Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekends Are For...

...late summer backyard bonfires with the people you love. Roasting marshmallows to make s'mores that are so gooey they melt down your hand, while The Weepies are on the stereo in the background. And finishing the evening with an episode of Last of the Summer Wine while enjoying a lovely glass of red wine yourself. Yes, I believe that is one way to have a perfect Saturday night.

"The last of the summer wine,
a vintage wine, a vintage brew,
and now my love this toast I give,
thank you for being you."

- lyrics from the theme to Last of the Summer Wine by Bill Owen

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

And The School Year Begins

When I got to their room the girls were already awake. The little one had come down from the top bunk and crawled in bed with her sister to snuggle. I turned on the lamp and they jumped up, ready to start the day.

The boy, after being used to sleeping in until the crack of noon, did not jump anywhere. But he despises being late so he pulled himself from bed only a minute or two after his alarm went off and stumbled bleary-eyed to the bathroom.

I brushed their hair and they brushed their teeth. They put on new clothes and new shoes. The house smelled like blueberry muffins and fresh brewed coffee. I packed their lunches as they ate and went over last minute details with the little one. She seemed particularly little this morning as she pulled on her backpack. Too little to be heading out on her own.

Off into the still dark morning we went. The air seemed to know that school was starting and dropped to a lovely 68 degrees. We skipped the drop off lane this morning and parked instead. I wasn't quiet ready to let go of the little one's hand.

As we walked in, the boy shot off as I said, "Have a good day" over the din of the excited children filling the hallways. I held a little girly hand in each of my own. I dropped the older one off first. She was nervous. She doesn't do well with the unfamiliar. I walked her in, gave her a hug, and said good-bye. Her eyes betrayed her anxiety but she gave me a smile. My heart melted for my girl but I know she'll find her groove and do wonderfully.

All I had left to do was walk my baby to her new experience. She strolled in confidently, unpacked her backpack, and sat down to start her day without a single backwards glance. I started to leave, but then she jumped up and ran back to give me a hug. She still seemed far too little to be there. But I left her and made the walk back to the car alone.

The school year has begun.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Tomorrow begins a whole new era around here. We are officially out of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Starting tomorrow we will have three big elementary school kids. Yes, my baby will go to kindergarten tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a tearful day I'm afraid. For me, of course, not the kids. They'll be fine. They'll go into school and meet their friends. They'll sit at their desks and learn new things. They'll have lunch and go to art or P.E. or music. They'll get on the bus after they've packed up their own backpack and after they've cleaned up their space. They'll do it all without me. And they'll be wonderful.

This is new for me. I've thrown all of my eggs into the stay-at-home mom basket. I've had at least one child at home with me for the last ten years. Everyone seems very excited for me to have some time alone. I'm not quiet as excited about it. I feel a bit of my relevancy as a stay-at-home mom disappearing. And frankly trying to decide what to do with that time is a bit overwhelming. This is all I've ever done, so it's going to take some time to transition into something else. Not that my kids won't be home at two o'clock and need my attention. I know that I'm still going to very much be a stay-at-home mom. But I'm aware that it's a different kind of effort and attention that they need at these ages. I'm good at the baby, toddler, preschool thing. But maybe that's just because it's familiar. Maybe this will fit too. I just need some time to get used to it. Maybe I can get our house really clean for the first time in ten years. Then again maybe that's just wishful thinking. After all, the children will still live here.

I will have plenty of time in the coming weeks to figure it out. For today I'm going to fill up on hugs and snuggle time. We have one more day to be a little lazy. So we're going to soak it up.

Tomorrow we will get up early. We will soothe first day anxieties. We will brush away tears. We will start another school year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jack Johnson In Concert

Dear Jack Johnson,

Thanks for visiting the Queen City last night. You can come back and sing to me anytime. I'll gladly spend my night wasting time and dancing to your laid back melodies.

Thanks for playing at the outdoor theater under the moonlight. It was the perfect mood enhancer to your guitar-bongo-piano beat. We had perfect seats. Up on the hill with a nice place to prop our feet up, have a drink, and relax. Thanks for breaking out the ukulele. I like a funky ukulele piece every now and then. It makes you want to prop your feet up, drink a little more, and relax.

