Thursday, September 29, 2011

A dream is a wish your heart makes

So, I did it.  I actually did something that I swore I would never do before I had Frances (a.k.a., the girly-girl I never was growing up) – I took her to see Disney Princesses on Ice.  It was actually called just Disney on Ice, but try telling Frances that (and considering its primary focus was the appropriately named “Disney Princesses” Frances knew what she was talking about).

Unsurprising to anyone who has ever met my daughter, she loved it.  And quite frankly, so did her mother who seems to be getting choked up these days at the drop of a hat when she experiences things for the first time with her kids.  The lights dim, the music starts, the performers come out, I glance at Frances, and the waterworks begin (for me, not Frances of course).

But enough about my sniveling and on to the pictures!

Frances and me on our way out the door with little bro attached to my hip.  Poor kid looks like he’s really convinced himself he’s coming with us:

At the show!  And just for all of you other amateur mothers out there, if you ever take your girls to Disney on Ice, please let them dress as their favorite princess (or any princess for that matter).  Poor Frances was the only girl under 20-years-old wearing civilian clothes.  Oops.  Thankfully she handled it remarkably well:

First came Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald:

Then came Tiana (from The Princess and the Frog):
I wish I had taken more than one picture of her - she was stunning!

Then came Cinderella (my personal favorite!):
The top left picture is in honor of my sister Katherine, who Frances calls her "fairy godmother."

And Rapunzel closed the show:

The pictures cannot do this show justice.  It was breathtaking how high these skaters flew up in the air.

Thankfully, Ariel (Frances’s favorite) made a quick appearance:

Afterwards, we headed to Mexico Restaurant for Frances’s favorite dinner out – “Cheese and Chips!”  Can you blame her?

And yes, I’m certain we’ll be going again when the tour comes back through Richmond.  Frances has already picked out her costume for the next time around:

This picture is almost a year old, but her joy hasn't faded a bit.  Sniff!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Somehow (and without my permission, the little stinker) George turns two years old today.  I’ve been saying he is “almost two” since he turned 20 months so I thought I would be okay with just dropping the almost and simply saying “he’s two.”  Nope – I’m a weepy-eyed mess, particularly as I’m looking through pictures from this last year trying to figure out what in the world I am going to say in honor of my little man.

George is simply wonderful.  He’s opinionated, he’s tender, he’s hot tempered (particularly when he’s sick or tired), he’s passionate, and he is an absolute loveable mess of a boy and I can’t imagine life without him.  George had some pretty big shoes to fill following in his sister’s footsteps and he has somehow managed to stand out in this small family of unique personalities.

George is physically huge (and as an aside, I do not intend this to mean that I have somehow succeeded in parenting because I have a large child.  That mentality drives me nuts.  George is big because Will is 6’5” and I come from a family of large males.  Period.  Children who are small are just as wonderful, bright and likely to succeed.  And those same children may very well tower over my kids in twenty years’ time – you just never know).  George was big from the get-go at almost 9 pounds and 22+ inches long.  I never will forget one of the delivery nurses telling me “you’re going to have a hard time keeping this one full.”  And two years later I can safely say that woman knew exactly what she was talking about.  As a baby, George nursed every two hours like clockwork.  And these were no 15-minute snack times; these were marathon 45-minute suck me dry sessions.  George still eats most meals as though they are his last and I get a bit weary thinking of our future grocery bill when the boy reaches middle school.  Frances is tall for her age, but just as recently as Monday afternoon I was asked if I have twins.  Gulp. 

Understandably, George’s size is a huge disadvantage for me when it comes to picking him up or “gently” physically forcing him to do something he adamantly does not want to—like get in his car seat.  Most of the time, he has to think that what you’re asking of him is a good idea or will produce some pleasure (such as the much coveted paci or vanilla wafers; yep, I have become one of “those” mothers).  If all else fails and I am forced to pick up his flailing, crying, hitting, biting little body to put him in the car/put him in the stroller/remove him from the playground, he has learned to say “Owwwwww, Mommy, owwwww!!” as though my request is nothing but pure physical torture.  Nice.  Did I also mention that George is incredibly bright?

But 99.9% of the time, George is a peach and well-mannered; and he has come an incredibly long way in every milestone (most importantly his behavior) since I stopped working.  He’s talking in sentences (although his words are not as clear as Frances was at his age.  I know, stop comparing them – but it’s hard not to!), he’s mastering games and toys, he’s cautious without being shy, he’s careful with his body but can easily maneuver physical activities after watching someone else do it just once or twice, he’s independent but highly affectionate, and he has such a joy for life (which is really all that matters in the end, right?).

