Thursday, March 31, 2011

Coffee Talk

I attended a very sad funeral yesterday afternoon - a colleague who departed this world entirely too early.  He was not much younger than my dad - yet his funeral, and the stories told during the eulogy by his adult daughters of their final moments together brought back all of those emotions of that horrible night five years ago when I said goodbye to my own father.

So I didn't make it back to the office following.  I was way too much of an emotional wreck.

I ended up spending some time with a dear friend/colleague - sipping green tea and talking about anything and everything.  Just something to keep our minds off the loss - and thoughts of our own departed fathers.

After that, I collected Anna early from her after care program.  We had some time to spare before picking up the boys and heading to church for their children's program and my Lenten study.  So we popped into the local Starbucks.

Anna was such the big girl.  Sitting in her chair.  Sipping her hot chocolate (no whipped cream, please).  Rattling on about the intricacies of her day.  Discussing different hairstyle options of her fairy doll that she'd brought along with her.

It was so nice to have that one on one time together.  I needed it.  I needed to be swept away into her world of fairies, chocolate, books, pencils, and giggles on the playground. 

It reminded me of my coffee dates with my mom.

And made me miss her to my core.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

J & J

At the tender age of almost two - Jack already has a bff. The two buddies are best of friends, play together at school, love each other like brothers, and yes, at times, fight with each other like brothers. They ask about each other when they see one or the other's mommy (Jack calling out 'ja-per'? when he sees his mommy) and J-bird reiterates.

It's really cute.


Something small that I don't want to forget in the coming months and years.

J-bird's mommy reminded me of this picture from Jack's party.  I had to put it on here.  Isn't the love between these boys just precious?!?!?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Anna's First Art Showing

Anna loves art. Always has. Probably always will. Ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon in her hand - she's loved to create, color, draw, scribble and eventually paint, glue, cut, and paste. So it came as no surprise to me to see her name listed in the school bulletin last week of children whose art projects had been selected to be showcased at one of the area malls.

Showing off her fish!

Anna's Name - in print!

I can't say enough good things about the teachers and staff at Forest Lake. We are truly blessed to have our child attend such a great school!

Anna's Fish!

The Exhibit. Anna's was one out of four kindergarten projects selected for the display.
Our budding artist. Her first show. Can't wait to see what she comes up with next!

Go Team Buffalo!

Spring soccer season is in full swing again - only this time we have a new Party member playing.  James is L-O-V-I-N-G playing soccer.  And he's really good at it.  Seriously.

After last season's debacle of Anna's attempt at playing (she liked the idea of playing soccer, really liked the idea of getting dressed up and accessorizing for the games, and most importantly, eating snacks) it is a welcome break to see a Party kid actually playing.  Wanting to play.

Team Buffalo
Aren't these little kids adorable?  I love seeing them all dressed up and in uniform.  The big shorts and shin guards that practically cover up their entire legs, and the shirts that fit more like tunics or dresses....

Our little soccer star!
So James is indeed enjoying the game of soccer.  He gets right in there with the pack of kids chasing the ball around ('cause you know that at this age, there really isn't any rhyme or reason or strategy beyond keeping the kids kicking the ball towards the right goal.)  He runs with the crowd, kicks well, and has actually figured out how to have good control over the ball.

It's so much fun to watch.
Future soccer star.

 Jack likes attending the games as well.  He likes dribbling the ball up and down the empty fields next to the active playing fields, chasing around the ball, pointing to it and saying 'soc-cor ball!'  It's pretty cute.

He also likes getting to sit in the kid-sized tailgate chairs.  And eat snacks.  It's all about the snacks at this age, isn't it?

I don't have any pictures of Anna at hand, but she spent her time at the game with her new friend, the older sister (also in kindergarten) of one of James' teammates.  They like to spill the contents of their backpacks, share their toys and books and pens, and of course, eat snacks.

I think she's much happier on the sidelines.

Truth be told, I am as well.  It's so much easier to support a child in a team event who actually wants to play.

** Updated with additional pictures....

First game of the season!

