Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Truth about Santa Claus


It seems that now more than ever, I hear a lot of talk about this topic. I would like to put in my two cents. I believe in Santa Claus.

True Story:

Once upon a time, I was an eight-year-old girl, the fourth of eight children. One night in December, my parents announced that a special visitor would be coming to our house. Before long, Kris Kringle rang our doorbell. (This was his legal name.) He was jolly, thick man with a full white beard. He wore a red suit.

While he was in our little house, each of us children got a turn to sit on his lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas. That year was my turn to do an extra-curricular activity and I was enrolled in gymnastics. My Christmas list consisted of a gymnastics mat, a typewriter that could type both red and black, and a reversible coat (two coats in one!). I gave Mr. Kringle the list of my heart's desires and he gave me a candy cane and a coloring book.

When it was time for our special guest to leave, he said this, "I have to get back to the North Pole now.
I am going to leave a little surprise for you on the porch, but don't open anything until Christmas Day. It will take me a couple of minutes to hitch up my sleigh and reindeer. Don't look out the window for a full ten minutes to give me enough time to leave, okay?"

I remember two things about the next ten minutes: my parents kept wrestling us away from the living room curtains and it was the longest ten minutes of my life.

At the end of the allotted time, when we opened our front door, we saw magic. Our entire porch, which ran the length of our rancher, was covered in wrap presents--piles and piles of gifts of every size.

Christmas morning, when we were finally allowed to rip into those packages, what do you think I found?

Yep: a gymnastics mat, a typewriter that could type both red and black, and a reversible coat--with zip-off sleeves (an added bonus from the elves, I guessed)!

Now, some people say that Santa Claus is not real, but I know differently. I have never been to the North Pole so I cannot speak of the existence of a massive workshop manned by little people, but I can speak of the magic-making love I have felt this and other Christmas mornings. I believe that love and manifestations of it can come from many sources. And if those sources fall under the name, "Santa Claus," I am totally fine with that. I welcome Santa and his magic into my home and his love into the hearts of my children. He was a very tender part of my childhood and I hope someday my children will say the same.

Monday, December 13, 2010

There Once Was Girl Bird

Last year, my Maia was part of her school's musical, Grease (a school version--very "cleaned up," as it were). She was cast as Cha Cha DeGregorio. She was the most soft-spoken Cha Cha who has ever lived, I am sure. I was happy that she had fun being in the cast and getting to know so many other kids at her new school. The experience was good for her.

So good, in fact, that she wanted to do it again this year. Her school was going to perform Seussical: The Musical. Before try-outs, I gave her a little pep talk. "Maia, you can sing. You sing the right notes, but people need to actually hear them when you audition, okay?" When she came home from her audition, she assured me that she had been much louder than last year.

When the cast was announced, we learned that she was cast as Gertrude McFuzz, one of the lead roles. I was amazed--not that I didn't think my Maia could do it, but more that I was surprised that she had shown her abilities to the directors.

The week of the play, I was a nervous wreck. I had serious nausea at some points, I kid you not. I knew Maia knew her lines and songs, but I was nervous that she would get nervous and forget. I was worried that people wouldn't be able to hear her. I worried that she would remember that she hates attention. That she'd trip and fall off the stage. Or have a wardrobe malfunction. (You get the idea; I can be somewhat neurotic.)

I worried in vain.

Opening night, ten minutes into the show when she sang her first solo, it became apparent that my Maia is a star! Tears rolled down my face as I watched her sit in the spotlight and sing her little heart out. I couldn't keep a smile off my face all night. She sang all her notes perfectly, didn't miss a cue and was utterly adorable. (And we could hear her just fine.)


It was not without sacrifice that she had this amazing experience. Maia spends hours every night doing homework and had to fit in a couple of rehearsals a week with that intense work ethic for school. I had to drive a carpool and take her to those rehearsals. But, boy, was it worth it.


I could tell after the first performance that her spirit was just soaring. She felt confident, appreciated and supported. Who wouldn't love to feel those things--especially as an adolescent?


As for me, I was overwhelmed by yet another piece of evidence that my little chubby baby is long gone; there is a tall, thin young woman in her place. I was also overwhelmed with the love extended to my girl (and her nervous mom) from relatives, friends and neighbors who came to see her on stage. It warmed my mother heart.

Love this group shot we snapped on the last night: I am clearly mid-word; my Michael is afraid to come any closer lest anyone know that he is with us. But look at the sources of love: grandparents, three beloved aunts, some of her favorite cousins and dear friends.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Well, I Guess It Stands to Reason...



I love me some musicals. Nothing like people breaking into song in the middle of tense and/or exciting moments. (I mean, isn't that how you live your life?)

