Monday, September 28, 2009

It's NOT the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I love fall... leaves changing colors, apples, scarecrows, cooler nights (and days - thank God), and pumpkins.

There are certain recipes that herald the start of fall around our house - goodies filled with yummy spices and aromas that conjure up thoughts of cozy nights, crisp cool air, and full warm tummies.

Now that October is almost here - I decided to break out the fall and Halloween decorations - and spent a few hours this weekend strategically placing garlands and bowls of fruit and pumpkins around our house. I started burning my pumpkin spice candles, and changed our Wallflower plugs out for the appropriately named "Pumpkin" scent.

I pulled out my tried and true collection of recipes (some from books, some from magazines, some from random Internet searches) and carefully planned out our weekly meals based on dinners with a fall theme.

Anna and I discussed the options of baking our first pie of the season together - and collectively decided it should be pumpkin (but with no whipped cream on top - according to Anna.)

So with my organized shopping list in hand, I headed out to the grocery store, where I searched and searched and searched for canned pumpkin.

Canned fruit aisle? Nope.

Canned vegetable aisle? Nope.

Baking necessities aisle? Nope.

Certain not to need to ask for help I then perused the ends of every. single. aisle. in my neighborhood Publix - sure that there must be a seasonal display full of fall baking items - including my beloved canned pumpkin.


Finally, after about 2o minutes of taking laps around the store (seriously, I kid you not) I admitted defeat and flagged down the store manager. As it turns out - something happened to the pumpkin crop last year - too much rain or not enough cold nights or who knows what (I'm not a farmer) - resulting in a shortage of canned pumpkin. No pumpkin is available in Columbia. I tried to sweet talk the manager - surely there must be a box of dusty canned pumpkin left over from last year's holiday rush somewhere in the underworld of the Publix kept private from regular consumers by the mythical swinging doors.




He said he hopes to get some in right before Thanksgiving - but the look on his face told me I'd better come up with some alternate plan for fall recipes. I walked away with my head hung low.

No pumpkin pie. No pumpkin bread. No pumpkin muffins. No pumpkin pancakes.

I suppose if I were a more resourceful woman I'd have pumpkins growing in my yard that I could harvest, bake, puree' and have available for my suite of fall recipes. But I'm not - and I have a black thumb - so the thought of me actually growing something that I could eat someday is ridiculous. I honestly don't even know what kind of pumpkin I'd look for to eat - because come on - the pumpkins I buy are for decorating and carving - and I've heard jack-o-lantern pumpkins don't make good eats.

So I'll keep on the lookout for 'pie' pumpkins, or 'sugar' pumpkins, or whatever those gourds are called that I can *maybe* turn into some holiday meals.

Until then, I'll just think about my pumpkin recipes, and leave you with one of our family favorites. If you can find canned pumpkin in your neck of the woods, try this one out - our family loves it - and think of me as I'm sadly tucking my pumpkin recipes back into the recipe box.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage
Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock, canned or paper container
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste.

Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Go, Dog. Go!

We had a fun outing this morning, the three Long kiddies and I. (Deonne was unfortunately stuck in Barnwell watching a huge power generator go over a bridge - apparently his firm was hired to make sure the bridge didn't collapse when said huge power generator crossed it - the good news is the bridge is still standing...thanks, in part, to the talented skills of my smart engineer hubby.)

We had planned to take them to the Columbia Children's Theater's production of "Go, Dog. Go!" all week, and once Deonne's plans changed and he was called to the Great Bridge Watch 'o9 - I decided to tempt fate and take all three kids. By. Myself.

If you remember my struggles from the last time I tried to take the three kids out on an outing sans Daddy, you know this was a daunting morning. Don't get me wrong, the thought of doing something fun with the kids was exciting - but I'd never been to the Children's Theatre before, had no idea what the set-up was like, seating, distance to potties, etc...

I had asked Anna's bff EG and her mom to come with us - ever since EG transitioned to a different school Anna has missed her greatly, and I sieze any opportunity to get the girls together to play. Thankfully EG and her mom were able to meet us there - not only for the sake of the girls and an opportunity for us mommy's to chat - but also for an extra set of hands should things get dicey.

The stars must have aligned.

