Sunday, January 31, 2010


We finally got some snow! I was pretty convinced that it was going to keep passing over us all winter. Late Friday night soft little flakes began to fall and by Saturday morning we had just enough to have some fun in. It's a pitiful little covering that left the grass showing through. But when you are snow deprived as we are any little bit is cause for much joy! We stayed out all day yesterday except for short hot cocoa breaks. And we were blessed with more last night. The kids haven't been indoors longer than an hour since they woke up. It's beautiful. We are drinking it in like dehydrated men in the desert who've stumbled upon water.

I love the snow. I love the quiet of it. The brightness of it. It's peace falling from heaven. I love looking out on it first thing in the morning, steaming cup of coffee in hand. Snow has a stillness. It calms my soul. It is pure satisfying entertainment for children and adults alike. I wish we saw more of it. But we will enjoy fully enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Comfort Favorites...

I have one simple rule about what we eat at meals: I am not a short order cook. So our kids eat what is served or they don't eat. That may be harsh, but let's be honest, they aren't going to starve if they don't eat one meal. I want to teach my kids to eat well. We don't want them to turn into adults that only eat chicken tenders at restaurants and consider ketchup a vegetable. Come on, you know those adults. So if Steven and I are eating a really hearty vegetable soup, so are the kids. We get some balking but on the whole our kids eat pretty well with little resistance.

All of that said, we still eat some serious comfort food around here. Especially on Friday nights. Steven likes to go out on Friday nights. He's very extroverted. I'm very introverted. So he needs to get out of the house and be social. I need nights in with nothing to do. Sometimes we meet up and I go out with him, but really Friday nights have become a mom and kids night. When dad is out we almost always eat one of two things: spaghetti or linguine in a mushroom cram sauce. Mmmm. Anything that you can heap into a bowl and eat while watching a movie in your pjs is good comfort food. That's right. I'm 28 and I spend most of my Friday nights in my pjs curled up with my kids in my bed eating a big bowl of pasta while watching a Disney cartoon. Sometimes we like to shake things up and play a board game like Candy Land. And it is easily the highlight of my week. Watch out folks, I'm crazy wild!

Eating well and trying new things is very important. I would say it's one of our parenting priorities. But good memories are made around really bad for you but oh, so good comfort food.

Tonight we'll be watching Scooby-Doo and having the linguine dish. It's shaping up to be a great Friday night.

Linguine in a Mushroom Cream Sauce

1 lb. linguine
1/2 lb. portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 cup white wine (and another for yourself, if you're like me)

1/3 cup heavy cream
small handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Saute sliced mushrooms in butter or olive oil. Once browned add the mustard and white wine. Let it steam and bubble for a minute, then add the heavy cream. Boil for 7 to 8 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and parsley. Pour over drained pasta. Enjoy (preferably in your pajamas)!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sad Face Gets Ice Cream

My sweet baby girl had to get her pre-kindergarten booster shots today. So sad. She has the best pout in the world. Her big brown eyes get watery and her lower lip sticks way out beyond the top lip. Her lips actually quiver as she wells up. Then big tears start to fall. Tears that look like they were drawn on, they're so perfectly shaped and big. Those tears fall slowly down leaving a perfect little wet line from eye to her plump pink cheek. She's a heart melter. She gets me every time. I almost started crying when she did. She was very brave though and only let out a few tears. She held back the rest, rubbed her eyes dry, and sniffed a little. Then she grabbed her things and reminded me that she got ice cream for being big and brave. Oh, my Sicily.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Guest writing for the bragging mommy...

I got the very exciting opportunity to write a guest post for The Bragging Mommy this month! It's a short post on visually appealing blogs. So stop by and check it out!

Produce Co-op...

