Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Fall is here!

I'm in the midst of decorating the house and pulling out the fall/halloween decorations - I love this time of year.

Cooler temperatures.  Pumpkins.  Cinnamon.  Baking.  Leaves turning colors.

And did I mention - Candy Corn!!!

ESPN Game Day

One more post to “catch up” from my grant-writing-induced-blogging-break – and then I should be back on track.

I think.

So in case you somehow missed it, we’re big Gamecock fans. Well, Deonne is – I claim to be a Gamecock by marriage. And Gamecock fans are loyal during the bad years (when losing is more common than winning) and crazy as loons during the good years (when they not only win but receive recognition from the BCS.)

When ESPN announced they were going to host College Game Day from the USC campus, you might have thought the Gamecocks had won the national title.

Deonne couldn’t wait to take the kids – for the pure spectacle of it.

Unfortunately, I had to work, but I did manage to hang around the house long enough to help him dress the children in their appropriate Game Day attire and take a few pictures before they headed out.

They had a t-total blast – and little Miss Anna again charmed the local press – not only having her picture taken with Deonne and her brothers for the State Newspaper, but also being filmed holding her USC sign for the local CBS news channel while saying "Go Cocks!"

They were able to get up close and personal to Erin Andrews during filming, got to see the USC marching band, and best of all - Cocky!

Deonne ran into our good friends and their kids – who thankfully shared their lunch/snacks with our kids – and in case I forgot to tell you Nici – thanks for letting my kids mooch off you, yet again…

What a fun Saturday morning activity! I hated to miss it – but am glad they were able to go and be a part of something so fun!

When I arrived home that evening, Deonne was ‘tailgating’ with the kids. It was really pretty sweet. They were running around playing in the backyard, he had the TV set up with snacks and treats, and was enjoying watching the Gamecocks beat the number one team in the country. I made it home in time to see them seal the deal in the 4th quarter.

Later that night (while we were painting) I commented that tailgating certainly has changed for us in the past six years, when we used to have elaborate parties with crazy amounts of food and drinks that would go way past gametime into the wee hours of the morning. Deonne smiled – and said ‘I wouldn’t trade it for anything.’

Neither would I.

I Dare Say….

I think I may have seen it all from a culinary standpoint.


Last Saturday was our annual trip to the State Fair – complete with the usual array of activities, rides to ride, corn dogs and elephant ears and cotton candy to consume, vegetables and pigs and cows to look at.

The kids love going – mostly for the rides and the corn dogs. I like going to see the arts and crafts on display (yeah, I’m a dork like that) and the various fried foods to eat (although this year I didn’t really eat anything – as I was still recovering from being sick and not interested in eating much). Mostly, though, I like going to people watch.

It amazes me the people who crawl out of the woodwork to attend the State Fair.

Anyway, Anna and James got to enjoy the rides –

While this one had to watch in dismay. Such a hard age … wanting to participate – but not yet big enough…

Deonne did take him on one ride with the big kids – the Dizzy Dinosaurs – which he liked at first – but then wanted to get off – not happy that the ride was not ending on his schedule.

We left shortly thereafter – the kids were tired – even though they fought leaving to the bitter end – James arguing all the way into his carseat that he WAS. NOT. TIRED.

But poor little Jack was wiped out. He literally fell asleep as soon as Deonne put the gearshift into ‘drive.’

As we drove away, Deonne commented that he’d like to do more, but with small children we have to leave before we can see it all. Then he glanced at me and added “besides – I’m tired out.”

Amen, brother.

A Royal Tea Party

The Sunday following our Fun Fall Family Day, Anna and I had tickets to see the Richland Northeast (RNE) High School production of Disney’s Beauty and The Beast. Truth be told, I wasn’t looking forward to going. I was feeling really cruddy by this point, was doped up on Advil and Sudafed, Anna was being a pill (I think she had a mild version of what I had), and the thought of sitting through two hours of teenage vocal talent made me want to poke my eyeballs out.

However, Anna was excited to go – we’d been talking it up all week as a special treat of Mommy/Daughter time following my two week hiatus of being a mom while writing grants. And, we were going with a good friend and her daughter, so I figured I needed to suck it up and just go.

This was special in that we didn’t get to see just the musical performance, but had special tickets to attend the school’s fundraiser “Mrs. Potts’ Tea Party” following.

