Thursday, April 28, 2011

A few experimental shots

My love for my new camera has not faded.  Love, love, loveWhile I can’t even pretend that I know most of the functions it performs, I have enjoyed experimenting with the “auto” function.  Some of my favorites (other than the Easter pictures already posted)…

My diva.  The pout was completely unprompted.

My boy, newly shorn and looking like he's ready for Kindergarten

The Ball Saga.  Fairly self-explanatory.

Frances and the fountains.

George avoiding the fountains.

Thankfully, the children are becoming immune to the constant picture-taking; I am afraid I am developing a bit of an addiction!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It's all about Me(me)

I try not to publish the adorable phrases my children say while they are still mastering the English language, in part because they never come across funny, cute or charming on paper (“Mommy, I am fwee and you are really old…you must be foow.”  See, just not that charming to me).

But George does say one thing that has a particular appeal and is definitely share-worthy – he calls me “Mimi” instead of Mommy.  He certainly knows how to say mommy because he will repeat it back to me if I ask.  But he chooses to say Mimi.

Who knows why?  Maybe it’s easier for him to say.  Maybe he’s gotten enough positive reactions from people that he now does it for effect.  Maybe (as per my sister’s tongue-in-cheek explanation) it’s because George is just a tad bit egocentric at this age (What?  Never!) and I am just an offshoot of him, as in “Me-Me.”

Whatever the reason, it makes me smile.  There is nothing I love more than to hear the very faint (or sometimes not so faint) “Miiiimiiiii!” coming from his bedroom in the morning or after naptime.  And of course, I never have to wonder whether it is George calling for me on the playground (no more false alarms from other children calling “Mommy!!!”  Unless of course Frances is with us in which case I join all of the other mothers in our collective “YES?” to answer the mystery child’s cry).

Mimi loves you, George!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Over the river and through the woods

Frances, George and I ventured just that path (plus down the highways, across the railroad tracks, and into the mountains) to visit Nana and Pop this past week in Lynchburg.  My sister and her family and my brother’s wife and son were all congregating there during the latter part of the spring break week and we were invited to join them.

Frances and George absolutely love their cousins – all of them – and I am always surprised by their seeming innate love for the youngest family members.  Good or bad, Frances is very shy even to close family and I am afraid it comes across as stand-off-ish (plus, it embarrasses her equally shy mother who has no idea how to deal with it – you’d think I of all people would know how to break her out of her shell?).  But since returning on Saturday, they have not stopped talking about Henry, James and Andy (or “Ah-me” per George).

Visiting my parents’ house is not nearly the same experience as it was pre-children.  During college, law school and early married life, Lynchburg was the most restful place I knew.  My parents have the cleanest and coldest house I have ever entered; they always have prepared food waiting in the refrigerator and a stocked pantry; and to this day, Lynchburg is my absolute favorite place to run.  When I visited Lynchburg, I knew I could (or would be forced to) wear my sweats in the house regardless of the season, would be well fed, would fall into a deep hibernation-like sleep at night, and could run to my heart’s content the next morning.  Since Frances and George have entered the picture, none of this has happened (except for the freezing house part – my parents still have the coldest home in the Free World).  Somehow, I always think that visiting Lynchburg will transport me back to those carefree days.  Truthfully, it never does (as anyone with children will tell you, relocating them to another home is much harder than just staying put; even if it is with Nana and Pop).  But this visit was the easiest one since having George eighteen months ago.  I’m sure it had something to do with the fact that I had no less than five additional pair of parental hands to help me out at all times; and endless play dates with the cousins.

We had lots of fun!
All around the house

Enjoying the nice weather while we could (before the cold, rainy weather hit)

Something must have been in the water because around 4:00 pm on Friday afternoon, all of the adults in the house simultaneously (and thankfully temporarily) lost their collective minds.  The result?  Wig Party 2011.
Yes, this all took place before the 5:00 pm happy hour.