I have passed this appreciation along to my children. We love watching all kinds of musicals, from "Funny Girl" to "The Sound of Music." We enjoy belting out along with our favorite songs.

This morning, we were listening to the "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" soundtrack while making lunches and cleaning up from breakfast. The song "Lovely Lonely Man" came on. It is sung about Dick Van Dyke's character.

"Why is she saying that he is a 'lonely man,' Mom?" Teensy inquired, "Is it because he's not married?"

"Yeah," I responded, "His wife died."

"Oh," she said, somewhat sadly. Then she added, "Was she Mary Poppins?"

"Um, no," I assured her.

Looks like I need to explain that all movie musicals are not once giant storyline.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Woman of Leisure Math

21 = Number of weekdays in October
(when I allegedly eat bon bons all day while my kids are all in school)
-1 Day of no school for the kids
----
20
-4 Days spent on elementary school field trips
----
16
-4 Days spent planning and executing elementary school PTA events
----
12
-4 Days spent shopping for and making Halloween costumes
---
8
-3 Days spent volunteering for the middle school PTA
----
5
-2 Days spent "gathering" (groceries, household supplies, clothing)
----
3
-1 Day spent visiting teaching ladies from my church
----
2
-1 Day spent volunteering in Teensy's classroom
----
1
-1 Day spent planning Young Women Camp for next year
---
0 Days actually spent at home, eating those bon bons


Monday, November 8, 2010

Aw, my boy...

The first Sunday of every month is typically "fast Sunday" in my Church. This entails refraining from eating or drinking for the time of two consecutive meals, using the time to earnestly pray (with a specific purpose in mind) and become closer to God, and giving the money you would have spent on food to the Church (which, in turn, uses it to help the poor and needy).

On fast Sunday, our Church service takes a departure from its normal routine and goes for a sort-of "open mike" format, for lack of a better term. Those who feel that they would like to share some of their spiritual testimony go to the front of the chapel and share what they feel and know.

Many children in my congregation like to go up, but my children are not among them. My children like it just fine in the pew, thanks. And I'm fine with that.

But something was in my Mason's heart this past fast Sunday. He wiggled against me and then whispered, "Mom, can I go?" "Of course," I responded.

And up he went, in front of hundreds of people. I wish I had a transcript of his exact words because they were so sweet. I apologize that you'll have to make due with my memory, but this is the gist of his testimony:

You know that scripture, "Jesus wept?" [John 11:35] Well, lots of kids read that scripture 'cuz they want to get it over with and everyone laughs. But...they should really think about it, because...it's pretty special."

Oh, my heart. That sweet boy just melted it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Sweet Day with Dad


My Michael's schedule has been so intensely, overwhelmingly crazy for the past month. I would tell you more details about his work, church and school stuff, but that would require me to relive it and the mere thought of that makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb.

I've never sucked my thumb in my life.

Anyway, in an effort to remind my children of who their sperm donor was, I suggested a day trip to Chocolate Town, U.S.A. That's right, Hershey, PA!

We hit Chocolate World first, to get some edu-ma-cation on how Chocolate is made (and a free sample, of course). Then, we went around the corner to The Hershey Story, a new museum in Hershey more about the man, Milton, himself.


The kids participated in the Apprentice Program which they really enjoyed. They had little book that asked various questions about Mr. Hershey and the inception of his companies. Every page they completed, they had to find a museum worker who would tell them a little story and commemorate their completed page with a stamp, punch, embossing, or coin, etc. The kids were really into filling our their books to get the next token and they loved hearing about the early days of Hershey.


They also got some fake front page of newspapers with their photos on them. They still can't look at those enough!

Another fun thing at The Hershey Story is the Chocolate Lab. We signed up for the "Cobwebs" class. Each of us got to make his/her own chocolate spider web (Mackenna made hers heart-shaped). The kids happily donned hairnets and aprons and really embraced the job of licking the bowls of melted chocolate clean once we were done making our webs. What good little cleaners I have!





While our chocolate webs were setting, we learned more about the different parts of chocolate and what is mixed into each kind of chocolate. We got to eat "nibs," which are the inside of the cocoa bean--in other words, pure chocolate. Let's just say that wasn't as big of a hit with the kids as licking the bowls earlier had been. It's rather bitter. Teensy's face summed it up best:


Even though Dad had to study in the car the entire way there and back, I was so happy to have him spending time with us that I didn't mind. I was just happy to spend the day with my favorite people in the world.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

When Hoarding Pays Off

My Maia is a hoarder. I mean, she hasn't been diagnosed or anything, but she certainly has extreme relationships with stuff. Everything is a treasure from which she cannot part. Everything. It's ridiculous. We're working on it, but without much success.