Perhaps the atmospheric pressure was just right.

Maybe it was just my determination to not "sweat the little things" and take the wise advice of Kathy to take things one task at a time and not stress about what is to come.

Miracles happen I suppose...

Anna and James got right in the van. The first time I asked.

They buckled themselves in. The first time I asked.

They waited patiently while I pulled out the stroller and positioned Jack, diaper bag, camera, and pocket book.

They held hands and walked, walked people - not run or jump or skip away from me - when we moved across the parking garage to the skybridge to the entrance to the theatre.

They stood right beside me when I purchased tickets, settled themselves neatly on the big blue mat, and patiently waited until the performance started.

Okay, so there was one potty issue (right before the show started - of course - but thankfully EG's mom N was there to hold Jack for me while I took two little ones downstairs.)

They saw the other kids eating popcorn and drinking Capris Suns - neither of which I could purchase for them because I didn't think to bring cash (or even my checkbook) - but didn't complain and said "that's okay mommy" when I told them didn't have a means to get them a snack. (And super big thanks to N for coming to the rescue and purchasing a bag of corn for them to share.)

They stayed seated for the whole show.

They laughed. They smiled. They giggled.

It was a great show.

It was a great morning.

And the best part? (Other than seeing the pure delight and joy in their faces as they watched a variety of Dogs do silly things?) Walking them back through a parking garage and hearing the best compliment from a mommy who was also walking back to her car "I have one child - I don't know how you do it with three - you are doing a great job with them!"

I couldn't wipe the smile from my face if you paid me.

I'm way behind in posting a monthly post for Jack - he's officially 5 months old now - rolling around - starting to scoot backwards when he's up on his tummy - oh, my little boy - you are growing too fast!!! More to come later, but I wanted to get this picture in that I took this afternoon - that smile melts my heart!

Friday, September 25, 2009

A But By Any Other Name...

Anna has become quite the arguer (image that.) Every time I catch her doing something naughty and tell her to stop, or ask her to quit bothering her brother, or to help me do something around the house - I get a "but mo-om..."

Last night it became a lot of 'but's'.

"But Mom - James was doing it first." (Yes, and he already got sent to Time Out for not listening when I asked him to stop the same activity.)

"But Mom - I already washed my hands for dinner." (Not really kid, that was about 2 hours ago at school - but nice try.)

"But Mom - I don't like picking up." (And I do???)

Finally, I'd had enough.

I told her "No more but's. I don't want to hear that word but come out of your mouth. For the rest of the night the word 'but' doesn't exist in this house."

Anna looks over her shoulder as she's rounding the corner to the hall, and with a smirk on her face says "unless you're talking about this" and points to her rear end.

How do I come up with a retort for that?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

And don't come back on soccer day...

So here's the story from yesterday/last night...

I had a meeting with a potential new client yesterday, in a County about 2 hours from here. In an attempt to be professional, I actually wore a dress, stockings, and my new pretty black high heels. It's high-season around my office these days, with grant writing in full swing, so I didn't have time to stop by the house on the way home to change clothes before returning to the office for a few hours before needing to pick up the kids.

(my wardrobe issues are an important part of this story, I promise.)

At 4:45 I leave the office, rush across the street to get my car out of the parking garage, and hurry to the playground at the Children's Center to retrieve Anna and James (both who were in the sandbox and covered with sand that stuck to their sweaty little faces and hair.) I try to corral James in Anna's classroom while helping her change her from her dress/sandals into appropriate soccer gear (shorts, t-shirt, shin-guards, socks, and cleats that are already too small for her.) When I say corral what I really mean is try to keep James from tearing her room apart and pulling out every toy/game/art supply he can get his hands on.

I then quickly stop by the kitchen at school to fill water bottles and sippy cups up with ice water for Anna and James to take to her soccer practice, then teeter on these new pretty but not-so-mommy-friendly high heels down the hall (urging and prodding Anna and James along) to Jack's room - where I scoop him up, pack up his used bottles, barely have time to say 'hello - how was Jack's day' to his teacher.

