Wednesday, July 29, 2009

County Fair Day 2

Madi's 4-H project book won the grand prize in the junior category (ages 9-13). She competed against more than fifty other book entries.
Oh the jumping! Oh the squealing! Oh the beaming joy for the rest of the day!
The hours and hours and hours of work paid off!

The baking competition!
Meya's oatmeal cookies: 2nd place!
Madi's oatmeal muffins: 1st place!
My chocolate chip cookies...a participation ribbon. Wa-wa.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Loudoun County Fair Day 1

Today I loaded up the car with 2 plates of chocolate chip cookies, 1 plate of oatmeal cookies, 1 plate of oat muffins, 4 bunnies, and 5 kids! We drove to the fair grounds, delivered our baked goods to be judged, and got the bunnies settled in their home-away-from-home.

The grounds were buzzing with some of my favorite sites and sounds of county fair:

Workers hammered and uncovered the colorful carnival rides.
Cows mooed, pigs grunted, and goats baaed.
The smell of popcorn and cotton candy made my mouth water.
A boy slept in the hay next to his goat.
The poultry club kids played cards with hens sleeping on their laps.
Madi and Leasie cheering for fair to finally be here!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

15 Books

My friend, Corinne, posted a facebook request today that I LOVED. "15 Books that will always stick with you. First 15 you can think of in 15 minutes."

Here's my list of 15
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (deserves its own blog entry someday)
2. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
3. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
5. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
6. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
7. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
8. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
9. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
10. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
11. I Heard the Owl Call my Name by Margaret Craven
12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
13. Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
14. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
15. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
16. The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown (sorry had to add one more!)

Each of these stories affected me. They either changed the way I perceived the world or they made me feel so deeply that they left a permanent impression on my mind and other words, they have stuck with me.

I'd love to know your top 15 - post a comment or send me a note on facebook or email.

Zoo 2

"Let me show her the turtles!" Madi pleaded. She took Baby C from my arms and marched over to the large tank. The snake turtles with long snake-like necks bobbed and swam in a festive dance. Baby C clapped her hands. "She likes them...just like me!" Madi said proudly.

Nearly nine years ago, I took Madi to the zoo for the first time. I went with a playgroup--my great mommy friends, Corinne and Jodi. Our children were too little to appreciate everything they saw, and while I had a great time, I remember being a bit disappointed in Madi's anti-climatic reaction to the amazing animals...that is, until she saw the snake turtles. I held her close enough to the tank that she could place her chubby hands on the glass. She giggled. She squealed. She clapped. She loved them!

Madi and Leasie took it upon themselves to introduce Baby C to the zoo. They carried her through the monkey house, delighted to see her reaction. They toted her through the reptile house making snake sounds. And they played with her on the big plastic pizza.
Experiencing the zoo through the eyes of an almost-toddler is so fun. But watching Leasie and Madi help show their baby sister the zoo? Priceless.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zoo Part 1

The octopus was a hit! It traveled from one side of the tank to the other, using its tentacle suction cups on the glass.
This is Baby C's monkey face. We were watching the small orange monkeys jump from branch to branch, and I confess I couldn't take my eyes off Baby C!
Waiting for butterflies.
End of the day...covered by plastic pizza toppings.

Cool weather!! Funny animals. Cute cuddly animals. Ferocious, glad-they're-behind-walls animals. Slithery, extremely glad-they're-behind-glass animals. Smiling, laughing, so-glad-they're-my kids!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A New Happy Place

The theater was full. The eager audience chatted over the pre-movie ads playing on the screen. I grabbed a hand full of buttery popcorn and settled back into the tall comfy seat...worth every bit of the extra money. Madi sat next to me, using the short straw to sip root beer out of our large shared cup. My tall straw nearly poked her eye.

"Do you think the inferi are going to be too scary? What do you think Lavender will look like? Bellatrix is the greatest villan ever!--except Voldermort, of course."

We posed questions. We threw out guesses. We reminded each other about the plot - Madi has a much better memory than I do. And we both got very excited.

Suddenly, the lights dimmed and my nine-year-old daughter reached across the arm rest and gave my hand a squeeze. For the next two and half hours, we laughed, we cringed, we hid our eyes (yes, the inferi were scary), we cheered, we cried, and we held hands as we watched a beloved hero die.