After school one afternoon last week when I was working on Halloween costumes, I was talking to Mason and Maia about his costume.

"Okay," I said, "so Miracle Max wears this big robe, and we have a robe. He wears this like shawl, fringe thing over it and we have that. He's got that half-bald, half-wild gray hair--check. He also wears a necklace. It looks like it might be a bone of some kind. Here's what we need guys: a wooden toy of some sort that I can hot glue onto a string to make his necklace."

"A wooden toy?" Mason asked.

"Yeah. Just something kind of big and oddly shaped that I can make into a necklace for you to wear. Like a big bead or a train track piece or something that looks a little like it might be a bone."

"A bone?" piped Maia, "You just need a bone? I've got bones up in my room!"

She pronounced this as if she had just said, "All you need is sock? I've got a sock!"
Somehow, in the brain of my twelve-year-old daughter, having bones in her room is as normal as having a pillow up there.

Maia continued, "What kind of bone do you need? I've got a mouse skull or some chicken legs..."

At this point, I think my stammering had stopped and I was able to form the obvious question of where she had gotten this heretofore unknown bone collection. "Terebithia," was her response. (All the neighbors kids call the woods behind our house, "Terebithia.")

As it turned out, no glue gun was needed. I was able to thread the ribbon right through the eye socket of some small mammal's skull. And I will emphatically go on the record stating that it was no mouse skull--I'm thinking more like a baby fox. Let's just say it was more substantially sized than any rodent I've ever seen and we only had about half up the upper portion (no lower jaw).

All's well that ends well, I suppose. Mason couldn't have been happier to add a partial genuine animal skull to his Halloween costume. Maia was thrilled to be of service. And let's be honest, here, dear friend and devoted reader, you know what she was thinking inside, "See, Mom, my room isn't full of trash. I have really useful stuff in there!"

I'm still not convinced.

(P.S. In a tragic turn-of-events, Mason lost the necklace at school after the Halloween parade before I got photos of him in his costume. Ironically, Maia took it better than I!)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Motherin'

I recognize the horrific state of the increase in childhood obesity in this country.

So, I do my part: I serve my children veggies everyday. My kids always have a fruit and/or veggie in their lunch boxes, but they only sometimes have treats. I buy whole wheat bread and skim milk. I use ground turkey in all my recipes that say, "ground beef."

And I dumped all my kids' Halloween candy into one big stash and placed it high up in a corner shelf of the pantry--where I can freely dig through, pick at and feast from it all day long while my little angels are at school.

I mean, that's just good motherin'.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween 2010: The Princess Bride

So, this year for Halloween, we used "The Princess Bride" as our theme. There were some other contenders, but everyone was happy with a role offered by this 80s cult classic, so we embraced it.

Here's the breakdown:

Maia is easily the most laid-back child ever to exit my womb (you like that image, don't you?). She was on board with whatever we talked about, but genuinely seemed pleased to get to be Valerie, Miracle Max's wife. She nailed the voice and memorized a few of her memorable lines. We used an entire bottle of white spray on her thick tresses and they were still quite brown. That Hunter hair's lusciousness knows no bounds, I tell you!

Mason was thrilled to choose Miracle Max as his role. He loved the balding/gray-haired wig and the wizard-y hat. He ran around smiling, with his robe billowing out behind him.
Marlee refused our other theme ideas this year because there was nothing scary in them (sorry Mary Poppins, and The Cat in the Hat--you're too tame for my seven-year-old). At first, she said she wanted to be a shrieking eel, but I suggested the R.O.U.S. instead (thinking an eel might be slightly harder than a giant rat for Mom to make). She happily agreed to be the R.O.U.S.
Thankfully, Mackenna wanted to be Buttercup. How could we do "The Princess Bride" without the actual princess bride? When I asked her which of Buttercup's outfits she wanted to wear, she shocked me. Personally, I would choose the blue dress Buttercup wears at the end of the movie when she jumps out the window into Fezzik's arms--and I'm not 1/10th as girlie as Mackenna. But she didn't want that dress. She didn't even want the red dress from the kidnapping/Fire Swamp scenes. No, she wanted to wear a peasant garb from the very beginning of the film. I tried to change her mind, but that task is nigh to impossible with my five-year-old. Farm Girl Buttercup it was.
Michael tried to put up a fight about being The Man in Black, but, thankfully, I am able to change his mind (or rather, ignore his protests). He even grew out his mustache for a few days and fashioned his sword handle out of a twisted coat hanger. I think he looked smashing.