After herding Anna and James to the front of the Center, stop to buckle Jack in his carseat (that Deonne leaves near the door following morning drop-off) and again herd the kids to the van - which shouldn't be too much of an issue - but for some reason the two seem to be lost in thought or distracted by the used gum someone carelessly dropped on the ground.

Buckle the big kids in their seats, snap Jack's carrier into his carseat base (by now I'm pouring sweat because it's not only hot but HUMID), get the A/C going - and we're on our way to soccer practice.

Arrive at Owens Fields. Thankfully (this will matter later) find a parking spot underneath the branches of a big old live oak tree.

Leave Anna and James strapped in their seats while wrangling Jack's stroller out of the back of the van. Did I mention the dress I wore to work was cream colored? Yeah - good choice - as the wheels of the stroller bump up against me and leave dirt streaks.

Whatever. I'll deal with that later.

Unstrap Jack from his carseat - re-position into stroller. Pull water bottle/sippy cup/snacks out of the car and load into carseat.

Unbuckle Anna and James - hand Anna her soccer ball - and instruct her to get out on on the field. Stroll Jack out to where the other parents are gathering, while trying to keep James next to me (poor little guy - just doesn't understand why his sister gets to play and he has to sit on the sidelines.)

Did I also mention that it had rained earlier in the day (I suppose) because the soccer fields are soaking wet and muddy? Yeah, it was a bog. And my new pretty black high heels keep sinking in the mud.

Then I hear it.

The not-so-distant clap of thunder.

I look up to see an ominous black cloud.

Then a streak of lightening.


Us parents try to ignore it. Let the kids get their practice in.

James is the first to call it out - 'it's raining mommy!' And it is. Gently at first - so we keep ignoring it. Then harder. And harder. And now a downpour.

I try to cover up Jack as best as I can (i.e. cover his legs with a burp cloth and make sure his face is protected with the shade from the stroller.) I try to urge James to follow me quickly back to the van - as his cast is getting wet - the big 'no-no' from the ortho. Quickly is a relative term when you're trying to push a stroller through the mud while wearing said heels.

Finally get the kids to the van. Anna and James climb in - and begin instantly whining - 'I'm so sad I can't play soccer.' Yeah kid - I'm so sad I'm dripping wet, covered with mud, have ruined my stocking, and am still trying to get the stroller loaded up in the pouring rain. 'I'm so starving' - yeah, I haven't eaten all day - so we'll get some dinner on the way home.

We're loaded up. Headed for home.

Try to call Deonne. His office mate answers his cell phone. Apparently Deonne left his cell phone on his desk at work. Is now unavailable to tell that soccer practice was rained out.

Head to the McD's near our house. Sit in the drive-through - FOREVER. Anna and James being kids - LOUD kids - singing, whining, yelling, I don't know what they were doing. Jack has had enough by this point, and he starts screaming.

Put our order in.

Big Mac meal for Deonne
Chicken sandwich meal for me
2 chicken nugget happy meals for the kids

Pay at window #1

Proceed to window #2

Deonne calls from another parent's cell phone from the soccer field - but I miss the call b/c I can't hear over the din coming from the backseats.

I realize I missed the call, try to call back, we play phone tag back and forth. Finally connect.

I'm mad.

I'm tired.

I'm frustrated.

I'm trying to relay everything to Deonne on a bad connection, with screaming kids.

The McD guy hands me our drinks. Then the kids' milks (which I found out were expired by the way when we got home). Then a bag.

I'm so frustrated with everything I drive off.

Before he can give me the Happy Meals.

And I don't realize it until we get home.

No dinner for the kids.

Mommy is wet, covered with mud, hungry, tired, and overwhelmed.

The kids are wondering what/if they are going to eat.

Jack is screaming.

Deonne is nowhere around to help.

I finally sat the kids down at the table, halved my chicken sandwich, dumped some fries on plates for them, gave them the remaining milk from the gallon in the fridge, made Jack a bottle, and retreated to my room. Where he promptly fell asleep when sucking his bottle. And I dissolved into tears.

This is one of those days when being a mommy just isn't fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

We Have A Picker...

Nose Picker, that is...

This may be too gross for public knowledge - and may be crossing the line of what should be kept private - but it is a part of James right now - much to my dismay - and as such should be recorded for posterity (and blackmail later when he's being an indignant teenager.)
Yep, we have a nose picker.

