Tag Archives: Holidays

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:

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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!

More “staycation” photos

Still catching up on the last few months!

We stayed home over spring break this year and simply enjoyed a week without a schedule.  I can’t tell you how much we appreciated just being in our hometown, taking advantage of some down time in the house with one another, enjoying some local outings with friends, and visiting a few nearby attractions that we had never made time to see.  My husband even took two days off work to make it a true “staycation” and a family affair.

The only time I felt a slight twinge about our lack of solid plans was when E was assigned to write about what she was looking forward to over spring break.  After hearing what her classmates planned to write, she came home and said “I think we are the only ones not going somewhere”.  However, my perspective was set right again when S responded, “Didn’t you hear?!  We’re going to my friend’s house…they’re petsitting chickens and we get to visit and touch them!”  Well, by golly, the kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement about that!   (Thank you, friends, for letting us visit, and for serving as the entire topic of E’s spring break essay!)

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E holding the chicken in our friend’s living room : )

In addition to that highlight, we spent the rest of break doing (to quote an elderly gentleman I met once) “a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing”.

We…

(1) played the first ever family game of T-ball in the back yard (called on account of hail after 4 innings, if you can believe that)…backyard T-ball has now become a favorite family activity, by the way.  One of my favorite moments was when – in our game of kids vs. grown ups – all three older kids were on base, leaving six month old H as the only available kid, which meant he had to bat.  We helped him earn his first RBI  (reported here mainly because I know you would be proud, uncle B!)

(2) traveled to the local transportation museum

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A real train shed, with a real turntable! The kids got to sit on the turntable while it moved and also got to see a milk truck (a concept we had to explain : )  We really made this trip for T and he loved it.  However, as a note to anyone who might find themselves at a train museum with a youngster, if I could do one thing differently, I would bring his toy train shed and turntable with us, so he could see that this was the same thing, only bigger.  The scale almost made some of the things we love seem unfamiliar.  It also makes my family seem tiny in this photo.  Can you even see us?!

The transportation museum was 5 miles from a park that had a kiddie-train and a carousel and the loudest donkey on earth (seriously, the thing “Hee-Hawed” so loudly and unexpectedly that we all jumped and H started to cry).  Of course, that will be the part of the day all the kids remember! : )

(3) hit our favorite local frozen yogurt shop

(4) concluded our Lenten project (I’ll update this later) and celebrated a wonderful Easter with some wonderful friends

(5) hunted some Easter eggs at home and at our church egg hunt

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If you can see past those faces that I love so much, I would like to point out the orange Christmas ornament on the table behind them. Did I mention that we’re a little behind on the housework around here?

The Easter bunny scaled back on the candy this year and brought each of the kids a small surprise.  The girls each found a small lego set in their basket, T discovered a new addition to his train set (Butch, the Sodor tow truck), and H is enjoying a new sleep wrap since the velcro on his old one, well…let me see if I have a photo…

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H stands for Houdini

(6) The big finale to the “staycation” was a pony ride.  We went to a local farm that, as it turned out, had “lost” our reservation.  It actually turned out to be lucky that we caught them at a time they could do it, and even luckier that the lack of preparedness in the stable meant we were able to help get the ponies ready.  The kids helped brush the animals and saw them being saddled and bridled.  Then each girl got her own turn while T watched and learned.  After he was ready, they doubled up while he got his own ride.

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And here’s T feeding the ponies afterwards…

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It was disconcerting that the petite carrots we fed them were exactly the size and shape of T’s fingers. Fortunately, the ponies have discerning palates.

Of course, the best part of the week was being together, and having extra time to just let a relaxing week feed our imaginations.  For example…

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That place where we spilled the water looks like a hippo!

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I could put pennies there to make the eyes!

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Check me out; I’m riding the hippo!

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My hippo is shrinking in the sun Mom!  What the heck?!

We may have also watched a movie or two…with a horse we rediscovered in the toy bin after our  trip to the farm.  (I played with this horse when I was a little girl and have vivid memories of building a fence for her with Lincoln Logs under Nana’s ping pong table…thanks for bringing up the old toys, Nana!)

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Love the staycation idea.  Now if I could just get the kids to stay little so we could savor more of those “at-home” moments.  I know that I’ll blink and they’ll be asking me if they can go on a spring break trip with their friends.  And that will be fun too, as long as I know where they’re going, that it’s a safe environment, that chaperones are present, that they know how to make good choices, that…

Well, let’s just say again that I’m savoring these moments.  Sit there and snuggle that pony as long as you want, T.  I’m coming over to sit next to you…

More updates to come!

