Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!

Or at least Happy last day of 2011!

George and I have just returned from Lynchburg on a mission to retrieve Frances from what will surely come to be known as the best week of her life so far – i.e. a 5-day visit with Nana and Pop.  I am almost embarrassed to say how much I missed her and it’s so wonderful to have her back in the house again (which was eerily quiet even with an active 2-year-old boy running the show – that should tell you something about Frances’s presence).  Without a doubt George missed her the most though, which he has been kindly demonstrating by tackling her, pulling her hair, taking all of her Ariel dolls, interspersed with laughter, hugs and endless hide and seek games.  And Frances has loved every minute of it.

Today also begins “Adventures in Potty Training” for George, a phrase I have dreaded from the moment the ultrasound technician uttered those wonderful words, “it’s a boy!”  So, in light of the fact that our next 36-236 hours will revolve around Mickey Mouse underpants, Tide, Lysol and lots and lots of patience I thought I should go ahead and write my last blog post bright and early this morning.  If I am M.I.A for a few days, I know you will all understand why.

2011 was a great year, or to use a Frances-ism it was “by far my favorite” year.  It was so wonderful in fact that I would feel silly and very selfish to ask that 2012 be any better.  I will simply close this post saying “thank you” to 2011 for 365 days of memories.  I started this year a full-time working attorney mother and have ended it a much happier full-time non-attorney mother—and little did I know when I started 2011 that the first position would lead to the last.

A very happy 2012 to everyone!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Very Homiller Christmas

Just when you thought I had beaten the Christmas metaphors to death, I find another zinger to end the season.  This is the last one this year, I promise!

We had a fantastic Christmas this year – the perfect balance of low-key foursome time and crazy wonderful extended family gatherings.

Christmas Eve included church:

Bless them for the "friendly note to parents" message:

The children’s story

We have a wonderful church that we do not attend nearly enough.  The people are always welcoming and have never once made me feel uncomfortable for our all-too-infrequent appearances.

After church came dinner, hanging the stockings, and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas:

A candid picture perfectly summing up our evening - Frances ensuring the stockings are securely attached, George desperately wanting to touch Frosty on the tree, Daddy filming, and Marshall and Max just happy to be in the fray.

Not to be forgotten – milk and cookies for Santa and an apple for Rudolph.

And after all that preparation, Santa came!

We spent a lazy morning at home, opening presents and playing, playing, playing.

Nana and Pop showed up with some of the favorite presents of the day – American Girl twin dolls.
Somehow my mother found a doll that looks exactly like George, hair and all.

And if anyone else needs convincing that Will just might be the nicest person on the planet, take a look at my gift:

Yes, he printed out each and every entry of my blog from 2011, laminated it, and included a table of contents.  I was blown away.  I can only imagine how much time and effort this took and he did all of this this while working himself to death this year.  I thought I was doing well giving him a personalized desk calendar from Snapfish.  See what I mean, people?!  It’s tough to be married to someone so perfect.

The rest of Christmas day was spent at Will’s parents who host an incredible Christmas dinner and gift-opening explosion, of which I have zero pictures except these of Frances lurking over the Barbie doll cake from Aunt Alison:

That look says, "It's Christmas and I'm going to eat a Barbie cake."

And now Will and I are enjoying a quiet evening at home after a full day of post-Christmas cleanup and new/old toy merging (and much-needed toy culling).  Frances left with Nana and Pop today, bursting with excitement to spend the week in Lynchburg.  She didn’t even flinch when I buckled her into her car seat and kissed her sweet cheek, saying with a lump in my throat, “I’ll see you on Thursday.”  I am so proud of my girl but miss her terribly already.

George, on the other hand, is very happy to be an only child for the next four days.
Let the kitchen dance parties begin.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmastime is here

A little of what we've been up to this week:

Gingerbread house decorating

Thankfully the kiddos forgave their sleep-deprived mother who mixed up the roof pieces and the side pieces creating more of a gingerbread diorama.

If you look closely you can see the owner of the house hiding safely inside from hungry bellies.
George was nice enough to throw some M&Ms his way though.

Our daily visit from Gram-E

What would the kids and I ever do without her and Mr. Pyles?

Gingerbread men (and princesses of course)

We can't forget Princess Ariel

Our elf is getting trickier by the day

His roost yesterday.

George shows off his current spot

A little stalker-like?  Maybe.  But even I'm being better than normal today so I know it's working.

This may be my last post before the BIG night (depending on how the next 36 hours goes!).  If so, a Merry, Merry Christmas to all of my wonderful readers (particularly those compulsory ‘fans’ like my mother, Barbara, Brooke, Julie, Eileen, and especially Will!).  I have loved hearing from all of you at various times and on various subjects and I am very thankful that you all take the time to read my silly anecdotes about my life at home.  This blog has been one of the greatest and unexpected pleasures of 2011 and I am very excited to see what surprises 2012 holds in store for all of us.  Please continue to keep in touch with me...

...and I’m happy to take everyone along for our little ride!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wrapping up

Is everyone ready??

Me neither.  In fact just looking at that number “4” makes my eyelid twitch; thus, I am going to make this post short and sweet so we can all get back to what is really important—eating more Christmas chocolate!

We finally completed our “Holiday Activity List” that I previously mentioned by going out in style with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s garden festival of lights. 