He thinks it's hysterical to have his finger up his nose. All. The. Time.
We threaten Time Out. He picks. We threaten to take away toys. He picks.
I've been advised to swab his nose with neosporin to try to deter his fingers from groping.
We may need to try.
Sigh - life with little boys - I can't wait to see what comes next...

Baptism Photos

The Long Party of Five

Grandpa and Grandma Long

A few photos - including sweet Baby Jack.

The kiddies - at the craft/eating table Deonne put together - before and after...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Anna's Birthday Festivities (9/21)

The Long Party of Five

The Cake

The Snow White Party at the Columbia Marionette Theatre

Anna and Anna - best buddies - and The Bike. (Disney Princess Pink, of course.)

We woke Anna up singing Happy Birthday and giving her a new birthday outfit to wear to school. Then she came downstairs and saw her Happy Birthday banner - which was a HUGE hit - she felt sooooo special! (Thanks so much Kathy for the idea and template!) She was so surprised and literally stopped in her tracks to look up and read and say 'Mommy! It says Happy Birthday Anna!'

We celebrated Anna's birthday at school with a little cupcake party. Poor thing, she had been sound asleep during nap time and had been brutally awakened for her party... she was so sleepy she didn't even eat her cupcake with the big pink flower on it.

Anna and Jacob blowing out birthday cupcake candles, Tinkerbell and Transformers, respectively.

Anna and Jacob share their birthday celebrations at school - Jacob's birthday is September 19 and Anna's is the 21st - so it's always easier to share cupcakes and have a celebration on one day. These two have been pals since they were infants in the baby room - literally propped up next to each other in boppy pillows, unable to sit up or hold their heads up. It's been fun to see them grow and their friendship blossom over the years.

We had a fun family dinner at our favorite birthday restaurant, Red Robin. Juggling three kids is a challenge, but we're doing it - and managed to get all three fed (Jack ate squash and rice cereal) and in and out of the restaurant without spilling anything or squealing too loudly...

The entire dinner Anna kept asking us 'when are they going to come out and sing to me?' We kept telling her 'I don't know - maybe they won't be able to - it's pretty busy for a Monday night.' You can see the awe in her eyes when they actually came out with that big ice cream sundae to sing a rousing, clapping round of Red Robin style Happy Birthday.

I love this picture of Anna and James - this is that typical grin we get from mischevious James when he's being naughty. I think I'd just told him for the 12th time to keep his finger out of his nose - yes, that little pointer finger he's holding up....

Anna lovingly shared her sundae with her little brother - Mommy had to spoon it into his mouth (as I didn't trust him with chocolate sauce and a white shirt...)

After dinner we came home to open presents from Mommy, Daddy, James, and Jack. (The pictures are a little unclear as I was juggling fussy/sleepy Jack while trying to take pictures. Anna is holding up a set of fairy paper dolls that came with a little stage that folds out - sure to bring hours of enjoyment.

Remember when you first had kids and everyone told you don't worry about the gift - the kids are more fascinated with the boxes? James quickly discovered the lid of the fairy paper doll box had a see-through lid.... and in doing so found his new toy for the rest of the evening....

Testing Picture Format

Pictures Coming...I Promise!!

A few of you have let me know that I need to post pictures of our wild and crazy weekend. They're coming! I haven't had time to pull them off the camera and upload to blogger - the good thing is our camera takes great pictures - the bad thing is that they take forever to upload because of file size.

I know - I need to figure out how to compress - someday - when I have time... right now I'm trying to recover from the back to back parties, clean up our house from the remnants of said parties, get Anna to ballet and soccer practice, help her finish her school project, get back to cooking healthy meals for our family - oh yeah, and tackle the 14 loads of laundry that have accumulated over the past two weeks.


So long story short, stay tuned!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Anna at Five

Five years old.

It seems like just yesterday that I was in L&D - waiting and waiting and waiting to deliver this precious baby. After the 13 months of failed cycles trying to get pregnant, the 9 months of a difficult pregnancy and being in and out of the hospital, it was finally time.

I couldn't wait to meet this bundle of joy.