Second game of the season - Anna is clearly happier on the sidelines working on her academics ...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Picture Pages Picture Pages

On the tails of the previous post about my desire to win a giveaway for a family portrait – I thought I’d tell you about our most recent family portrait experience.

Two little boys dressed in matching Strasburg children shorts (blue) and shirts (white). Check.

One little girl dressed in white smocked bishop dress with blue bow to match boys shorts. Check.

One daddy handsomely dressed in khaki suit, white shirt, and blue tie. Check.

One mommy dressed in blue shirtdress. Check.

The makings of a lovely portrait, with our matching color coordinated outfits, right? Not so much.

We attempted to take said picture last night. For our church directory. I always hate the church directory photo. No one looks good in it. Not one family picture actually looks flattering. The lighting is bad. The families are all smooshed together to fit in one horizontal frame. And that blue backdrop they make us pose in front of is particularly ugly.

So I didn’t have high hopes for our experience last night.

Good thing.

I don’t think our photographer had any idea how to deal with three kids our age. Three kids who were tired (it was going on 7pm by the time they got to us), bored (there was nothing there for them to do during the long wait), and fed up with having to sit still.

She tried her best to get our family to pose – but you know how it goes with three kids – one is sticking their finger in their mouth – one is looking the wrong way – one is not sitting in their proper pose to hide the markers they managed to get all over themselves during the Bible/craft activity before dinner. (‘Cause it’s important to hide the marker marks…. Didn’t you know?)

I tried to tell the lady that marker marks on arms and legs were the least of our worries – and really, are a true snapshot of life at this age – but she was insistent that the kids sit so the worst of them didn’t show.


And because there was so much fussing over said marker marks – Jack lost any and all interest he had in doing anything remotely helpful to get a family picture. He wanted to get down. He wanted to get up. He wanted to twirl the stool (that James was sitting on.) He wanted to mess with the camera, the lights, the ladder (and insisted that the stepladder was a slide and proceeded to try to slide down it numerous times.)

I started to lose my patience.

Deonne started to lose his.

Finally, the photographer gave up. (But not before she made Deonne and I pose for absolutely ridiculous pictures – just the two of us – while our children were literally running around like crazy chickens and knocking over stacks of chairs – just missing the big photography lights.)

So, you’d think that was the worst, right? Sitting through the posing and snapping of pictures, right?


Then we had to go sit with the little old gray haired lady who was heckling us to fork over ridiculous sums of money for pictures. Who insisted she pull up every picture. Every horrible, unflattering, awful picture of our family – to choose what we wanted to buy.

Uh, no.

They’re AWFUL. I am NOT paying for any of them.

Much easier to think about saying, then to say.

She started with putting several poses in a frame – to show how beautiful it was.

I politely passed.

Then she pulled up the pictures of the kids – and how lovely they were. I tried to pass. There was one good one of each kid though – so I opted to buy one sheet of 3x5’s of each.

And our complimentary 8x10 of our whole family. That is AWFUL.

Then she tells me the price.

‘That’ll be $170 + tax and shipping.’

I almost fell off my chair.

I politely explained that $170 was way out of our budget. (I didn’t add the part about how they weren’t worth that – these are worse than those big box store pictures.)

The man standing behind her said – we’ll, these are at a discount – you know we’re giving you a quality picture – and we’re not Wal.Mart.

Um. Yeah.

I ended up buying the package of proofs. 12 proofs – one of each pose. Thinking the whole time I’ll toss the really bad ones and keep the ones of the kids that are good.

The man standing behind (why didn’t he just sit if he was going to eavesdrop and interject?) told me – you need to show these to the in-laws. They’ll pay good money to get good pictures of these kids.

Um. Go away big ugly dude.

So as I’m packing up my stuff to leave, the lady hands me my receipt, making sure to tell me just how special each and every picture I’m getting is. Including the ones of Deonne and I. And don’t you know – she says – you should frame one for each child’s room. So they can look at you. As a keepsake, you know?

Oh, right. Because the fact that I’m right across the hall from them every night – and in their faces every day – isn’t enough for them to remember me by?

