Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Swimming in the Rain


A lot of the neighborhoods around here have a community pool. We don't live in one of those neighborhoods. We live in the often forgotten neighborhood of this little town outside of the Queen City. It's full of little houses rented by broken people. Our neighbors bond over lack of air conditioning and job loss. We actually love it. It's older and grungier than the other neighborhoods which allows us an escape from our sterile, yuppie city.

Someone, who was unaware of exactly where we live, recently asked me if our tan arms were a sign that we were enjoying our neighborhood pool during this heat wave.

I said, " We only have a neighborhood pool when it rains and the backyard floods."

She thought I was joking. Sometimes you have to appreciate what you've got. Luckily for my kids, I'm the kind of mom who let's them swim in the rain.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Poor No Name Slob


It seems we've taken in a cat. And yes, Steven knows about it and even feels sorry for the thing. If you know my husband you just fell out of your seat. Wait it gets better.

Steven has a funny relationship with cats. He hates them and thinks they're evil. But it seems God would rather him love all creatures, so He sends cats everywhere we go. When we were newly wed our neighbors had nine children and nine cats. When we moved to Virginia someone left a box of kittens on our back porch. And here, we constantly get strays. The thing is, he's really got a soft heart underneath all of his cat hating exterior. Apparently, he believes that even the spawn of Satan shouldn't be left to starve.

That said we usually just make sure the humane society gets them or that they are otherwise taken care of. He may have a soft place for starving animals, but he'll be damned if he's taking one into his house permanently. That is, until this cat came along.

The poor thing showed up on our doorstep a couple of months ago. She looked pitifully on the edge of starvation so we fed her and she went on her way. A few days later she was back. This time she wanted a little love with her free meal. Every few days the thing would come back, each time she stayed a little longer. I have to say that this is the sweetest, most relational cat I have ever known. When I told Steven that if I believed in reincarnation I would definitely think that this cat had known me in a former life, he threw up his hands. What was he supposed to do with that? Kick the reincarnated former love of my life to the curb? No. So he has come to tolerate the cat. The kids love it. They've named it Tiger. I wanted to call it Cat, poor no name slob that didn't belong to anyone, but they didn't get the reference and decided Cat was a stupid name. Oh, well. She really is a sweet cat. Even Steven has warmed to her. He has gone from eying the thing with disdain to reaching down to pet her on his way in.

Last night Steven and Tiger's relationship reached a whole new level. We had just laid down in bed when we heard a horrific cat fight start outside. We went out to see what was going on. When Steven saw the offensive other cat he nailed it with his boot. It was an impressive throw! Then he carried Tiger inside and let him spend the night safely in our living room. I was in shock! My cat hating husband let a cat in our house after saving it from another cat. To show her appreciation the cat jumped up on the bed and decided it would sleep on Steven's legs. That might have been pushing his hospitality. So I took Tiger to the living room and made her a little bed. And we all slept peacefully, me, Steven, the kids, and our cat.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blueberries Say I Love You


I've tried to be strong.
I've tried to love hard.
My spirit is exhausted by the effort.
My hope started to dim.
That darkness that says we can't be repaired
came slinking through my mind.
I found myself staring at the door.
But you wrote me a note,
spelled out in blueberries.

DON'T DOUBT MY LOVE

It was salve to my wounded heart.
My melancholy was held at bay.
The reprimanded darkness went back to his corner.
Involuntary smiles keep playing on my lips
from the memory of a handful of blueberries
that loudly said I love you.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekends Are For...

Trips to the farmer's market. Especially summer weekends when the produce is abundant and the market smells of fresh cut watermelon and early peaches. It's even better if Knob Creek has made it out with some homemade chocolate ice cream straight from the dairy. Far and away some of the best ice cream you'll ever put in your mouth and sure to leave the scene scattered with happy children, chocolate still dripping from their chins.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Popcorn and Pillow Fights

They all showed up a bundled mess of sleeping bags, birthday gifts, and suitcases. For most of them this was their first slumber party. They shrieked and giggled all the way up the stairs where purses filled with fingernail polish and glittery make-up were emptied and the contents applied with clumsy hands.

The house filled quickly with bubbly little girl speak of boys and prettiness. They painted little boxes to store jewel covered treasures in and made pizza covered in pineapple. She had found a vintage looking tea set that she just knew her friends would think looked pretty on the cake. They did. Before she blew out the candles she wished long and thoughtful. Then they popped popcorn and watched Hannah Montana and danced.

