Thursday, March 29, 2012

Out like a lamb

I am floored that March is almost over and that this post will very likely be my last one this month.  Frances, George and I are heading to Lynchburg tomorrow for a much overdo Nana and Pop fix, and while the ‘burg is great for relaxing and rejuvenating, it is not so great for blog posting.  But our trip should give me some great material for April posts and hopefully a new picture or two of the munchkins with some of their favorite family members.

To end this month, I thought I’d post pictures of my two little lambs (a-o!) caught in the act.

As I was cooking dinner last night, I suddenly realized Frances and George were being much too quiet for much too long.  When I peeked outside I saw that they had found the outside hose that I had left on a slow trickle to water one of our browning trees.  They were having such a great time with the hose that I stuffed the conservationist in me as far away as she would go and just let them play with it.  They soaked themselves to the bone forcing an early bath time, but the watery giggles that came from the patio were 100% worth it.  As far as I’m concerned, every child should experience an afternoon of backyard water play at least once a season.  And is there any better way to quench a sundrenched afternoon thirst than by drinking straight from the hose?

Caught in the act last spring, too (April 2011)

Happy Thursday, everyone! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dreaming big

When Will and I became engaged (nine years ago this year – wow), seemingly overnight I became fascinated with bride magazines, The Knot dot com, and TLC’s A Wedding Story (did anyone else love that show?  And is it even still running?)

All at once, I adored everything “wedding” - seeing the dresses other women wore, the cakes they chose, the locations, the receptions (sit down or buffet), the color schemes, the groomsmen suits, and my personal favorite, the flowers.  I spent hours (yes, back then I had hours to spend) at Barnes & Noble soaking up wedding books, articles, pictures, celebrity planner novels, and trying my best to get ideas without getting overwhelmed. I read endless essays about wedding etiquette, the dos and don’ts of a successful celebration, how to spend (a little) less money, the best items to register for, how to avoid becoming a Bridezilla – you name it, I read it. 

One theme that often crept up during all of this wedding research was that many women had been dreaming about their wedding days since they were little girls.  I read things like, “I used to put a pillow case over my hair and pretend it was a veil,” or “I would walk down the hallway in my house with my mom’s fake flowers in my hand singing the Wedding March.”  And while I was excited, very excited, to have the whole wedding experience, I can sincerely say I never gave it much thought until I was a bride-to-be.  I never understood how a little girl could have any interest in a wedding; it seemed like such an adult undertaking for a small being to wrap her tiny mind around.

And then … we had Frances.

Frances is officially wedding-obsessed.  Her favorite part of any movie (usually Disney Princess-related) is when the couple finally gets married.  She has already dictated who in her preschool class she is going marry (oh, and Brennan, you have been warned).  She’s decided how many children she and this adorable Brennan boy are going to have (ranging anywhere from 2 to 101, depending on the time of day).  She puts on her ‘bride’ costume (which is really just her longest, fullest fancy dress costume) at least 3 times a week and begs George to stand in Brennan’s place long enough so that they can do the kiss at the end (George has yet to cooperate).  And just yesterday, she drew this picture of her wedding day:

Brennan is on the left, Frances on the right.  Like any good bridal outfit, her veil is center stage.

It’s actually a fairly accurate portrayal if she and Brennan were going to wed this afternoon.  No surprise, she is about 5 inches taller than he is.

And while this whole wedding-centric focus is new to me, it is completely foreign to her father who is still trying to figure out why he wore a morning coat and not a true tuxedo to our 4:30pm nuptials.  But there is one part of Frances’s daydreaming that can completely undo Will:

The part when the princess says goodbye to her daddy.

In fact, if you look closely at her drawing, you will see a rainbow above Frances and Brennan’s heads.  The last scene of The Little Mermaid shows Ariel’s father, king of the merfolk, waiving his magic triton above the newly married couple’s boat and creating a rainbow for them to sail away through.  And like any four-year-old with a vast imagination, Frances assumes this is exactly how her wedding will end (and if Will has anything to do with it, I’m sure it will).