Everyday moments

Behind on blogging, so I’m posting a few photos to catch up.

Here’s a photo from our spring break “staycation”.

family outing

Honestly, it is one of my favorite family photos ever because it is completely unstaged.

The backstory:  On a random Saturday afternoon over spring break, we decided it would be fun to let the kids ride their bikes and scooters over to our community courts to play basketball and tennis.  We saddled everybody up, slung the baby bjorn, tennis rackets, water bottles, and a bag full of tennis and basketballs over the stroller handles and headed out.  En route, we paused at an intersection where a friend just happened to be driving by in her car with her husband and three kids.  She leaned out the window and said, “y’all look like you’re headed out for a fun afternoon…let me take a picture of you with my cell phone so you can have a record of it!”  She snapped the photo, and viola, an everyday moment captured.

(and unlike me, the person who lets photos languish on her cellphone forever, she was amazing and e-mailed it to me the next day…I know, she is incredible!  She later told me that, as a mother, she knew exactly how much work had gone into getting everyone and all that gear organized and couldn’t resist letting me see, from a different perspective, how smiley we all were about our outing)

Don’t you just love pictures that capture those precious everyday moments?  Just a Saturday afternoon, out for some good family fun.

Pity the Fool!

There are so many things I should be posting about right now…my beloved Grandmother who just passed away, the special significance that adds to our Easter celebration, our plan for quality time as a family during a spring break “staycation”, our continued adventures in potty training…

Instead, because I know if will bring a smile to my mom’s face, I am going to post that I am managing everything, but have just encountered the one thing that is going to put me completely over the edge…

E just looked at her calendar and with delight, squealed,

“Hey!  It’s April Fools Day!  Man, am I going to have some fun with this…”

Heaven help me!

Have I mentioned recently how much I love these kids?!

Encouraging generosity, global awareness and perspective in kids

During our engagement, my husband and I read an article about a family that encouraged generosity and global awareness in their children by involving them in decisions about charitable giving.  We knew we wanted to adapt their method for our own kids, but 9 years – and 4 children – later, we were still talking about our plan to do that someday.

Well, for Lent this year, we decided to stop waiting until we had time to really come up with a perfected system for our family and just dive in now.  I feel a little weird writing about this, but I’m sharing what we are doing for 2 reasons: (1) we benefit so much when others share their ideas and (2) we know we could be doing it a lot better and are open to suggestions.

Here are the basics:

(1)   We told the kids that every Sunday during Lent this year, they are going to learn about one problem in the world and one organization that is trying to help address that problem.

(2)   Each week, we are going to pray for the people affected by the problem and the organization trying to help them.

(3)   At the end of Lent, we’ll review the different organizations (and problems they address) and the kids can decide which organization will receive some money from our family.

So far, we’ve focused on organizations that have short video clips on their websites, but we’re hoping to expand to other mediums this week.  So far, with the videos, we have been very careful about what we show and we talk to the kids about what they’re going to see in advance.  Only one of our kids can read, so we read the captions for them during the video.  And I talk over parts of the videos as I offer explanations for what the kids are seeing.  (The explanations are important as these videos aren’t made for the purpose of easy understanding by young kids, but they are powerful if shown in conjunction with explanation.)

Here are the videos we’ve shown so far.

(1)   From “Project Night Night” (http://projectnightnight.org)…We  summarized their efforts (detailed on the homepage) for our kids, then showed them the video.  The organization basically makes sure that kids in shelters receive a bag that contains a security blanket, a stuffed animal and a book.  A $20 donation buys a bag.   The video is a simple photo montage of kids who give, and receive, bags. We also suggested to them that one of the places that currently needs bags is located in their Nana’s hometown, and we could actually buy the objects to put in the bag and send it with Nana if they chose that organization (and if Nana was willing to do the delivery…what do you say, Nana?!).  Here’s the video…

Project Night Night Video/Photo Montage

(2)   From “Charity: Water” (http://www.charitywater.org/)… I was initially nervous about showing this video due to the soundtrack and some hard images (our oldest is 6), but I’m so glad we did.  Our kids’ reaction was amazing.  As they were watching, we emphasized that some people had to drink that dirty water and that helping build a well would mean clean water for everyone in a village.  Almost 2 weeks later, S pointed at a ditch full of dirty rainwater beside the road and said, “There are people in the world that have to drink water like that, but I’m sending pennies to help them.”  Another powerful thing about this video is that is says the average lifespan in this part of the world is 39.  We told our kids that dad and mom would both be 39 this year and aren’t we lucky that we live in a place with peace and clean water so that moms and dads live so much longer.  That really made an impression on them (but was a risk, as we don’t want them thinking about the possibility of us dying!)  Anyway, this video really made our kids think – in a good way.