As for me, well, it wouldn't be Halloween if I didn't get some left-over/cross-dressing role. But this was a good one and I had fun with it. I was Inigo Montoya, of "you killed my father, prepare to die" fame. Thankfully, letting my own mustache grow for a few days wouldn't have given the needed results, so my dear generous friend, Cari, hooked me up with a pseudo-'stache. And I rocked the hair, n'est-ce pas?

Here we all are, together in our glory:

Until next year...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pulling a Favre


"Mom, I've decided to retire from my acting career," Mason announced to me two weeks ago.

"You have, huh?" I responded, amused.

Last year, Mason had a principle part in the fourth grade play. He played the role of Superman and, quite honestly, he was awesome! He got laughs when he said his funny lines, projected his voice and remembered his parts. He even let me gel his hair into place until it felt like granite. He was a star.

Apparently, this year when they were asking who wanted to be considered for one of the main parts in the fifth grade show, he decided not to go for it. He told me he wanted a supporting job, like set decoration or something. I was fine with it.

Then, last week, he started talking about his Mythology unit at school and a play his group is putting on. He confessed that he has the role of Zeus. He has practiced walking around the house talking about how he is going to go down to earth to meet him some ladies, giggling as he says it. (What makes him laugh even harder is that due to a dearth of girls in his class, his wife, Hera, is being played by his friend, Jason.)

I have to giggle because I'm thinking that his "retirement" from acting lasted about as long as Brett Favre's retirement from football.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Family Fun at Lake Tobias

Before school started, my little family had a field trip with some members of my larger family at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. Somehow, we managed to miss making the trek to Lake Tobias last summer, which made our trip there this year even better!

It's always great fun to have a four-generation outing, I always say. Or I just said it this once, but it is so true. I love my grandma and I love watching her interact with my kids/nieces/nephews and enjoying their fun. Plus, the woman is a crack-up.

It was interesting to realize how my Maia has grown up and conquered some of her fears. She used to be terrified of many things, including most animals. A few years ago when we went to Lake Tobias, she wouldn't even enter the petting zoo. She stood outside the chain link fence with a pained expression on her face while she watched her siblings and cousins feed the goats. This year, she not only tolerated being in the petting zoo, but actively approached the animals and enjoying feeding, holding, and petting them!


Naturally, Mackenna is in her element in such a setting. This little one hasn't ever been able to get enough time with members of the animal kingdom.


Mason was quite enamored with the capybaras. There were a few adults and probably a dozen babies. It was quite a sight!


Teensy surprised me by going to pet the large python up by its head instead of further down its body (where her mother would feel more comfortable touching it).


My favorite part of Lake Tobias is the safari ride. The guide drives you up into a gated area (150 acres) where all manner of animals live. The driver stops the vehicle and you can hand feed all different species of deer, elk (my favorite--they are so sweet), cattle and buffalo. It's so cool.


While we were on the safari ride, my nephew, Luke the Duke dropped his sun hat off the cruiser when we were stopped and feeding the Asian water buffaloes. Our driver wouldn't get off the cruiser to get his hat because she said that these animals were known to be a little aggressive and had even chased another driver up over the hood of her bus. We tried use the food to bribe the buffaloes to move away from the hat, but they refused. One even became rather curious about the hat. Just when the driver announced that she was sorry but we were going to have to move on and leave the hat behind, my Kenna stood up and started marching down the aisle toward the door in an effort to disembark. She even sounded disgusted with the rest of us when she pronounced, "Gosh. I'll just get it." It was hilarious! I quickly lunged for her and explained that she wasn't allowed to get off to rescue Luke's hat from the enormous water buffaloes. That girl. What am I going to do with her?

Notice this creature's reluctance to move away from Luke's hat!




Monday, September 27, 2010

That's My Teense


She's a spit-fire of a girl, my Teensy. And now she's another year older and wiser. Which makes her seven years-old with a maturity level of twenty-seven-year-old. (Managing (read: reigning in) her premature maturity level is my main challenge in parenting her.)

She's a big first-grader now! She is so excited to impart with Mackenna all of her pearls of wisdom for navigating kindergarten. She loves it that Kenna has her beloved Ms. D as a teacher. I love it that Teensy has Maia's former first-grade teacher. She's another one of my favorites at the school. The nerd in Marlee is giddy to have more serious homework this year (but she still gives herself extra work to do).

This is Teensy with her beloved kindergarten teacher at her end-of-the-year show last year.

I finally caved and enrolled her in gymnastics. She has only gone a couple of times so far but it seems like the reality is meeting her expectations. I'm so happy for her!