Thanks for showing your softer side by talking about your wife and kids, and for playing Upside Down for the children in the audience. Personally I love Curious George, so I was just as excited about that song as I was about Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology. Plus I was able to video it which made our kids really excited this morning when I showed it to them. I can tell it's going to be playing in the background of a lot of dancing around here.

Thanks for being a peace lover and breaking up the fight that broke out in front of the stage during Banana Pancakes. You're right, it's not a hater song. It's a happy song that should make you want to snuggle up with someone you love. But then again that's really the vibe that most of your songs have. Chill, surfer, beachy love with some be-nice-to-others ethics thrown in for good measure. Speaking of those ethics, thanks for not preaching it from the stage. I hate it when people do that. The slides during intermission were plenty and let me know that we're on the same charity page. Slow food, farm to school, clean ocean. I'm on board.

Thanks for Do You Remember and Angel. We needed one of those look-in-each-others-eyes-and-remember moments. It was lovely. And thanks for showing me that Rodeo Clowns is a really sexy song to dance to. Especially when it starts to drizzle rain and the audience is glistening with wet skin.

This little letter wouldn't be complete without also saying thanks to your friends. G-Love, Zack Gill, you guys are awesome. I knew you guys were good, but I didn't expect to fall in love. So thanks for some new songs on my ipod.

Last night was wonderful. I was downright giddy the whole night. And I'm not a giddy person, so that's saying a lot. Thanks for that. I needed a giddy night. I want to especially thank you for playing Inaudible Melodies and Bubble Toes. I love those songs. They're oldies and I wasn't sure if you'd play them, but I'm so very glad you did. Of course, I kept saying that I loved every song that started playing last night. I don't think you have a single song that I hate. That's pretty amazing.

Really, just thanks for an all around great night that left me crashed in bed dreaming about being carried off to the sea, which is my favorite kind of dream to have.

See you in between dreams,


PS: Thanks for my cool new regatta hoodie. People who really know me, know that I will wear the life out of it. Plus I get to see boats every time I put it on. My husband is the only person who truly knows why that's so funny. I'm glad he loves me despite my quirky sentimentality.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Word On Breaks

Everyone needs a break once in awhile. I'm not talking about anything as big as a vacation, though those are wonderful. Nor am I talking about anything as simple as stealing an hour before bed to read a good book, though that is something I strongly encourage. I'm talking about a break from the daily. A break from your list, your chores, your musts. A break from those voices in your head that say move, move, move.

I'm talking about sitting in your home and just being there. I'm talking about taking the time to enjoy your space and your life and, most importantly, the people who fill your space and your life.

I hate the word "stay-cation" and since that's not what I'm talking about please remove this awful vocabulary word from your head. I'm talking about a break. A break as in break off a day or two or three from your routine and do nothing. You'd be amazed at how much you can do when you set your mind to doing nothing.

You can work on that puzzle that's been sitting in the closet for a year just waiting to be put together.

You can sit on the porch rail and watch the rain.

You can hang out with friends, be they as awesome as a fairy and a monkey or as familiar and comforting as your husband.

The last three years I have made myself take a break around this time of year. I make myself ignore the laundry and the dusting and even this blog. I make myself do things I don't take time to do. I do it now before we jump into the second half of the year with all of it's holidays and back to school and such. Before I have too many excuses. I make myself stop so that I can enjoy my children without distraction for these last few days of summer. I make myself stop before the fireflies go away and I miss them.

I make myself stop. I breathe deep and let the frazzled fall away. And I find that by the end of the week I can look around and give a contented nod.

I find a new sense of gratitude for my space and my life and, most importantly, for the people who fill my space and my life.

And to think, I got all of that from doing nothing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Weekends Are For...

...cutting into the fresh watermelon that was bought from a wonderful lady at the farmer's market yesterday. And remembering, after the first sweet, juicy bite, that she threw in a free one just because your kids are so cute.