It was a little after midnight when I heard the last giggles. Five girls all thinking they are grown up, laid side by side with teddy bears and blankets looking very much like the little girls their parents know they still are. They woke up groggy-eyed and giggling, ready for blueberry muffins and a little more dancing.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lemon-Chocolate Chip Napoleans

I love lemon. I love chocolate. So why not put them together? I don't have a good answer so I did just that. I wanted to make something besides cake for Analiese's birthday. So I made these little quasi-napoleons. They were a huge hit. Instead of the traditional puff pastry, I used chocolate chip cookies to sandwich a lemon cream cheese frosting. It's simple and lovely and, oh, so delicious. Stick some candles on top and you've got yourself some birthday napoleons. Or 4th of July Napoleons. Or "just because I'm awesome" napoleons. Whatever makes you happy and gives you an excuse for some lemony-chocolate goodness. Enjoy!


Lemon-Chocolate Chip Napoleons

for the frosting:

3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 ounces cream cheese
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (or more) whipped cream

Blend sugar, cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla in a mixer. Once smooth fold in enough whipped cream to form a thick but spreadable frosting. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Spread frosting between 3 layers of your favorite chocolate chip cookies. Top with more frosting and a few milk chocolate chips. Ye
s, it's that easy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

She Turns Seven Today

"Tell me she's four."

That's what Steven said this morning. And I wish I could say that, but instead I have to say my little girl is seven. Seven. When did that happen? She is all kinds of grown up these days. She wanted new earrings and a Selena Gomez CD for her birthday. She wanted me to paint her toenails and she has invited her friends over for her very first sleepover. Oh my.

My Analiese. My child who looked like a doll when she was born with her perfectly round face and over-sized brown eyes. My dramatic child with the sensitive heart. She feels things deeper than anyone I know. I fear her heart being broken one day for I fear it might break her completely. She is a dancing diva in her own mind. Which sometimes leads to tears when others don't particularly appreciate her diva demands. She is my animal lover. She cares for things big and small. She is my spiritual child. The one who readily believes in fairies and leprechauns and God. She walks through life with a heart vulnerable and open and free. Her big brown eyes reflect deep. You can get lost there and almost see her soul.

I love this girl. My heart breaks to protect her, to protect her spirit. I pray that she always has compassion and love and belief. Happy birthday child of mine.

2 weeks


1 year


2 years


3 years


4 years


5 years (first day of kindergarten)


6 years


7 years

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Summer Solstice Has Arrived


The Summer Solstice arrived this morning bringing with it long rays of sun. So begins hot days when all goes quiet after noon except for the clicking song of the cicadas. These days cry out for popsicles after breakfast when sweat is already dripping from foreheads. Heat wraps tight around the body as we slowly bake in the hammock trying to move as little as possible. The sprinklers stay on not to water the lawn, which we've all given up on, but to water the children as they run through sending excited giggles into the air. And I find the desire to sing hymns arises as I cool myself with a paper fan like an old woman in a centuries old church.

This is the time of year when night is our playtime. The short nights that blink with fireflies. The night is when the children want to run around with friends playing tag and riding bikes. This is when we sit on the back porch, grill our food, and watch children play. Summer nights are when the breeze comes in through windows across half naked people melting in bed. Bringing with it sweet, relaxing relief.

This is what the solstice brings to those of us in the South whose air conditioning decides when it wants to work. Oh, and that would be us. Well, at least the water works. I believe it's time to bring out the sprinkler.

Happy Solstice! Enjoy the sun.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Man My Children Call Dad

My children have an imperfect father who loves them with a deep grace. His father skin feels tight. He feels unnatural. But I see that his love flows from him right into their hearts.

He teaches them to love others and to love who they are. He tells them that they are beautiful. He tells them that they are wonderful. He gives them hugs so tight that their hearts almost touch his. It flows from him as naturally as a river flows into the ocean. Their laughing, brown eyes makes tears come freely. Grown-up moments prick his heart. He worries about boys at the front door and broken hearts, crushed spirits and defeated dreams. He worries that he can't give them enough, be enough. He worries because he wants them to see the spirit beauty that he sees in them. He wants them to know that beauty deep in the untouchable heart of themselves.

I am thankful that my children have someone who cares about the beauty of their soul. Someone who says "I love you". Someone who gives them hugs. I am thankful that they have an imperfect father who loves them with grace.


I am thankful because I know that these things are important. I am thankful because when my children are off fighting this world on their own they will have the love of their father to help them through.

I know the weight of that because I also had an imperfect father who loved me with grace. And I carry his love with me always.



Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Favorites...Nearly Wordless Blogs

It's been a while since I brought out a Friday Favorite. I actually have several drafts sitting there that never got posted. Things you should love but I never got around to telling you about. Fridays have just been very busy in the every-day-is-busy-at-the-end-of-the-school-year kind of way. So I start a post and then it gets left until Sunday when I think about it again. Sunday Favorites just doesn't have the same ring to it.

But it is 10am on a summer Friday morning and I'm still sitting here in my pajamas with a cup of coffee. (I have a love/hate relationship with my children growing up. Right now I'm loving that they are starting to sleep in!) So I have no excuse for not sharing something lovely with you.

During the summer I can have any where from three to ten kids in my house at all times depending on how many of the neighbors have retreated from the heat in my living room. That makes my summer days full of noisy words. So I retreat to places with few words. Two of my very favorite blogs are nearly wordless. If you are over-worded as I am, you have to check them out.

Habit is a photo blog with wonderful captions highlighting emotions we all feel. It captures the little moments in life. The great cup of tea, the sadness of a moving box, the first steps of a baby. It's life in pictures. I love it because it makes me smile every time. (habitblog.com)

ThxThxTHx is a posted note thank you a day. It's a collection of thank yous for all of the random things in life. It makes me laugh and simultaneously makes me grateful for the little things that make my upside down life lovely. Being reminded to be grateful for everything from tears to friends to the steering wheel is a good thing that we could all probably use a little more of. (thxthxthx.com)

So I hope you find a few less words in your life today and a little more gratitude for the simple joys of life.

Happy Friday to you all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And Summer Break Officially Begins...


Lazy days with nothing to do

Sleeping in

Running through the sprinkler barefoot

Sun-kissed freckled noses

Popsicles

Fireflies

Ice cold lemonade

Bubbles

Hot from the sun tomatoes

Heat exhausted sleepy kids collapsing in bed after a day well played

This is what summer is to me

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Life With Kids


We have a lot of friends who don't have any children yet. They often ask me what our day is like. Well, that's a hard thing to explain to someone without kids. Anyone who has children or works with children knows that life with kids is like riding a constant rollercoaster of emotion and activities. No two days are exactly the same. Today's spilled milk won't be spilled in the same location as yesterday's and today's spilled milk will include soggy cheerios. The thing that consumed all of your attention yesterday won't be the thing that consumed all of your attention today but you'll probably still be dealing with yesterday's dilema. You get accustomed to giving up on getting a whole list of chores completed. I have a general list that I hope to get done by the end of the week and then on Saturday when none of it's done it becomes my list for next week. While you may not get your list done, life with children is rarely boring. Sometimes you end up doing the most bizarre things.

For example, the other night I found myself crawling around on my hands and knees searching for a hermit crab. We have three hermit crabs. Three kids, three hermit crabs. Occasionally the crabs use their claws to break out. We have had one make it all the way down the stairs before anyone realized he was out. The other night I was waiting on the girls to get settled into bed and decided to take a peek in the cage to make sure all was well. I only saw two crabs. I dug through the sand and still only two crabs. This led to the hands and knees search for a hermit crab. It had been about thirty minutes, with all three girls crawling around looking under toys and behind shelves, when Chris walked in. I asked him to help us find the lost hermit crab. It took him about thirty seconds to find it.

It was in the cage.

It was curled up in the corner, right there among the extra shells. I had just missed it completely.

That is what life with kids is like. You waste a lot of time, are occasionally very frustrated, and slowly lose your mind. It's a good thing they're so cute.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And What Did Sicily Do This School Year...

It's summer break for Sicily as well. She has worked very hard this year. Unlike the other two who want summer to last forever, she is counting down the days until school starts. She will start kindergarten in the fall and she's very excited about it.

Back in August I made a big decision regarding the rest of her school year. I decided to homeschool her last year of preschool. Homeschooling is not something I ever thought I would be doing. I don't have a problem with homeschooling. I know several families who do it very well. But in general, we don't feel that it is the best choice for our family. As you know I love my children's elementary school. I feel that they are getting a better education there than they would get from me. So we ruled out homeschooling back when it came time for Chris to start school.

When she turned three, Sicily started preschool at a wonderful little school, but unfortunately we realized that sending her a second year was out of the question. We simply could not afford it. So I started homeschooling.

She is very social and missed her friends, and I was very nervous about being able to teach her all that she needed to learn before kindergarten. So the year started out a little rocky. But then we got into a comfortable routine. She's a great student which made my job easier. And we went on field trips and to story time which gave her a social outlet. All in all this year has been a huge blessing. It gave me a year to truly bond with my baby. Being the third child, we've never really had time alone. I will always cherish this time with her. My sweet and spunky Sicily.