Happy birthday, George!  Thank you for letting me watch you grow these last two years and for being my partner in crime these last six months – it has been the greatest pleasure of my life.

And now I am going to blubber into the nearest tissue.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The mourning period

As many of you may know, REM announced this week that they are officially calling it quits after over 30 years of great music.  For those of you who don’t know REM is one of Will’s top 4 (or maybe top 2?) favorite bands**, so our house has been filled with REM tunes since their sad proclamation on Thursday.  It’s a strange feeling to hear all of these songs drifting through our kitchen when you know that the men behind the music are no longer creating together.  I am at best an amateur REM listener, but I know how much they have meant to Will since his high school days and find myself grieving along with him.

[**Update:  After reading my post, Will gently reminded me that REM is actually his favorite band.  I hesitated in updating this status simply because it sounded a bit like Frances telling me who is her favorite Disney Princess.  But alas, I am one for an accurate blog.  So "favorite band" it is.]

Will loves music and this is one of the things I love most about him.  Our children are so blessed to grow up in a home filled with music of almost every genre—because that’s my Will.  He is as opened minded about his music as he is about everything else.  But he has a very special place for REM and I can’t disagree with him.  Will and I went to one of their concerts early on in our marriage (or maybe we were engaged?  Or just dating?  In any event, it was pre-children which is really the only baseline that matters anymore).  In a word, REM was phenomenal.  They played songs that I knew every word to (i.e. the radio hits that us fair-weather fans know) as though it was the first time they had ever performed them, but also catered to the die-hard fans with their less known songs (but no less extraordinary).  They expressed sincere passion for their stage show and as a former (dance) performer I was blown away and inspired.

Will and I are both hitting our mid-30s and slowly coming to terms with the fact that we are drifting into the older half of the generations.  We are replacing the baby boomers who mourned the dismantling of the Beatles and now have an inkling of the sadness our parents must have felt when their heroes (music or otherwise) stepped down from their respective roles simply because it was “time.”  You can’t help but ask, “WHY?  But surely you’re not really DONE with your passion??”  I’d like to hope that our sadness revolves around the fact that our children won’t be able to experience a new REM album the way Will did; instead they will only be able to refer to the band as “classic music.”  But admittedly I think some of that sadness is just about getting older and the realization that more and more of these “last moments” are going to happen.  I know we are not old and we (hopefully) are not even half-way through our lives; maybe that’s what makes these small but forever changes in our time that much harder.  We will be watching our children’s music idols stride into the positions of our icons stepping down and I will do my best not to be the crotchety woman voicing my distaste in the background.  And knowing Will, he will join right in with the next generation’s music and never miss a beat.

As a tribute to REM and even more so to my wonderful husband, below is a video of Will’s favorite REM song “Find the River.”  This is one of the few songs that will immediately calm both children down in their fussiest of states and I think you’ll understand why when you hear it.

There is nothing better than hearing poetry through music.
Happy Sunday everyone!

(Please excuse any commercial that may play before the actual music.  Blah.  I promise it's worth the 15-second wait.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Someday, George may be a head-strong tween (did I just use that word?) and I may need these pictures as leverage:

But until then they just make me laugh.  I should also note that this dress fit him like a glove.  And in all fairness, he completely resisted putting this on.  Frances is quite convincing when she wants to be:

And don’t worry Will, this was the outfit George chose for today’s dress-up session:

I am just now noticing the Santa purse in the picture on the left.  Hilarious.  All I can think of is Nathan Lane's line from the movie The Birdcage when he says, "Well, one does want a hint of color, yes?"  Wrong reference?

Happy Thursday everyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Everything is complete"

This past Sunday my nephew Justin was christened, which lends itself to a long-overdue family gathering between Will’s side of the family (the Homillers) and our wonderful sister-in-law Becca’s side of the family (the Woolleys).  Justin is Becca and Charlie’s (Will’s brother) second son and he is absolutely adorable:

He is truly the happiest baby I have ever seen and I’ve seen some pretty darn happy babies in my time.  This little guy will watch Frances, George and big brother Trey play for hours without complaint – all smiles:

All of the cousins had a blast playing and eating together:

I was honored to be asked to be one of Justin’s godparents (along with Uncle Keith):

We look very godparent-like, yes?

I will try not to let you down Justin (starting with the life lesson “one shall not eat pearl necklaces.”):

I had to share this one of Uncle Will and Trey:

Those are two handsome boys!