It was as beautiful as always, but much more crowded than I remembered in years past.  Thankfully, the masses did not seem to faze Frances and George who spent most of the night oooo-ing and awwww-ing on cue.
Inside the conservatory - model trains, Santa and a huge Christmas tree. 
I'm not sure George noticed anything after he saw the trains.

Outside - peacocks, unicorns, candy canes and igloos just to name a few.

I have no idea how the garden does this every year (or how any of the plants survive all of the predictable stomping in and out of the flower beds by curious children), but I am very happy they do.  It really was the highlight (so far) of the holiday season.
Looking over the lake to the fully-decorated tree house.

Frances and George have also been helping me with some holiday baking.  Yes, I know; that statement sounds completely unfathomable and invented for the sake of a good blog post.  But there is a holiday recipe out there that a two and a four-year-old can actually help make and where the end product is edible (and in fact requested many, many times by those who have tried them)—Pretzel Hugs.

I found this recipe on another blog (thank you, Erin!) and experimented with just Frances initially (while George was still napping).

The next batch included George's help by creating an assembly line—Frances unwrapped the hugs and George put them on the pretzels.  I did the final steps of putting them in the oven and putting the M&Ms on, but I’m fairly certain they would have been fine helping me with that part, too.  I always get nervous with the kids, especially George, around a hot oven; but I have no doubt in a year’s time the children will be making these entirely on their own.

George's "soldiers" as he calls them.  Frances and I just call them good.

And with that, I will sign off because I have more pretzel hugs waiting to be made and a million other little things to be done in the next 96 hours.  Gulp.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Visions of sugarplums

This past Saturday, my mother and I took Frances to see The Richmond Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.”  Frances and I had gone last year and she loved it prompting my mother’s immediate request to join us for our second annual excursion.  And by “loved it” last year, I mean that Frances sat mesmerized on my lap the entire first half and cried the second the curtain closed on Act I (we left at intermission—big mistake on my part).  I honestly didn’t think she could sit through the entire ballet at three-years-old; but this year I knew better and planned ahead of time to stay for both Acts.

The Richmond Ballet puts on a wonderful show geared heavily towards children (little ones are not only in the “Party Scene” of Act I, but throughout Act II’s “Kingdom of the Sweets,” which is usually just company dancers).  And although Frances loved watching the boys and girls, her favorite parts were the Snow Queen and the Dew Drop Fairy, whose costume was a butterfly and which garnered a *gasp* from the audience when she opened her wings for the first time – truly incredible.

The ballet was held at the refurbished Carpenter Theater in downtown Richmond where my mother used to go to watch movies as a child.  It is beautiful and feels like you’re stepping into a fully decorated Easter egg when you enter:

To no one’s surprise (and yet I guess I’m always worried) Frances was in heaven.  She remembered leaving early last year and at intermission she promptly turned to me with a big smile on her face and said, “We get to stay!”  Plus, they were serving hot chocolate in the lobby that you could sip at your seat while watching Act II.  Yes, I am not sure they could have geared this whole ballet experience towards Frances any more if they had tried.

As for me?  I am likely in the minority of former ballet dancers that still gets chills watching “The Nutcracker.”  I never once grew tired of dancing those roles and the sound of the Overture in the beginning will always stir those same feelings of nervous energy and excitement as it did fifteen years ago.  I will never be able to watch the Snow Scene without thinking of the wonderful Mr. Bosman; watch "Waltz of the Flowers" without remembering Mr. Schneider’s incredible choreography (where I was lucky enough to don a butterfly costume); watch the party scene without dancing step-by-step in my head the tin soldier’s part from Nashville Ballet’s staging; or feel that nearly overwhelming breathlessness from Paul Vasterling’s choreography while watching Marzipan.  And if some of my readers don’t know the people to which I am referring please understand that these are some of the greatest artists of the dance world—and I am lucky to say that I worked with all of them. 

The lazy person's solution to scanning - just take a picture of the picture.
(And PS - I'm so disappointed I can't find more pictures of my dancing career. 
They are around this house somewhere!)

The next morning, I found Frances dancing in our kitchen to the “March” from the party scene and the “Waltz of the Snowflakes.”  She was hooked and that is exactly how I was and how I started dancing.  I went to my first Nutcracker (at age 10), came home, danced what I now know were highly unskilled movements in our small living room, and begged my mother to sign me up for classes.  These many years later I can’t believe my own daughter is as physically and passionately moved by the music, steps, and emotion of the art that changed my life forever.  As trite as it sounds I felt like I had stepped back in time and was watching myself twist, turn and leap to that enchanted music.

Yes, the dance world was hard—so hard, in fact, that I left it too early.  I often find myself wondering “what if” I just been able to stick it out.  How far could I have gone?  I do know that at 17, 18, 19-years-old (my first years in the company), I was not equipped with enough emotional maturity to handle the ups and downs of an art that is as focused on physical beauty as it is on talent.  If my thirty-five-year-old (ugh) brain could have been implanted in my teenage body things may have turned out differently.  However, looking back at my pictures and reading the stories on my blog is enough for me to simply say, “Thank goodness I failed at ballet;" I may have never met Will nor had the pleasure of raising my two children.  To paraphrase one of my favorite cheesy country songs – some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

I have no idea if Frances will remain inspired by dance; I know I won’t push her into it if she loses interest.  For now we will remain casual observers because I know if dance really is in her blood, then nothing will stop her from pursuing those dreams.  And no doubt we will all be by her side, excited to see what road she leads us down.  Even if it is just enjoying the magic from the sidelines.

Happy Monday, everyone!