We were also lucky enough to be there to celebrate my parents’ 27th wedding anniversary (married on Easter Sunday, April 22, 1984).
The happy couple (and Mother with her incredible anniversary necklace from Frank)

Thank you to the wonderful Nana and Pop for hosting such an enormous motley crew!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

We’ve had quite a busy and fun five days since leaving to visit my parents and family this past Wednesday.
In reverse chronological order, we spent Easter lunch with Will’s family.  Will’s mother has the unique ability to make an entire tableful of food that is not only delicious, but is exactly what our children love to eat (mac n’ cheese, broccoli, biscuits, carrots, some additional food for us adults, and of course cake).  All of this wonderful eating occurred after the Easter bunny festivities at our house earlier that morning, including the jellybean hunt:

Will passed this tradition to our family of hiding jellybeans throughout the house for the children to find.  While we’ll probably still find the more stealth jellybeans come Christmastime, it is worth every moldy bean to see the look in Frances and George’s eyes each time they find another one.

The Easter bunny was much too kind to me this year – he brought me a new camera!  With a much appreciated thank you to one of my best college friends, Sara, for her suggestion, I received a Canon Powershot G12 and I love it!  (As an aside, for those of you who enjoy excellent writing and the cutest kids west of Virginia, check out Sara's blog - she is the best!)

Once we were all sufficiently sugared-up and dressed for dinner, it was off to the Homillers’ to celebrate Easter and two birthdays – Charlie and Becca.

Frances and Daddy ended the day at the circus (I know, I know – our children have no idea what the real world is really like!?  The Easter bunny and circus in the same day.  Who does that?)

Frances the Princess Clown

Sadly, I wasn’t there to write about Frances’s first circus experience, but from what I hear she was completely enthralled, had the time of her life and cried when it was over.  In essence, the same reaction she had at her first Nutcracker ballet.  My children have convinced me that God’s greatest gift to parents is a three-year-old’s genuine joyous reactions to new experiences.  And an eighteen-month-old’s ability to find Lowes to be the most exciting place to run around on a rainy afternoon.

Next post…Nana and Pop’s house!

Thank you again, Easter bunny, for my new camera - did I mention how much I love it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sleep Saga, Part II - the Boot Camp

As I talked about in a previous post, Frances has been a troubled sleeper for nearly five months now and it is just about to kill Will and me.
About a week ago on one of my weekend morning runs, my mind wandered (as it usually does) through roughly this train of thought:
Gosh I am really tired this morning…I think Frances woke up at least five times last night…I thought this would be over after she moved past infanthood…in fact, this reminds of the “sleep training” method that we tried with her…letting her sooth herself back to sleep…wait a second, maybe that’s what is going on with her…she’s forgotten how to get herself back to sleep…excellent, now I have a theory, how the heck are we going to implement a plan?
I think what really solidified the above notion was hearing Will talk about his nightly routines with Frances when she woke up.  It would begin with her coming in to our bedroom, waking up Daddy for help with whatever she needed (water, bathroom, “my leg hurts”), Daddy would fix whatever was needed, escort the diva back to her room whereby she would proclaim “I can’t see,” leading to Daddy turning on the guest room light (not her own room light because that “was too bright”), followed by a small sip of her bedside water, finishing with the pièce de résistance for Daddy to fill the water cup “all the way to the top!”  Yes, my wonderful angel has her father wrapped many, many times around her finger.  And Will doesn’t have a mean bone in his body to say no to any of her requests – he gave an inch and she took the entire mile (and then some).  The phrase “all the way to the top!” kept echoing in my head during that recent run and I realized that we had created a little nighttime monster.

Enter the boot camp regimen.

What Will and I decided (or rather, what I decided and Will thankfully endorsed) was the following:
·        Will sleeps in the guest room, but unbeknownst to Frances.  Will is wonderful; Will is a better person than I am; Will cannot be mean even if he tries.  Therefore, Will cannot be a boot camp instructor – he is only there to observe.

·        I sleep in our room with the door closed.