At one point during the morning, Becca turned to me and said, “Things just seem right now.  Everything is complete.  I feel so happy.”  I just about cried.  No one deserves happiness more than Becca, who I think about often when get together as a family.  Becca and her siblings lost their mother several years ago (shortly before she met Charlie) and I cannot imagine how bittersweet these significant moments are with her children; to not be able to share them with your mother.  But on this special day, Becca had a glow about her and I could tell that she really did feel complete.  I have no idea how I would have made it thus far in my life without my mother by my side, but I know for certain that I would not have been able to do it with as much grace and sheer loveliness as Becca.  I was humbled by her happiness on that day and thank her for giving me appreciation for my own incredible mother – we should all be so lucky to feel that complete in light of such a huge presence missing.

A great day; a great family.  Everything is complete.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A picture-less play date

This past weekend, Will and I met up with some of our law school friends (or more specifically Libel Show friends – wahoowa!) for our first official “let’s get the kids together to play” date since they’ve moved an hour away from us a year ago.  We all had a blast—Frances and George were in heaven in the playroom and their adorable three-year-old Anna was very kind to let the gruesome twosome roughhouse a bit more than her three-month-old baby sister, Mae (aren’t those great names—Anna and Mae.  Three cheers for classic children’s names!).

Alli and Drew were both in my law school class but the four of us participated in the infamous Libel Show at UVa, so the morning was saturated with “remember that skit” talk, sprinkled with empathetic preschool/toddler/infant stories, and of course lots of catching up.  The Larsens are a great couple (I really wished they lived closer) who both teach at William and Mary Law School (Drew is also a small business attorney), but are much more down to earth than you would ever imagine considering their collective resumés (let’s just say that one of them clerked for Justice Souter on the US Supreme Court, has been published in distinguished law review journals and was recently quoted in the NY Times about something that was way the heck over my head.  And the other one is really good at soccer (yay Drew!).). 

It was wonderful to see them and we all promised to do it again soon (or at least sooner than a year from now…!).  Frances offered to stay with them “forever” (her words) because Anna was “so beautiful” (again, her words) and they have way better toys than we have at home (this is a summary of her ten minute diatribe explaining why we should be staying there “forever” as we were backing out of the driveway.  I think that just about captures it though.)

And as a sign of any good play date, I have zero good pictures to put up on the blog.  But I did manage to capture a few during lunch and Will figured out how to use the timer on my camera for an all-inclusive departing shot (except little Mae, who was trying her best to nap upstairs).

Lunch!  George is especially excited about any mealtime.

The beautiful Anna

Sweet baby Mae

Love this one.

A little out-of-focus, but appropriate considering the way past naptime hour.

Thank you Larsens!!  And Happy Monday everyone!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Six-month review

As of September 16th, I have been employed in my new position (“stay at home mother,” “full-time mom,” “domestic goddess,” or “housewife extraordinaire” – however you choose to say it) for six months, so I thought it was only fair that my new employers (or are they my employees?  Maybe I need to clarify that point before too long…) give me a standard six-month review of my progress:

When I asked Frances whether she likes having me at home rather than heading to the office every day, she not surprisingly answered with an enthusiastic “yes!”  Her only complaint—that she has to go to school for two half-mornings a week while George and I get to stay home together.  “You’re so lucky to get to stay at home all of the time, Mommy” and I suppose she’s right in many ways.  But without her wonderful preschool and her saintly teachers, I am not sure the three of us would have made it.

In looking back over the past six months, I’ve realized that a lot of what I had assumed would happen when I stopped working was just dead wrong and only showed my vast naiveté of diving in headfirst into this new job.  First, I think the term “stay-at-home mother” is a complete misnomer for my position, not because it is an unworthy title but because I am so very rarely physically at home.  The three of us are always going somewhere—and not just because we have to (boring errands or the dreaded extracurricular activities that I imagine are around the corner) but because I love, love, love doing things with my children.  They are a joy to take places, to share new things with, and to help me explore our great city. 

I am also pleasantly surprised by how mentally stimulating this job really is.  As laughable as this is to me today, I presumed that taking care of children fulltime would be (*deep breath*) boring at times.  Hilarious, no?  I can safely say that practicing law was much less mentally stimulating than parenting a toddler and a preschooler and there were many (many) more days that I was bored at the office than I have ever been bored at home (which to date is exactly none.  I would pay money to be bored for just an hour these days.  Cash.  Major moolah.  And lots of it – sorry Will).  And I didn’t just work in some stuffy, dead end legal job—I worked for the biggest law firm in Virginia for a year and then moved on to family law, the area of law that 99% of attorneys do not want to touch with a 10 foot pole.  I assure you I was as mentally stimulated as they come; negotiated with some stick-in-the-mud attorneys and talked down some clients from the ledge.  And none of that was as difficult as taming a temper tantrum at the children’s museum, heading off a major meltdown at the playground, or bargaining with two head-strong Homillers about how to share one coveted toy.  I assure you, I am not kidding.  Learning how to deal with children (creatively, instinctively, honestly) is as difficult as or even harder than surviving in the corporate world.  The one difference?  You absolutely adore your clients.  And you have to change their diapers.

