games and craft papers because the tv and game system moved upstairs:
 We also moved the desk back up there with the family computer and printer. The toddler art table went to a new family, and Issa banished all things Barbie. This space is our maker space, holding all electronics and building things. Evan is quite tickled to have all of his blocks in one place and tables to build on right there! Neela likes having the chaise upstairs for better bird watching.

The kids' rooms got a little love, too. Evan's was completely unloaded and he and Daddy reorganized it in a way that apparently only makes sense to the male of the species:
 I don't get it, but Evan is happier and things are definitely staying neater. A big part of that is this arsenal in the closet:
 No more darts on the floor!

Since Issa received a cd player for Christmas, she wanted a nightstand and to create a bigger girl space:
 She is so tickled to have Gram's cart in her room! Brad is also thrilled he has more space in his office since it is down two pieces of furniture!

Issa also tweaked her desk, and she is making a whole Taylor Swift quote board on her chalkboard:
It was four solid days of work. We filled the van with donations and filled both the recycling bin and trash can a couple of times over.

My favorite moment was Brad and I sorting books while the kids were sleeping. First, we have a lot. Second, we are very attached to many of these books making the sorting a trip down memory lane and a bit emotional. Third, it has only taken us 13 years but we finally decided to completely merge our collections into one bookcase. I believe we were a glass of Scotch and over an hour in when I realized we have quite a bizarre and slightly pretentious collection, as evidenced by the fact that I had to sub-categorize the Victorian section before it could go on the shelf. Bless.

An added bonus, we have two empty cabinets in the kitchen where cookbooks and art supplies used to be. No worries, though, we have big plans for that space. For now, we will just enjoy our cozier, more functional home until another block of time presents itself for a major overhaul.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Merry Christmas!

We had a great trip to Ohio to celebrate Christmas! 

For the first time in years, our whole family gathered to celebrate Christmas with Granddaddy and Grandma Judy! When they started wintering in Florida, we stopped getting together. This year, we all juggled crazy schedules and gathered for appetizers and caroling now that they are back in Ohio full-time. We even managed to get everyone in a picture:
 All of the great grandchildren were adorable:
 And we grandkids had way too much fun remembering Christmases past:
 We even put M&Ms in holiday cupcake wrappers, just like Grandma used to do for us at the kids' table.

As has become our tradition, Nana waited to do any of her decorating until the kids could help! This year, Aunt Shannon even arranged for us all to have matching ugly Christmas sweater pajamas to wear while doing it! I loved staying all cozy all day and watching the kids enjoy just being. Nana and Issa spent a lot of time arranging snowmen:
 And even Buddy got an ugly Christmas sweater:
 My goodness I love these two:
 In addition to the holiday festivities, the kids and Nana built an entire Lego village:
 We did eventually put on real clothes, and the tree was a true team effort:
 Per usual, I can't be trusted with capturing pictures; I forgot to take one of the finished tree!

There were cozy fires with Smores:
 And of course Santa made his appearance:
 For Christmas day, Brad and Mom fulfilled a decades long challenge: they made turducken. It has been a running joke that they were going to do it, and this year they did! We spent much of Christmas Eve Day making the three stuffings that go inside, deboning all the birds, and roasting the peppers. After the kids were snuggled in bed, they went to work:
 Here are all the layers assembled before he was tied shut:
 And then the magic happened:

 By all accounts it was delicious! I loved listening to the two of them dissect the process and the results at lunch.

We had a couple of days in Napoleon after Christmas, and it was lovely to just be:
 And roast chestnuts:
And sneak in one more visit to Granddaddy's. He loved seeing the bows Santa brought for the kids, and the kids are already practicing to be able to show him their skills next time we are up!

We ended our trip with a few days in Tiffin. Daddy thankfully captured some pictures, including a trip to see Tyler the Huge's big work truck while we were in Napoleon and Grandma Pat's birthday celebration.

Every year, it seems we have a list of fun Christmas things we are going to do in Ohio, and every year it remains untouched. We fill the days with baking and crafting and just playing. In so many ways, I think that is better. It truly is lovely to just be together, and I wouldn't trade that time for anything.