Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Back to reality

Frances, George and I are slowly easing back in to our pre-3-day weekend, pre-3-trips-to-Lynchburg-in-a-row routine.  We are doing this “slowly” because I seem to have forgotten what exactly we did on a daily basis before we camped out at Nana and Pop’s house, hosted family, and enjoyed Daddy for 3 whole days in a row.

Katherine, Henry and James drove down for a short visit during the holiday weekend while David flew out to California to pick up Katherine’s oldest son, Ian, after his first year of college (how is it that I have both a niece and a nephew who are in college?).  Frances and George loved showing their cousins their hometown and Henry and James loved playing with all of their old toys again (50% or more of the toys in our house are hand-me-downs from Katherine; the other 50% are gifts from grandparents.  Our children (and their parents for that matter) have it made). 

Saturday morning breakfast of champions

On Saturday, we swam at our local pool, watched movies, played on the playground and held a highly competitive baseball game in our backyard.  By 5:00 pm, we all piled into our car and headed to dinner at Mexico Restaurant where the adults ordered margaritas and the kids had their fill of chips.

On Sunday, the Hamilton troop had to head home but not before a visit to Maymont park to see the animals (all of which made their appearance – thank you!).

The gray fox

The bald eagle

Daddy and Frances at the waterfall

George at the koi pond (his favorite)

This was the best picture I could get of the four cousins who seem to be looking at four different cameras
(James, Henry, Frances and George)

All in all, it was a terrific visit and so wonderful to see Katherine and crew again (sans some important folk, of course).

As I am typing this, I can feel myself slowly fading into an abnormally early bedtime.  I have a sneaking suspicion my sleepiness has to do with the fact that Will and I had our annual Memorial Day “date day” on Monday (yes, an entire day without Frances and George – or at least from 10am to 4:30pm, which felt like both an eternity and a half-hour.  Strange).  Rather than spend that time relaxing by the pool, reading a book, or lazily lunching, we kicked it into high gear and hiked the Belle Island trail and North Bank trail in downtown Richmond.  This is yet another (maybe 1,238th?) reason why I love my husband—he and I both prefer active outings.  On a cool day, our adventure would have been tough; but when you consider that the temperatures soared to around 97 degrees by 12 noon I am surprised we are both still here to report back.  It was a fantastic day and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

But for now, the four of us will be rediscovering our daily routines and heading slowly in to summer.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

We are happily exhausted after a very busy week and weekend (playdates, Katherine and her boys visiting, pool visits, playground romps, Maymont and many, many errands); and the 3-day weekend is still ongoing!  Will and I are looking forward to our “day date” tomorrow while Grandma and Grandpa watch Frances and George.  More on all fronts very soon, but in honor of Memorial Day, I am posting some pictures of my grandfather, Leon Johnson, a Navy veteran.  While he didn’t die in combat (the true honorees of Memorial Day), he did die earlier this year to join my beloved grandmother, Frances (my own daughter’s namesake), who left us ten years ago.

My grandparents remain the most handsome couple I have ever known:

Throughout their lives, they were dashing, happy and full of life:

This is my favorite picture of their young family (including my mother and her brother, Dibby):

I took these pictures from an album my mother made for her parents on their 60th wedding anniversary.  Her caption says, “The secret to a happy marriage” and I couldn’t have said it better myself:

If you look closely at the last two pictures, you will notice my grandparents standing in front of the same house.  They lived in that home for over 60 years—a home that my grandfather built from the ground up.  They raised two children, accommodated years of grandchildren visits, grew their own garden, hosted countless holidays, and lived, laughed and loved through 63 years of marriage all in that home.  My grandparents continue to remind me (even in death) that you don’t need material things to be happy—you only need gratitude for what you do have and a love of family.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Around the house

Now that I am home more, I am beginning to see areas (both big and small) that need updating, cleaning, organizing or a combination of all three.  Also now that I am home more, Will and I have significantly less income; so those bigger projects and/or areas needing updating will have to wait a bit and I am learning to focus on the smaller less costly areas to attack.

Recently, I decided to organize our cookbook shelves:

I weeded out the duplicates and the few we don’t anticipate using:
I know, I know; hardly any change.  But it made me feel better!

I also hung up the New Yorker cartoon (a gift from my mother) above the stove in the kitchen instead of hiding it away on the shelf:

There's nothing like a little perspective when you are having one of those days.