I recently asked Frances why she likes the wedding scenes from movies so much.  Her reply?  “Because the bride always looks so beautiful in her dress,” in a come on Mommy, are you seriously asking me this obvious question tone.  And part of me wanted to write an essay detailing my worries (social, political, feminist) surrounding this message, these movies, and what I should do about it as the mother of an impressionable female.  Thankfully (for you the reader especially) I decided to just calm down.  Frances is four.  Frances is a girl.  Frances loves her dresses, loves her dolls, and loves to dream about a day when she is a married mother to her undoubtedly wonderful children.  What is the harm in that, particularly since I am living her very big dream as we speak?  There will be plenty of time and opportunities (not to mention an endless supply of strong, positive female role models in this family) for me to ensure Frances knows there is more to growing up than marrying her prince.  But for now, I am happy being a part of her evolving world and to experience a new wedding ‘day’ nearly every afternoon.

And Will is busy planning the big rainbow reveal in twenty (no, thirty; no, forty) years’ time.  Maybe by then, he’ll be ready to say goodbye.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Our week

Along with every teenager in the metro-Richmond area (and about 2/3rds of the adult population), Will and I went to see “The Hunger Games” this weekend.

As expected, it was entertaining.  I had read the books and Will had not, so it was fun to compare notes afterwards.  The lead actress was fantastic (I liked her much better than the character in the book, who I have a hard time sympathizing with during most of the storyline).  I had not pictured Woody from Cheers to be playing the washed-up mentor, Haymitch (although he also did a great job), but otherwise everything on screen matched up almost identically with what the author described in the book.

The best part of the evening was uninterrupted time with Will (thank you, Barbara and Jerry!), who has been busy, busy, busy with work and other commitments.  Oh, and the jumbo margarita at Plaza Azteca; that was pretty fantastic, too. 


Frances, George and I ventured to Maymont park this week, for the first time without the double stroller (or any stroller for that matter).  It was one of those perfect spring days when it felt criminal to stay inside and they both assured me they were up for the challenge of tackling the trek on foot.

The first half was easy, the second half was hard; but I had assumed as much going in to the morning.  It helps that I remember being that child who could hardly…walk…to…the…car my legs were so tired, only to return home and run in the backyard for 30 minutes straight.

This picture also reminds me that I need to buy these kids some new, bigger clothes.
George's muscle shirt is one thing, but I think Frances has officially outgrown this "dress."


A special visit from Mr. Pyles (of the Gram-E and Mr. Pyles fame, of course).

This picture is proof positive why Will and I can never get an iPad.  But they sure love it when he brings his.

George:          [after ‘performing’ on the potty]  Mommy, watch monster cookie?
Me:                 Huh?  Monster cookie?  Oh, you mean you want to watch Monster’s Inc.?
George:          Yes.  Watch monster cake?

It was such an adorable gaffe I almost let him watch the movie.  But alas, screen time is still highly limited in this house, which as you may imagine goes over very well with F&G.

I love this picture of Max.  At least once a day Max stares off in the distance and, as far as we can tell, he’s not staring at anything in particular.  I have no idea what goes through that little tiny head of his.  Thinking about his day’s work?  Wondering when we’re going to give him his bone?  Pondering some larger philosophical question about life?  Contemplating why Marshall often escapes the children’s evening costume routine?

Oh, the humiliation.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Trial and error

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about cooking and I know everyone has been on the edge of their seats with anticipation to see if I’ve made anything as dreadful as the roasted kale chips recently.  Thankfully, no.  Will, Frances and George are equally thankful (and for the record, yes, they looked bad, but they tasted great.  Marshall, Max and I couldn’t get enough of them).

I am somewhat reluctant to admit that I’m starting to love this new domestic enterprise of feeding the family.  I have yet to bake my own bread or roast my own red peppers (for the two tablespoons of soup you can garner from a dozen or so peppers), but I am taking on more food challenges and am finding the process (*deep breath*) relaxing.