If I were to sum up Teensy's style signature, it would be this: cheetah print. She loves to put outfits together and adores all animal print, but cheetah takes the cake. She's nutty for it.

Teensy is most like her daddy in the math department. It's not unusual for her to sit and the breakfast table with a blank sheet of paper and a marker, making and solving her own math problems. This is not my idea of a good time, but it is certainly something my Michael enjoys.

I do so love my Tiny and am so glad I am her mom!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rosie Posie Piggy Tosie Button-Nosie


I know I just talked about my Kenna starting kindergarten, but I wanted to make another little snapshot of my baby right now.

Mackenna has jumped on The American Girl bandwagon with Marlee, but whereas Teensy changes her mind fortnightly as to which doll she wants, Mackenna is whole-heartedly devoted to Kit. "Because she looks just like me," she says.

My baby still sucks the middle and ring fingers of her left hand when she's tired. She has to have her Pillow Pet, Pandy to go to bed, and likes to snuggle her Beary Bear Alexa as well. She doesn't consider herself "too big" for Dora the Explorer and is perfectly content to be the spoiled baby of our family.

Mackenna still loves animals more than anyone I know. She has no natural fear of them, no matter how large or seemingly ferocious.

Kenna says the sweetest prayers you've never heard. I don't know if you believe in God, dear friend and devoted reader, but it is obvious that my Kenna does. She inserts phrases in her prayers like, "thank you for our dear Lord" and "thank you for our sweet Jesus." Now, that might be normal in some religions, but not in ours, so I know it isn't learned. It's what she really feels and that is what makes it so incredibly tender. It just melts my heart. Her faith in the Savior is amazing.

Oh, how I love this sweet girl. She's a complicated soul, but I am humbled and grateful to be her mother.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Boy--He Velly Tall Boy

It's time for a tribute to my handsome fellow, Mason. I missed his birthday earlier this year and I think he needs a little shout-out.

Recently, I had to take Buddy to the pediatrician for a mysterious rash that had migrated from his ear lobe to his upper and lower eye lids (poison ivy--mystery solved). As we were leaving the office, a nice Asian lady stopped me in my tracks to ask how old my handsome boy is. When I told her that he is ten, her eyes grew quite large and she responded, "He velly tall boy, velly tall."

Who can argue with that? It's true. But he's more than just a long frame.

He recently started his last year of elementary school. His big dream was to be a Kindergarten Helper and he wrote an essay to apply for that coveted position. He loves getting to walk Kenna and her friends out to their waiting parents at the end of each day. What a sweetie!

If he's not reading, he's sweating. My boy plays hard. I mean it. He's always up a tree, on a bike, scooter or skateboard or running to/from wherever he's going. He sleeps the longest of all my children at night and I know the explanation for that is simple: he plays the hardest.

If he's not sweating, he's reading. Mason blossomed later as a reader than his older sister, but man, has he hit his stride! This past summer he not only devoured the Percy Jackson series for the third time, but he also discovered the Fablehaven series and buried his nose in countless other books as well. It makes this English-nerd mother so proud!

One last note-worthy characteristic of my boy is his committment to save money. Seriously, his sisters can't understand how they get the same allowance and yet his wallet is fatter than all of theirs put together! (I'm still trying to get the girls to understand that it is because he doesn't spend it on lip gloss and nail polish every time we go to 5 Below.) Sure, he sees things he wants, but he chooses to save for big ticket items and I think it's commendable.

Here's a parting shot of my boy at the beginning of the end of his elementary career:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The One Who Launched My Career


Twelve years ago, my life changed forever when my most heart's most sacred and profound desire was realized: I became a mother.

I cannot forget how I felt when I held my baby Maia in the hospital, knowing that my dream was coming to fruition and that this tiny baby had made me a mother.

She's not so tiny now. She's 5'2", actually, and growing like a weed. She's not a baby or a little girl, but a young woman!

There are many things this proud mama loves about her girl, but I will share just a sampling today.

Maia is her own person. While she enjoys having friends and sharing their interests, she is perfectly content to fly solo. As a preteen! Where does she get this confidence?

She has her own sense of style and creates her own fashion looks. Sometimes I don't know how she comes up with some of her ideas!

She is very creative and artistic, a gifted writer and artist.

Maia is a champion of the underdog.

She is great with babies and little ones (I think because they like her laid-back nature). She recently started being a "mother's helper" weekly for our neighbor. It is so fun to see how the little one lights up when she sees Maia coming!

Maia loves music. If there's a nanosecond of silence in the car, she immediately asks for some music. She practices the piano beautifully and enjoyed going to guitar camp this summer.