What makes a weekend better? A sudden summer downpour that makes children ride bikes home quickly, drop them at the door, and rush into the dry to play board games or watch an episode of Max and Ruby while curled up with a cat. Water hitting the roof in steady rhythm as the people inside relax and snuggle into the quiet that rain brings. All after a lovely lunch of roast chicken and summer veggies with that previously mentioned watermelon being dessert.

Yes. That is a good weekend.

Did I mention the watermelon? Mmmm, so good.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Coming Out Of Darkness

Yesterday, my friend wrote about being calm while stressed. About letting God hold you up when the stress of the world threatens to drown you. As I read her good words I felt a familiar frustration build in me and my face looked disconcerted.

I've been very angry with my pastor's sermons lately. Not because they're wrong, but because they're right and I just don't want to hear it. The sermons have been about forgiveness and trust and faith. They are dirty words in my head.

I feel like I used to be calm under stress. I used to be very content. I use to be hard to fluster. I was a roll-with-it kind of girl. But, oh my, after so much rolling I feel a bit dizzy. I'm not really angry with the people I mentioned above or with what they are saying. I'm angry with me and the circumstances that have led me to the dark hole I'm in. And I'd like to stay here, thank you very much. So I'd like it if everyone stopped trying to prompt me out of it. Only I don't really. I'm sort of done with dark and depressing. Or I'd like to be.

The one who says he loves me despite the pain wrote me a letter. I've read it every day this week. He says I'm not a failure. He says I'm allowed to be discouraged. He says I am good. He wrote it down so that I'd remember.

The One who loves me despite my lack of faith wrote me a letter. I've read it every day this week. He says don't be afraid. He says be encouraged. He says He is good. He wrote it down so that I'd remember.

I read these things and I know it's time to calm my anxious heart. It's time to lose the anger and deal with what's making me angry. It's time to meditate out the depressing and stop clinging to it like a warm blanket. Easy words to write, not easy to live. So what do I do when I need to pull myself out of my darkness? I curl up in bed with a brown-eyed baby or two or three and we watch Tom and Jerry. They make me laugh. And I feel I have accomplished more in that moment than I have in the entire week.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cinderella, Cinderella

I know I've had a lot of Sicily stories lately but I find this age to be a wealth of funny. A five year old has very little restraint with words. They just say whatever comes to mind. And sometimes the meaning of words gets a bit jumbled. So what they end up saying is hysterical. Most five year olds are also at a stage where they are very confident in who they are and what they can do. It has to be one of the most "free to be me" ages of our entire lives. You have to appreciate that.

Our five year old is particularly confident in herself. She has no self esteem problems. She loves who she is and doesn't care if you don't. I love that about her.

So for your entertainment (and mine) here is another Sicily moment.

Our children have chores that they are responsible for each week. They each have a list of basics that I call personal chores. Things like make your bed, put away your toys, and brush your teeth. (For those of you who aren't parents, yes, for children "brushing your teeth" is a chore.) Besides those chores they also have two family chores they have to complete. I call them family chores because they are things that help everyone, like putting away the dishes and dusting. For these chores they each draw two out of a jar at the beginning of the week. That way they get to learn different things and don't get bored with any one chore.

This week Sicily got the mopping card. I love when Sicily gets the mopping card. First of all she's really good at it. You can eat off of the floor when she's done! Second, she's really good at it because she pretends she's Cinderella or Giselle or Tiana or whichever chore-singing princess is on her mind. When Chris mops he's done in ten minutes because he speed mops, which is how he does all of his chores actually. Sicily can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours mopping. But the best part, she sings and dances while she mops in classic Disney princess fashion.

It's one of the many reasons that this girl is awesome. I have several videos of her but I thought this was one of the best. Enjoy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Self Cut Hair

On our last night in Arkansas, Steven and I decided to leave the kids with grandma and go out on a much needed date. Sicily decided that this would be a great time to give herself a haircut. When I saw her the next morning I almost started crying. She had cut straight across the top of her head all the way down to her roots. Apparently it was in her eyes and the scissors were closer than a headband.

So today we went to see if it could be salvaged. The stylist did the best she could. We decided a short bob would make it less obvious. In the after picture you can see the spiked self-cut part sticking up along the part of her hair and in front. She cut several other layers through the back. It's just a mess really. We would have had to shave her head to make it all even.