Since Thursday was the last day of school for the older two children I knew that our alone time was coming to an end. I realized that I'm really going to miss our time together. So the two of us went out for a special lunch to soak up those last hours. We love McAlister's sweet tea so that's where we went. While sipping our tea she talked and I listened which is pretty much how most of our days go. I love listening to her five year old observations and thoughts. Then unprompted she stopped what she was saying and said, "I'm going to not like when the kids are home because I like it when it's just you and me together by ourselves." I almost started crying. Me too baby girl, me too.



I shared what Chris and Analiese did during blue and gold week. Here is what Sicily did. This is the free entertainment I have enjoyed all year. I fear next school year is going to be a little boring after getting this for a year.


video

The Last Day of School

This picture was taken on August 25, 2009 on the first day of this school year.

And these pictures were taken this afternoon on the last day of the school year.


Wow! What a difference ten months can make. They have both grown so much. It makes me want to cry a little. It's been quite a year for them. Many milestones have been reached and memories have been made that I'm sure they'll carry with them always.

Analiese learned to tie her shoes and lost her first tooth. She got her ears pierced and developed a love for the Biscuit books. She experienced sadness when one of her best friends moved away. But she got her first pen pal out of it. She wrote and illustrated a book about flowers that was lovely. She learned perseverance when her teacher went on maternity leave and she was given a substitute that didn't appreciate her, ahem, unique outlook on life. And she learned that hard work can be no fun at all but that it gets you passed to the second grade and a whole lot of Hershey's kisses.

Chris read his first Harry Potter book and learned that just because everyone else likes something, it doesn't mean you will. He read his first Ice Fire book and realized that sometimes you can find something that no one knows about and love it. He ran his first 5K and lived up to his reputation by coming in 1st in the mile run. He jumped hurdles, literally! He took his first End Of Grade test and got an almost perfect score. He got his mom to quit worrying about his hair and his clothes (at least to a point that we can both live with). And he learned that it's better to go back to sleep than to stress over how much time your sister is taking to get ready.

All good lessons learned. I have learned that my children are resilient. I've learned that we can move houses in the middle of the school year and that they'll adjust. I've learned that they can be pushed to tears while doing homework and still manage to finish. I've learned that despite some generally grumpiness over her being a girl, Chris is still protective of his little sister. And I have learned that childhood really does go by too quickly.

It's been a good school year. Now on to Summer!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blue and Gold - Day 2


On to the 1st graders blue and gold day. It threatened to rain all day, but that actually turned out to be a good thing. The overcast clouds kept the temperature at a lovely 72 degrees. We had a nice breeze keeping us cool all morning, which felt much better than the sunburn I got yesterday.

This age group has a different set of activities than the older kids, like the ever popular parachute. They also play a game that I'm going to call "fetch". I don't know what it's actually called, but that's what it looks like. They start by throwing a tennis ball. Then they run, pick up the ball, and the first one back to the line wins. The reason that this game only works for the younger kids is because they eventually figure out that if you lightly toss the ball you don't have to go as far to get it, thus getting back faster. At this age though they all throw the ball as far as they can. So it pays to throw like a girl. This game has all of the parents laughing on the sidelines as we watch our children play fetch with a tennis ball, which they drop multiple times on the way back to the finish line. I watched one girl turn around in a complete circle three times before she caught the bouncing ball. If you think it's wrong to laugh at children, you aren't a parent. Children are a wonderful source of comedy. I'm thinking of setting this game up in the backyard this summer. Free entertainment for them, and me.

My sweet 1st grader is not the super competitive athlete that her brother is. She throws like a girl, which does pay off for her in the aforementioned game, but not so much with everything else. In fact at one point I had to pull her aside because she stopped mid-field to have a complete meltdown. One of her classmates yelled at her for being a "slow-poke". Words deeply wound this super sensitive child of mine. So having a classmate yell at her caused a volcano of tears to erupt in front of everyone. A few deep breathes later, she was ready to get back in the game, with her sister by her side. Sicily is very tall for her age so she was able to sneak in and help her sister out. Shhh, I won't tell if you don't. Alright, so I wouldn't actually let my children cheat. The PE teacher encouraged Sicily and some of the other siblings to join in on the fun. Having a friendly face helped Analiese to play with a lighter heart and have more fun.

