Monday, April 29, 2013

A lawyer's letter

Dear Lawyer Gods:

I know I am only two years out from under your wing, but I’m writing to you today as the spouse of one of your minions.

Stock footage from April 2011.  Sadly, his current work is keeping him at the office.

I’m just wondering when this lawyer thing slows down.  Will has been working around the clock (or at least that’s what it feels like) and I am about to check in to our local mental hospital.  Not really, but now that I think about it, what a great break that would be, no? 

Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate that Will is gainfully employed and that the economy appears to be as strong as ever.  I feel blessed that his job allows me to stay home with the kids and pays for my yoga classes (because, LG, without that yoga I would have written this letter long ago).  But two weeks plus in a row of single-parent bedtime should be an automatic nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Actually since I’m daydreaming, a much better prize would be to have Mary Poppins come live with you for a year.  And a child-free weekend once a month.

But since none of that will actually happen, Lawyer Gods, I’d just ask that Will get a break.  It doesn’t have to be long; just enough for us to be able to see him more than 15 minutes in the morning during the school rush.  I’ve got about 20 different anecdotes to share with him from this latest round of all-nighters and I can’t seem to find the time to tell him (and I think I may have already forgotten 16 or so of them).  Frances has stopped asking if Daddy is going to be home to put her to bed and George has figured out that one of my buttons these days is to say, “I want DADDY!!!!” when he gets in trouble.  No lie, kid.  I want Daddy, too!

Here’s hoping for more of this guy in the (near?) future.  And a happy Monday, everyone!  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Around the house

April in Virginia usually looks like this:

April 2012

But these days, it is feeling much more like this:

Chilly and gray—very un-spring-like.  I’m refusing to turn the heat back on in the house out of principle, but I may cave soon considering Will and I have both slept wearing our winter fleece coats overtop of our pajamas all week.  I’m just going to assume the kids are warm enough since we don't hear a peep.

One of the few bright spots of the unseasonably cool weather is how much the flowers seem to love it.  Our azalea hedge is looking prettier than I ever remember it this year:

And my pansies show no signs of drooping or fading, which might just be a first:

The cold weather also seems to be keeping the mosquitos at bay, so there has been lots of al fresco dining this month:

A rare warm(ish) evening when coats weren't necessary

And because of the bug-less days and evenings, we’ve been using our patio much more than usual, which inspired me to get some new outdoor pillows to spruce up the space:

Please excuse the shabby chic nature of our patio furniture--much more shabby than chic, I'm afraid.

I'm having a bit of an orange obsession these days, so I couldn't resist these.

All from Target, of course--the greatest place on earth and the surest way for me to spend at least $100 under one roof.

Inside my kitchen shelves got a little spring makeover:

And I’ve been buying fresh flowers more than I remember in the past. 

Once you get used to them in the house, they’re a bit addicting.  Beware!  Plus, it never hurts to have a rose as gorgeous as this to stare at every time you enter a room:

Costco oranges in a glass bowl round out my orange obsession.  

Sadly, these babies are even less enduring than fresh flowers—Will and I devoured them in about 5 days.  Or at least I hope Will ate some of them otherwise I may be more obsessed with orange than I had originally thought.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Our annual picture

It just isn’t springtime until we get a picture of Frances and George in the playhouse window at the botanical gardens:

My yearly reminder that Frances is quickly outgrowing her preschool baby face and George still needs Daddy to be doing something ridiculous on the other side of the lens to have a genuine smile.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Preserving Memories

One of my college friends, Susan, is expecting her first baby (a girl!!) later this year and asked for recommendations on how best to record her daughter’s all-too-quick first years—whether there was something I wish I had done (or thankful I did do) with Frances and George.  By her own admission, she is private and is unsure if blogging is the way to go.

It was such a great question and one that I had honestly not thought about until she asked … so being that I am (apparently) not a very private person, I wanted to brainstorm my answer on my blog.  And I would love to hear from others on their recommendations because I know there is no right way to preserve those lightning-fast first months.