I also worry a lot (I am a worrier in case you haven’t noticed) about whether I am benefiting the children by staying at home.  So, just in case I hadn’t loaded my plate enough in dealing with their physical needs (and believe me, that alone is a fulltime job), I am always trying to teach them things they would be learning in preschool or beyond.  I want to ensure my disciplining is strict without being harmful.  I want them to have free playtime but also have a structured schedule during the day.  All of this surprises me—how much I worry about my children and how much mental energy this takes.  Vast amounts; more than I thought I had in my brain.

I have also been surprised that at heart I am much more of a tiger mom than a soccer mom, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.  Because I am with my children much more than ever before and they are very good, very smart, and very well-behaved most of the time, I am hard on them when they are not all of these things all of the time.  I often find myself wishing I had said things less harshly or had been a bit more patient with them.  I worry either one (or both) will look back on his or her childhood and think, “I wish my mother hadn’t been so hard on me about everything.”  That thought alone kills me.  I never thought that taking care of children fulltime would require such an insane and impossible balance between patience, a firm hand, kindness, a quick “if you don’t stop that right now you are in big trouble” look, and ingenuity.

And on top of all of that, I should be cleaning, cooking, folding the laundry and picking up throw pillows.  Right.

On a simpler note, I have been surprised by my exhaustion.  Of course I have no idea why that should surprise me.  When I was working, I was always much more tired on Monday mornings (after taking care of the children for two days) than Friday evenings (after taking care of my clients for five days).  But I had hoped that in stopping my practice, I would somehow find more hours in the daylight hours for “me” time—reading, running, talking with friends, volunteering at preschool.  It made sense at the time anyway.  I could just time-shift my day so that I could sleep a little later, use the Kid Zone at the gym, read or make phone calls during naptime, and have much more energy for volunteering and socializing.  And actually as I type this I realize that maybe that is the way to go, but I have yet to achieve even a semblance of this daily schedule.  Currently I arise at the same time I did when I was working.  Pre-dawn.  Early, early, early.  And I am talking infomercial early.  All of this is so that I can run or head to the gym before my family stirs and be back in time to help Will with the morning routine—dressing, breakfast, dishes, etc.  By 8:00 am, Will has left for work and the three of us start our loosely scheduled day.  And as it stands, I can barely fit in what needs to be done during the day without trying to cram in some self-indulgence.  I know, I know – it is not self-indulgent to take care of yourself (believe me, I have said this to a fellow parent many times.  Practice what you preach, sister).  But knowing that I don’t have to take time away from the children, the house, the dogs, the full-time motherly/wifely duties I have if I just wake up early makes it very difficult for me to justify altering my schedule.

All of this self-evaluation leads to one important question—is my new job working out for me?  For Will?  For the children?  And from what I can gather even my “C+ needs improvement” work effort has been an overriding success.  In my heart of hearts I must admit that Frances and George are doing better with me at home.  And yes, I know that just by typing that last sentence (or even just thinking it), I have just sent my generation’s gender back 60 years (I went to an all-woman’s college for crying out loud.  This is not what I was supposed to believe!).  But I can only speak for my family and I can only speak for our unique situation of a two-attorney household – it was not working.  And today, this is really working.  Really.  And I love it more than I ever thought possible.  Not because it is easy but because it is hard.  And that my friends, is what my incredible all-woman’s college and a top-ten law school taught me—a good work ethic.

And now on to the next six months!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Jiggity Jig

Frances, George and I are back home after spending some much-needed time with Nana (Pop was at a conference) in Lynchburg. 


Walking Maggie and Calvin…

Mexican for dinner one evening…

And best of all, a visit from Cousin Maggie!

Does anyone else miss those "Bumbo" days?!

Frances was in heaven:

My two favorites:

George loves his cousin, too.  Just in a bit more of a “George” way:

And as it turns out, Maggie loves her cousins, too!  They can make this girl giggle like you’ve never heard before:

Maggie and Daddy:

And in case you can't tell, Maggie is the spitting image of her father.  It's a good thing Henry is such a pretty little girl.