I have a new favorite place: Harry Potter with Madi.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Happy Place

"Find your happy place," my friend tells me. This morning while talking to my BFF (aka my sister Katie) we discussed the idea of who we are at our very core. These two concepts, happy places and core, have been swirling around in my mind. So here's an initial stab at both...

I love reading chapter books to my kids when they're tucked in their beds, except for T-man who is usually rolling around on the floor. I love doing the "voices" and laughing or crying with my kids over the story. The best read-alouds we've done: Charlotte's Web, Edward Tulane, The Tale of Desperaux, and The Penderwicks (currently reading).

I'm very happy when I'm sitting down to eat with my family--especially if I've made a particularly yummy meal (last night I made a curry pork stir fry with red, yellow, and green bell peppers - delicious). Mind you, I really do not like the clean up, and I do not do well trying to cook with a baby underfoot. But it seems worth it when we're all sitting down together, talking and laughing and eating.

Baptisms. I really feel happy when I'm attending someone's baptism. I love watching a child dressed in white, seeing their parents get teary, feeling the spirit, and knowing that the child's testimony journey has officially begun. It is a time for me to re-examine my own beliefs and make goals for myself.

Anything with music. Attending Kennedy Center concerts of the National Symphony Orchestra, Broadway musicals, any-time-any-place musicals, singing with Molly Kay in sacrament meeting, singing on a stage, playing piano duets with Madi, listening to my ipod while writing or running. Music isn't a background soundtrack to my life. It is an essential character in my own personal story.

Nursing. I hesitate to write about this so publicly. But I love to nurse my babies. There is something so completely selfless, pure, and special about being able to nurture my child in such a personal way. Sometimes when Baby C is done eating and has fallen asleep in my arms, I take just a few extra minutes to hold her in the quietness, feel her soft hair in the crook of my arm, her sleepy-time warmth, her deep steady breathing.

Rainy days. I much prefer a rainy day over a sunny day. Wait, let me restate. In the middle of a string of sunny days, I find great satisfaction in a storm. Sometimes when the sun is shining, I feel pressure to get out to be sure to accomplish something big. Rainy days give me an excuse to stay in side. Bake cookies. Curl up with a good book. Slow down. Even stop.

Okay...that's a start. I think I'll add more later. But for anyone who reads this I'd love to know what your happy places are.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Boy and a Map

It was the big weekend when my wonderful husband took T-man on a "rain check" father-son camp out. T-man has been counting down the days with growing excitement. The day of the camp out, T-man wore his backpack -- full of books, a flashlight, and a change of clothes -- all afternoon.

T-man picked the camping place (Bear's Den) and the menu (hot dogs & smores for dinner, pancakes & sausages for breakfast). We piled up the sleeping bags, tent, and other essentials in the living room so that as soon as hubby arrived home from work, all they had to do was load up the truck and go. I barely got a half-hug and had to steal a kiss as T-man left - he was so dang excited, he couldn't be troubled with a clingy mommy.

It turned out that the best part of the outing was the hike. As soon as they had their tent set up, Dad handed T-man the map of the trails and said, "You're in charge. Where should we go?" T-man took his assignment seriously and led them on a LONG hike, making sure that they traversed all three trails. Hubby said that T-man relished being incharge. They didn't return to the campsite until the sun had set. And they ate their dinner by firelight.

Camping, especially the sleeping on the hard ground part, no longer holds much interest for me. I'd much rather sleep in my own bed with my favorite pillow and air conditioning. But for my 5 year old son, it was the best night he'd had all year.

Long after they had returned from their camp out and the gear had been unpacked and re-stored, my son carried his map of the trails in his hand. I found the map last night, on the shelf above his bed, crumpled and worn, and still within his reach.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hot Breakfast

When I was young, my mom made my sisters and I a hot breakfast almost every school day. She had a set weekly menu: pancakes on Tuesdays (my fave), biscuits on Wednesdays, oatmeal or cracked wheat on Thursdays (not my favorite day), and french toast on Fridays. I often woke to the sound of her working in the kitchen, beating batter with a wire whisk, grinding the wheat in the electric grinder (which sounded like an airplane engine), running water as she cleaned as she cooked.

One day, when I was in middle school, I remember realizing that while my sisters and I feasted on a steaming breakfast seated at the table, my mom ate a bowl of Cheerios. Standing. Everyday she stood next to the stove, flipping pancakes, serving us, and stealing bites of cereal in between her cooking. When I asked her about it, she said she really liked cereal and was perfectly happy eating Cheerios every day. At that moment, I realized my mom's hot breakfasts were an act of service. Hot breakfast=Love.