Thanks crazy gray haired lady.

Looking forward to seeing you again in another five years…..


I never win contests. Seriously. Whenever there's a random name-drawn-out-of-the-hat type of deal, my name is never called. Online giveaways? Same deal. I've entered and entered for the random but awesome kitchen giveaways from the Pioneer Woman but alas, never win.

I've sort of stopped entering. 'Cause I can't take the disappointment.


However, this latest giveaway is too awesome not to enter.


My good friend Miss Mary Mack over at Hop Skip Jump Kids is hosting a contest that I L-O-V-E. A free outdoor spring portrait sitting with one of the Midland's top family photographers. A set of proofs of the Party of Five that I can use at will. Who wouldn't love that?

So I'm entering. And hoping. And crossing my fingers that Mr. Random Number Generator is favorable this time.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Reality Check

Years ago, when Deonne and I were struggling to start our family, I joined a message board for those "Trying To Concieve."  I met women there from all walks of life, and made lifelong friendships because of it.  Such good friends that they are now godparents of our child.  Weird. Perhaps.  But who cares where friendships start.  Logan is like the sister I never had, and not a day goes by that I don't thank God for her presence in my life.  She's celebrated with me during joyous times, and held my hand during the hard times.  A friend for life, indeed.

Logan is but one of the friends I made.  I'm the closest to her by far, but I still follow the stories of some of the women I met.

One such story is a lovely woman named Kristin.  She's a pillar of strength.  She didn't have that 'happy ending' that most of us had from that message board.  In fact, her story is one of tragedy and sorrow.  But she has managed to make it through with a strenth and a grace that I admire.

I still read her story.  I check in on her from afar, silently watching and praying for a 'happy ending' and joy in her life. 

Today a read a post that touched my heart.  Kristin has always been able to write the words of her heart in a way that touches those who read them.  And today - today's post brought me to my knees.  She is able to capture just what it is like to grieve.  How it never goes away - the pain and loss of losing someone so dear.  And what it is like to search for someone to somehow understand.

Thank you, Kristin, for writing these words and sharing your heart. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Today's A Day When Being A Parent Sucks

Did I captivate you with the title to this post?  I'll give you one guess what (or rather who) this is about.

This little love.  This sweet, innocent, smart little girl.  Who is also very headstrong and sassy and too smart for her own good.

The latest?  Lying. 

I'm fairly certain that the genesis of her lies occurs in her overactive imagination.  She invents stories, fabricates things down to the minute detail, and begins telling those around her elaborate tales. 

Sometimes they are non-sensical - they are so far fetched that they completely make no sense.  For example, she went out for a treat dinner and dessert with one of her favorite teachers from school a week ago.  She wove an intricate tale of a mythological jump rope school that she attends - down to the detail of what the building looked like where she attended said school - down to the detail of the type of jump ropes they use - down to the detail of what the teacher looks like - and completely fooled the teacher.

When I picked her up that night - Ms. Craft asked me 'say, I didn't know kids went to jump rope school?' obviously thinking I was some sort of insane parent who would send their child to a school to learn how to jump rope.

We straightened that one out immediately.

So that's just an example of the kind of stories Anna tells.  I honestly think it starts with an idea - and before she can catch herself - it comes out of her mouth - and eventually she has to keep lying horrible lies to keep the story straight.

We've been working on this.  Like I said, she's incredibly bright.  Borderline genius.  Which also means borderline crazy.

But when the lies start to impact others, then we really have a problem.

Take yesterday, for example.  To make a ridiculously long story short, she lied her way out of school - with a supposed ear infection.  Nevermind that the child has functioning tubes in her ears.  Nevermind that she'd been to the pediatrician on Monday with the same 'ear ache' and told by her doctor that she was just fine.

She convinced the nurse she was ill.

I was called out of work to collect her. 

I knew, I KNEW it was all a lie.  But what can I say when the nurse and the principal of the school are there telling me how Anna had been lying down in the nurse's room, whimpering about said ear, pulling on it, and saying how awful she felt.