We'd not found out that Anna was indeed an Anna - rather we wanted to have the gender be a surprise. I had a hunch we'd end up with a girl - I don't know why - just a feeling that the little life who had kept me company with kicks and jabs for the past few months was going to be a girl.

And she was.

She came out screaming and kicking - and if that doesn't summarize her personality, I don't know what does.

At five years old, my love, you are an articulate, artistic, smart, energetic girl. You have the vocabulary of one twice your age, and you don't hesitate to use it. The other day you were quietly, yet intently, coloring away. You stopped, admired what you had drawn, two princesses with matching dresses and crowns, brought the paper to me and said 'mommy, do you see how similar these girls are?'

Everyone who knows you knows and comments on how artistic you are. Your favorite thing to do in the whole world is to draw and color. I think if we could put you in a room filled with art supplies, you would never leave!

You also love to read (which you are doing independently), especially bedtime stories with daddy. It is so sweet to peek into James' room and see the three of you (Daddy, James, and you) piled up on pillows on the bottom bunk, reading stories together with only the light of the small lamp on the table next to the bed.

You love all things girly (princesses, glitter, dress-up, stickers, crowns, ballet, high heels, etc...) and sometimes I wonder if you really were a princess in another life (you've got that demanding personality down pat.)

Yet, you can hold your own with the boys, and are not afraid to rough and tumble. I think you might be content to wear a pink fluffy princess dress and complete the outfit with your pink, yes pink, soccer cleats.

And speaking of soccer - you are an animal on the soccer field - and after the first crying episode of being upset because someone from the opposing team took the ball away from you - were able to turn your being upset into anger, and then did a fab. job of keeping the ball away from the goal. (Your coach kidded that you did so great he wanted to make you mad before every game.)

You love ballet too - I was worried that we might be overscheduling you to allow two extra-curricular activities - but have found that the busier you are, the better behaved, because you have less time to get into trouble.

You still love to snuggle, and hold my hand. I love the way your warm (and most often times, sticky) little hand fits into mine. You reach up to hold mine without thinking twice about it. I hope this never goes away. Mom and I always held hands. Always. I don't remember a time that we didn't hold hands (except maybe those awkward teenage years, but even then, we were always so close that holding her hand felt like an extension of myself.)

I hope it will be like that with you - that you will always want to hold my hand.

You have long golden hair, that you refuse to let me cut (you want 'long golden hair just like Sleeping Beauty.') Enough said on that.

You prefer to wear dresses - will NOT wear pants unless there is absolutely nothing else clean to wear. (Becauses princesses wear dresses, and you want to be beautiful like a princess.)

You love to be a helper - want to help me at any chance you can, from stirring and cooking to fetching burp cloths for baby Jack.

You LOVE being a big sister. You absolutely adore Jack, and James (although James is starting to get to the age where he talks back to you and steals your toys - so I suspect he's not as much fun to play with anymore...)

You love movies - you are your mother's daughter - and can't wait for family movie nights. I took you to your first 'real' movie a few months ago - the new Ice Age - and you were amazed. You were in awe of everything - from the size of the theatre to the popcorn to the big screen - and can't wait to go back to another movie again.

You are my first love, my first child, my only daughter. The bond between us is strong. I am so proud to be your mother.

You are also challenging - oh yes, there are days when I wonder how I'm going to get through them. As sweet and loving and caring as you are, you are tough, and stubborn, and hard headed.

And sassy.

But we're working on that, and you are trying hard to control your emotions and be a big girl.

I suspect that life with you will always be a constant reminder of 'yes ma'am and yes sir' but that's okay. That's just you.

I love you so much. My sweet sweet Giovanna.

Marked As Christ's Own, Forever




Silk baptism gowns.

White hydrangeas.


Dear, dear friends.



Children playing.


Breaking bread.



The scent of sweet baby mingled with fresh cut lilies, roses, and incense.

These are just a few words and thoughts that come to mind when I try to recap Jack's baptism day.

It was a beautiful day. Our son was welcomed into the Church - baptized in the water - annointed with oil by the bishop, and sealed with Christ's love. Forever.

We were surrounded with love from friends, family, and our entire congregation.

The sermon prior to the baptism by Canon Riegel touched my heart.