So we dressed in our Sunday finest and headed to the auditorium.

All I can say is WOW. The talent at RNE was amazing, and that is an understatement. The cast was incredible, the acting and vocals stupendous. And I’m not exaggerating. Seriously. Those kids have a future career in Broadway.

Anna was wide eyed the entire time, taking it all in, absorbing every second of it, and loving the entire show from opening strains of the overture to the final curtain call of the cast. She has this Disney Princess CD that she loves to listen to – a compilation of songs from the major Disney Princess movies, and as it turns out, musicals. Two of the songs in the musical are not from the film – but are on her CD. She turned to me with the biggest smile and brightest eyes when she recognized the songs from the CD.

And the tea party following the show was just lovely. The moms and sponsors of the show provided yummy treats – everything you’d think of at a tea party including petit fours, tiny sandwiches, sweets of all kinds, chocolates and fruits, and even chicken fingers.

The best part? The cast came through, in costume, to meet the little girls clamoring to take pictures and have autographs signed. Anna loved it. Every single second of it. And truth be told, I did as well. Runny nose and stopped up head and all.
Anna and "Lumiere"
Enjoying Tea Party Treats
My "Beauty" and "The Beast"
Little Chip - so sweet!
The Star Herself - Beauty - and two Beautiful Little Girls!
Mrs. Potts Herself!

What a lovely girls-afternoon-out!

Where Oh Where Has October Gone (Part 2)

So the Saturday after the Big Deadline, Deonne and I decided we needed to spend some time together as a family – seeing as I hadn’t been home at all for the better part of the past two weeks. We packed everyone up and headed out, determined to have a Fun Family Day. (See where this is heading?)

Our first stop was the new Farmers Market. It’s just starting to get up and running, so there weren’t too many venders there, but we were able to get a few flats of pansies, some mums for the front porch, some North Carolina apples (since we obviously missed our apple-pickin’ trip this year) and a chance for the kids to run and play around the pumpkin stands.

Next stop – the Scarecrow Exhibit at the Historic Hampton Preston Mansion in downtown Columbia. Every year local businesses sponsor a scarecrow and place them around the gardens of this historic home or the Robert Mills House – located across the street. It’s a fun time, the scarecrows are fun to look at – and the kids enjoyed running around the gardens. My favorite was the Forrest Gump scarecrow sponsored by a local florist – it was so cool – of Forrest Gump sitting on the park bench, complete with the box of chocolates, the curious George book, running shoes, and the tell-tale feather floating down from the tree above.

I forgot to take a picture.

We did get a chance to sit on the joggling board at the Robert Mills house – the kids liked that – especially Jack – he grinned and giggled like a hyena.

Isn't James' expression priceless???

Next stop – the Pumpkin Patch. One of the Methodist churches in town sponsors a pumpkin patch as part of their fund-raising activities. It’s the closest to our house and has the best selection of pumpkins, so it has become a part of our annual fall fun. Everyone got a chance to pick out their own pumpkin – even little Jack – who of course, wanted to pick up the biggest pumpkin he could find.

By this time, the kids were starting to tire, and truth be told, so was Mommy. I started getting that scratchy sore throat and stuffy nose on Friday night, and it rapidly progressed throughout the day Saturday, so that by that evening, I was a mess. Everyone started snapping and whining and protesting, so after a quick lunch – we called it a day.

And then the sickness prevailed - I ended up getting whatever random fever virus Jack had the previous week (oh yeah, did I mention he was ill with 103 degree fever the end of the dreaded Grant week?)  Great timing.  Poor Deonne had to stay home and play nurse to him.  And probably because I was so run down from no sleep, too much stress and worry over the grants, and too many late nights of painting ... I ended up getting ill.  Complete with a sinus and ear infection.  And I missed the entire following week of work.
So we're just digging out now, finally putting our house back in order, getting caught up on laundry, and trying to resume our 'normal' crazy life.

Where Oh Where Has October Gone (Part 1)

So where have I been the last few weeks – okay month? In a nutshell, writing.

“Grant Season” – the name coined by my office for the maddening few weeks prior to the big EPA Brownfields Grant submission deadline was upon us yet again. The due date was October 15, which meant that life as I knew it was pretty crazy. Every year we try to get our information together in a timely manner so that we’re not scrambling to write so many applications in such a short amount of time – and every year we fall short. This year was particularly bad for me (the primary grant writer) as I had several other big projects that were closing out and expiring – meaning there was a considerable amount of work to get done on those projects by September 30 – pushing the time to start writing new grants back to the first of October.