Charlotte is a horrible place for growing things. We are cursed with layers of red clay void of nutrients. So to get fresh produce you really have to count on the farmers coming to you at a farmer's market. Or you can drive out of town to join a CSA or pick your own. We like to pick our own so we're willing to drive. But that's not really practical for every day meal planning. I need produce on a weekly basis. Thankfully, last summer I finally found a wonderful co-op. One woman, frustrated with the options for getting produce, decided to start a co-op. She has a big crop of produce delivered and we all meet to sort it and take home what our family will eat. It's wonderful. We get fresh, in-season produce every two weeks. The kids love helping with the sorting. And most importantly they are learning that fruits and vegetables come from hard working farmers and not just grocery store aisles. I'm always thrilled with the selection and we're learning to cook things that we wouldn't normally buy. For example, I had never cooked beets until we got some last fall. This week we got some yummy greens. Mmmm. We love greens. We are going to have happy stomachs this week.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mud On Your Face...

Oh, such a dainty girl she is. Mud caked mess in pink. Golden curls tinted orange with red clay. Bright red cheeks from cold not felt. And bright happy eyes that love the rain, especially if it brings muddy puddles to splash and squish in.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle...

Analiese found a piece of cardboard in the recycling bin and thought it looked very much like a cell phone. So she found some tape to hold it together and a marker to make the buttons. Voila! Instant cell phone. I was so excited to find that my children were putting some of my earth saving mantras into practice. My pride was quickly deflated when she offered to make one for her sister who instead took Analiese's now unused pink plastic princess phone and then sat around talking on two pink plastic phones. Well, I guess technically she is reusing. Maybe we're getting there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Flip Flops in January, Really?

I am a frustrated consumer today. My middle child has three pairs of shoes. There's the nice, "I'm sorry honey, we only wear these on special occasions" pair. There's her tennis shoes, great for p.e. but not a good daily shoe for my dress wearing daughter. And then there's her boots. They look like uggs, only they aren't. They're the cheap Target knock offs. More power to you if you buy your kids uggs, but I just can't bring myself to spend that much on something she'll outgrow in a year. Though after this little adventure, I may be changing my mind on quality vs. dollars, not that I have the dollars to justify changing my mind. See her favorite black boots ripped. I repaired them once but this is beyond mama repair. So I set out to find her a replacement pair. Let me tell you, no one has boots. What am I finding instead? FLIP FLOPS!!! Come on, it's the middle of January. Yes, I know we're in the South and that it's somewhere around 60 degrees outside. But here in the South we like to at least look like we're braving a fierce winter and be very prepared for that flash snow we might get. Besides 60 degrees is relatively cold to us and it may drop to 40 any minute now. (Those of you farther north, I'm fully aware that you are laughing right now.) It's not even anywhere near Easter which is the proper time to whip out the sandals and pretend like your toes aren't ice cubes. So where, I ask you, are the boots? My poor princess has been forced to wear pants for days now because she has to wear her tennis shoes. Oh, the horror! I offered to let her wear her nice shoes, but it's not just the special occasion thing that keeps her from wearing them. Apparently they're also somewhat uncomfortable. This middle child of mine is pure drama and actually pulls the back of her hand to her forehead in mock faint form. Bootless days are cause for such over the top gestures. Are boots in January too much to ask of major retailers and thrift shops? Do you really make that much more on sandals by displaying them in the middle of winter? What if we do get that flash snow I was talking about? (We'd better. Snow is the biggest thing I gave up when we moved here. I need my yearly fix.) For now I guess we'll just have to deal with a bootless existence. Maybe it's just the character building experience my drama queen needs.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Day Curious George Joined Us For Dinner...

All she wanted for her birthday was a George "piata". (Yes, I know how to spell pinata, but that's how she says it and it's very cute.) So George joined us for dinner on Thursday night and we spent the meal retelling our favorite George episodes. He stayed for the rest of the week. I had to get a pull string pinata because she couldn't imagine actually hitting George. For the record, pull string pinatas don't work. When the older kids suggested going old school and hitting the pinata with a stick, she almost started crying. So I ended up doing a little reconstructive surgery on George after I had to cut him open to get the candy out. It turns out she really just wanted the George pinata, not so much the pinata experience, but ending up with candy and Curious George was a bonus.