Baby Books

If you have told even one person you are expecting a baby, you are sure to get at least 5 different baby books to help you chronicle that first year.  Use them!  Or rather, pick your favorite one and fill it up as best you can (and then immediately, without guilt, give the rest to Goodwill; they will be used and loved by other newbie mothers and you won’t have them around as constant reminders that you have failed to fill all of them up with baby memories).  Chances are they will all contain similar content (monthly stats—weight, height, etc.; “firsts”—first smile, first tooth, first step; family information—grandparents, great-grandparents, godparents, etc.), so just go with what format you like and think will be the most efficient way to keep up your book.

Both Frances and George had calendar baby books (from Current catalog, I think) which I loved.  Twelve months’ worth of information that you personalized starting with the month your baby was born, lots of “firsts” stickers to use on the exact day those events happened (if you have your head together enough to remember; otherwise, feel free to “guestimate!”), and plenty of room for pictures and other memorabilia that you will want to hold onto (hospital bracelets are my favorite).  They were very simple, which is what I needed that first year (especially with number 2), but they don’t skimp on both emotional and technical information that you may want to remember for years down the road (i.e., how much did your huge 3-month-old weigh again??).

One last thought on the baby book—try to record memories as quickly as possible.  Otherwise, the baby book may become just another stressor in your life of a “to-do” item you have yet to check off.  Have it in a handy place (the kitchen is where we kept ours because we seem to be in there most often) and set aside a designated time each week (or day if you’re super organized) to breeze through it and write down anything that’s recently happened.  Of course, I would also avoid the “all or nothing” mentality—don’t stop writing things down because you missed a month or two.  It’s okay; just pick up again where you left off and go back later if you can.

Memory Boxes

If you have read my blog, you know I am anti-clutter to a fault (I have a standing weekly appointment at the Goodwill donation center).  But even I recognize the importance of keeping those irreplaceable items for no other reason than because they mean the world to you—baby shoes, first pacifier, first tooth.  So I have a memory box for each child (two now for Frances) that I use to store those little treasures.  I have to weed out a lot, which is hard; but one box every four years seems reasonable.  I want Frances and George to have memories of their childhood—but not an entire basement full.


Before I started blogging, Will was the family photographer and I am so very, very thankful that he was.  In that first year, particularly those first six months, your baby will change in ways you won’t even believe.  Take lots and lots of pictures—you will never regret it.  In fact, I would shy away from blogging during the first year anyway (especially if you’re already wary of it) because most of the changes occurring in your baby are visual (pictures) or can be captured in the baby book.

Some of my greatest joys have come from looking back on candid pictures of Frances and George as babies—I can almost still feel them in my arms when I scroll through the images on our computer.  That time goes quickly as it is; I would just try and capture them on film as much as possible.

Three thoughts that piggyback on the picture recommendation:

1)      Have an organized system on your computer to store your pictures;

We keep ours in a chronological month/year format (i.e., October 2008; November 2008, etc.).  It’s not a perfect system for recalling pictures if you can’t remember the exact month you took it, but you can almost always remember the season and the year (let’s hope) and start from there.  We do designate folders for special occasions like beach trips (“Sandbridge 2010”) and other vacations (“Spain 2012” – woot!), but keep those folders in the same chronological order as the other pictures.

2)    Get a good camera or cell phone with a decent camera that will inspire you to take pictures;

I don’t mean that you have to spend $700+ on the latest Canon SLR camera—in fact, I wouldn’t do that.  The more portable the camera the better because when you have a diaper bag, a car seat, a stroller, a purse, and a baby to lug around the last thing you want is a big, heavy camera.  You want something that you can take easily out of one of the five bags you are carrying and snap a few pictures of your first outing to the park, first dip in the pool, or first visit with the cousins.

Since getting my iPhone last fall, it has unintentionally become my daily camera for candid shots (because I always have it with me), but I still use my regular camera (a Canon G12) for special occasions and trips because I feel like I have more control over what the pictures look like.

3)     Download pictures as soon as possible.

There is nothing more intimidating than a digital camera or phone with over 600 pictures patiently stored in the memory card and waiting for their instructions.  Download as frequently as possible, store them in the month/year folder, print out your favorites for updating your frames, and delete the memory card (along those lines, I highly recommend a backup system for your pictures—CDs, iCloud, or something similar).

I use Walgreen's website to print out most of my pictures for next to nothing and hang them around the house.


I credit Will (and Apple computer) 100% with the idea of making video montages of the first years with Frances and George.  They take some time, but they are by far my favorite way of capturing their childhood—those early newborn movements, the toddler giggle, their sibling playtimes.  Sight, sound, and music—the perfect combination.

Frances's 1st year

George's 1st year

If you have the patience (and a Mac), I highly recommend learning how to make these videos.  The program itself is very user friendly; the hard part is narrowing down pictures, video clips and music choices.  Will’s videos tend to be long (which I love), but you can make them as short as you’d like.

Some of my favorite shorter videos ...

Frances counting to ten in Spanish

Frances and George and their endless energy


As they have gotten older, blogging has been my favorite way of preserving their childhood.  It doesn’t have to be a public blog either (like mine); you can make the settings for invited readers only (which I better be one, Missy, should you go that route : )).  My motivation behind blogging has changed over these last two years:

·        My blog started as a way for me to keep myself mentally stimulated after coming from a highly verbal profession (lawyer) to a highly emotional one (full-time mother).  There is no doubt, it still meets that goal; although as it turns out, this new profession is plenty mentally stimulating as it is.

·        My parents, Will’s parents, our extended family, and our friends have all been able to keep up with Frances and George on a nearly daily basis.  I’ve had many people tell me they feel like they know my children even though they haven’t seen them in a year or so (or ever!)—I never get tired of hearing that.  If I can capture their personalities in writing and share them with those that mean the most to me, my mission is accomplished.

·        Will has been good about printing out my blog every year for my “surprise” Christmas present and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m not a scrapbooker (but if you are, this is another excellent way to keep memories!), so to have a hard copy of my blog is simply priceless.

Should you decide to start a blog, my one suggestion is to have a good schedule for writing and stick to it.  I post something every-other day (usually) and that has worked for me—but, of course, this is part of “my job.”  If you work outside the home, once a week or three times a month might be more doable.  Like anything else, if you don’t do it regularly you run the risk of always playing catch-up with your posts (Christmas pictures in April, while adorable, don’t always capture the spirit of the season).

What we wish we had done

I talked with Will about this one and we came up with two thoughts:

·        1) Do a better job of annual handprint images (ceramic or even finger paint).  We don’t have any of these, except those they did in preschool that aren’t great quality.  Looking back, it would be nice to have a handprint from each year (maybe on their birthday).  Those little hands aren’t so little anymore (*sob!*).

·       2) Date, date, date everything.  For these last two years, France especially has taken an interest in art and writing/reading.  Needless to say we have a lot of homemade treasures floating around the house and some of them have been so great I have framed and hung them in various rooms.  Unfortunately, I failed to put the date they were made anywhere on them.  This is one of the “Truths of Parenthood”—you always think you will remember everything about a certain age (8 months; 2 ½ years; etc.) because at the time, it is the greatest age yet.  But you never remember.  So, put a date on it and you don’t have to!

Kid art in the guest room

One of my favorites by Frances--an owl--so recent that I have yet to hang it on the wall.

And, I think I’m finally done!  I know other parents have different (and probably better) suggestions on how to record keep, so I would love to hear from anyone—I know Susan would appreciate it as well.

Thanks again, Susan, for the great question.  Here's to a happy and healthy pregnancy!  And a happy Saturday to everyone!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The littlest Heil

It’s hard to believe it was nearly three weeks after Baby Claire made her appearance that I first saw her, but with our next foreseeable weekends filled with obligations I just couldn’t wait any longer.  So yesterday, George and I packed up the car and headed for a quick day trip to meet the next Heil heartbreaker:

Big sister Maggie was a perfect hostess-with-the-mostess by letting George play with her toys:

And treating us to lunch:

George had a hard time saying goodbye at the end of our visit and who can blame him:

Is anyone else seeing a big brother in the making??  No?  Let's look again, shall we?

George, the baby whisperer

Thank you Baby Claire and family for letting us come and crash your adorable party!

And happy Friday (woohoo!!), everyone!  I don’t know about you, but I neeeeed a nice relaxing weekend at home with the family.  Or at least, as relaxing as it gets around here.   

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No words

I have found myself feeling both eternally grateful and utterly sad in the same instant far too often these last five years.  Sending prayers to those who have lost the unimaginable and hope that they will find peace in knowing how much more love than hate there is in this world.

The innocent and those they left behind are the real heros.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Our Week

I’m so sorry I’ve been MIA for a few days.  We’ve been running around like fools here and my computer time has been severely curtailed.  But I can’t complain – family time is so limited these days that when it does come, it’s nice to take a break and soak it up.

And speaking of running, Will and I ran our very first race together:

The local Monument Avenue 10k.  It is a huge race (they anticipated upwards of 40,000 people this year) and I typically bow out of because of the numbers, but Will decided months ago to attempt the 6.2 mile run and I couldn’t resist the idea of our first day date road race.

After!  And much more smiley.

He did great – I was beyond proud of him.  His silent goal time (that I didn’t even know about until after we finished) was to run it in under an hour and he crushed that (in 56 minutes to be exact).  To put that in some perspective, this was his first time ever running more than 5 miles on those long, lean, and sometimes trick-kneed legs of his and he never once slowed down.  It’s all downhill (in a good way) from here, Will!


After a seemingly endless Spring Break, the kids are finally back to a normal routine—Frances is in school and George is resuming his favorite status of “only child.”

This one has it so hard.


Picture day at dance:

This might just be my favorite picture of Frances to date.

George searched my purse to find his own costume—my sunglasses.

I'm a bit frightened that they actually fit his (large) head.


Marshall helping me with the five loads of laundry currently taking up real estate in our mudroom:

Almost as helpful (and as cute) as George helping Daddy with the lawn:


Frances’s school class attended a Richmond minor league baseball game last week.

Is it at all surprising that she was head-to-toe Braves attire?


One of my race photos from the Charlottesville Half Marathon:

Downhill, sunshine (it was freezing that day!), and an overly-excited man next to me—no wonder I’m smiling.


Finally, we wrapped up this weekend with a Rhode play date/cookout at our house:

Frances, George, big brother Andrew, and little bro Bryan.

The weather could not have been nicer—sunny and 75 degrees.  We played outside for nearly the entire 6 hour visit, which means we all have a little bit too much pink on our faces today (whoops).  But it was worth it, particularly to George who you will notice has an empty plate in front of him that minutes before held about a dozen cheese and sausage balls.

And I wonder why he is the size of an average 6-year-0ld.

Happy Monday, everyone!  It’s so nice to be back to blogging : )

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Our Lynchburg visit

In addition to my side trip to Charlottesville, the kids and I had a great four-day visit in Lynchburg last week.

For the first time, the kids shared a bedroom with two twin beds and no adults.  The last time we visited my parents, George still slept in his pack ‘n play, which had become comical considering his size.  “Mommy, I can’t straighten out my legs!”  “Shhhhh, it’s okay … just go to sleep little man … “  Mother of the Year, no doubt.  But they did great together—very little talking to get to sleep and not too early waking up.  I’m sure it had nothing to do with the non-stop activity at Nana and Pop’s house, including:


Why yes, that is a pink cowgirl hat with a built-in tiara.
It's as though the hat maker consulted Frances herself on this one.

Children’s museum

George and Georgettes

Rolling around my old college lawn

Playing dress-up

Only real men can wear pink cowgirl hats.

And eating very, very well

Can you spot the "F," "G," and "L" on this baked Brie?
I'm surprised I had enough time to capture this picture because about 2 minutes later, the plate was empty.

While I was there, I couldn’t help but snap a few more pictures of my mother’s collection of old family photos.

My mother, age 4

This one is a little blurry, but I am in awe of how much Frances looks like my mother at this age.

Circa 1943

And this might just be my favorite father/daughter picture of all time, taken during my grandfather’s leave from World War II to see his daughter for the first time.  His pride is palpable, even decades and a faded photograph later.  A father’s love—yet another thing Frances has in common with my mother:

After a wonderful visit complete with some not-so-wonderful George meltdowns (apparently, no trip would be complete without that), we are back at home and back to our schedule—school, errands, and finally enjoying the spring weather.

Thank you Nana and Pop for putting up with all of us (Marshall included).  And happy Wednesday, everyone!