My latest zen-like project?  Making my own chicken stock.  I know, I know; I just may have gone off the deep end.  But crockpot chicken stock after using an entire roast chicken’s meat for another recipe is about as easy as it gets.  And an added bonus?  It fits right in with my new simple lifestyle buzzword (are you tired of me using the term simple yet?  It’s okay to say yes; Will is considering banning the word and all of its derivatives from our house).  I used quite literally the entire bird, which I have never done before and I sit writing this post with nearly 8 cups of delicious chicken stock waiting to use for … something?  Please tell me I am not the only thirty-something-year-old who does not know what in the world to do with chicken stock.

As it turns out (after five minutes of internet research), chicken stock can be used in pretty much any recipe calling for chicken broth (although broth and stock are not exactly the same.  And there ends my total knowledge on broth vs. stock.  Please visit Google or another equally reliable cooking resource for a more comprehensive explanation).  Apparently, it is particularly good in recipes looking for a heartier flavor, like chicken noodle soup or casseroles and can be added to rice, risotto or other grains (couscous would be delicious, I imagine).

What it looks like during.  Don't worry, it cleans up nicely.

10 hours later

I think my first test run will be on an incredibly good chicken ‘n dumplings recipe that uses almost 48 ounces of chicken broth.  All four Homillers loved this dish (a small miracle), likely because is it chock full of nutritiously-void food (Grands biscuits and cream of celery soup – yum!).  The homemade stock has a much stronger flavor than store-bought broth, so I will probably substitute at least a cup of water for a cup of stock in the recipe:

Easy chicken n’ dumplings
46.5 ounces of chicken broth (32 ounce container + 14.5 ounce can)
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about one whole chicken)
1 (10.75 ounce) can reduced-fat cream of celery soup
¼ tsp. poultry seasoning
1 (10.2 ounce) can refrigerated jumbo buttermilk biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands)

1.      Stir together first 4 ingredients in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes
2.     Place biscuits on lightly floured surface.  Roll or pat each biscuit to 1/8-inch thickness; cut into ½-inch wide strips.
3.     Return broth mixture to a low boil over medium-high heat.  Drop biscuit strips, one at a time, into boiling broth.  Reduce heat to low; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking.

From: Southern Living magazine
Makes about 4-6 servings

And just in case anyone else is interested in making crockpot stock, all I did was the following:

Crockpot chicken stock
Place all bones and any other unused part of the chicken into crockpot
Add any/all of the following, to taste:
-         Celery
-         Carrots
-         Onion
-         Salt
-         Pepper
-         Parsley
-         Thyme
-         Sage
-         Anything else that sounds good!

Add cold tap water up to about ½ inch from the top of the crockpot.

Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours.  Let cool.  Strain stock completely from bones and other ingredients.

Makes about 8 cups of stock.

I decided to freeze all of the stock this time around since none of my meals this week call for chicken broth/stock (I’m not sure how long homemade stock lasts in the refrigerator, but I would guess 3-4 days?) and because I was still in the, "holy cow, what do I do with all of this chicken stock?" moment.

So, now I close what is probably the world’s longest post on chicken stock, particularly from someone who hasn't a clue what she is talking about.  I’m foreseeing a new banned phrase from the household in the coming days.

Happy Thursday everyone!  I hope it is as beautiful where you are as it is here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy spring!

George and I wanted to wish everyone a first day of spring:

I seem to have spawned another child equally fascinated with the camera.

We thought we’d share some of our Easter decorations, since they’ve been up almost as long as Valentine’s Day has been over.

Ideally I like a little more “spring” and a little less “summer” in my March days; but I’ll take what I can get.  If you need us, we will likely be in the backyard staking out potential Easter egg hiding spots. 

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, March 19, 2012


I've said it before and I'll say it again, nothing ages your boy at least two years like a new hair cut:

On the other hand, Frances's short 'do seems to have made her look younger:

Oh, to be four again.

The dogs and I are still in desperate need of haircuts:

The three of us have let ourselves go a bit this last year.  I’ll spare you a picture of my cut, but it’s much closer to M&M’s than F&G’s.

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, March 16, 2012

How do you know when you're done?

I thought I had finally made up my mind.

After being home one wonderful year, full of very high highs and some dark, winter lows, I had come to peace with my decision (I call it ‘my’ decision because Will has left it entirely up to me.  Great.) to not try for another baby.  I have realized there are very genuine benefits to only have two children:

(1) Focusing on two bright, sparkling minds with two feisty, unpredictable personalities is work enough for three mothers, much less this learning-as-I-go, need-all-the-help-I-can-get amateur.  I want Frances and George to not just survive childhood, but thrive in it and become prosperous, productive adults.  It worries me that adding another equally energetic body could take away from my ability to succeed in my goals as a mother.  

(2) Frances and George are a perfect mesh.  They love each other and love their little family of four (or six when M&M are included).  They assign names to foursomes of things--any things, all things; the neighborhood radio towers, the characters in books, birds they see in the sky—“That’s the Mommy one, the Daddy one, the Frances one, and the Georgie one.” Why put a wrench (albeit a cute, soft, pink wrench) in their ideal little world of four? 

(3) These sweet bundles of pure joy and love are expensive and one-half of the adults in the household is no longer earning any money.  Plus, I am a big fan of financial security and hate it when I feel like we are burning through hard earned income faster than the other half of us can earn it.
(4)  A small, stubborn part of my brain wonders why I would mess with a good thing.  I am blessed with two healthy, relatively well-behaved children.  I have an incredible husband who works hard and somehow maintains a sunny disposition through any situation.  We have created a great, small, simple life and I love it—truly.  We are in sync as a family; we are all sleeping well (never to be underappreciated); we are fairly mobile now that everyone is officially potty trained; we can all fit in our small Honda; staying in one hotel room is not impossible; flying to a favorite destination wouldn’t break the bank; asking our families and friends to keep the children—now and in the future—doesn’t seem like such a burden with only two; and my days at home have finally clicked.  What more do I want?  What more could I possibly ask for?  Why am I not satisfied with what I already have?  Maybe ‘less is more’ should also apply to our lives; our children; our desires to just add more chaos to the mix.

And these are all great reasons on paper.  But my heart isn’t made of paper.

There are moments—random, unexpected moments—when I just can’t believe I won’t have another baby swimming in my stomach.  That I won’t feel those tiny kicks or the never-ending hiccups that always made me smile, even in the middle of a heated court battle back in the days of attorney-hood.  That my days of size 1 diapers, lanolin cream, middle-of-the-night nursing sessions, baby shampoo, onesies, pacies, footed jammies, toothless grins, drool, spit-up, floor kicking, tummy time, Bumbos, jumparoos, backwards car seats, baby joggers, first solids, first Cheerios, and other endless firsts are over.  Am I really done having children?  Was George really the last pea on the vine?  How do you know?  No, really, does anyone have an answer to this—How. Do. You. Know?

If I had to predict the future, I would guess that the Homillers will remain a family of four; but just typing that thought makes my brow furrow and my mind race with doubt.  My window for making the decision—the final decision—is rapidly closing.  I am no spring chicken, after all.  I also know that most of my worries set forth above in numbered paragraphs (so typical, right) will work themselves out should we decide to have a third rugrat.  And maybe that’s why this decision is so hard—it really is one I have to make from the heart and not the head.  I loved having babies; I loved being pregnant; I loved the excited energy when I knew it was only a matter of hours before I met them the first time; I loved being able to hold them in one arm; that “fresh from the factory” baby smell that lingered well into the next few months; the baby sounds, coos, giggles; the invisible current of devotion that seemed to flow effortlessly from my heart to theirs and back again.  I can’t help but think, “I was meant to do this.  I was born to be a mother.  I was born to have babies.  I want ten of them, no … twelve, and I want to teach them as much as I can and have them raised by the best father on the planet.”

But I also have to remember that one day, whether I have two or twelve children, it will all end.  It has to.  Children grow, as they should, and I can’t fix that heartbreaking reality with simply having another to start the wonderful process over again.  Am I simply trying to stop time or prolong the inevitable?

And so I end this post with even more doubt that I began – I’m sure you’re all thrilled to hear that.  The least I could have done was to make a decision after all of this baby-rambling.  What I can’t lose sight of during my deliberation are the two present-bodied children peacefully sleeping in their beds as I type this—I am their mother; I was born to be their mother; and they need me as clear-minded, as grateful, and as happy with my life decisions as possible.

And happy I am.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March - a study in extremes

This past Saturday, the Richmond Flying Squirrels (one of the San Francisco Giants’ baseball farm teams) had a kids fest and since I have three children (Frances, George and Will) when it comes to all-things baseball related, we couldn’t miss it.

There is nothing quite as exciting as being able to run around on a picturesque baseball outfield, particularly when Nutsy the Squirrel is involved:

George was obviously wary of good ol’ Nutsy, but then spent the rest of the morning obsessing over where he was and whether he could give him a hug.  No doubt that old saying rings true for George – keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

And don't let these sunny photos fool you – it was absolutely freezing.  We had a great time, but had to leave sooner than expected when we realized that none of us could feel our hands anymore.  All was not lost though:

When we were leaving the stadium, we came across a woman who had set up some of her baby animals, most of which you could pet or even hold.  The baby pigs just about undid me – they were only 10 days old and could not have been happier wrapped together in the fleece blanket.

Seriously adorable.

And today, a mere three days later, it is sunny and 80+ degrees.

Frances’s sole wardrobe goal is to be able to wear short sleeves.  My gal was over the moon when I told her it was definitely warm enough to wear a summer dress and we were going to the botanical gardens.

Not surprisingly, Frances specifically requested her picture be taken next to the sea of purple.

George was just thrilled Nutsy was nowhere to be found.

Only two scraped knees later (yep - one per child.  Not to digress too much, but can someone please tell me why the chances of both kids tripping over their own feet is 100% when we are 30 minutes from the closest "Disney" band-aids?) and we are happily planning our afternoon outdoors.  March is tricky - if you don't take advantage of her nice days, she'll throw in some cold, rainy or even snowy ones in towards the end for good measure.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, March 12, 2012

This simplification business is hard work

I’ve been reading another book on how to simplify our family—physically, financially, mentally, spiritually—and I am in heaven.  Will knows that it is only a matter of days before he comes home from work to find the house empty of everything, furniture included, with Frances, George and me sitting on the floor in a dark room holding hands and singing “This Land is Your Land” to the light of a single candle. 

And although I may never go quite to that extreme, I am falling in love with the idea of less is more.  I have found such happiness in the simplifying process so far and I’m not even close to being done.  Meanwhile, Will is wondering where that materialistic “I can’t wait to have a diamond ring on my right ring finger, too” girl went that he married almost 8 years ago.

I can’t promise she’s gone forever, but I do think that this last decade of life experiences, the most significant of which was having Frances and George, created a paradigm shift in my thinking.  I won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty details of my new goals, but I will say that the process of streamlining is much more work than you would think—thus, why there are books you can buy to teach you how not to buy things.  Thankfully that seems to be the only ironic pill I’ve had to swallow thus far.

And that is all a very long-winded way of saying I am 100% completely worn out today from so much simplifying and my post will end here.  I would like to say that my next post will be written after I’ve watered my organic vegetable garden and biked the children home from the playground—but I’m not sure I’ll be that far along by then.  Or ever, for that matter.

Will is just hoping that his baseball hat collection isn’t sacrificed in all of this new found freedom.  I promise nothing.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Springing forward

Sunday marks the beginning of daylight saving time – that dreaded weekend of the lost hour of sleep.  For me, I dread less the reduction in shut-eye and more the extension of mornings running in the dark.  It is particularly difficult to get motivated out of the door when I come down every morning to variations of the above picture—the dogs not just sleeping, but involuntarily sinking into the sofa cushions with what must be pure exhaustion from the previous day of two consecutive 8-hour naps.  They lead a tough life.

In many ways though I love my dark morning runs.  Recently, I’ve witnessed the incredible full moon surrounded by at least 3 planets (Venus, Jupiter and Mars), which in the early morning is slowly descending below the horizon creating that larger-than-life glowing orb in the sky.  I listen out for the first bird song, usually making its appearance a good 15 minutes before the others catch up.  I sometimes wonder what motivates that first bird—maybe a hungry belly; maybe anticipating its babies’ early cries; maybe just an early riser like me.  Regardless of the reason (probably none of the above), I always silently thank it for entertaining me as the black sky turns to navy blue and the nocturnal deer finish their houseplant supper and make their way home for the night.