At the end of the day, everyone was happy and sticky faced from ice cream. Another wonderful day as we count down the days until summer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blue and Gold - Day 1

This is the last week of school for us. The last week as a 3rd grader, a 1st grader, and a preschooler. This week we are celebrating the end of another year of growing and learning. During the last week of school there isn't much learning going on. We aren't doing a whole lot of reading, math, or science. But we are doing a whole lot of running, jumping, and ice cream eating. I find these things to be necessary parts of any child's education.

I know I've said it before but I have to say it again, I love my children's elementary school. It's full of tradition, wonderful teachers, and a healthy dose of fun. One of those traditions is Blue and Gold. Essentially it's field day with a little added competition. The whole school is divided into two teams, a blue team and a gold team. Then they compete against each other in fun games like tug of war and four square. Each grade takes a day to compete and at the end of the week the principal announces the winning team who get's bragging rights. It's so much fun. The students get very excited about it as it approaches. And if you've been there long enough you know that you want to be on the blue team. The gold team has not won in 17 years! That's a long losing streak to be a part of.

Today 3rd grade took their turn on the fields. Chris was awesome. In every picture I took it seems like his feet never touch the ground. He flew over the hurdles with ease. He ran the last leg of the four man relay and crushed the opposing team. He was one of the anchors in tug of war and helped drag the other team across the line in under a minute. I'm very proud of my boy today. More importantly, he had fun playing and laughing with his friends. Then the ice cream truck pulled up and they all got a sweet treat to cool off with. We left school sweaty, sticky, and very satisfied from a good days work.



Sunday, June 6, 2010

Weekends Are For...

hikes that lead to the search for the perfect mushroom cap, and for imagining the gnomes and fairies that live beneath them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Apparently It's My Birthday


I'm told I've turned 29 today. Surely that's not right. Not that I think that sounds too old. I think it sounds too young. In fact, I told people for two years that I was 28. Really! Last year, when I turned 28, Steven had to convince me that I was actually turning 28. I had been saying I was for the whole previous year. I just missed 27 all together. My oldest child turns 10 this year. So surely I'm older than 29. I kind of skipped the whole stage that comes with the 20s, so I often feel like I'm living in my 30s. But the birth certificate tells me I'm wrong.

Apparently I really am 29 today. However old I am, I am positive that it's my birthday if for no other reason than the fact that my email inbox had 30 or so Facebook messages telling me it was. You've got to love Facebook. Everyone who would have otherwise had no idea that it was your birthday now knows and you get ten times more birthday greetings than you would have. It's a lovely self esteem boost. They love me, they really love me. Or at least you can pretend like they do. It's really a nice little bow on the day.

I haven't asked for anything for my birthday from anyone but God. I'm just asking for an easier year than last year. I'm not going to lie, 28 kind of sucked. So I'm not asking for the perfect year or even a year without some life drama. I'm just asking for easier. Rolling into 30 next year feeling pretty good and stable in life would be the greatest gift I could receive. So far we're off to a rough start, but there are still 364 days for that to change. I'm holding out hope.

If not, I at least have August to look forward to. Even though I didn't ask for anything else, my husband couldn't let the day go by without something to make me smile. And Jack Johnson concert tickets definitely make me smile. An outside concert listening to one of my favorites with my best friend. Yes, I'm smiling very big indeed. Thank you love.

So happy birthday to me. I'm treating myself to the gift of not making dinner. Cereal anyone?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm So Easy...


Really, I am.

I get a lot of flowers. A LOT of flowers. I have a box in the attic just for dried roses. My husband knows that a fresh bouquet of flowers for me can cover a multitude of sins. All he has to do is walk in the door with some wildflowers and a smile. Maybe not even a smile. Just the flowers and I melt. I'm way too easy to please.

And it's not just in my marriage. I'm really easy all around. If you want to win me over buy me a thoughtful gift and I'm yours. I am a fantastic non-profit worker because I require very little compensation. I work at an art studio where I don't make enough to even buy our groceries. I spend two or three days a week volunteering at my kids school. And of course there is my primary job, being mom to three super cute kids, which is pretty much thankless and all consuming. It's all a lot of work, a lot of time, and I'm not going to lie, sometimes I feel a little under appreciated. But a small gift of some kind and I'm eager to keep going. I recently received a gift card from my boss. That was enough to sign me up for another year. I got a gift bag of the cutest note cards from my daughter's teacher yesterday that totally made all of the work this year worth it. And an "I love you" or a hug from my kids gets me through the most stressful mommy days.

See. I'm easy. I'm OK with that. Because, really, I like what I do. I love my husband and my children more than anything, so I really don't need a lot in return. But the lovely vase of flowers in the living room does make me smile and love that man a little bit more.