·        We tell Frances the following:

o   She is a big girl and can get water, use the bathroom, get her fifth “friend” to sleep with, whatever the issue, all by herself.
o   She cannot come into Mommy and Daddy’s room anymore because the door will be locked.
·        We do not tell Frances the following:

o   Our door is of course not locked.
o   Will is in the guest room to listen out for Frances just in case there is a true emergency.

And do you know what?  It worked the very first night.

Now, we did have a rough patch on night #2 when Frances wanted someone to put lotion on her legs at 2:00 am.  It was particularly rough since she woke me up from a deep sleep and it would have been so easy to just cave in and put on the stinking lotion.  But somehow, through my foggy brain, I knew that if I bent to her request that night, she would make the same or similar request the next night and we would be right back to the princess’s square one.  So, for an hour, we had some “tough love” boot camp training going on.  At one point, Will came out of the guest room to help me out – I sent him right back in.

Ultimately, everyone is much happier now.  Frances isn’t getting up each and every time she wakes because she knows she’s in charge of herself now – it’s just too much trouble to get water 4+ times a night if Daddy isn’t the one getting it for you.  Plus, I think she secretly likes being more independent and I have noticed her needing less help with other things during the day.

Will and I are finally, finally getting uninterrupted sleep for the first time in many months.  And Will has graduated from the guest room back to our room – he did very well as an instructor-in-training and may be promoted when George turns three.

I have no idea how the boot camp routine will be implemented on our upcoming trip to Lynchburg this week – we may just have to bend the rules a bit and explain to Frances that things are special because we are at Nana and Pop’s house. 

But, isn’t that always true anyway?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Daddy's home, Daddy's home!

I am completely worn out from the weekend.  Will was home (in body and mind) and did not have to work (much), so we packed all of the family activities we had missed the last few weekends into the past 2 ½ days.  We’ve also all been sleeping better now that the Frances “Sleep Boot Camp” has been working wonders this week (more on that later…), which makes these adventures much more enjoyable.

Friday morning, Frances, George and I ventured out (sans Daddy) to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in north Richmond.  While this spring has been cooler than I would have liked, the weather has been ideal for keeping the flowers in bloom longer and stronger.  We made our way down to the Children’s Garden complete with a huge tree house, vegetable gardens, interactive exhibits, a shaded sandbox, and a water park (not opened yet).

Both children, but especially George, were fascinated by a huge display of 4,000+ silver pinwheels.
This display is actually in honor of child abuse victims - a powerful reminder that you can't help but appreciate when you are with your own children.

The kids were completely worn out – the making of a perfect outing!  And please excuse the very obvious and coordinating Christmas outfits.  Frances begged me to allow her and George to wear those that morning and I am such a sucker for girl/boy matching outfits that I couldn’t say no. 

On Saturday, we made our first family trip to see baby Maggie, my brother and his wife’s new adorable baby girl.  I had seen her about 5 days after she was born, but Will, Frances and George were dying to see the little pumpkin.  She is absolutely adorable and has grown so much these last 5 weeks.

I was very encouraged to see how well George did being a middle child for an afternoon.  Will...are you reading this?

Frances and George were on their best behavior (I’m sure Henry and Kerrin are reading this thinking, “That was their best behavior?  Sheesh!”) and both were enthralled with their newest cousin.

I failed to get a picture of Maggie with her parents, so I am stealing one of Kerrin’s Facebook pictures:
How is it that they both look more rested than Will and me?  Not to mention fabulous.  I need to know their secret!

Sunday morning we ventured out to Maymont Park, another Richmond treasure.  Maymont has a children’s petting zoo, a rapture sanctuary (complete with hawks, owls, vultures and a beautiful bald eagle), two black bears, a Japanese garden with an incredible cascading waterfall and a huge pond (with huge Koi fish), and many, many other things that we just could not do for sake of time and grumbling tummies.  Maymont is much too hilly and big for me to take the children alone, so I was very excited to go now that we had access to Daddy again.

Sunday ended with a visit from Grandma, Grandpa and cousin Trey; and an early bedtime for my two exhausted kiddos.  This was exactly the kind of weekend I was hoping to have now that I am home full-time.  Rather than drag the kids around on all of our necessary errands (groceries, Target, Sam’s, Lowes, etc.) and then cram in as much fun as we could with what was left of the days, we could just relax and enjoy ourselves.  Don’t worry, we still had our fair share of meltdowns (both), biting (George), major negotiations (Frances) and whining (what is it with the whining?  Doesn’t it make you want to lose your mind?!).  But even a crummy day at the beach is still a day at the beach.

And I love the beach!

Friday, April 15, 2011

On my kitchen windowsill...

…there is:

A toy train because Frances and George were having a disagreement about playing with it.  Of all of the fancy Thomas the Train Engines in the house, both wanted to play with this plain, wooden engine.  Maybe it was just a battle of the wills.  But I really think it was because that is the engine their Aunt Katherine gave them.

Two marshmallows (one plain; one bunny-shaped).  Frances loves marshmallows more than pretty much anything else in the entire world these days.  She accidentally dropped these two when she was parading around the house the other evening, saving her “special treat” (as she calls them) to show Daddy.  Everything about this makes my heart sing – that she uses the words “special treat” to refer to her dessert, that she loves marshmallows with Easter just around the corner (good timing, kid!) and that she wants to show her treasure to her daddy so much that she is willing to put off eating them until he gets home from work.  I, of course, replaced the dropped marshmallows with clean ones.  But I secretly kept the dirty ones to make me smile when I’m schlepping up the dirty dinner dishes.

Four partially-eaten dog bones.  Max loves bones.  Marshall pretends to love them and then spits them out.  Of all of the things that Marshall does, this one is most unusual (and endearing) in part because he will eat anything, except apparently a rawhide bone that is made for dogs.

A penny.  For good luck!

A digital outdoor thermometer.  Thankfully, this small but immeasurably important piece of equipment conveyed with our house when we purchased it almost seven years ago.  I had no idea how handy it would be then, but I look at that thermometer countless times a day particularly now that I am home and have a daughter who is obsessed with wearing sleeveless dresses at all times.  But its most useful purpose (to me anyway) is to let me know how cold (or hot) my predawn run will be.  I know exactly what running clothes to wear if the thermometer tells me it’s 18 degrees or colder (layers, layers, layers), 37 degrees (my UVA hat, gloves, a turtleneck and thinner pants), 45 degrees (baseball hat, long sleeve shirt, shorts, no gloves), 59 degrees (short sleeve shirt, shorts, baseball hat) or 70+ degrees (sleeveless shirt, shorts, baseball hat and lots of Body Glide!).  I have no idea what I will do if this thermometer breaks and hope that Radio Shack is still in the business of making these little gems if it ever does.

Happy Friday everyone!

PS - please excuse the blurry picture and filthy windowsill.  I am in the process of convincing my wonderful husband that we need to invest in a better camera and this picture is Exhibit 853 for my presentation.  The filthy windowsill is to convince him that we need a live-in maid.  I am hoping the large cost of the latter's request will convince him that the former one is really not that bad.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Field Trip!

This week, I was able to take a morning (thank you, Gram E!) and meet my mother at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts here in Richmond to see the Picasso exhibit.  Mother was there with a group of 40+ people and I only had about two hours to spare, so we didn’t get an extensive visit.  But it was so great to see her and to tour even a small portion of the VMFA.  I hadn’t been to the museum since Frances and George were born (maybe even before Will and I were married - sad), but stepping in to those cool, marble walls sent me back to those pre-children days when we both thought we were busy, but looking back I have no idea what we did with all of that time that we so clearly had.