Although my heart sometimes feels a pinch of pain when I look at how big she's gotten, I am really enjoying having a big helper around here. Maia loves to learn in the kitchen and never complains when I ask for for help with housework. What a kid!

Here's a shot of Maia on her first day of seventh grade:


(See what I mean with her look here? Who else would have thought to wear P.E. shorts under a denim skirt with a gauzy ballet skirt on top? She's got a style all her own.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Are You Going to Do All Day?

If I had a nickel for everyone who has asked me that question in the last couple of months, I think I could pay the bill for Michael's graduate school. Hand on heart.

At first, when the question was put to me, I tended to legitimately answer. It went something like this:Well, I plan on being in the school volunteering at least one day a week, and that doesn't include field trips. And I've still got a household to run. And I have a job to do at church that will require me to attend weekly meetings. And I've joined a new book club that meets during the day. And I have a substantial job with the PTA. And I have to take my kids to the doctor, still (two starting orthodontia).And I'm going to go to the temple more. And visit my grandma. And...

By this time I was stammering and the person who asked the question was looking at me like she didn't care that much.

Then, I moved on to my next phase: The Smart Alec Phase. It went something like this: Oh, you know, with all my kids in school, what else is there to do but eat bon-bons all day?

I'm not proud of that phase.

Next, I entered the defensive phase. Well, I still have six people's laundry to do. I still have six people's meals to plan, shop for and prepare. I still have the same number of toilets to scrub, sets of stairs to vacuum. And I thought, Why do I have to justify my time to you? Do I ask you for a daily itinerary of your tasks completed?

You get the idea. Thankfully, that phase didn't last long because I realized that people didn't know how very many times I had been asked that exact question. And that they ask it for different reasons.

I think that young mothers ask it because they want to hear that I get to go to the bathroom all by myself when the urge hits. I think they want to know that this day can and will happen for them. And to them I say, I have gone on long walks alone and come home to curl on the couch with a good book!

I think some people are curious because they cannot imagine how I can't be anything but bored in this, my new station in life. They simply do not know how much work it takes keep a household running and to be the kind of mother and person I want to be. I am glad that I have the time to do all the service, volunteering, and trips to doctors without it being a conflict with another career. My family is my primary occupation and that hasn't changed because my kids are all out of the house for 5 hours a day. Believe me, those are the fastest 5 hours of the day!

And when I have some extra down time for a little luxury like a lunch date with my Michael, all the better. I don't feel bad at all--I work pretty hard for a kept woman!

Kenna the Kindergarten Kid

Basically, my sister, Amber, doesn't know how I sleep at night because of the supposed guilt I should feel over not yet posting about my baby's first day of school.

Show's how much she knows...I've been sleeping like a log.

But seriously, my baby started full-day real school this year. Wa-hoo! I mean, isn't that wonderful?

Now, you must know that I love my baby as no one else on the earth can, but between you and me, dear friend and devoted reader, the child is a pill. She's bossy, moody, and opinionated. And she loves her mom, a characteristic she shows through her ultra-clingy-ness to me.

Once upon a time, I had another five-year-old who often acted like the kind of kid only a mother could love. Said child happily went to Day #1 of kindergarten but came home disgruntled with the fact that Mommy was not seen for such a length of time. Taking said child to the classroom in the morning on subsequent days of school was met with screams, cries,
tears (from both of us), tantrums, physical restraints by school counselors, aides and teachers (just the child this time) and the like.

It wasn't pretty.

Having lived through that, I decided to go about Mackenna's entrance into the public school system with a new approach, one of the hands-off variety. I realized that Marlee, a first grader, had to wait in the same line as the kindergarten kids and that she knew exactly where Kenna's class was, as is had been her classroom last year. You see where I'm going with this?

That's right: I pawned off a potentially unpleasant parenting task onto the shoulders of my six-year-old.

And you know what? It worked like a charm.

Mackenna didn't cry. I didn't cry. It was win/win! We've never had an ugly scene where it's taken 5 adults to hold onto my screaming child while I race, crying, from the building. Because I've never walked in there. She's never expected me to walk her in to her desk because I haven't ever done it.

Now, I know that this decision might make me seem heartless and indifferent, but I am pretty pleased with how it's all worked out.

And Mackenna is one of only two of my kids who hasn't cried for days the first week of school. And believe you me, that is a little miracle in an of itself!

Here's a shot of my new school girl at home before the trek to school:


And here are Kenna and her Teense as they walk:


See? Teensy had it all under control.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Our Little June Vacation

Dear friend and devoted reader, things have certainly picked up here at the Hunter house in the past few months. My Michael left his place of employment of the past 7 years and started a new job. He also applied to, got accepted to, and started graduate school. We thought we were busy before, but things have certainly been crazier than ever these past couple of months.