All that to say – my life became a blurry fog. The schedule went something like this:

6:00 am – wake up, get ready, start getting the kids up

6:30 – remind Anna it’s time to get up

6:45 – remind Anna (again) that it’s time to get up

7:00 – shove Anna out of bed, throw her clothes on her, hover over her while she brushes her teeth

7:10 – feed all kids breakfast

7:30 – I depart for work – Deonne departs shortly thereafter to get the kids off to respective schools

4:00 – leave work to start the pick up routine (start with the boys at the Children’s Center – then drive across town to get Anna at Forest Lake)

5:30-ish – arrive at home (depending on when I actually left work – and how long it took at each school to gather each child, their belongings, chat with teachers, and buckle into the car)

Scramble around to cook dinner while keeping Jack from climbing my legs, reaching for the stove, digging under the cabinets for cleaning supplies, refereeing arguments between Anna and James, reassuring the kids that I’m not starving them by not allowing them a snack – that dinner is indeed on its way.

6:00 – Deonne arrives home, we sit down to dinner, actually have a chance to talk to the kids, hear about everyone’s day, hear their precious giggles and laughs

6:45 – excuse the kids from dinner, start cleaning up the kitchen

7:00 – Deonne takes the kids up for bath, I finish up cleaning the kitchen, then head back to work

7:30 – arrive at work, write more grants, research more information, write more grants

10:00 – 11:00 – depart for home

This started the first Monday of October, and continued until the actual deadline of October 15. Including the weekend, except that I didn’t have to push the kids out of the house and could let my sleeping beauty lie in her bed. All in all – I worked 120 hours in 10 days.


But there were little bits of encouragement along the way – on Saturday evening I came home to find this waiting for me at the end of the driveway.

It made me cry.

So you’d think that by the time I made it home every night between 10 and 11 I’d collapse in fatigue on the couch or immediately retreat to my bed, right?


I decided it would be a great time to paint.

Excellent timing.

Now, in my defense, neither Deonne nor I thought it would take quite so long or require quite so much paint to accomplish the task. When we took apart the room the weekend after Anna’s birthday – we naively thought we would be finished by the next weekend.

Uh, yeah. Not so much.

So what started out as a one week paint job – turned into a three week debacle. Where our den was completely torn apart. Where the kids had no toys or place to play because the couches were piled in the middle of the room.


But it’s all finished now.

And it looks lovely, if I do say so myself.

The 1980’s stained wood paneling is now a crisp white.

The beige wall color we threw on the walls when we first moved in to cover up the hideous red (raspberry red, you can see it along the edges of the outlet in this photo) is now “Crisp Linen.”

The black French doors (again quickly painted over in an attempt to cover the raspberry red) are now a bright, clean white.)

I think it’s my new favorite room in the house....with an exception of the constant clutter of toys, games, and books - but that's life with the Party of Five - and someday I'll miss it.  I think.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Miss Universe

Forest Lake Elementary was indeed featured on the NBC Nightly News last night as part of the Education Nation series - following a schedule change the day before. We gathered the kids in front of the television, set the DVR, and watched the show as a family - wanting to see how the school was showcased, and yes, I'll admit it, curious to see if Anna's time spent with Lester Holt made the proverbial cut.

Anna was thrilled as the opening credits of the broadcast began and she saw Mr. Holt sitting at the anchor's desk - pointing to the screen - jumping up and down (literally) - and shrieking 'Mommy! It's my friend Lester Holt!'

And when she saw actual footage of herself on the screen, talking to Mr. Holt, nonetheless, she just beamed.

(Truth be told, her Daddy and I did as well.)

It was a big moment for her - being on the news and all - and as time has gone on - I think she's starting to grasp the enormity of it. When it was all said and done - she looked over and Deonne and I and said

'So now everyone in the whole universe knows who I am.'

Uh, no baby, not quite.

I think we may have created a little diva.

So without further ado - here's the segment highlighting Forest Lake - the awesome technology school that our child attends - her outgoing and incredible principal - and, oh yeah, that super cool LESTER HOLT that Anna now calls 'her friend.'

I so wish she'd thought to ask for an autograph.