Category Archives: Extended Family

behind the blog (alternate title: “disclaimer”)

I haven’t been able to carve out time to blog consistently in recent months.  When I have limited time, I tend to sprint toward recording “things I don’t want to forget!”, focusing on the “family scrapbook” part of the blog.  As a result, recent posts have been full of highlights.  The momma in me loves that.  I want my kids to be able to look back through this blog someday and have those happy memories triggered by what they see here.

At the same time, this blog is more than a family scrapbook.  It’s also my connection to other moms.  Sometimes, I am able to get through a tough, lonely day where I am the only adult present for 10+ hours because when the fifth glass of milk tips over onto the table (and I want to scream!) – or I am trying to figure out how long I’ve been walking around with a child’s poop hanging from my ear (seriously, how does that happen without me noticing at the time?) – I think, “I can write about this, and another mother who reads this will appreciate what this moment is like for me”, and I smile.

Recording those crazy memories brings me closer to other moms, even if I never see those moms.

But here’s my question:  does recording our good memories have the opposite effect?

If it does, I am writing to say that if you have recently read about our staycations and trips and living room fun and activities and are thinking we have it all together, we don’t.

But in my little family, we have each other.  And that’s good.

And if you’re reading this, you and I have a connection.  And that’s good too.

To quote a blogger I read recently (at http://www.71toes.com/p/disclaimer.html)

“Disclaimer

 I love blogs.

I get inspired and rejuvenated when I get a minute to read what others write, and there’s something inside me that feels so fulfilled when I have a chance to spill out my own feelings and to make a record of what our family is up to in this blog. Once I write things down, it’s like my brain can relax instead of holding tight onto things that may otherwise get lost in the vast expanse of my own forgetfulness.

But some things trouble me about blogs….

One thing in particular has made me think long and hard about blogs lately. There was this one session we had back at my sister’s motherhood retreat in June that has knitted my eyebrows together in earnest concern ever since.

The topic was something to the extent of how to keep a positive outlook in your motherhood. The question was posed about what makes mothers spiral into depression or negativity.

And do you know what the most overwhelming answer was? Not health issues. Not finances. Not childrens’ behavior issues or the lack of having enough hours in the day to do what we need to do. No. The big answer from a whole slew of moms was that blogs are the problem. Yes, blogs.

And that made me worry. Because I have a blog. And the last thing I want to do with it is depress people.

In writing this blog, my intent is not only to do what I started it for in the first place: to help preserve memories and keep a family journal . . . . [But also to] bind mothers together [or at least feel less alone in the journey myself!]

The goal is certainly so very far from creating jealousy or comparison.

But the trouble with blogs is that we tend to accentuate the positive instead of the negative. It’s human nature. And that’s good, isn’t it? The bad part is that we see that positive “tip of the iceberg” that others are portraying and compare our worst to their best….That’s human nature too. And that comparing is not good.

Despite my best attempts to “keep it real” on this blog, somehow some people misconstrue the good stuff I write to mean that life is perfect all the time. And that just isn’t true. They haven’t seen the 90% of my iceberg that’s under the water hidden from view.

Those kinds of things make me wonder how I can make this more real life. I mean, I want to capture life as it is. But you know what? Life as it is, is good. Not because it’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination, because it isn’t. My kids fight like the best of them. My heart worries endlessly about random things that probably don’t need to be worried about. I forget important things. I have about a bazillion wrinkles. I get mad as a hornet about dumb stuff.

But life is good because I love it. And I’m thankful for it…especially when I break it down into moments. Especially when I slow down enough to enjoy the journey. And that’s the kind of stuff I like to write about.

So I guess this post is really meant to say that I’ve struggled with writing thoughts and feelings for the last while because I worry about making life sound like it’s all hunky-dory around here when there are a million worries and concerns along with the good stuff.

But I’m just going to go ahead and let it all hang out…[just] please know that just because I don’t write every day about things like how I have love handles doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”

: )

She has a way with words, doesn’t she?!

I don’t know why I felt the need to post this tonight.  Maybe because I have been struggling with some decisions about how many activities to involve my kids in this summer, and I have recently realized that I really have to let go of comparisons to what other people are doing and figure out what is right for us.  (More on that later, but man, it is a struggle!)

And maybe because I realize that while I’m listening to random folks and thinking, “I should be doing that!” and feeling badly that I’m not (even though I know it just wouldn’t work for our family), someone could be reading/listening to me and thinking the exact same thing.

So I’m quoting someone else’s disclaimer, because I don’t have the energy to write my own at the moment!  : )   And because in addition to feeling guilty about the things I’m not able to do with my kids, I was feeling guilty about posting the things I was able to do with them.