Allow me to brag a little: My Michael, smartypants that he is, got himself into a pretty good graduate program. He is now working on getting a Masters of Science in the Management of Information Technology from the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce (say that ten times fast--I dare you). The program is geared toward working professionals and is an accelerated program. He'll have his M.S. in M.I.T. completed next August. Wa-hoo!

Now, he doesn't go to class for an hour or two every Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/Wednesday nights; instead he goes a couple of Saturdays a month, a l l d a y l o n g. Usually. In June, he had to report to the campus in Charlottesville, VA for two weeks straight.

Instead of having him drive home Saturday morning and head back to school again Sunday night, we decided to turn a weekend in Virginia into a family
mini-vacation. The kids and I had never been to Charlottesville and we thought it would be a great chance to be together without a ringing kitchen telephone and the responsibilities of home.

After Teensy played in her All-Star baseball game, I loaded up the kids and drove to the hotel where my Michael had been staying. We piled into the hotel room and hit the ground running in the morning.

After a yummy breakfast at a little corner deli, Michael gave us a tour of the University of Virginia's campus. I really thought the campus was beautiful. I am a sucker for brick and the red brick buildings with large white columns surrounded by all the lush greenery sure made for a pretty, pretty campus.


After touring the campus, we headed out to Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Monticello. I have heard many wonderful reviews of other people's visits to Monticello, so I was totally excited to go. My kids weren't sure why they were going to visit some dead guy's house, but Mason quickly became a believer. He found the estate fascinating.
Check out how big the stump of this tree is! Our entire family could have fit inside.

It was a super hot day and Mackenna, especially, started to melt (emotionally and physically) but I think everyone had fun. Monticello has a special family-friendly tour and our tour guide was very good at trying to do hands-on activities to interest the children. There is also a children's Discovery Room with all manner of hands-on exhibits that our kids didn't want to leave!

Teensy and Kenna both loved playing house in the slave quarters of the Discovery Room. I tried to tell them that the real slaves had to sleep on the floor, work all day, etc. but the girls thought it all looked great to them!

Maia had fun working on a loom.

Here's Mason writing with a quill. He was supposed to write his name, but he wrote his catchphrase, "I like pie," instead.

I would love to go back sometime with my Michael to do the regular tour and to visit all the nooks and crannies our kids were too pooped to explore. The scenery around the house itself was stunning; I can only imagine how beautiful all those trees are in the fall!

I will say this: I cannot quite figure out Thomas Jefferson. Certainly, he was a genius innovator. And he no doubt had some great ideas and believed in America. I just don't know how to reconcile all that with the slaves and the slave mistress thing. It boggles my mind.

Anyway, I am glad we got to steal this little weekend away. With all of my Michael's church, work, and now school responsibilities pulling him away and me running kids to piano and baseball back in June, it was awesome to just get away from it all and spend time together as a family.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Room of Shame No More

For years, my Michael has called our bedroom "The Room of Shame." It's always the last room I clean when I clean the house and sometimes (most times/almost all the time--don't judge me) I run out of steam so I don't really do a good job. I have always shut the door to our room when people are coming over because, in truth, I have always been ashamed of anyone seeing what a disaster zone hides behind that door.

My Michael has complained to me, "It just seems like you take anything you don't want people to see and you shove it in our room." BINGO! "That's because that's what I do," I have responded.

In my defense, even when my room was picked up and organized it was nothing to look at--with its four different colors of mismatched adolescent furniture, its flat white walls and its general blah-ness. I never took any pride in my room.

Well, dear friend and devoted reader, I decided to make some changes around here in the master bedroom department.

My Michael had to go away for two weeks and I thought I'd give our bedroom a make-over while he was gone. I thought I'd change everything he hated about our room and even some things he'd never mentioned. In short, I thought I'd play HGTV (one of my favorite pastimes).

When I went to take some "before" pictures, I thought I'd leave things as messy as they were so that the after would look all the more dramatic. Looking back, I see that step was completely unnecessary and I'm more than a little embarrassed to show you the grossness that was my master suite, but alas, that's what I get, I guess.

Without further ado, I present the Before and the After of our space:

Do you like how I didn't even shut the dresser drawers to snap the photo? Cuh-lassy! And do you think we have enough books?

This is my Michael's awesome hand-me-down dresser. The last owner of this small wonder was a two year-old girl, hence, the tulip shaped drawer pulls.


Here is the new view of my side of the room. What? You think this looks better? I mean, it's basically the same, right?



This is my Michael's grown up big boy dresser! Isn't it pretty? And don't you love how Maia's copper embossed art project from school matches the room and looks great in the space? I know I do!