All of her pretty long curls are gone. And she had to do it two weeks before she starts kindergarten, of course. Oh, well. It will grow. My sister and I decided it's some sort of childhood ritual. You have to give yourself a really bad haircut at least once in your life. Or you have someone who does it for you, like an older mischievous sister. Sorry Hilary.

Speaking of sisters, Analiese decided she'd like a haircut too. She left it to the professionals, though, and it looks beautiful. She's already been down the self-cut road and knows it doesn't make mama happy. Hopefully this is a one time thing for Sicily too. Although, she's a strong willed little sprite. I think I'll just hide all of the scissors for a while.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sweet All Over

Monogrammed onesies, rattles, and sweet pink socks. Books about rabbits, stuffed elephants, and frilly little dresses. Soft monkey blankets, diapers, and pretty purple shoes. It was a day for celebrating a very anticipated little girl. A day to celebrate the mother who carries her. It was pink and purple and sweet all over.

And now her drawers are full of washed and folded clothes. Her room is painted and the crib set up. Her mom and dad are as ready as any parent can be. All that's left is to wait. To wait eagerly for little Harlee to make her appearance in this world. What a beautiful day that will be


Friday, August 6, 2010

Retired Ring Bearer and Flower Girls

We were the first of all of our family and friends to have kids. So our children have been the ring bearer and flower girls for most of their weddings. This past weekend the last of our sisters got married. Our children were all born with only four wonderful aunts. Now they have four wonderful uncles as well. We are very excited about the latest uncle addition, but the thing that the kids are most excited about is that it's the last.

They are now retired from the wedding industry.

It's too bad really because they had become experts at it, especially the boy. He's been in twice as many weddings as the girls. He can walk down an aisle better than most of the groomsmen. But alas, their time has come and they are grateful. At least until they decide to have a wedding of their own, but for now girls still have cooties and boys stink.

Congratulations Nancy and Jackson! We love you both!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Home Sweet Home

We have been away for a week visiting family, attending a very important wedding, and preparing for a very anticipated baby to come. Yesterday we made the 14 hour long drive home.

When we say we've just driven 14 hours to go visit family people give us very pitiful looks. They want to know what that looks like with 3 kids. So here's an inside look into our crazy-long family road trips.

These trips start with a stack of DVDs and junk food because we are all aware that road trip means all dietary and screen time rules get left at home. The kids each pack an entertainment bag which includes video games, word searches, books, and drawing materials. All of that will be used for approximately one hour of the trip. Then we start to hear "I'm hungry","I need to use the bathroom", and "I'm bored". These phrases will be repeated multiple times throughout the trip. Around the third time they have repeated one of these phrases a movie goes in. The beauty of the mini van is the built in DVD player with headphones so that the adults in the front can listen to NPR, music, or play 20 questions. The 10,000 hidden cup holders are pretty handy too.

I'm the daytime driver (really just lunch to dinner driver because Steven forgets that I know how to drive sometimes and tries to do all 14 hours on his own)

Steven is always the nighttime driver, unless I'm traveling with the kids alone which I frequently do. (I have horrible night vision so if you ever hear that I'm traveling alone send up a little prayer.)

The younger two eventually crash and sleep. The older one just gets more and more wired until he's slightly crazy, which is why we box him in with suitcases and pillows so that he can't move. It's also because he's pretty self sufficient and he builds a mini bedroom back there complete with video games, music, and food.

This is what crashed really looks like! If you're very observant you might notice a cage behind Sicily's head. That's because we are currently traveling with a guinea pig. In the past we have traveled with hamsters and we've made several trips with a beta fish.

Now, here's where the real heart of survival lies. For Steven it comes in the form of late night fast food, Red Bull, and gum. For me it's peanut m&m's, Cracker Barrel peppermint sticks, and Gold Peak sweet tea. For the kids it's pretzel rods and gummy bears, beef jerky and bug juice. It's the diet of champions.

And that, my friends, is how a family of five travels from Arkansas to North Carolina without throwing someone out the window.