Keeping with the monkey theme we went to Plaza Fiesta here in Charlotte. Fellow Charlotteans, if you have kids, check this place out. It's a four story indoor playground that provides hours of wear themselves out fun. You can see from the picture below why I said it was keeping with the monkey theme. Monkeys in a cage swinging from tires, climbing nets, and sliding down four story slides.

I think she had a good birthday complete with a new birthday crown for my growing girl which she didn't take off for three days. She's sitting beside me right now eating a banana. She and Curious George are two peas in a pod. George isn't a bad role model to have. A good little monkey but always very curious.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help for Haiti

We are in the middle of a celebration weekend here in our home, and we'll get back to that tomorrow. But there are mothers out there in the world with celebration far from their minds. I'm sure you've heard about the horror in Haiti. I think all of us hold our children a little bit tighter when we hear news like this, especially when we see pictures like this. Sometimes my heart breaks with the helplessness I feel that I have to comfort these people.
There are some things we can do, however. There are ways that we can jump outside of our safe homes to help those in the middle of this crisis. Prayers are always effective but we can also give of our resources, even when we have little to give.
Today, during friday favorites, I'm going to share some of the crisis relief funds that I love and hope that you visit one of them.

Hope you find this helpful.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Sicily!

Sicily. My little mischievous sprite. The little girl with the big pout. The little girl with the golden curls and the big brown eyes that can melt you with a look. My Sicily. My wonderfully crazy one. She could care less what anyone thinks of her. She thinks she's pretty awesome. She's sneaky and fun and oh, we worry about her teenage years. She is strong willed and passionate. She is the world's best at snuggling and loves to be tickled. She has the ability to make you laugh with one little funny look. She is smart and clever. She is beautiful. My Sicily, my lovely little last one is five today. My baby is FIVE! How I want her to stay small and soft, but she is so much fun to watch grow up. Happy Birthday sweet girl.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things You Learn From Children...

It's never too cold for hopscotch. It turns out icy patches add an extreme factor that you don't get in the summer and added layers just make you look cuter when you try to hop on one foot.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On teaching a child to read...

Have you ever taught a child to read? Have you watched her eyes work hard at the code in front of her? Have you seen the frustration and the elation? Her brow furrowed in concentration. Her lips puckered trying to sound it out.

I think reading is something that we take for granted. I doubt any of us remember learning to read. You may have a memory of sitting down with mom and reading a book to her. But do you remember learning to decipher the code? It's just something most of us know and once you know it you move on as if you had been born reading. But it's hard to learn, hard to teach. It's like you're an archeologist that's just uncovered a whole set of ancient books. Only you don't know what it says because to you it's just a bunch of symbols. Isn't that what it's like for a child? Just a bunch of symbols and sounds that we expect them to piece together into words. And then just to keep everyone confused, we throw in extra sounds to go with some of the symbols. I don't think any thing else they learn in these early school years is as difficult as reading.

It's hard to watch them struggle. It's hard to see my child so frustrated. I hurt for her when she gets tired of it and we have to push through to finish the homework. My children's school principal likes to say that "reading is truly magic". I wish it was magic. I wish I could just blow a sort of fairy dust and poof she can read. It takes work though. For both of us, but mostly for her. She tries so hard. And oh, when she gets it, my heart melts. When she reads a whole sentence without stumbling I'm so very proud. Her smile in that moment makes all of the frustrating moments worth it. Maybe I've just heard that phrase a few hundred time too many over the last few years, but reading kind of is magic. It's a sort of treasure in itself. Knowing how to read is a gift that maybe we shouldn't take for granted.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Holiday Handmades...

Alright. Now into the new year we go. But not without first revealing some of those holiday handmades that I hinted at before Christmas. I learned two things from my little handmade holiday experiment. 1.) Making that many gifts is very time consuming. 2.)It's worth every minute.
My kids got on board too and did an excellent job. They were very generous and thoughtful this year. It's really the first year that all three got truly excited about the giving. There were hand built toy dog houses, a crocodile, pictures were drawn, and cards were made. I was very proud of them.