In my parenting, I've tried to carry over my mom's breakfast tradition. I've added Muffin Mondays and substituted cinnamon rolls for french toast, but other than that, I've stuck to her same menu. On the best of mornings, my cooking leads to a mothering high where I feel confident I am doing something right. I am happy to send my kids off to school with their tummies full of good homemade food.

When Baby C was born, everything came to a screeching halt. Suddenly my children were eating cold cereal by the bulk and I was eternally grateful for Costco-sized boxes of Eggo waffles (which I counted-in my sleep depravity-as a HOT breakfast). I banished any mother guilt, promising myself that as soon as possible, I'd return to my cooking routine.

One month turned into two, then three, and suddenly almost an entire semester was over. Empty cereal boxes accumulated weekly in the green recycling bin. Then my hubby left for three months, and hot breakfasts became a distant memory.

Finally, summer! When I asked the kids what they wanted to do this summer, in addition to requesting trips to the swimming pool and outings the park, Madi asked for blueberry muffins. So I rededicated myself to cooking. Of course, the later wake-up time helps, and the lazy summer mornings make things easier. But, oh, it feels good to serve a piping hot breakfast again. Almost as good as hearing the kids say, "Thanks mom! This is DE-LI-CIOUS!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Goodbye Sally

Today Meya had to say goodbye to her dear friend "Sally the Horse." Sally was a Christmas present to Meya when she was two years old. She's been well loved. Meya liked to sit on her and pretend to ride across the living room. Madi used Sally as a chair when watching PBS. And Sally was the center of many princess rescues, cowboy chases, and farm adventures.

What the pictures above do not show is that Sally has slowly come unstitched from the base of her neck, down her back. White cottony stuffing comes out in hand-fulls of fluff. And Sally's back legs are broken, making her hazardous for riders. As hard as I tried, I couldn't figure out a way to save her.

So at 8:30AM this morning we held a memorial service for Sally before leaving her next to the blue garbage bins for the weekly trash pickup. Madi made a sign that read, "Rest in Peace, Sally." And Meya hugged her and cried huge crocodile-sized tears. She kept saying, "You've been such a good horse, Sally. I love you."

This isn't the first time I've watched a child have to part with a beloved item. For Leasie, it was her special blanket "Ba Ba" who had been cut, resewn, and loved until it was little more than a rag. For Madi, it was her ducky, a stuffed duck with a large orange ribbon around its neck, who we accidentally left at a Days Inn on Cape Cod.

I had mixed feelings about this morning, watching Meya mourn. As an adult, I rationally knew this was for the best--and knew that, if needed, Sally could be replaced. All I had to do was pack the kids in the car, drive to the nearest Target, and find a new Sally. But Meya's emotions were real. Honest to her core. She truly loved this inanimate object with her entire five-year-old heart. And for that, I was so sad for her.

I also knew, sadly, that this would only be the first of many goodbyes. I remember the day we packed up my blanket, "softie," into my mom's cedar hope chest. I remember selling my favorite doll at a yard sale, she had been so loved that for years she only had one arm. We called her affectionately "one-armed dolly." Those were hard goodbyes. But then later, as a military child, I learned that saying goodbye to blankets and toys were nothing compared to saying goodbye to places, schools, neighbors, and friends.

So this morning, I mourned with Meya--with her as she said goodbye to Sally--and with her, knowing full well, that this was only the beginning of goodbyes.

I found our copy of "The Velveteen Rabbit" which I'll read to her this afternoon in an effort to bring her some comfort.

And hopefully, in her five-year-old way, she'll begin to understand that goodbyes that hurt only mean that you've felt real love.

And that's a good thing.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blessed to be an American

We ALL got into the spirit of the holiday! And at the end of the day, we all agreed that the 4th of July is one of our favorite days of the year. Here's why...

We ate the annual pancake breakfast on the church lawn complete with sausages, orange juice, fruit, and even mini boxes of sugar cereal. I can't remember a more temperate and beautiful 4th of July morning.

Madi decorated Baby C with stars to complete her patriotic outfit.

Madi, Leasie, and I rode on the church's float in the parade. We sang "My Country Tis of Thee," "This Land is Your Land," and "America, the Beautiful." Madi stood in front of me - I could hear her pretty voice. I loved seeing Meya yelling from the curb "Hi Mommy! You're doing so good!!" I loved seeing people sing along as we passed by. I loved feeling all warm and tingly with patriotic love.