(3)   From the Make a Wish foundation (www.wish.org).  We chose a video about a girl who wished to meet a real ballerina (1) because our girls totally related to that and (2) because the girl in the video gets better.  To introduce this, we emphasized that some kids are very sick and that Make a Wish offers them something fun to think about instead of thinking about being in the hospital.  (Like being able to focus on the sucker, instead of the shot sort of thing.)  Our kids still talk about the girl in this video too.

After this video, we also emphasized to the kids that giving money is not the only way to help.  If the girl had wished for a chance to play at our house, would we have let her?  Of course.  The dancers in the video gave their time, etc.  My husband works for UNC and we talked about how if someone’s wish was to do something there, would they help dad arrange it?  In short, making the point that giving time, energy, etc. is very important.

Here’s the video:

(4)   Not sure what we’re showing the kids tomorrow, but may read them part of a letter about a family in our town who just lost their home to a fire and ask if they would like to contribute to a community effort to assist them.

What has amazed me so far about this:

(1)   I needed to be reminded that the blessing comes back 10-fold.  Since watching these videos, my own perspective has received a wonderful adjustment.  Instead of feeling like money is tight, I am overwhelmed by how rich I feel simply having a bed, clean water, healthy kids… I need that perspective and so do my kids.

(2)   The kids’ generosity.  At random points, they say “I want you to send our family money to that one when it’s time, mom”, but in the meantime, they have each individually come up to us and said “please send some of my pennies to all of them”.  One night, S disappeared after the video and we thought she was playing her Dora tamborine in her room.   Turns out she was shaking pennies out of her piggie bank so we could send them for her.  And she was very thoughtful about it.  6 pennies to this place, 6 pennies to that place, and 13 to the other…

(3)   The kids’ attention.  Several times this week, they have asked me if we’ll see another video on Sunday and if there’ any way they could watch it early.  And they are totally focused when the videos are on.  We’ll see how they do if tomorrow is me reading part of a letter.

What we still need to work on :

(1)   I need ideas for organizations and materials to introduce those organizations to our kids.  This is my real Lenten sacrifice…the time to search to find the right images and words to talk to our kids about this.

(2)   Our kids don’t get allowances and we haven’t talked to them much about money.  I would love to use some kind of system (they get 10 dimes, one goes to charity, one to savings, etc.) but we haven’t figured that out yet.  This would be a better project if they had some an understanding of money and some of their own money to give.

(3)   As kids get older, there are deeper conversations to have about all of this.  The point for our crew now is: (1) There are problems and good people working to fix them. (2) Our family helps.  You can help, and we’re so proud when you do. (3) We are blessed.  Appreciate what we have.

(4)   The prayer part.  I think the prayer for the people should be a bigger part of what we’re doing, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

Again, I feel a little weird writing this.  I don’t want to make it seem like we’re giving a lot.  And I don’t want to come across as anything other than someone who has procrastinated too long on an idea we learned about 9 years ago.  But I did want to share in case anyone else has ideas about how this can work, what resources we could use, or if anyone has been looking for an idea for their own kids.  So far, this has sparked some good conversations in our house and given me a reminder about the perspective I need to keep.

Hugs,

K

Year in Review via a belated Christmas letter

So I am clearly a little behind on blogging!  We’ve been busy with good things!  The summary is in our belated Christmas letter, which is included below.  (And yes, I acknowledge that it’s probably in bad form to post a Christmas letter during Lent…but we did manage to get our Christmas tree down by early February, and taking down the last of the Christmas decorations is on my “to do” list for this week.  In other words, I’m behind on everything!)  Here’s the letter.  I’ve missed blogging and interacting via comments.  I’ll try to post more when I can!  In the meantime, this is a sort-of update : )

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Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!  We hope you had a great 2012!  Here are a few notes from our year, starting with the introduction of…

H.D. Smith!  Born on October 24, H has charmed the entire family with his sweet nature, soft hair, kissable cheeks, and precious newborn snuggles.  In addition to capturing our hearts, he has impressed us with his ability to make an entrance (six days late!), establish a presence (over 9 lbs!) and sleep anywhere (except, of course, in his own bed…)  The joy felt by his parents is matched only by the enthusiasm expressed by his siblings who want to hold him at home, accessorize him before every outing, and introduce him during show-and-tell at school.

When not entertaining (or being entertained by!) his new brother, T (age 2) has been busy with his sisters, preschool, playgroup and an ever-increasing obsession with trains.  A highlight of his year was a whole-family trip to “Tweetsie”, a train-themed amusement park where locomotives provided both a wonderful weekend and a new lens on the world.  Since that trip, T has become a “conductor”, his dad’s legs are a “tunnel”, the garage is a “shed”, and that pile of goose poop he collected while mom wasn’t looking?  Well, obviously “it’s coal for my trains!”  We do love that imagination! We also love T’s happy nature, boyish energy and tender heart.

Speaking of heart, S (age 4) is heartily impassioned about everything that grabs her attention.  This year that has included the local pond (fishing & tadpoles), our kitchen (chopping veggies with her pink plastic knife), and our backyard (her own garden, which – during 40+ hours of labor – produced countless smiles & exactly one edible item: a carrot the whole family shared).  We love her eclectic nature (pairing sparkly shoes with soccer shin guards, her gymnastics leotard & a tackle box), her generous spirit (asking mom to take four crayons she “doesn’t really need” to Goodwill) and her unique perspective (e.g.  “Can everyone name one type of ball?” elicits “basketball” from most of the audience, while S yells “EYEBALL!” at the unsuspecting crowd…)  In addition to appreciating the way she informs (and entertains!) the masses, we love the way S embodies both a will of steel and a soft, beautiful heart.

E (age 6) embraces her role as the biggest kid of the bunch, playing with and helping her siblings, while also finding time to explore the world on her own.  Currently, she finds inspiration in anything that challenges her as a designer.  Basically, that means that when she is not putting together an outfit, finding a new way to display her dolls, or decorating a box to house (yet another!) collection, she is working out a master plan to get the whole family involved in a skit, song or game.  Her energy is endless, contagious, and can overcome any obstacle.  (Beach buckets not unpacked yet?  No worries!  E will sprint from the car to the surf, remove all footwear, and collect shells in her sock!)  Bedtime remains her great nemesis, as we find her rearranging her room into the late hours and have to insist that she turn off both her creative instincts and her bedroom light.  This year, she has enjoyed favorite activities (gymnastics & soccer), new skills (swimming & biking), and loves to lose herself in a story.  Our favorite reader review so far?  E declaring that her book – about a magic tree house that transports kids through time to ride on winged lions & rescue a wizard – “must be fiction because in real life, kids aren’t allowed to stay up all night…”  Gotta love it!  We also love the exuberant, joyful way E embraces life.

As for the parents…K continues to love her role as a homemaker, has given up on ever getting a full-night’s sleep, and sees her main job as making sure everyone gets the cuddles, confirmations, challenges, corrections, celebrations, and comforts they need.  (Chauffeuring should probably be listed in there too!) T also assumes these roles, while enjoying his job and working with our contractor to plan two new bedrooms & a mudroom for our house.  In their spare time (& during 3am feedings) T & K ponder deep life questions posed by the children (such as “Do germs go to heaven after the soap kills them?”) and reflect on favorite memories from this year, which included trips to both Alabama (where the kids played cards with their Great Grandma & went on boat rides with Nana) & New York (where Grammy’s cooking was complemented by candy Grandpa helped collect at the July 4th parade).

During this season, our entire family is reflecting on the joys of the past 12 months, the birth of a Savior, and the friendships that enhance our lives immeasurably.  Thank you for honoring us with those friendships, and accept these warm holiday (and happy new year!) wishes from our family to yours!

Love,

T, K, E, S, T & newborn H!

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!

Free Fries at Burger King March 17 & 18

Just a quick FYI that Burger King is offering free fries while supplies last, March 17 & 18, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  No additional purchase required.  We enjoyed ours with their holiday green ketchup…a fun, free outing with the kids!

Here’s the link:

http://www.bk.com/en/us/company-info/press/press-release2536.html

Enjoy your free fries!

St. Patrick’s Day ideas for fun with the kids

Absolutely by chance, our playgroup was at the park on St. Patrick’s Day two years ago, and we stumbled across a leprechaun stash that some kind soul had left there for the kids.  You have never seen such excitement over some glitter and a pile of pennies!  The kids were ecstatic!  (Thank you, to whoever that kind stranger was!)  The kids celebrated their treasure, fingered every penny, and the playgroup adults scoured their wallets (and car consoles) to replace the penny treasure trove before we left so that the next lucky group would also have something to find.

It led to a conversation about St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday I had never thought of as particularly kid-festive.  I mean, I’m not going to deny that I celebrated with some green beer in college, but it hadn’t occurred to me to do anything for my preschool-aged kids.

Oh my goodness, was I missing an opportunity!  As I talked with the other parents, I discovered that leprechauns visited their homes and left surprises for the kids to discover on St. Patrick’s Day morning.  Not presents, mind you…but surprises.  Green pee in the toilet, green milk in the fridge, glitter trails on the porch leading to piles of pennies, and havoc among the normal placement of things wreaked by those tricky leprauchans (imagine a 3 year old’s face when she discovers dad’s ties hanging from the chandeliers, for example, and how much fun she could have showing daddy what those leprauchans had done!  Something she would never dare to do, which makes is so extra fun!  Also chairs tipped over, etc.)

So maybe I was the only one not doing this?!  On the chance that others were unaware of the fun too, know that if you have a little green food coloring for the toilet and milk (consider whether you really want to tint a whole gallon, since the kids may not drink it!), or a little extra glitter (I don’t have a glitter stash, but we have plenty of preschool artwork that we can scrape a little off of), consider letting the leprechauns leave some surprises for the family tonight, in preparation for a giggly St. Patrick’s Day morning tomorrow.  It really is lots of fun!

And – for those who really want to go crazy – know that Ella’s homework last weekend was to make a leprechaun trap, which her teacher will use today to try to catch a leprechaun at school.  (S made one too…it was too much fun to let big sister do alone.)  So at our house, while we won’t trap any, we are going to set up them up as houses for the leprechauns to play in.  Here they are, E’s made out of the box the garbage bags came in…

complete with a garden path, a chimney, and a green trampoline and with these words written on the back "Dr al Lcs You wl hv a good hose. Love, E" which translates "Dear all Leprechauns, You will have a good house. Love, E"

And S’ made out of a shoebox…

A house in S' favorite color - pink - covered in roses and feathers with a pudding box chimney, a blue pool and several toilets. By the way, it was actually S' idea to accessorize the houses. We discovered her raiding the recycling bin to find bottle tops to use as toilets. She also asked for the empty blue paint bottle (which I had previously cut in half to get the last bit of paint out), telling us it would be a perfect pool in case leprechauns wanted to swim. This sparked E’s imagination and soon she was making trampolines for them to jump on, etc.)

St. Patrick’s Day…what an opportunity for fun!

(And if I posted this too late for anyone…my apologies…but unless your kids are really calendar savvy, you could probably do it a few days later and have just as much fun?!)

Meet Mr. Arizona

This week, we have been working to adjust the family to the new Daylight Savings Time.  This has meant herding kids to bed before they actually get sleepy, waking them up so we can be on time for school, and all the bumps that go along with a change in schedule.

But in our family, there is one person who is our exception to the Daylight Savings adjustment.

Meet Mr. Arizona, otherwise known as 20 month old T.

We have decided that, like the state of Arizona, T will not be participating in Daylight Savings Time this year.  That means while the rest of the family will go by the clock, adjusting to make everything fit into the new time frame, T will defy the clock and stick to his old schedule.  On a practical level, this means he will stay up an hour later than his older sisters, and (hopefully) wake up an hour later than his regular 5am routine.

I credit my friend K for suggesting the delayed bedtime as a solution to our “T as an uber-early riser” problem, and I credit Daylight Savings Time for providing me with a good opportunity to fully take the plunge.

So far it has worked out well, with the exception of slight grumblings from the older kids who want to know why “the baby” gets to stay up later than them.

Mom’s response:  “T takes a nap every afternoon.  Anyone would like to nap every afternoon may stay up late also!”

No one has taken me up on it yet…