Here are some of their handmades to each other:

We had so many handmades that I loved and that were loved by those that recieved them. But the gift I was most excited about and most nervous about was the dolls. I decided to make dolls for the girls. I wanted them to have a soft and snuggly rag doll. There are so many cute patterns on Etsy. There are also so many cute premade dolls on Etsy. About halfway through making the first one I started thinking I wasn't cut out for this and that I should have bought one of those lovely premade ones from one of those lovely and talented Etsy artists. But I forged ahead and I'm so glad that I did. They turned out beautifully. Granted they had a few flaws, but the girls haven't seem to notice. They turned out just as soft and snuggly as I wanted. They already look well loved from several nights of soft girl faces snuggled hard agaisnt them.

I think I underestimate my kids. Because of all of the bright plastic toys that they see so often I assume they won't like the handmade toys as much. But I think they love the personalization that they can put into the handmade toys. They love the softness of the cloth and the wood. They love that it's unique and they appreciate that it was made just for them. That last one is what gets me. That's where I truly underestimate them. My kids seem to understand that love went into the crafting. They get that someone spent time making something just for them. And I love my kids for loving these things.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Year in Pictures...

Christmas was fun. I'm a huge fan of Christmas. Like I said, I'm a celebrator. But I'm happy to see the new year. A fresh year. Before we jump fully into 2010 though, here's a look at some of my favorite pictures from 2009.

A Year In Pictures

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Looking back to...Christmas with the Hollaway side

Some of my favorite moments from our holiday time with some of my favorite people. The Hollaway side*. (I say that even though there are no more Hollaways. The last one got married this summer. It's the downside to having a family of all girls. Maybe I should say our time with the Barhams and Colliers, but that doesn't let you know that we're realated. Plus I like our maiden name. So I'm sticking with the Hollaways.)

Now on to the part that you actually want to see:

I love the way my sisters love my kids. They're willing to look pretty silly playing a Curious George game just to have a good time with them. They're get down on the floor, snuggle, and laugh kind of Aunts and I love them for it.

We started out coloring with the kids but ended up coloring by ourselves. I love coloring.

The boys playing one of the best games ever, Settlers of Catan. We always play games when we get together and we're a bit competitive. Ok a lot competitive. Some of us have been known to make others of us cry. We must really like each other because we keep coming back for more. I guess that's love.

Good wine and beer, good food, good fun

And one of the best gifts of the whole week, Where Did Daddy's Hair Go?. We actually read it at bedtime last night. All I have to say is, Awesome. Steven disagrees.

I love these people. I wish we all lived closer together. We're spread out all over the country. But I think that makes us savor our time together. Don't get me wrong. We have our family drama. We started as a family of all girls after all. We're used to drama. Pray for the poor men who married us. But we always have fun. Usually until hours that I am getting too old to keep. It's back to the phones for another few months until we see you all again. (My husband just grimaced thinking about the cell phone bill, not that he doesn't talk on the phone like a teenage girl himself.) Thanks for another wonderful time.

*we missed you mom!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Looking back to...Christmas with the Hardgrave side

Some of my favorite moments from our time with the Hardgrave side of the family:

Snuggle crazy play time with an aunt and uncle. This uncle won major kid points this trip. Thanks for entertaining them.

giving a gift that obviously surprised

our soon to be new brother in law modeling a new jacket...he really got into the modeling bit (ps: welcome to the family)

I think this is the last year that the boy is going to try to sit on grandma's lap. He's almost as tall as she is and I think his hair might be longer.

Sharing artwork with a great grandma. Priceless moments like this are why we drive fourteen hours with three kids to see all of these people.

Isn't family a wonderful thing? I love where we live but I miss all of our family so much. I cherish our time with them. So that's why I think all of you should move here. That's not too much to ask, is it? Ok, fine. We'll just wait patiently until we see you all again.