Now, dear friend and devoted reader, please don't think that the Hunter children will not be able to go to college just because their parents now have a decent space in which to lay their weary heads. 'Tis not so!

I'm nothing if not thrifty and I stuck to a pretty tight budget to pull off this spousal surprise. I scored both of the new dressers and the lamps for free, thanks to a friend who wasn't using them to do anything other than gather dust in her basement. I bought the new, slim bookshelf off of Craigslist. I stumbled upon some bi-fold doors at the thrift store and was able to quickly turn them into an easy headboard. Several cans of spray paint made all my "new" furniture match, if not in style at least in color. I got my pretty coverlet (the first bedspread I've ever bought for my bed) on sale at Target and I sewed my accent pillow shams and bed skirt one late night with Kendra (my sewing machine). So, you see, not bad at all. We won't be eating beans until Christmas because of my room redo!

And my Michael? Let's just say that sometimes I catch him up there just staring, enjoying the adult retreat he's always wanted our bedroom to be. (And it's never been messy for even 30 seconds since I did it nearly two months ago. I won't let one misplaced item mar its peaceful beauty.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ew! Gross! Yuck!

List of disgustingly gross parasitic and/or viral ailments from which one or more of my beautiful children has suffered:

Warts? Check.

Molluscum? Check.

Toenail fungus? Check.

Athlete's foot? Check.

Pinworms? Check.

Lice? Check.

Frankly, I thought the pinworms were the worst thing in the world. But hand on heart, I'd rather deal with the ick-factor of pinworms every month for the rest of my life than deal with the combo ick- and endlessly-pick factors of lice one more time.

It's nearly done me in, but I am winning. Some little parasites think that they are going to compromise my daughters' heads? Think again, little suckers (no pun intended).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comics

As a general rule, I don't like comics. I just don't think they're funny.

My Michael loves comics. Early in our marriage he would snuggle with his mistress
(The Washington Post) on Sunday afternoons and become amused. Invariably, he would try to share the source of his amusement with me, his beloved wife. Almost without fail the conversation would go something like this:

My Michael: Seriously, Hon, just read this one comic. You've got to like this one.

Me (rolling my eyes): You know I'm not going to like it. I just don't think comics are funny.

My Michael: Come on! Read it.

Me: Fine. (Silently read comic.) Here's your paper back, Jorge.

My Michael: That's it? Come on! That was funny!

Me: I guess I just don't get it.

My Michael: See...this guys does this and then that guy says that. See?

Me: Yeah, I see, I just don't see how it's funny.

My Michael (rolling his
eyes): Fine.

Thankfully for my Michael, he has passed the comic gene on to our children and they now chuckle together on Sunday afternoons. I'm fine with that. I, the non-comic-loving wife can happily abstain from comic reading and my comic-loving husband has learned to leave me alone about it (for the most part).

Until now.

Or recently, I should say. My darling Michael has started to write comics. Naturally, I can't politely refuse to read them.

Sometimes, they are a little "comic-y" but several times I have actually genuinely laughed at them.

I even have a hands-down favorite! Can you guess which one it is? Check out the whole she-bang here: http://sticky-comic.blogspot.com




Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Twelves

Good things come in sets of twelve. Here are my top-rated "Dozen Delights."

#4 Roses

Here in America, we like our thorny friends in neat bundles of a dozen (or a half, but that's only half as good). I appreciate the scent of a bunch of these fragrant blossoms. While one smells good, twelve smell so much better!

#3 Donuts

I might enjoy a Boston Creme from my old pal, Dunkin', every now and again. They go down really easily, if you know what I mean. And in my family of six, getting donuts by the dozen just makes sense.

#2 Eggs
Now, I'm not a huge lover of eggs for the sake of eggs. Once in a while I'll get a good hankerin' for scrambled eggs, but by and large I leave eggs alone. Except when I'm baking. Then, the three dozen eggs in my fridge and I are BFFs. How could I make brownies without them? Or cookie dough? My kitchen without eggs? Perish the thought!

But the Number One thing I adore that has, thus far, come into by life by the dozen, is...

#1 Years of Marriage to My Michael


Last year for Christmas/my birthday he booked us a little getaway at at charming Bed and Breakfast in Hershey, PA. And he arranged for the childcare! While we were in Hershey we went to "The Hershey Story," a new museum and learned all about Milton S. Hershey's life and more about the chocolate making process. We even got to participate in a class at "The Chocolate Lab." Now, I'm not trying to brag, but not just anyone can wear a plastic apron and a hair net and rock the look quite as well as my love and I can.

Quotation of the Month

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill