Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Olympic fever

I have a confession – I am a complete Olympic Games junkie.  I am a sucker for positive patriotism, good natured competition and our national anthem playing in the background while the American flag is raised and the gold medalist’s chin involuntarily quivers.  When I was younger, I had high hopes of being a top US swimmer, competing in an Olympic games and making my country proud (and isn’t that the one time when that ‘proud’ phrase is most pure and sincere – an Olympic athlete encompasses it entirely).  Sadly, my dreams were squashed pretty early on when I realized I actually wasn’t that great of a swimmer.  But the next best feeling is cheering for those athletes that are that good—abnormally, incredibly, almost impossibly good.  I am just enough of a swimmer to know that that those young men and women competing in the Olympics are phenomenal, in every sense of that word’s definition.  And while I don’t have a similar understanding when it comes to the other sports—gymnastics, diving, track and field to name a few—I still sit back in awe and gawk at those able and willing to push their bodies harder and farther than anyone else before them.  And if all else fails, there is the NBC Olympics jingle to really get the heart pumping.

For me, the Olympic Games is a lot like the Christmas season—the atmosphere around even the ordinary changes and everything, including the third round of an obscure sport, seems magical (the Christmas equivalent in my mind being “Holiday in Handcuffs” staring Melissa Joan Hart and the overly-dimpled guy from Saved by the Bell – pure magic, I tell you).  And when else other than every four years can you find primetime coverage of synchronized diving, fencing and basketball all given equal weight by the sportscasters.

But all kidding aside, I am as excited as ever to watch as much Olympic coverage as I can this summer, which I am certain will include plenty of viewings of this Proctor & Gamble commercial:

Please tell me I’m not the only person who cries real tears every time she see this.  My children are almost certainly not destined for the Olympics, but on the off chance that they are I am going to be dissolving into a puddle on the sidelines if this commercial is any indication.  I’m also still in that adult/child in between stage because I have vivid memories of my own mother’s efforts to ensure my swimming, dancing, college or law school career was as successful as possible and I realize there is no possible way to thank her other than a comparison to a sentimental P&G advertisement.  Tears from all sides on this one.

These 2012 Olympics are the third games Will and I have watched together—2004’s competition we watched from Hawaii where we honeymooned (yep, we were roughing it, huh) and 2008 (the year of Michael Phelps) we watched from our small hotel room on the Chesapeake bay with our 10-month-old daughter sleeping soundly in the closet.  This year, we don’t have a celebratory Olympic trip planned, so we’ll be watching from our sunroom couch or more likely catching the next-day replays online because one of us can’t stay awake past 9pm and the other one is up to his eyeballs in work.  But I am excited as ever, viewing these tiny, muscular athletes with the appreciation of one who is quickly aging past her prime.

Shalene Flanagan (marathon)


And happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The in betweens

Some June moments captured in between the dance recitals, graduations, birthday parties, and field trips:

Will’s old Spiderman mask

Frances wore this for an entire day (paired with the skirt that my sister made me when I was four-years-old) and I haven’t seen it since.  It was adorable at the time, but I’m secretly glad it’s gone missing—I’m sure the poor girl was as hot as can be.


I call this one, “Marshall the Burrito.”

He’s becoming such a good sport with the kids.


The carnations from Frances’s dance recital are still going strong.

I put them next to my work station in the kitchen and even though they are small, ballet pink, and odorless, they’ve helped brighten that area up more than I thought.  I don’t buy many fresh flowers “just because,” but every time I have some in the house I always wonder why not.


One of Frances’s “naptime” activities - Magnadoodle dog food.

I guess she thought her friends were getting hungry.

My parent’s dog, Calvin:

Poor thing had to stay in Richmond after Frances’s dance recital because he swallowed a huge piece of mulch, which then not surprisingly became obstructed in his intestines.  George and I delivered him safely back to Lynchburg last week (when we picked up Frances) under strict orders from the vet that he stay quiet.  The best way my mother knew to ensure he wouldn’t move was to put him in the middle of their kitchen island.  And don't let the long face fool you - he loved it.  He's just garnering sympathy on the off chance that someone will slip him one of those Honey Nut Cheerios.

Will has started a countdown to our Spain trip.

My Spanish is a little rusty, so I'm not sure if that says 17 days until Spain or 17 days until Lucy's first culture shock meltdown.  


Finally, a happy, happy birthday to my older brother, Johnny!

This is what happens when you trade your attorney salary for a stay-at-home lifestyle—homemade presents.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My boy of summer

I am head-over-heels smitten with this little big guy.

During the summer months, it is rare that there isn’t at least a faint line of sweaty, blonde hair encircling his ruddy face.  I had forgotten how much I missed that from last year; that sweet, sweaty little boy smell.  Summertime was made for boys, wasn’t it—the lightening bug chases, the poolside playing, the playground outings, the endless games of tot-sized basketball in the backyard.  And after a morning of doing all of that—twice through—his three-hour nap is testimony that he used up every ounce of energy his little body could contain.

But do you want to know my favorite part?  Waking him up from that midday slumber.  Walking into his dark, cool room with the fan blowing in the background; slowly stroking his warm, wet forehead as his huge, blue eyes slowly but surely open; watching him roll over to his side like the teenager I know he will one day grow into, slowly easing into the idea that it is time to arise for the afternoon; peeling his damp shirt away from his hot back to allow a gentle breeze to penetrate the moist cocoon his bed has become.

I don’t know when memories start for children—I have heard they begin at three-years-old, but who is to know for sure.  I imagine that if George remembers anything about these summer days, it will be the fondness for those long, cool, restful naps.  Those rare hours of true independence—falling asleep at his own pace, in his own bed, and without a care in the world.

A carefree summer begins and ends with a sweaty boy.  And Frances and I are enjoying the ride.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First week of summer

Frances’s last day of school was this past Friday (which also coincided with her last day of dance class, thus the leotard and tights getup):

After Saturday’s dance recital, my little world traveler ventured to her favorite place in the entire world to visit by herself—Nana and Pop’s house in Lynchburg!  By all accounts she is having a fabulous time, staying up a bit later than usual, buying new shoes, and eating butter on her lunchtime sandwiches (I kid you not on this one.  But as my mother said, what happens at Nana’s house stays at Nana’s house).  She even had time to make her debut television cameo in a local news story:

Those are her now-famous new shoes pictured in the lower right photo.

My mother is Immediate Past President of the Lynchburg Rotary and one of her pet projects as President was raising funds for an all-inclusive children’s playground at one of the more popular parks in Lynchburg.  Frances attended the groundbreaking ceremony and stole the show.  What you don’t see in these pictures or the news story (click here if you’re interested in watching it) is how much praise my mother received for her tireless efforts in realizing this project.  Congratulations, Mother!

So, while Frances has been gallivanting around Lynchburg in new, white Mary Janes smiling for the television cameras, George and I have been enjoying a quiet week in Richmond.

Heading to the pool!
Parenthood is nothing but relative, isn't it?  Only when you have both a 4 1/2-year-old and a 2 1/2-year-old is a week with just your youngest "quiet."

He’s starting to miss her I can tell, but I think we both feel like we’re on vacation—George is able to play in Frances’s room with her toys completely free of distraction and I’m guaranteed a 3-hour block of time in the afternoon while my growing boy naps.  No doubt all three of us are in for a shock once things get back to normal next week.  But the house is much too quiet without her and (just as suspected) we find ourselves talking about Frances all of the time.  We are all missing her!

Father's Day morning.  Daddy is wearing his new "tie" from Frances and Frances is wondering when she gets to leave for Lynchburg.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, June 18, 2012

My pineapple princess

This past Saturday, Frances had her second annual dance concert:

For these last two years, Frances has taken dance through a great organization that comes to her school to teach her.  I love this for many reasons, the top two being (1) she doesn’t take dance class during family time (weekends or evenings); and, (2) she dances with all of her friends.  I’ll give you three guesses which of those reasons Frances likes better:

The girls danced to Annette Funicello’s “Pineapple Princess,” which as best as I can tell was from her heyday as part of the teen duo with Frankie Avalon in the 1950s and 60s.  I dare you to listen to this song and not smile though; they picked a good one:

And now, while you’re listening to that ridiculousness, picture all of these adorable girls shaking their tutus, pointing their toes and sashaying around the stage for a good 2 ½ minutes.  I laughed until I cried, probably to hide the fact that I was crying.  Dance already stirs up more tears than almost anything for me; add Frances to the mix and it’s a recipe for waterworks.

Once again, Frances drew quite a crowd to her show:

Mr. Pyles, Gram-E, Nana, George, Pop, Grandpa, Daddy, Grandma and Trey

After the final curtain call, we headed to Red Robin for dinner with some of the other families.  Carissa asked to sit with our table and George was in heaven.  To say he loves his lady friends is an understatement:

My sides still hurt from laughing so much at George and Carissa’s ongoing flirt-session.  They were quite a pair.

This will be the last dance recital with this group—Frances can’t keep the same in-school program with Kindergarten starting this fall.  I’ll double-triple check that she wants to keep dancing outside of school.  We are blessed with many great dance programs in this area (Richmond Ballet being one of them), so I am not short of places to take her.  But dance is hard enough, even when you are passionate about it.  I know the way a song can bubble that chasm below the breastbone, involuntarily moving your limbs and stirring up the butterflies waiting impatiently in your stomach.  I know that feeling and I see that reflected in Frances’s eyes when she hears “The Nutcracker,” “Carmen,” or even the “Curious George” soundtrack.  As silly as it sounds, that passion is what you cannot teach and I want to ensure hers doesn’t get lost in the fray of mirrors, recitals and peer pressure.  Maybe I’m gun-shy or a bit overprotective, trying so desperately not to be a dance mom that I’m becoming a ‘you cannot dance’ mom.  I’m keeping an opened mind, eyes, ears, and heart.

If Frances wants to continue dance, I will be her biggest fan.  Well, almost her biggest fan:

Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

It’s hard to believe another year has gone by since I wrote my last Father’s Day post for Will.  I know you all have heard it 1,000 times before, but Will is truly an inspiration as a father—he’s patient, kind, creative, playful, and stern when he has to be (which is almost never because when you are all of those other aforementioned adjectives, children just listen.  Amazing.  And a little exasperating for those of us who are not all of the above).

As I was scouring our old family pictures earlier this week, I realized (for maybe the first time) just how close Will has been to both of our kids.  I sometimes forget that a mere 15 months ago I was working as a fulltime family law attorney (which translates into a 60 hour plus week, sleepless nights, rushed mornings, grumpy evenings, weekend work catch-up, and countless other intangibles that are hard to translate into words).  Will was my true partner in parenting throughout it all—we were as close to 50/50 parents as you can get.  We both took the kids to the doctor, he dropped the kids off at school and I picked them up, he fed them breakfast, I fed them dinner and we alternated who made the lunches.  But not only did we share all of the responsibilities, we shared all of the fun parts of parenting, too—the playing, the outings, the birthday parties, the daily ups and downs when you have babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  Yes, we were both working (hard), but we had equal amounts of bonding time with our brood; and Frances and George were as close to their father as I’ve ever seen two children get.

And now, we still share family responsibilities, but instead of 50/50 it is 100/100—Will has 100% of the breadwinning status and I have 100% of the home.  It’s no more than before, but the breakdown is different.  And a part of me wonders if it’s a little unfair for him.  And particularly, for the children.  By gaining me at home they have lost time with their father.

But, do you want to know the truly amazing part of all of this?  Will is not the least bit resentful of the new breakdown.  I am fairly certain (oh, who are we kidding, I am completely certain) that if I were in his shoes I would be heartbroken to know that my relationship with the kids had to be curtailed for my career.  I would be thrilled to know their father was with them more, but I would selfishly miss my old time with Frances and George.

I know Will misses us; misses seeing the kids because of his ridiculous work schedule this last year.  But he is happiest when the rest of us are happy.  It takes a special person to put others’ wellbeing before his, but Will does this on a daily basis—easily, joyfully, and without a hint of resentment.  One day, I hope to be the kind of mother that Will is as a father.

"A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty." -- Unknown

Thank you, Will!  And a happy, happy Father’s Day to all of my wonderful fathers out there (Daddy, Frank, Jerry, and “Mr. Pyles”)!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lawyers playing softball

When Will and I were in law school, softball ruled.

Some of the UVa law school softball players.  Can you pick out the male model?

Or at least it did for one of us.  The other one of us (me!) was happy cheering from the sidelines.  In fact, on our third (I think?) date, Will asked me to come see him play in one of their final games and the stud hit a home run no less (accompanied by some pretty stellar fielding moves if I recall correctly).  His friends got a big kick out of chiding him for showing off for me and I assumed such playing was par for the course.

So, when Will’s law firm decided to revive an old summertime tradition of a firm-wide softball game, there was no way the kids and I were going to miss seeing Daddy in action.

Frances had everyone’s outfits picked out days in advance. 

George had a last minute costume change (swapping the Toy Story baseball hat for the Atlanta Braves batting helmet - well played, son), but otherwise everything was just as my little planner had envisioned.

Will did great—no home runs this time, but he did make it on base (three times, I think) and his team creamed the other side 18-3.  And how can you ignore those great UVa colors:


The entire group.  No surprise, Will is still the tallest 

The game lasted only an hour (bless them, those lovely players, for being so quick) and then came the best part …

 …running (and running and running) the bases.  I have no idea how many times (and how many miles) those kids ran, but it lasted a good 45 minutes and left them happy and exhausted.

And that’s a WIN in my book.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yes, Virginia, Richmond does have a zoo

Frances’s class took their second and final (at least for her) field trip this week:

To the zoo!

George and I were lucky to get to tag along again; although, I could have disappeared for two hours and George would never have noticed.  To say he fit in is an understatement (considering he’s also taller than about 75% of Frances’s schoolmates):

George and Carissa

And Michele (Carissa’s mom) if you’re reading this please know that George announced just this morning that he ‘loved’ Carissa and he and Frances have already planned their impending nuptials.  Frances was most excited to know that the wedding would mean that Carissa would be her sister.  As if they could be any closer:

George, Frances and Carissa

As one would expect, the zoo had every animal you could imagine (except an elephant, which predictably turned into the most requested animal as soon as the class realized it was not a viewing option):

The tigers

Am I the only parent whose heart races when their children are near a predatory animal??  I'm sorry, but that glass and my nerves are only but so strong.  They are incredibly beautiful though.

The chimpanzees

They looked so wise.  I'm convinced they know more about life than I do.

Lions, tortoises, rhinos, zebras, camels and bears (just to name a few)

The kids could feed the giraffes

The baby goats (by far, the most popular)

One smart little baby used the back of an unsuspecting donkey to secure his escape.

We lucked out again with the weather this field trip – rainy enough to discourage any other visitors (we practically had the entire zoo to ourselves), but not wet enough to keep us away.  And this excursion confirmed that George is indeed ready for preschool next year …

 … even if I’m not.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Grandma Lee!

Will’s maternal grandmother celebrated her 85th birthday on Sunday.  What a milestone!

Grandma Lee has always been so kind to all of her great-grandchildren.  She has a wonderful way with kids—of course, after five children, ten grandchildren, and now countless (at least for me) great-grandchildren she’s had a lot of practice.  Our kids just flock to her:

It probably goes without saying that this party was custom-made for Frances and George—cake, presents and family.

George, Frances and Justin

Will and Will in 30 years.
Becca and Trey

Grandma and Justin

I tried to get our traditional Trey/Frances and now Trey/Frances/George picture, but after mixing mac n’ cheese, buttercream frosting, and a no-nap afternoon, it came out more like this:

As close as I could get:

This photo calls for a "caption me" request.

Happy 85th Birthday to Grandma Lee!  And a happy Monday to all of you.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Oh, the places she'll go!

Frances graduated preschool this week.  *SOB*  She is killing me, this one.

Frances has been attending this wonderful school since she was ten weeks old and I will be forever indebted to the extraordinary teachers and directors that have been a part of our lives for these last 4 ½ years.

The school made these adorable collages for each child

She's always loved the water!

I am a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child (if you’re lucky enough to have one!) and Miss Diana and Miss Peggy, her infant to one-year-old teachers, were the mayors of our village for many years, even years after she graduated from their class.  When Will and I dropped her tiny, 2 ½ month old, squirmy, warm body into their arms that first day, we were weepy eyed and unsure—not just about leaving her there, but completely unsure of how to be a parent.  Her teachers gently and lovingly guided us through those tricky first months—first solids, first finger foods, first shoes, first words, first teeth, first fever, first steps and first birthday.  There are moments that I am so sad my insides ache that I missed most of those firsts; but I am equally happy that such incredible women were there in my place.  I know Frances loved them as though they were her own grandmothers.

First day/Last day

And now, she’s on her way to Kindergarten (via a summer at home with George and me, thank goodness!).  I am so proud of her I could pop.  I’m proud that she always follows her teachers’ directions; I am proud that she’s shy, but (as I am told) is a natural leader in the class; I am proud that she’s a kind, sweet friend expressing genuine happiness when others succeed or bring a coveted toy to school (a trait her mother still struggles with); I am proud that just last month her teacher asked if we were going to have any more kids because she loved our children so much (after a morning playground meltdown, I really needed to hear that); but most of all, I’m proud that she’s fully embraced our crazy family regardless of its changes—from maternity leave when I thought I could never leave her, through my crazy work schedule when I had to physically push her away so I could finish preparing for a trial, through George’s birth, his tumultuous toddlerhood, and finally to my full-time mother status.  She has been the ideal companion and my best friend through it all.

Holding on for dear life

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

-          Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go!

Happy Friday, everyone!