"These children belong to God’s family not because they believe and confess just the right thing, not because they have earned some place in the world. Who knows what they may be in the future.

Do you remember the old jump rope ditty? “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.” Who knows our children what will be? In part that will be determined by how we hold them, love them, let them go.

In part their life with God will be effected by godparents and about how the church welcomes and guides them. For sure they will all be very different. They will go to different schools, follow different political parties, develop different values; they will have all sorts of jobs and professions, yes.

But in Baptism they are made one family, God’s family, in which different people can find unity with each other. We proclaim a Christian faith that is not about uniformity, but rather about the unity we experience through one Lord, through one faith, and through one baptism....."

Hold them. Love them. Let them go. I know that is my job as a mother, to love my son, to hold him tight, and if I've done my job well, to let him go. Thankfully I'll have a while to get used to the idea, at least 20 or so years if God takes pity on me.

Jack, who had fallen asleep in my arms prior to the baptism itself was none too happy to awake in the arms of our priest, splashing huge handfulls of clear cool water on his head - as he was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

He grumbled a bit as he was startled awake, but settled into the priest's arms as he was annointed by the bishop. He wooed the congregation as the priest carried him around to show him off - John Edwin - the newest member of Trinity Cathedral. He smiled his wide, gummy grin.

We had our other children stand alongside us for the baptism. Anna marveled at the ceremony - taking it all in with big eyes, trying to understand what was happening - and I suspect understanding more than many in her wise soul. She was a little bit worried too, worried that the water might be too hot on Jack's sweet head - because babies can't be around hot water, you know.

James, well James was just interested in the fact that his little brother was getting wet - and said so - loudly - as he pointed and said 'his head is wet mommy!'

We all smiled.

My heart swelled.

Tears came to my eyes.

I am a mother.

I am a mother of three beautiful children.

God has blessed me in ways I can't begin to articulate - words fail me.

We followed the baptism ceremony with brunch at our home - that was flawless thanks to the help of some very dear friends - who helped prepare, clean, child wrangle, arrange, organize, put food out, ice down drinks, and most importantly, help me keep my sanity.

We ate, we drank, we laughed, we listened to the children run and play and squeal. We smelled sweet flowers, we held baby Jack (until he fussed and wiggled and wanted to just go to sleep and stretch out), and we enjoyed each other's company.

It was indeed a beautiful day.

It was also bittersweet. I missed my parents. I missed my dad, who would have been right there in the kitchen - serving up food - or at my makeshift bar - mixing up Bloody Mary's and mimosas. He would have been bursting at the seams with pride - showing off his grandson.

I missed my mom, who would have been so proud - and probably wouldn't have let anyone else hold her grandson. She would have been by my side, telling stories of my baptism, stories I barely remember from when she told them to me years ago. She would have looked over at me, and smiled, and a thousand words would have passed between us. Words of pride. Of love. Of just knowing what it is like to be a mother.

It's an odd feeling - one I don't think I'll ever get used to, not that I'd want to - that feeling of utter pride and joy and happiness as a parent, coupled with that feeling of loss and sadness of celebrating another milestone in the absence of my family.

I miss you daddy. I love you.

I miss you mommy. I love you.

I know both of you would have been as proud as can be.

Birthday Aftermath

8 hours of driving around Columbia running errands, grocery shopping, picking up cakes, petit fours, and coffee cakes, flower purchasing, and loading/unloading party supplies in and out of the van.

4 hours rolling, baking, decorating, wrapping sugar cookies.

2 hours printing invitations, stickers, bubble stickers, and stuffing goody bags.

3 hours printing out letters, cutting out templates, tracing and cutting out letters, punching holes, stringing letters into a banner to commemorate the special day of September 21. (Thanks Kathy!)

30 minutes running and scrambling to set up a beautiful party at the marionette theater in honor of my daughter turning five years old.

2 hours wrapping gifts in the perfect pink wrapping paper with the perfect pink and green ribbons.

2 hours assembling The Bike.

Endless hours spent planning, list making, organizing, and delegating.

The look on Anna's face when she saw her birthday come to life:


The sound of her sweet voice looking up to me saying 'mommy, this is the best birthday ever':

The sweetest sound in the world.

Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What I've been up to...

I wanted to take a picture of the utter chaos our house is in this week as we count down to Anna's birthday and Jack's baptism - but the truth is I can't find the camera! (I think I know where it is - but haven't had the time to unearth it from the pile of party planning supplies currently residing on my dining room table.)

So rather than show you a picture, I'll give you a list of what I've been up to these past few days/week. As a side note, I must confess I'm a list maker. There is something so satisfying about having a long list of stuff to do - and then crossing them off one-by-one ...

Print 40 goody-bag labels for Anna's Snow White party and stick on goody-bags. Check

Stuff said goody-bags with coloring books, crayons, stickers, bubbles, and candy. Make pretty and froo-froo-ey with lots of red, blue, and yellow tissue paper (the color of Snow White's dress, of course). Check

Prepare papers for the kids to color in their 'create your own mug' activity.

Gather craft activities, markers, crayons, stickers, and colored pencils and pack for puppet theatre. Check

Gather and pack tablecloth, napkins, plates, and forks for party. Check

Gather and pack cake stand, cake knife, and matches for party.

Print labels for the inside of Snow White books (to give as favors for the siblings that inevitably will show up who did not RSVP.)

Make double batch of sugar cookie dough. Check

Take Anna to her first soccer practice today at 5:30.

Roll and bake sugar cookie "pops" in the shape of apples.

Finish sewing dress and jon-jon for Anna and James to wear on Sunday (buttons on both and hemming the dresss.)

Wash guest bedroom linens and towels.

Re-clean guest bathroom, sweep up those dust bunnies that can't seem to stay away from our house, dust, and vacuum.

Decorate apple sugar cookies, wrap in cellophane bags, tie with red grosgrain ribbons.

Pick up dress to wear for Jack's baptism (because currently there is NOTHING in my closet that fits that is appropriate for church - yeah, it's time to go back to Weight Watchers and stop avoiding the inevitable...)

Hair appointment Friday.

Pick up Snow White cake on Friday.

Pick up dress socks for James on Friday.

Grocery store for brunch groceries, birthday party treats/beverages, and house guests.

Wholesale florist for flowers for the baptism (and make arrangements - probably on Saturday.)

Liquor store for vodka (brunch bloody mary's) and champagne (brunch mimosas) - i.e. a little mommy juice to make it through the morning... ha!

Attend Jacob's birthday party Friday night at Country Adventures.

Pick up styrofoam blocks to hold the cookie-pops up in baskets - then assemble to take to puppet theatre.

That gets me through Friday ...

I can't think about Saturday right now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Little Gamecocks

All set for College Gameday on Thursday (the big kick-off game of the season.)

Thankfully, the Gamecocks won!
(you're right Kathy - kids with no flash = blurry pictures!) Oh well, I'll keep trying!!!

Wagons and Stroller Rides

What do you do with a 2 1/2 year old who is desperately bored and wanting to get out of the house but can't (isn't supposed to) run around, an almost-5 year old who is picking on her little brother (and having a hard time understanding the concept of sympathy) and a 4 month old who is happy as a clam but not able to do much (as in can't sit up by himself yet?)

The answer? Pack up the kids, a stroller, and a red wagon and take them on a walk.

We're very fortunate that we live so close to the USC Horseshoe (the original historic buildings of the University of South Carolina, arranged around a large green space in the shape of - what else - a horseshoe.)

James really wanted to get out of the wagon and run - and as you can see from the expression on his face, he wasn't too happy to watch Anna take off, skipping in glee, but he was happy nonetheless to be out of the house.

Jack, happy Jack, couldn't care less where you have him, as long as his belly is full, his diaper is dry, and the stroller is moving so he can watch the leaves overhead.

Anna, well, she was ecstatic to be a 'superstar' and take loads and loads of pictures. This is just a sampling of all she posed for.

And here you can see the utter disdain on her face as I was telling her we needed to go find the boys (we'd ducked into Rutledge Chapel to try to take some natural light pictures by the window.) "But Mommy! I need another picture taken!!!" Gotta love that one...

Peg Leg James

I had intended to try to get some good pictures of the kids this weekend and try out some photography tips...

These aren't the pictures I had hoped to get...

It isn't as bad as at looks, really, because James has learned how to hobble around on his little green peg-leg. He started with scooting around on his behind with his leg waving around in front of him like a flag - then tentatively started putting weight on it - and now, now?? Now we have to tell him to not run around as he runs with his left leg and swings his right one around.
Oh the fun of rambunctious little boys!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Swine Flu Cometh...

Yep, it's hit our house - and hit it hard. Both James and Jack have 'suspected' cases of the now infamous swine flu. James came down with a good fever last night - Jack followed suit this morning with a low grade fever, both with runny noses.

A trip to the pediatrician and a nose swab later reflected that the test was negative. Yes, you read that right, negative. That should be good news, right?

Wrong. Apparently the test is only 50% accurate - so there is a 50% chance we received a false negative. The MD says the treatment is the same, clear fluids, lots of rest, and motrin/tylenol to manage the fever.

The good news is that the high number of cases he has seen grace his doors the past few weeks are very mild - as in just a few days of low grade fevers and sore throats - and then the kids perk up and feel better.

I sure hope so. It's pitiful to see them droopy (James more so than Jack...)

However... on one hand, it is good that James isn't feeling so well and wants to just lay around for a while.

Yesterday morning when Deonne was trying to get the three kids out the door to school (D does the school drop off as I leave the house closer to 7am so I can get to work early then leave early to pick the kids up around 4pm) James fell in the gravel to the side of our driveway.

He had a pretty good contusion on his right knee - scrapes and some bruising and swelling - but after Deonne cleaned him up he seemed happy. He took him on to school where he had a good day, only mentioning his knee once - after nap when he was getting up from his little cot.

Fast forward to the evening - D picked up take-out - since it was the big first Carolina football game on TV - and we wanted to have a pseudo-tailgate with the kids. About half way through dinner, James started acting really whiny - not wanting to be put down - just whining. And not wanting to put weight on his leg with the sore knee. We thought he was just faking it - trying to get attention. (Yeah - we get the parents of the year award ...)

He got worse as the night went on - we finally realized he had a fever around 4am this morning.

The trip to the ped. to discuss flu ended up being more of a discussion about his knee - our MD was much more concerned about that then the mild case of flu. An x-ray and trip to an orthopedist resulted in our baby boy being casted on his right leg from hip to toe in a bright lime green cast for a fractured knee cap.

It's pitiful.

Yes, I did take pictures - but can't find the cable to connect the camera to the computer - as soon as I do I'll upload them, and you can see my sweet little one in all his glory.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No Buddy

One of my best friends in high school (okay, my bff) and her family had a little toy poodle. Actually, truth be told, it was her mom's toy poodle, and honestly, toy poodle is a bit of a stretch. The reality is he was this little scruffy, and sometimes mangy looking dog, who was sweet as could be - but not the best behaved animal.

As a result, D and her family (and myself included - because I felt like just another member of her family when I was at her house) used to try to discipline that little dog (whose name was Buddy.) "No Buddy - don't chew on the table." "No Buddy - don't jump on the couch." "No Buddy - insert behavior here." As a result, we joked that Buddy thought is name was "Nobody."

I wonder sometimes if my kids think their names are "NoJames" and "NoAnna." It seems like I'm forever telling them "no" "stop that" "don't do that" and "quit that." I know it's a natural part of parenting, teaching them right from wrong, I just wonder sometimes what the threshold is between parenting and letting kids be kids.

I suppose it should be when danger is involved - as in, don't jump from couch to ottoman to love seat (a.k.a. couch-diving in the Long house) because you are dangerously close to the brick hearth on the fireplace. Or, don't run around with newly sharpened colored pencils in your hand, because if you trip on one of the fourteen-thousand toys scattered throughout the house, you'll impale yourself.

I want the kids to grow up having fun, doing silly things, playing and giggling all the while. I also want them to grow up to be respectful, mindful, and - yes - obedient to those in charge. As Deonne told me long ago, before we ever had kids, 'my kids may not like me - but they'll respect me - and we can be friends later in life when they're grown up.'

I agree - but struggle at times to find the balance between being a good parent and a great one.