Will has been installing much more user friendly shelves in our mudroom/laundry room.  While the room itself is small, the ceilings are incredibly high, so Will (all 6’5” of him) decided the shelves could go as high as the ceiling for storage space.  The lower shelves are for me:

We still need to figure out exactly what to do with all of the dog stuff (I was looking for a better term than “stuff,” but really there is no other way to describe those objects is there?):

I have also been organizing my bedroom drawers (clothes, make-up, lotions, soaps, toothpastes, etc.) and closet, but won’t bore you with those exciting pictures.

Up next?  I am determined to figure out something nice to put here:

It’s an awkward wall space in our kitchen that has always housed Will’s college bookshelf.  The space is very narrow and is hindered further by the kitchen light switch halfway up the wall.  If anyone has seen any tiny, preferably white bookshelves or free-standing cabinets recently, please let me know!

I am also going to reorganize our two kitchen pantries—one we use for food and one we have always used for kitchen wedding gifts (trays, bowls, pitchers—things not used every day, but still nice to have handy). 

The bottom part of the second pantry has always been a dumping ground for gift bags, tissue, wrapping paper, holiday decorations and any other oddball object that has no home.  And it Drives. Me. Nuts.

I recently posted that I am a clean freak, but I need to revise that statement.  I am actually a neat freak, which I have determined (through various conversations with Sara this past weekend – our wild and crazy Reunion talks!) is the step before you can achieve true clean-freak status.  As a neat freak, I insist that all objects have a place to land and that they stay in that place unless being used at that time.  I also enjoy (maybe too much) recycling, donating or (last resort) throwing out things on a regular basis that we don’t use.  Will and I have an ongoing “Goodwill” pile accumulating in our garage that he surveys each night when he gets home from work to make sure I am not giving away anything that he truly still wants (the rule is I have to wait at least one week before taking anything to Goodwill.  So far, so good).  While I would love for all of my decluttered space to actually be clean too, I am still a work-in-progress on that front.

Organizing, decluttering, categorizing and (to a lesser extent) cleaning relaxes me and makes me feel like I have some control over my life (or at least my house) when the truth is both are completely overrun by my loveable toddlers. 

But, at least they are learning the tools of the trade:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten years and counting

This past weekend was my tenth year college reunion.  Although the Randolph-Macon Woman’s College class of 2001 celebrated with quality over quantity (read: a grand total of 5 of us showed up for the par-tay), we still had a terrific time catching up and reminiscing on campus.

Saturday morning began with the class meeting where 4/5ths of the total attendees were present (we missed you April!).  What was supposed to be a serious gathering of the class member to elect class officers and solicit volunteers (and money) for various positions and functions turned into a classic gab sessions between the four of us.  Sara, Laura, Meredith and I all lived on the same hallway during senior year; we all know the same classmates; and we are all mothers and wives.  Two hours for the class meeting was not nearly enough time.

So, we trekked on over to the legendary Cavalier for their famous seasoned fries (with ranch dressing – holy cow they are good), to meet up with some of our husbands and children, April and her husband, and to continue with the same topics of conversation (i.e. everything except talking about boring alumnae stuff).

April, Sara, (baby) Laura, (adult) Laura, Meredith and me

Later that night after saying goodbye to Meredith and April, the rest of us attended the Saturday evening event at the school—dinner and a band at the school’s outdoor amphitheater, the Dell.

Before the party though, Will, Frances, George and I walked around my old school so I could show them around the beautiful buildings and grounds.  The three of them graciously listened as I shared random memories associated with various places on campus.

George was much more impressed with the flags (a serious obsession of his these days):

Frances loved the stage (of COURSE!):

They both loved the trolleys:

And everyone (especially Daddy) loved the pool table:
George is saying "BALL!"

George is probably still saying "BALL!"

Then it was off to the Dell.  Dinner was made much better by our very own centerpiece, Miss Laura (Sara’s adorable little one-year-0ld).

I mean, if this girl can’t convince Will that #3 is a good idea, I don’t know who can!

Frances and George did well at dinner, but really livened up once the band started playing.  They both absolutely love music (maybe all children do?) and George even managed to reel in an admirer for a final dance at the end of the evening.

All in all it was a fantastic weekend.  And while I am still sad and a bit angry at my alma mater for its decision several years ago to go co-ed (something I am sure I will address in another post), I actually found it very easy to put those feelings aside and just enjoy being on campus again.

As my friends and I were talking over the weekend, I heard several times “I can’t believe it’s been ten years since we were here.”  Truthfully, I have to say that those college days seem a million miles away to me now.  Since 2001 I have attended and graduated from law school, met and married my soul mate, passed the bar (thank goodness), bought a house, worked for two law firms, bought a car, had two of the most amazing children, and now I have stopped working.  I am both shocked and eternally thankful I have had such incredible luck these past ten years.

Here’s to ten years…and counting!

Monday, May 23, 2011

When life gives you black bananas...

We returned from my ten-year college reunion (more on that soon, I promise!) to discover an abundance of overripe bananas in our fruit bowl.  Seeing that Will can only drink so many smoothies in a 24-hour period (oops, did I just out Will as a smoothie drinker?), I decided to make banana bread.  We happen to have all of the ingredients on-hand already, which I would like to credit to my skills as a chef/grocery buyer, but I think all credit is due to the simplicity of the recipe that we’ve used since we were married:

My recipe comes from my mother-in-law, Barbara, who on the eve of our wedding gave me the most incredible cookbook where she handwrote all of her family recipes (emphasizing Will’s favorites, of course) and left an abundance of room for us to add our own favorites as we discover them.  Sadly as our wonderfully hectic life suggests, we haven’t been able to add much more to the cookbook; but we’ve enjoyed making those recipes that were given to us including this one for banana bread:

Banana Bread
1 ¾ cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
¼ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana (usually around 3 average-sized bananas)
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together flour, soda and salt.  Cream shortening and sugar.  Beat together eggs, banana, sour cream and vanilla; then beat into shortening and sugar, alternating with dry ingredients.  Pour batter into a greased 9” loaf pan and bake at 350° for 55 minutes (check it at 50 minutes – most ovens are hotter than mine).  Remove and let cool for 5-10 minutes in pan before removing to finish cooling on a wire rack.     

It’s very easy to make (believe me, I am no wonder chef; plus I made this with Frances and George at my heels all morning) and it’s delicious!

This may be one of the rare occasions that I wish you could see and smell one of my pictures.

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My art lesson

Today I learned that I need a very long refresher course in the art of patience (and probably a time-out) and that Frances has the heart of a saint (that part I already knew!). 

It all started innocently enough.  We recently purchased an outside picnic table for the kids – for snack time, Play-Doh, finger paints, markers, glitter (big in our house right now) or anything that is too destructive to our already worn furniture. 

With a stay-at-home-day for Frances on the horizon this morning, the three of us ventured to Target to stock up on art supplies—watercolors, finger paints, new Play-Doh (last year’s ‘Doh was already grainy and hard) and sidewalk paints.  I am an admitted art amateur, but I was determined to have fun with it all.  The watercolors and finger paints were a big hit with everyone…

…and I was smugly patting myself on the back for being such a creative mother and comfortable with the fact that the children were filthy, but it was all contained outside.  This is probably a good time to tell you that I am a clean freak, or as much of a clean freak as I can be with two children and two dogs.

Soon after the above pictures were taken, the children began arguing (of course they did – it was getting hot outside, they were sitting inches apart, lunchtime was fast approaching, and they were tired of “Art Hour”).  So, in and out and in and out of the house they came—“The wind keeps blowing the paper.”  “I stubbed my toe.”  “I want to paint more.”  “I’m done with paint.”  “George bit me.”  And what did I do?  I lost my patience with them.  Frances we are not doing this anymore if you two can’t get along.  Look at this mess.  You two are going to ruin my house and my furniture.  At which point Frances looks at me with big tears in her eyes and a quivering lip and asks, “But, this is our house, too, right?”  I felt about the size of one paint bristle.

So what did I learn?  I wish I could truthfully state that I learned I must ease up more on the messes in and out of the house; that I learned to go with the flow; that I learned there is more to life than a clean(ish) house.  But sadly, I’m not sure I have the ability to learn all of that – I at least know my limitations.  What I did learn was I am a better mother when all of us are more in our comfort zone.  So, maybe we should wait on the finger paints and watercolors for a time when Daddy is home and can help me keep them better contained.  Why should I push them (and me) to do things that are supposed to be “fun” when it’s only going to result in a grumpy mother and a tearful daughter (George not surprising was just fine through all of this – he just played with Max and the ball outside while Frances and I had our heart-to-heart). 

In essence, I learned that I still have a lot to learn.  And that my daughter is a great teacher.