The museum has gone through an extensive renovation in the last year or so; it is even more beautiful than it was already (and I always thought it was an incredible building).  It is located in old Richmond (the appropriately named “museum district”) surrounded by impeccable brownstone homes, neighborhood parks, and hip restaurants and bars.  This neighborhood is one of several that Will and I used to love to stroll through (again, pre-children) and dream about living there knowing full well that we were a) not cool enough to live there; b) not wealthy enough to afford the private school tuition that would be necessary if we did live there; and c) not patient enough to deal with the on-street parking.  But, it was still great to dream…
View from the museum's front window 

The Picasso exhibit was outstanding.  The group decided to use the audio guides, which was exactly the right decision.  I always feel a little guilty using an audio guide – as though I am using the Cliffs Notes equivalent to fine art.  But ultimately I know enough to know that I don’t know much – and I certainly learned a lot more than I would have simply perusing the paintings and their caption cards.

For example, I learned that by the early age of 12, Picasso could draw true to life.  That was quite a surprise from the man who created this:
Dora Marr in an Armchair

My favorite painting in the show was “Still Life on a Pedestal Table.”  It had the most vibrant colors of any in the gallery and I knew Frances would like it, too (it had the most purple of any piece, which does not come through as well below, but alas...). 
Once we were done with the Picasso exhibition, I only had a few minutes to race around and find some of my old favorites in the museum’s permanent collection.  When I was growing up, my parents took us to the museum frequently (considering we lived 2+ hours away) and I have distinct memories of my father’s parents taking us there often when we visited them at their Richmond brownstone home (in another portion of old Richmond, the Fan).

One of my favorite exhibits has always been the Fabergé eggs (we were not allowed to use flash photography, so I apologize for the blurry, dark pictures).
My picture

A much better picture of some of the collection

I also have always been drawn to the leaping hare that they’ve housed near the entryway for years.  As a child, I think I just loved that it was a rabbit; but as an adult, I now notice the human-like features (actually, very dancer-like).
Again, sorry for the poor lighting

My all-time favorite piece is the Degas sculpture, “Little Dancer.”  Unfortunately, it was away on loan this trip, but I will no doubt be back soon with my little dancer(s) and can see it again.

Just beautiful - and that turn-out!

All in all, it was a fantastic morning and left me wanting to go back to the museum as soon as possible.  On my way home, I picked Frances up from preschool and told her about my outing – she enthusiastically exclaimed that she wanted to go to the museum.  Too quickly, I responded that she’s probably too young now, but maybe in a couple of years when she was five (an eternity to a three-year-old).  She immediately rebuffed me explaining that she was a big girl and she wants “to go now, when I’m three.”

I actually think she’s right.  I want to do more one-on-one outings with each child and Frances and I will very likely try the museum first. 

Her eagerness also shamed me.  I will absolutely not turn this blog into my political pedestal (I know and respect too many smart people who are polar opposites from me politically), but the recent talk about the federal government cutting arts programs for children (and in general) has inspired great conversations with friends and family and even greater concerns from me.  The ability to appreciate and create art is what makes us uniquely human and I want to instill both in my children as early as possible, even before their silly mother thinks they are able to fully “understand” it.

Well, so much for the fluff piece about “my morning at the art museum.”

Thank you to my wonderful mother for sponsoring my trip and inspiring another mother-daughter trip in the near future!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Things I love right now

Nice liquid hand soaps.  My current favorite is Caldrea, but I also love Sur La Table and William-Sonoma's hand soaps.  I love the way they make my hands smell (and that Frances actually wants to use them), I love that they make me feel that I’ve elevated the “fanciness factor” in the house without too much effort, and I love that they are good for the environment and animal-friendly.

My dry erase wall calendar.  I love calendars and I need calendars to keep me organized.  As an attorney, I was 100% electronic – my Blackberry was synced in to my Outlook calendar on my work computer and I relied solely on that system to keep me ordered.  I knew that would be impractical at home for many reasons – for one, syncing in my Blackberry everyday may not be possible when there are four grubby hands vying for my attention and the computer keyboard at the same time.  So, I found this dry erase wall calendar at Target and so far, it has been perfect at keeping us organized.  Plus, I really like the fact that Will can see what we are planning each day and can add things in if he would like (such as, “7pm - LPH to rest while WGH puts the children to bed”).

Black pants.  My co-workers are probably laughing as they read this because I wore black pants 99% of my entire law career.  I’ve retired my work black pants (for now), but have found a new obsession in the casual version.  I am always on the hunt for black pants that are comfortable, flattering, not too long for my stubby legs and not too expensive.  Once I find a pair that I like, I usually buy more than one because otherwise I know I will wear them out in a matter of months.  I currently have three pair of my favorite black pants (J. Jill wide leg) and just found some others at Target.  I also have some from my college and law school days that I keep on hand for emergency purposes (i.e. holy cow, I need to do laundry today).  I always make an effort to buy other colors in the same style (heather grey; dark blue), but usually make my way back to the old standby – black. 

My current book.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is wonderful!  As with most of the books I read, this one came as a recommendation from my mother.  It’s told from the perspective of letters to and from an author, various residents of Guernsey (a series of islands in the English Channel), and other characters during the post-WWII era.  I have learned (should I have known this already?), that Guernsey was occupied by the Germans during the War as a home base – they didn’t destroy it, but they lived there for four or so years.  Unfortunately, this still translated into some very hard times for those islanders and the main character, Juliet (the author) befriends several of those who were affected by the occupation.  I love that I am learning a little history along with the fictional storyline, I love the descriptions of the beautiful island (there is something highly romantic and relaxing about British coastlines) and I love the style of the writing.  I can already tell I will be a little sad when it’s done – the making of a good read.

Curious George.       Pathetic, I know.  I swore up and down that my children would never watch TV if I could help it.  Guess what – I can’t help it.  But, I do control greatly the amount of TV they watch and the shows they are allowed to choose (i.e., no Dora the Explorer.  Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see the redeeming value of this show.  And it’s just really annoying).  Frances loves Curious George (PBS) and frankly, so do I.  George is the absolute cutest cartoon monkey you’ve ever seen.  He’s always happy, smiling and nice to everyone and he’s curious without being mischievous.  I love that each show has many teaching moments without hitting you over the head with them.  And best of all, each show is only 30 minutes long (two 15-minute shows technically), which is the perfect amount of time – Frances feels like she’s watched something long and I don’t feel like she’s wasted much time in front of the TV.  (My) George has not caught on to the whole TV phenomenon yet and I’m not in any hurry.  But I hope when he does, Frances will still want to watch Curious George with him.
See - pretty darn cute, right?

More “loves” to come!  In the meantime, I couldn’t close without a picture of my first loves, of course…

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Happy, happy, happy

I just realized that my last two blog posts have been a little too serious – it is high time for a light-hearted, less analytical post.

What is my absolute favorite part of the day with the children?  The after-bath hour!  On a typical day, Frances and George eat early, between 5:30 and 5:45 pm.  Once dinner is over, we head upstairs for bath time, something they’ve been doing together (off and on) for many months now:
June 2010

The ‘heading upstairs’ part of that last sentence became harder and harder this last year as Frances has gotten older (and more strong-willed, which I didn’t think was possible).  So, the big lure is, “Frances, if you are really good and take your bath now, we will have time to come back downstairs and play before bedtime.”  For whatever reason, playtime after bath time is a three-year-old’s ultimate dream, at least in this house.

There is something magical that happens after bath time.  Regardless of how grouchy, clingy or naughty the children behaved during the day, bath time seems to restart everything.  The after-bath hour typically involves running around the house, playing with the dogs, building pillow forts, playing with the more active toys like the corn popper and baby stroller, and just generally getting out that last bit of energy before collapsing into bed.  Sometime between playing with the dogs and chasing each other with the corn popper, Daddy gets home – and then the fun really starts.

George and Daddy infiltrating the pillow fort

Frances doesn't seem to mind

George in his favorite position - upside down


He's definitely up to something

My baby girl

Thank you, bath time – you never fail me!