The darkness allows me to feel peacefully alone.  I pass several groups of people during my runs, all comfortably familiar but completely anonymous.  In the black morning, I know them only by silhouette and similar schedules—we are all morning exerciser creatures of habit but could never pick each other out in a crowd.  This dark, early time is our gift to our bodies and minds.  We all know the silent code to say “good morning!” and move on.

At the end of this month I run the first race of the season and soon after that begins the spring/summer running months (sun, heat, Gatorade), which I love for different reasons.  But until then, you can find me wearing my reflective vest and various running clothes as erratic as March’s weather patterns and enjoying these last mornings of incognito exercise.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Double trouble

A very quick post to wish my youngest niece a Happy 1st Birthday today!

These picture are very outdated (she is walking now), which proves I am much overdue for a Maggie visit.

And happy early birthday to Maggie’s father, Henry, who turns 30-something tomorrow.

I hope you two celebrate in style.  Much love from our crazy family!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bits and pieces

40 bags/40 days progress

So far, so good on my Lent project front.  As I had assumed I would do, I tweaked my system a bit because I realized going room to room each day doing the same things wasn't efficient.  If I have the vacuum out I need to just go ahead and vacuum the entire downstairs.  I also realized that I had about 15-20 organizing projects and about 5-10 major cleaning projects on the list (i.e. clean out garage refrigerator), so I made a separate list for those to help organize my thoughts.  I love having a sheet of quick-ish things to do when I find myself having an extra 30 minutes because the kids are happily playing together.

This past year, I have found that is one of the tougher parts of being at home - a complete lack of control over blocks of time.  At the start of any given day, I have no idea whether that morning will include catching up on five loads of laundry or just putting out the many fires igniting in the playroom because the kids aren't getting along.  Having a running list of to-dos has helped bridge the gap between those two extremes and I can usually get something done every day.

Downton Abbey

I know I am way late to the party, but I started watching season one of Downton Abbey and I. am. hooked.  I love it and it might be the only thing (other than the kids, I suppose) that could keep me from completing the 40-day project before Easter - it is just that good.  I'm sure I've mentioned before that I am not a big TV person (other than the 10 or so different Real Housewives that I tape to watch during those aforementioned 5-loads-of-laundry days; yes, I know, so very classy).  But I couldn't ignore the rave reviews coming from my parents and friends, so I bit the bullet and started watching and I am so glad I did.  I had forgotten that a well-written script (similar to a well-written book) can inspire, cultivate and encourage your imagination and interest in things other than what is going on under your own roof.  I can't recommend it enough (except maybe to Will who is drowning in "oh my gosh, you have GOT to see this show!"  I think I lost him when he heard that there would be British accents.)

Do you want to see something scary?

Just take a horizontal glimpse of your kitchen countertops after you think you've cleaned them.  Ugh.  Does anyone else see the countless crumbs that I missed?

Another snow day

We had another quick snowfall this week that lasted maybe half of the morning.  It was my kind of snow - pretty but completely drivable.  Frances barely made an appearance in it before asking if we could go to the children's museum instead. 

Big bad wolf

Please don't hate me, but I can't be the only person I know who has this song in his or her head for the rest of his or her life:

Will introduced our lucky family to this little skit.  He remembered it from childhood and (shocker) F&G love it.  I don't let them watch it anymore (I am (stupidly?) trying to wean them off of any screen time), but we have the music on Will's computer and it stands as the number one most played song this month on iTunes.  I hear it in my sleep; I run to its rhythm on my morning jogs; I sing it in the shower; it will be with me until I die.

And now it will be with all of you.

On that note, happy Tuesday everyone!  And a special congratulations to my brother's father-in-law, Coach McKillop, and his basketball team, the Davidson Wildcats, for winning the Southern Conference championship and securing a spot in the NCAA tournament!  It was an exciting night for our family (and always fun to see your brother and his wife on ESPN2)!