Wonderful phone call at 2pm: "Do you want to come over for a BBQ?" My response: "YES! I'll bring blueberry pie!" Picnic with friends was wonderful. The kids got soaked with a waterballoon fight. I stuffed myself with marinaded zuccini, grilled chicken, savory pasta salad, raspberries fresh from the bushes, garden-grown cucumbers, and homemade blueberry pie. We ate outside at tables decorated with wild flowers. Laughed as we watched the kids play a game of kickball.

Annual fireworks at the bishop's house. Our former bishop lives adjacent to the park where the fireworks are shot off. His ideal backyard is the gathering spot for the entire ward, plus friends. We arrived just as dusk was darkening to night. The stars were out, the moon was full. The yard was a maze of blankets, chairs, and all our friends. We helped ourselves to more food and took our seats to watch the show. Meya sat in my lap. She gave a running commentary of every single firework: "That one was beautiful! Oooh, that one was pink. Wow that one looked like fireflies..." I loved feeling her warm skin as I wrapped my arms around her, and I relished her excitement.

Baby C clapped her hands and giggled nonstop for the first half of the fireworks. Then she collapsed asleep in hubby's arms after a very full day. Not even the fireworks finale woke her up.

I am so glad to be an American. On this day, I feel very blessed.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Meya is sunshine and storms rolled into one. She is the first child to wake each morning (not counting Baby C) as though she just can't wait to begin the day. She's either giggling and smiling or pouting and crying - nothing in between.

She likes to be in the thick of things...stirring batter with me in the kitchen or sitting on my lap while we read books. But she also likes her alone time. She colors by herself, drawing pictures of princesses and families. And sometimes I find her alone in my bedroom with every single ponyville spread across the carpet.

She says what's on her mind:

"This looks a lot like throw up" (she said as we ate Sunday dinner at a friend's house - AHHH!)

"CLEARLY, I'm out of watermelon" (she said in great frustration)

"I'm punishing myself by eating this chicken!" (do we have food issues??)

And then this morning, she came running to me with a bloody lip. "What happened?" I asked. "Sally bit me!" she cried. "Sally?" I said, completely confused. "Yes, Sally!"

Sally is Meya's stuffed horse.

Life is never boring with Meya.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Backyard Kickball

Madi approached home plate, an arbitrary spot on the back porch, and prepared herself for the pitch. We eyed each other - I crossed my eyes. She buckled. I pitched while she was still laughing. In the split second before the ball reached her, she regained focus, and kicked the ball with all her might. The large blue rubber ball flew over my head. I chased it, grabbed it, and attempted to tag Meya who was rounding the make-shift bases. I missed. The opposing team (everyone but me) went wild!

We played kickball, which bordered on silly-ball, until my sides ached from laughing.

T-man ran with his eyes closed, which meant that, most of the time, he missed all the bases. Baby C and Hubby were a great team; Hubby kicked and Baby C clapped while he ran.

Play ball!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Savor Summer

We just got back from a wonderful five days at the beach. It was the perfect way to kick off our summer: sunshine, boogie boarding on the waves, sandcastles, ice cream cones, and the hint of a tan.

When I was little, summer seemed to last for years. A single day was easily 48 hours long. Now that I'm a mom, I know the summer days slip by much too fast. So, here are my goals to try to savor the sweetness of summer a little extra...

1. Read - at least four novels by the end of the summer (surly I can fit that in!) and chapter books to the kids every night.

2. Berries - pick, eat, and make into pies and jam.

3. Let the kids catch fireflies every time they ask.

4. Take more candid pictures. My pictures are always the posed, cheesy-smiley pictures.

5. Go for long runs (I'll have to build up to this one).

6. Walk or play in the back yard with the family as soon as dinner dishes are done.

7. Weekly trips to the library.

8. Weekly trips to the swimming pool.

9. Weekly trips to the playground.

10. Keep the freezer stocked with Popsicles.

11. Take advantage of the $3 movie on Thursdays.

12. Go to the zoo.

13. Use the grill at least once a week.

14. Laugh more, clean less.

15. Sit out on the porch swing with hubby when the day is done.

16. Let the big girls stay up to play board games.

17. Plan a few playdates for the kids (dare I say, even a sleep over?!)

18. Raft the Shenandoah River (in August!)

19. Attend the family reunion in Salt Lake City, UT (in August!)

20. Go barefoot.