Maggie and Aunt Lucy!

And now the baby fever begins…again.  But I am pretty sure I now have an ally in my corner:

How could you resist that?

Happy Thursday everyone!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I have been trying to figure out how to honor this ten-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks, but each time I begin to write something it comes up woefully inadequate.  I am lucky enough to say I have no personal connection to anyone who died that day (I do know plenty of people who lived in Manhattan and Washington DC, including my sister and her family, but who were all mercifully a safe distance away from the destruction) and because of that I almost feel like I have no standing to say anything.  I don’t want to pretend I can grasp how friends and family members of those who perished felt that day or feel ten years later.  In fact, I can’t even bring my mind to imagine what they must have felt because such thoughts are just too horrific, particularly now that I have my two innocent children whom I love more than my own life.  But I don’t feel right ignoring this important day; so I thought I would just talk about where I was in my life when I heard the news.

Ten years ago today, I was sitting in my first-year Criminal Law class with Professor Forde-Mazrui.  Law school had started maybe three weeks earlier and I was just beginning to feel comfortable in a class full of brainiacs all of whom I already adored.  UVa Law had just recently installed wireless internet and our incoming class was one of the first who used it regularly during lectures while taking notes on our laptops.  Our class met from 8:0o to 9:00 am and about 10 minutes before the lesson ended, the room was abuzz.  The “buzz” wasn’t permeating the lecture enough to make the teacher stop (Professor Forde-Mazrui is legally blind, so I am not sure he was able to see the students finger-pointing at their laptop screens), but by the time we were packing up our books and computers a fellow student said to a group of us, “the World Trade Center was bombed.”  After that, it was all a blur.  We soon discovered using the spotty Wifi network on our hour-long break before Contracts class that it was in fact a plane that flew in to the building.  Then another hit and there was no doubt in any of our minds that it was a terrorist attack.  Then the Pentagon.  Then a plane went down somewhere near Virginia (we later found out it was in Pennsylvania).  It felt like the tragedies would never stop coming.  And then one of my classmates leapt from his seat, put his hands on his head and said “oh my god, one of the Towers just collapsed.”  I will never forget that feeling.  I am not a naturally praying person but at that moment that was all I could think to do – pray.  Pray for those people who were still in the building when it collapsed.  Pray for those passengers on the planes that were used as assault missiles.  Pray that they felt no fear, no pain, no horror.  Pray that all they felt was peace.

Looking back ten years later, I think that was all most of us could do that day.  Many of my fellow classmates and I donated blood that afternoon just so we could feel useful in some way.  But we mostly just talked, bonded, called our loved ones, hugged our friends a little harder, and silently appreciated how lucky we all were to have been only witnesses to those events.  And if there is a silver lining to September 11, 2001 it is the vast gratefulness we all felt for our own lives and the lives of those we love so dearly.  In fact, my favorite reference to that day is about just that—love:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion... love actually is all around.
                                                                                       -“Love Actually”

A day to remember that what we all have in common is love.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Monkey see, monkey do

After three long days of rain, thunder and lightning, we finally have merely a cloudy day (with some sun peeking out in short intervals looking startlingly bright after seventy-two hours of dark grey skies).  While the ground dries up, Frances, George and I set out this morning to one of our favorite indoor spots for blowing off some major steam—Monkey Joe’s.

For those of you who don’t know, Monkey Joe’s is essentially a large room with 10-12 moon bounces – in other words, my children’s heaven on earth.  No picture can capture the sheer magnitude of this place, but here goes:

If you look closely at the castle moon bounce, you can see our own little monkeys jumping their hearts out.

 And next you’ll find a series of pictures showing pink and orange blurs (that are Frances and George) in colorful cages (that are the moon bounces):

The slides are a favorite.

Admittedly I love this place, too.  The kids get great exercise and I inevitably find myself in an all-out laugh at some point during their hour-long jump fest watching their wobbly legs try to walk up and down the moon bounces like drunken sailors and falling down in the same manner.  Hilarious. 

This morning Monkey Joe himself made an appearance.  Frances was all over it.

George took it all in from a safe distance.

I can’t blame George; Monkey Joe is a little creepy looking.  And he also walks like the aforementioned drunken sailor—only he’s probably in his thirties and not on a moon bounce.  Of course, the "purple monkey" was all George could talk about on the drive home, during bath time (yep, they get so sweaty they got their evening baths before noon today), and through lunch.  I can only assume he's up in his bed dreaming about that odd creature as we speak.

Have a great weekend everyone!