Motherhood is a very guilt-inducing state sometimes, isn’t it?!

I have no catchy end to this post, because my brain has sort of shut down (as it now does every night around 8pm!), but I can say this.  Sometimes, for no reason, I feel a tiny instinct that I should say something and I have no idea why.  And anyone who knows me knows that (sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse) I will usually err on the side of saying it.

And tonight, for some reason, my tiny instinct told me to write this.  And then, while ignoring that instinct and searching the internet for “tips on creating chore charts” and “advice about allowances for kids”, I stumbled across a new blog – and this disclaimer – that addressed the very instinct I had been trying to ignore.

So here you are!  A peek inside my muddled, unedited brain, in-between Disney posts : )

And a little blog hug from me to you!

Love,

K

 

Playing hookie at Disneyworld!

I have waited to write this post because I wanted to have time to do it justice, but I am accepting that there is never enough time…

…so I’m just going to do a quick intro, then caption a bunch of photos and say,

“We played hookie for a week and went to Disney!”

The intro:

It was a fantastic, last-minute, unexpected (but always hoped-for!) event.  Grammy and Grandpa came with us (thank you; we loved being with you!).  We pulled all the kids out of school to go.  The timing just worked…T was free because he’s not yet 3; H was easy because he is still very content to sit in a lap or ride in a stroller; the girls are young enough that being out of school is fine (allowing us to go when the crowds were very minimal); and although there was rain (and rain, and more rain!), the reality is that we do fine in the rain.  It’s the lines and heat that get us, and both of those were driven away by the drizzle.

First, a few memories that I don’t have photos for…

(1) The hailstorm on the way down.  Holy moly!  Kudos to my husband for driving safely through that!  And kudos to the kids for rolling with it.  It was so loud they couldn’t even hear us explain what was happening.  Side note: the manufacturer of our sound machine should add a “hailstorm” setting next to “whale call” and “ocean sounds”, because it put T and H to sleep in seconds!

(2) The hotel we stayed in en route.  We entered the lobby during “happy hour” and descended on the buffet like a herd of locusts.  The manager came over and played with the kids, brought them cookies from the vending machine (“since the fresh baked ones we’re making aren’t ready yet”, she told us), and upgraded us to a suite with no extra charge.  The kids were so excited about having a bed in the same room as a TV they went a little bonkers and were jumping on the mattress.  T was so excited at all the hoopla, he exclaimed between happy bounces, “This is awesome!  I love Disneyworld!”   . . . Ha!  I loved hearing that!  We could have just driven to the local Marriott and he would have been totally thrilled. : )

(3) The rides at the parks.  There were too many kids to juggle to get the camera out during most of the rides, but oh how we loved those roller coasters.  E did space mountain with her dad.  Both girls did thunder mountain and splash mountain with dad and me (while Grammy and Grandpa took the boys on a train ride).  And T loved the kiddie roller coaster.  He would have gone on the bigger ones if he had a few extra inches.  Oh well.  Next time!  (Note to future travelers: they insisted that each child have an adult with them on the rides because E is not 7 yet…thank you for braving the roller coaster with us Grammy and Grandpa!  Also, ask us for details on the fast pass and baby friendly “rider swap” program if you’re planning a trip…)

(4) The video I accidentally made, but will never share, on the way home.  I tried to film a short clip of the kids at a mall food court, but accidentally neglected to turn the camera off.  So what I actually have is a 40 minute audio tape of the 6 trips to the mall bathroom we made with the older 3 kids.  (Heaven help me, it was one of those “I have to go again” days and the lines were long and…anyway…it’s an awesome audio of the conversations we had about “what was your favorite part of the trip” and “I loved this” and other priceless memories from the week, interspersed with lots of horrific bathroom sounds.  What are the chances?!

And, of course, the photos:

Hard to choose which ones to share…The kids LOVED meeting the characters.  And we all just loved being together.  Here’s a random scattering:

DSC_0485

a “high five” with Buzz

T after he defeated Donald Duck in arm wrestling.  One of m favorite T photos ever : )

T after he defeated Donald Duck in arm wrestling. One of my favorite T photos ever : )

Poured rain the day we had the princess breakfast...randomly caught a "carriage" to the castle and the girls were beyond thrilled..."a royal carriage" they still recall!

Sweetest S! We surprised you and E with special occasion princess makeup and sticker earrings this day in honor of your breakfast with the princesses.  It poured rain en route and we randomly managed to catch a covered wagon to the castle.  Grandpa and the driver sang to us as we rode.  The girls were beyond thrilled with the whole experience . . . “a royal carriage!” they still talk about : )

Jasmine and her twin, E

Jasmine and her twin, E

Aurora and her twin, S

Aurora and her twin, S

I don't know who those other characters are, but this is my dad and I LOVE him.

I don’t know who those other characters are, but this is my dad and I LOVE him.

Oh My !!!

Oh My !!!

There is no caption to express how happy this photo makes me.  E is dressed as a fairy, and she was able to meet Tinkerbell and Rosetta this day.  S, though not pictured here, was dressed as a fairy also.  T spent part of the day dressed as Thomas the Train because, well, he's the best character ever obviously, even if he doesn't live at Disneyworld.

There is no caption to express how happy this photo makes me. E is dressed as a fairy, and she was able to meet Tinkerbell and Rosetta this day. S, though not pictured here, was dressed as a fairy also. T spent part of the trip dressed as Thomas the Train because, well, he’s the best character ever obviously, even if he doesn’t live at Disneyworld.

Thank you, Grammy!

Two fun lovin’ gals…Grammy and S!

Grandpa and H, taken back at home, but in honor of their many snuggles at Disney.

Grandpa and H, taken back at home, but in honor of their many snuggles at Disney.

Did I mention that it rained?!

Did I mention that it rained?!

H, wanting to hold his mama's hand on the ride home.

H, wanting to hold his mama’s hand on the ride home.  How I treasure these moments… (even though I had to climb into the backseat while we drove down the interstate at 70mph to get my thumb into position…you are so worth it, H!)

I’ll post a few more photos in a future post so you can see T as the cutest beast ever (cast in a short skit with princess Belle…here’s a preview..).

Oh, what a prince charming, that one!

Oh, what a prince charming, that one!

More later!

Adventures in Potty Training (alternate title: Dinner and a Show)

Nana is visiting, and offered to treat us to dinner at the local Hibachi restaurant, much to our delight…

I forgot to make a reservation, so we had to wait a bit.  No problem.  The older kids admired the fish in the tank, and I bounced H, as Nana sent a text message to my husband who is away on a work trip.

The peace was broken when I heard T announce, “I have to go potty!” and turned around to see his pants – and underpants – around his ankles in the crowded waiting area.  That’s right.  Full frontal for the captive audience.

Dinner and a show! (of sorts).

I raced to hand H off to Nana, who said “I’d love to hold him.  Give me one minute to get my phone back in my purse” to which I responded “YOU HAVE TO TAKE HIM NOW!  LOOK AT T!!!”  to which Nana responded “Oh!  OH!  OH MY GOODNESS!!!  T!” to which T responded, “I HAVE TO GO POTTY RIGHT NOW!”  to which I responded by handing off H, picking up T and sprinting to the bathroom while holding T like a weapon naked from the waist down, to which the crowd responded by parting like the Red Sea, to which the host responded by offering to seat our family immediately (an act I discovered when E came to get us in the bathroom).

As a side note: E was shocked to see me helping T stand on the seat and peeing in the potty that way.  (I’m new to this with boys; is that an accepted method in public restrooms with little boys?, because I am open to alternate suggestions…he’s not wide enough to sit on – or tall enough to stand on the floor and use an – adult potty, and although I am queen of carrying the porta potty everywhere we go, there are times when we’re not going to have it…)

Anyway, as if all of that weren’t enough, the chef at our table did the flaming volcano thing that they do with the onion, then brought out a little statue that looked like a boy peeing to douse the flames, which prompted everyone at the table to laugh except for T who was decidedly unimpressed and said, “I do that now too, but I pee in the potty” which I can only assume means that given the choice between peeing (a) into a potty, (b) into a restaurant area crowded with people and (c) into a flaming volcano, T finds only options a & b acceptable.

How’s that for an exciting Saturday night?

(And thank you for dinner, Nana!  And to everyone else, you are welcome for the show : )

March Madness (alternate title: why? how did you fill out your bracket?)

Filled out brackets to compete against the extended family in a pool of 19 entries…here’s the summary of our “bracketology” and how we’re doing as of 10:30pm on March 22, 2013…

E is currently leading the entire group despite basing her picks entirely on her preference in uniform color – specifically advancing teams in her favorite shade of blue.  This made her one of the few in the country to predict FGCU over Georgetown, by the way.

Notice I said “one of the few”, not “the only”.  If you are wondering who else could have possibly predicted the upset, look no further, because…

The terrific brotherly duo of T & H entered the pool together. Since their entry boasted more than one name (Mr. T & King Hut, to be specific), they selected teams with more than one word in their name to win (such as, drumroll…FGCU over Georgetown).  Their strategy currently has them tied for third in the family pool.  Ha!

To provide slightly more detail, they are tied for third with LPK, my niece who is still in utero.

To summarize, everyone else in the extended family, including myself (a former college assistant basketball coach), my brother-in-law (a former professional athlete), and lots of other folks (who actually watch games and follow players and think about their brackets) are currently losing to four young children, one of whom is making her picks from inside the womb.

And this is why we love March Madness.

(and also one of the many reasons I love my family : )

update on the past month, part 2

Other things we’ve been up to this month…

(1)  Exploring!

Here we are at NC State’s “farm day”.  Note to self: pack vegetarian lunches next year.  Otherwise, S may look at the animals walking around in their pens and ask questions like, “Is that turkey like the turkey I just ate for lunch?” and you will have to field panicked looks from nearby families until you say something misleading like “NO ONE is going to eat THAT turkey!!!”  (and at least one mother will mouth the words “thank you” as you’re leaving.)

S milking a pretend cow. There were also bunnies to pet, calf statues to lasso, and free ice cream. I thought T would like the “touch a tractor” section, but he just yelled “Big Scary Truck!” as we moved away.  I guess he’s used to the matchbox versions.

We also visited the big museum about 40 minutes away (a special outing for us!).  Friends gave us passes they weren’t using (thank you!), and we had an absolute blast.  T fed his train obsession in this exhibit.

T could have happily played here for the entire day.

And how about this sign at the exit of that exhibit?

It’s like they knew T was coming…

(2)  Celebrating!

Our cousins had lots of birthdays, so we have been to their house for a “Tangled”-themed treasure hunt, to a park near their house for their one-year-old’s cake smashing soiree, and to a pasture within that park to just admire the horses and views.  (Thank you, cousins!)  One photo, from my brother, who is by far my favorite photographer (as long as he’s not taking “work photos” of my children, i.e. “X-rays”…)  Can you believe this photo was taken by someone who just plays around with the camera during the off-time from his Orthopedic Surgery practice?

S in the white, E in the green, cousin G with the long ponytail and cousin E in his superman cape.  Childhood captured in photo.

(3)  Hanging around

Check out E on the swing in our backyard.  Photo credit to my brother again.  How much about spring and childhood and E is captured in this one photo of her muddy feet?  Volumes, I tell you.

(4)  Fishing!

Nana got the kids a fishing pole AND managed to disassemble the pole and fix it after I broke it (thank you, Nana!).  Since I clearly don’t know how to handle a rod, dad took over the casting lessons, and the kids had a blast.

Noteworthy: the kids will spend an hour catching minnows and tadpoles in their nets at the local pond and collecting them in a water filled bowl that we pour back into the pond before we leave.  Here are E & T inspecting their catches with Nana…

Also noteworthy: the girls “fished” for an hour with dad with a plastic stopper on the end of the reel (i.e. no bait or hook) and were thrilled with the experience.  I can’t imagine what they will do when we actually introduce the idea that you could use the pole to catch a fish.

(5)  Trying to keep our heads above water in terms of housework

With this much fun going on, mom has had to work overtime to simply keep our familial feet underneath us.  Exhibit A: every few weeks I have to go through a pile that looks like this to pull any artwork or projects we want to save.

This process deserves a post of its own.  Stay tuned.  Then there’s the normal stuff.  I mentioned before that I lost the battle with the laundry.  I fared only slightly better in the kitchen.  And Nana saved me with regards to everything else.  (see below)

(6)  Spent time with Nana!

Nana’s visit was devoted to catching up, hanging out, and pitching in. In addition to fishing, playing, taking the kids to several museums (T was adorable riding the train at the local science museum and still asks to “go ride James” again at least every other day), Nana just rolled up her sleeves and help me get some things done.

More detail?   I am just out of the first trimester of pregnancy, which means I am still exhausted, but also feeling my version of a nesting instinct.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I have no desire to clean, but an overwhelming urge to organize and declutter (my normal instinct, but taken to a fever-pitch during pregnancy).  The end result: During pregnancy, I am desperate to get organized but too tired to actually do it, which leaves me very frustrated.  While she was here, Nana helped me sort through the kids outgrown clothes and she watched the kids and took care of lots of everyday things (the kitchen! the laundry!) while I tackled the attic, my desk, the bankbook, and several projects that have been languishing on my “to-do” list literally for years.  Thank you, Nana!  We loved playing with you and are so appreciative of all the help.  (I haven’t listed everything you helped me catch up on because I am embarrassed that I was that far behind!)

More updates coming…have I mentioned that it’s been a busy month?!

Updates and photos from last month (part 1!)

So I’ve been AWOL (life has been busy!) and have been promising an update…

Here’s the short version: we’ve been having fun, which has involved a spring break “staycation”, a week recovering from that staycation (hello, laundry), a wonderful Easter, and then a great visit from Nana!

And here’s the longer version: updates and photos from our last month (part 1)…

Each girl got to pick one special “must do” for the week of spring break.  To my surprise (why did I think they would stay in my comfort zone?) E picked “make a dress for our dolls” and S picked “plant a garden”.  Holy moly.  I have no experience in either of those things.  (It did make me glad I asked however, since there is no way I would have put either one on a list of plans, and obviously they are unexplored areas of interest!)  Anyway, here we are at the fabric store…

fuzzy cell phone photo

After a “looking loop” around the store, each girl was allowed to pick out one yard of any fabric they wanted, and one foot of any ribbon they wanted.  E & S surprised me by both selecting the same fabric and ribbons.  (They wanted their dolls to match, I guess!)  T got a piece of fabric with cars on it that I hoped would become his new lovey, but alas that role was filled by the racecar and Toby train the Easter Bunny brought him.  Not conducive to sleeping – rolling over onto those loveys (especially Toby, who says “full steam ahead!” everytime T bumps him in the crib).  Oh well.  He loves them!

Anyway, here’s the dolls in their dresses.  Since I don’t know how to sew, these are more like glittery sackcloths, but they made the girls happy!

E said, “Her dress looks a little like a bathrobe, but I like it!”

Thanks to Nana who did an actual sewing lesson with the girls when she visited a few weeks after this (with a real sewing machine).  I keep a few cloths around the house for various things, and one now has random, festive stitches all over it.  An easy way to have the kids feel like they were “really sewing important things” (at least until the machine stopped working…anyone have a spare manual for a JC Penney sewing machine purchased in the mid 1980s?)  Here’s one of my new decorative cloths below.

Just look at that stitching! She’s a natural, I say! : )

We’re hoping to complete the set after (1) we figure out what’s going on with the sewing machine, and (2) Nana comes back to teach me how to thread and use it.

S’ project was the garden.  I am not a gardener, but we headed over to Home Depot (with their optimistic “You can do it.  We can help.” motto).  S & E picked out three things to plant (1) marigolds: the only flowers the deer won’t eat, (2) carrots: the only vegetable S will eat, and (3) basil: because the man who helped us said there was almost no way I could mess it up.

After hours and hours of shoveling, weeding, removing rocks, adding topsoil, planting, and lots of muddy shoes and jeans piling up on the porch, we have the smallest garden ever.  It is impressive only to me and the children.  (I promise, we truly have spent countless hours on it, but it is really only a 4 x 6 patch of ground with 12 flowers and some tiny sprouts that are either carrots or weeds…I honestly don’t know how to tell them apart, so I have no idea if I’m weeding, or ruining our only crop.  I am not kidding about this.)

The two big rocks on the left that we used to mark the rows of carrots and basil kind of look like gravemarkers for our struggling-to-survive garden. Seriously, is anything going to grow in that red clay? We added two huge bags of topsoil, but honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing.

And in the interest of internet input, can someone please click on this photo to enlarge it and tell me if any of the green things sticking out of the ground look like the beginning of a carrot-top?

OK, so if you can fight the impulse to tell me we should have added more topsoil and removed more rocks (I promise, we were removing rocks for hours…), tell me instead which of these green leaves is a carrot sprouting, and which is a weed. Carrot at the top of the photo? Weed at the bottom? All weeds? Egads. I think I’m going to go to the grocery store, buy a bunch of fully grown carrots and plant them one night after the kids go to bed and then take everybody outside to harvest them the next morning. In case you think I’m kidding with this plan, I have already done my research. Apparently, they sell carrots at Whole Foods that still have the green leafy parts on top. Score!

Anyway, the kids love watering the flowers; it has been a fun adventure, and I give us an “A” for effort.  My grandma J, who – God rest her soul – (1) won all sorts of yard and neighborhood beautification awards, (2) was in charge of all the flowers for our church for decades and (3) grew the rose petals that lined the aisle of my wedding, would applaud our efforts too.  She would appreciate that at this stage of life, we are certainly process (as opposed to product) oriented!

My grandmother would also likely laugh at the fact that the flowers we are trying to grow are in a battle to survive, while the part of our yard that received no TLC and is “supposed” to be grassy is covered in the most lush display of flowery “weeds” you can imagine.  I mean, check out the photo below.

Yes, I love them. But honestly, “My kingdom for a carrot!”

The brick wall marks the property line between our house and the neighbors.  It’s like the weeds magically stop there (much to the delight of the girls, and to the dismay of my husband).

It is uncanny. I will say that these flowers provide hours of entertainment for the children, because they are determined that none of them be chopped by the lawn mower. Every time my husband says he’s going to mow the lawn, they sprint outside to pick all the flowers and cover my kitchen in bouquets. I will miss this stage so much when they grow out of it…sigh…at least then I will know that I really did try to enjoy it all in the moment.  Bring on the bouquets, girls!

Finally, since I mentioned the racecar and train that appeared in T’s Easter basket, let me include a few photos of the holiday.  We tried to capture the meaning of the season – telling the kids an age-appropriate version of the crucifixion and resurrection (when S heard Jesus died and came back to life, she said, “Hmm.  I think that’s what I’ll do too”, then let out that little breath that almost made it sound like “Well then, that’s one less thing to worry about.  What’s for dinner?”  It was a good opportunity to tell her we can all come back to life, and live forever in heaven.  (Happy belated Easter, everyone!)

Then there were the secular celebrations.  Here we are dyeing Easter eggs

T got a plastic egg and a cup of water, and was absolutely a part of it at the age of 1!

I know you can see the plastic egg in the photo…can you also see the clear plastic cup of water he dunked this egg into for half an hour? He kept yelling out random colors while he did it, mimicking the words his sisters were saying as they dyed their eggs. I remember taking this photo. He shoved the egg right at the camera and yelled “purple!” So we have the spirit of the activity covered…we’ll work on colors next year : )

S at our church egg hunt

Hunting eggs in our house Easter morning

E & S hunting eggs on Easter morning. Note that it is still pitch black outside the windows. The kids were so excited that they woke up insanely early. Also…note to self: ask the Easter Bunny to make a quick list of where the eggs are hidden. There was one we couldn’t find for a few days, and of course it was one of the real, hard boiled eggs. Fortunately, we did find it before the smell found us! I was like Kirk in that episode of Gilmore Girls, looking for the egg…anyone else remember that episode?!

We also enjoyed spending part of the weekend with cousins and the other part with friends.  Beautiful company, beautiful weather, beautiful time.  Love all y’all!

In the “less than beautiful” category…My deviled eggs didn’t turn out exactly right…

I had promised deviled eggs, then learned that I couldn’t use the boiled Easter eggs that were hidden overnight at room temperature (health risk, apparently), so I only had the two eggs left in the fridge to work with. Me in the kitchen + no spare ingredients = no room for error/recipe for disaster. My mother-in-law gave me this awesome tray to hold deviled eggs in, and I am embarrassed to say that these eggs were so misshapen they wouldn’t even fit in the tray. Oh well. This is why no one complains when I bring pre-packaged cookies to potluck gatherings.

Between the flowers and the eggs, my grandmother would finally have to admit that I inherited absolutely none of her talents…but my admiration for those talents is ever increasing grandma!  This gardening and cooking is tricky stuff!

More updates on S’ new obsession with cooking in the next post…  Here’s hoping she has inherited my grandma’s skill as well as her interest, and that she can take over the kitchen soon!  S is actually so into cooking right now that I’m thinking of arranging an apprenticeship with my Mother-in-law, who is an amazing cook and maybe planning to visit soon.  Are you up for it Grammy?!

I’ll leave you with a photo of the laundry that accumulated while we were doing all this other stuff.  The laundry problem was exacerbated by the fact that the week after spring break was unseasonably cold, which meant I could just shove all the dirty warm weather stuff deeper into the hamper and pull out all the winter things I had just put away.  End result?  Well, check out laundry day…

There are no people in the photo because we were all basically walking around in towels by this point.

My husband, never one to complain, actually looked at the growing pile shortly after spring break, sighed, and went out and bought himself new boxers.  True story.

(And lest that be misinterpreted, know that he is actually great about helping out with the laundry and everything else around the house, but in his infinite marital wisdom realized that buying a few new boxers was probably the best investment in overall domestic contentment.  And his wife says, “amen to that”.  I don’t need a six-week retreat in Fiji.  But occasionally, I do need a week of blissfully ignoring the laundry : )

So that’s part I of our update…to be continued with part II later.  Hope everyone else is enjoying spring too!

Snow Day!!!

It snowed last week!

We took full advantage of what will likely be the only snow of the year, managing to do a lot more than you might imagine with only an inch of the white stuff.  Check us out…

sledding

So it kind of became "mudsliding" more than "sledding" by the end, but still great fun!

…making snow angels

…making (tiny) snowmen

See it? Right there by T's foot?! With the baby carrot nose?! Unfortunately, a few minutes later, someone walking through didn't see it, and the snowman met with an untimely demise...but we enjoyed Frosty's mini-me while he lasted!

throwing snowballs

See that one about to hit our unsuspecting neighbor in the navy jacket?! and the wicked grin on S' face?!

…and then, of course, coming in for hot chocolate.

Check out the size of that marshmellow E is about to drop in her hot chocolate? Either Aunt H or Nana brought those for the family Christmas, and we finished off the last of them during the snow day!

The best part is that the snow came on President’s Day (a school holiday), so we had already planned to spend the afternoon with our cousins.  By then, the snow had melted, so we excitedly loaded into the car and spent the afternoon hanging out at a museum with family and the evening enjoying some playtime and BBQ at their place.  Here are a few museum shots:

A floor piano... just like in "Big"!

The cousins exploring the dental part of the exhibit...

No BBQ shots, as my hands were too busy helping myself to yet another hushpuppy throughout the meal to pull out my camera…

Anyway, there is simply nothing like a snow day in the south…especially this type of day.  No shoveling, no icy roads, not even jackets required by mid-afternoon, but plenty of winter fun to go around.

Christmas Recap, Part 2

Since I posted a few details about our missteps en route to helping Santa with the girls’ Christmas present, but never actually said what the present was, I thought I’d reveal it here.

To inspire even more dramatic productions in our house, he brought them a stage (technically, stage curtains)…

Santa borrowed the big curtain from our attic bin of old apartment furnishings and hung it with a $14 shower rod from Home Depot. The smaller frame was Santa's second attempt at a Craigslist purchase. (Honestly, you can buy almost anything on Craigslist...Santa just did a search for "stage" and there were real - enormous - stages for sale, though it turns out this one was a little more our speed!)

Santa also restocked our art supplies and provided art bins (with labels, a gift truly for mom!) that allowed us to put a set of supplies in each girl’s room.  We had actually sworn off markers in the months prior to Christmas because no one ever put the tops back on and I was constantly having to get rid of the ones that dried out, but Santa took a risk that paid off tremendously.  Since he gave each girl her own set of markers, everyone has become incredibly invested in keeping their own set intact.  In over a month, not a single marker has gone dry.  Perhaps a lesson for mom in how ownership can lead to more responsible behavior?  Hmmm…..

The white bin is one of the ones Santa brought for organizing the art supplies and has labels detailing what goes in each drawer. E was just as excited about the process of putting everything in the right drawer as she was about the art supplies. I was so excited that they fit perfectly into the girls' bookshelves that I asked Santa to bring each girl another one for holding hairbows, jewelry and play make-up. Just in case you are wondering, I am not a neat freak (at all...don't even make the bed most days...) but I am an obsessive organizer and LOVE labels. E has inherited this trait. Recently I asked her to clean her room and she told me she could if I could tell her how to spell "girl" and "boy". Eager to see where this was going, I spelled the words and checked on her 20 minutes later. Her room was still a wreck but her uncolored Toy Story picture pages had been organized into piles: one for pictures that had mostly "Boy" characters and one that had mostly "Girl" characters. Just like my house...a wreck, but a laundry room with clearly labeled bins for batteries, light bulbs, etc. I don't know if this is a blessing or a curse that I have bestowed upon my daughter! I do know E and I had the best time putting everything in the right bins while S and T joyfully played with dad!

Speaking of T, he was actually the first one up on Christmas morning.  While we typically have the rule that everyone waits at the top of the stairs until we can all walk down together to see the stockings, T is so young (and wakes up so early!) that my husband and I actually brought him downstairs for 45 minutes of his own time before anyone else in the house even stirred.  He saw his train/car table midway down the stairs and began yelling “vroom! vroom!” right away.  The opportunity to play cars trains with he and his daddy in the living room before anyone else woke up was an incredibly fun part of the day.

Santa shopped on Craigslist for the train table too, and my goodness there is a story there, but that is for another blog post...

Another incredibly fun part of the holiday was having my inlaws spend it with us!  Their making the trip was the real gift…such fun to be with them.  In addition, they brought a gingerbread house that my father-in-law won in a contest just before Christmas

This thing was enormous! We were all on a sugar high for well over a week, eating a piece of candy every time we walked by it!

Our "elf on a shelf" is named "Bingo Bango". He hid in the gingerbread house one morning, surprising us all!

My inlaws also arranged for the girls to go horseback riding at a local farm

Here are the girls brushing one of the horses after the ride. S is wearing boots that belonged to her dad when he was a kid. I love things like that!

and my mother-in-law showed up with a cooler full of food that reminded me of Mary Poppins’ bag.  Good stuff just kept coming out of it!

A directly quoted excerpt of one conversation…

Me: We should think about a dinner plan for tonight.

MIL: Well, I do have a fully cooked penne-a-la-vodka in my cooler that we could just heat up…

How amazing is that?!  Have I mentioned that my inlaws are awesome?  and that they drove (with that cooler and that gingerbread house!) 10+ hours to get here from New York?!

In case it hasn’t come across, we had a truly blessed holiday and loved just being together.  The fact that while together we were able to see the kids put on shows in front of their stage curtains, enjoy coloring with fun markers, play with the “vroom, vrooms” and “choo choos” that T so loves, learn how to ride and care for some gorgeous horses and eat magical penne with vodka cream sauce…well that was just unbelievable icing on the cake!

My point is that I loved the togetherness that this holiday season brought us…time off work for my husband, a trip to see my extended family, an opportunity to host my inlaws, and many mornings hanging out in pajamas with the kids.

One last note:  I also love how new art supplies inspire kids in ways you would never imagine.  Though it may seem a strange gift to those who don’t know my daughters, Santa brought them each their very own pack of post-its.  They were able to use as many as they wanted in whatever way they wanted.  Well, check out my new designer wine charms, folks!

First a close-up…

And then a shot of the whole set…

They spent 45 minutes designing and arranging the charms. By the way, those are not green bags of dog poo on my kitchen counter behind the cups. They are, however, green bags that are provided throughout our neighborhood for the purpose of picking up dog poo, but were - on this particular day - used by my daughters to collect rocks. Thanks for letting me clarify that... Also, by the way, that white box to the right of the cup contains the wonderful gift my husband gave me...my entire blog printed out...it looks like a real book! Such an awesome gift!

I’ll leave you with that for today.  One more Christmas recap is coming (specifically about our attempts to keep our focus on Christ amid all the glorious hoopla!), then it’s on to the new year!

Christmas Recap, Part One

I do love Christmas.

I am one of those people who turns the Christmas music on the day after Halloween, plays it non-stop throughout the season and leaves the decorations up way too long.

Case in point: we took our tree down Saturday (ahem, Saturday, January 21…) and are still eating off of our Christmas dishes.  I have plans to pack them up tomorrow, which makes this the perfect day to post some details and photos from the holiday season. What?!  You thought the holiday season ended weeks ago?!  Nonsense : )  Soon you’ll be trying to convince me it’s already 2012.

Anyway, I’ll kick it off with some images from our family trip to Georgia, where my older brother rented a cabin and invited everyone (including Nana, my other siblings, their spouses, and 9 children ages 6 and under) to join him.  Super fun and everything Christmassy (except for the silent nights!)

Here are the kids and cousins coloring Christmas pictures…

and making ornaments…

and playing with Uncle B on the Santa train

and celebrating cousin E’s birthday…

cutting Christmas cookies…

preparing to decorate Christmas cookies (T helped with the set-up)

and having fun with playdo…

I do realize that a lot of these pictures look the same.  I guess I just love them in sequence because they show that regardless of what the activity was, the kids all just jumped right in (is this a factor of their age?  I do love this age…) and simply enjoyed being around that big table together.  Such fun to have so many siblings and cousins in the same photo frame…

Here’s one that looks different, mainly because my brother (the official family photographer) took it and his eye is much more artistic than mine.  Six of the kids listening to stories (including S, who is on the far right with a red halo made out of pipe cleaners perched on her head).

And no, it wasn’t bedtime… (lest the PJ’s and stories throw you…)

It was just an awesome, fun, relaxing, wonderful family get together!

(and because I have to keep it real on some level, can I just say that I truly wish I had taken a picture of the one yard that we drove by on every trip to and from the cabin that had a random toilet in front of it?  When we got back, and friends asked the girls how their trip was, their first words were not about cousins, Santa, playdo, ornaments, stories, bunk beds, train rides, cookies or anything else (though those did get eventual mention…)  Instead…

“We saw a toilet right in somebody’s yard!”

Awesome.  (and lucky for the homeowners that we found a gas station with an open bathroom a few minutes before we spotted that toilet on our initial trip in, because one of the kids had to go, and we were desperate, and, well…let’s just say that I’m glad I didn’t have to explain to the kids why I was leading them to a nearby tree when there was a toilet just waiting in this gentleman’s yard!)