I gave her every opportunity to tell the truth.  I told her if I took her to the doctor and he looked in her ear and said she was fine - that so help me, she'd be in a heap of trouble.  She'd be spending the weekend in her room.  No TV.  No books.  No going to James' soccer game.  No going to the annual St. Patricks Day parade - a highlight for the Party.

To her credit, she stuck to her story.  She insisted her ear hurt.  She insisted she couldn't hear well out of it.


It wasn't until moments before the doctor came into the examining room that her story started to change.  It started with her telling me 'I'm just so nervous.  I don't know why I'm so nervous.'

I responded "um... because you're about to get caught in a big fat lie?"

Then "will I have a chance to earn going to the parade back?"

I responded "No. You had every opportunity to tell the truth.  It's too late now.  Now you face the punishment."

Then she burst into tears - telling me it was all a story.  Tried to tell me she never said her ear hurt - but that it itched (she did indeed have contact dermatitis from sticking her fingers in her ear with something on them - causing it to turn red and have bumps on the exterior.)  I said "so sorry.  That is NOT what the nurse told me when she called.  Are you trying to tell me the NURSE was lying?"

So the doctor came in.  I said "Anna?  I think you have something to tell Dr. Ted."

She fessed up.

Dr. Ted was very stern with her.  Told her she'd wasted not only my time, but his, and taken time away from another patient who might need to see him who is truly sick.  He further explained that if she did stuff like this again, he might have to treat her by giving her a shot or putting her in the hospital - because he didn't know what the symptoms were.

She shrank into her chair.

He then went on to say since she'd said she was sick - she needed to spend the rest of the day in her room.  No TV.  No going outside.  Nothing.

She shrank further.

I called the school.  Told them the tale Anna had woven.  Reminded them this wasn't the first time she's pulled this stunt.  Told them that unless my child was barfing, bleeding, or running a super high fever - don't call me.  She's faking.

So we came home.  A day completely wasted.  And she stayed in her room.  I brought her a snack.  She was released to come down to dinner and have her bath.  Then stuck in her room again.

She's still in there now.  Sleeping, I presume.

I'm not sure what today will bring. 

I'm still furious.  I'm missing James' very first soccer game ever.  Deonne took him (along with Jack) because he's one of the assistant coaches and has to be there.  He's taking the boys to the parade following the game.

And I'm home.  Stuck here.  With Anna.

I suppose I should release some of the punishment.  Let her out of her room.  Get some fresh air outside (it's supposed to be in the mid-80's here today.) 

Maybe.  Maybe not.  As I said, I'm still pretty furious.  She might be safer sequestered to her room.

So as the title to this states - today's a day when being a parent sucks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Going Green

I think it goes without saying that I love holidays.  All holidays.  Any chance to decorate, eat special food, and do silly things with the kids is a great day in my book.

Our children roused this morning to the promise of a fun filled day.  Little sleepy feet hit the floor this morning and discovered that once again, our house had been visited by mischievous little leprechauns.  Tiny sparkly shamrocks were found all around the kids bedrooms, their bathroom had been raided and toilet paper strewn across the shower rod, Anna's Barbie dolls were found sitting around a golden chocolate coin, and James' Sir Topham Hat had been relocated to the back of a monster truck, also with a golden chocolate coin.

After donning their proper St. Patricks Day fare, they followed a trail of larger shamrocks (and also sparkly tiny shamrocks) throughout the house to discover green M&M candies had been arranged in their initials, pictures had been turned upside down, furniture had been re-arranged, and toys had been strewn about.  Finally, after following a trail of shamrocks through a pillow maze - they discovered an entire pot of chocolate gold!

Oh my!

After eating a breakfast of toasted Irish soda bread (and chocolate coins) they were shuffled off to their respective schools, excited about the promise of St. Patricks Day parties, activities, and stories.

Tonight we dined on our traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage (made in the crock pot with red potatoes, onions, and carrots - - so yummy and so easy!), crescent rolls (a treat for every holiday with the Party of Five), and of course, good Irish butter.

We ended our meal with non-traditional treats of mini-cupcakes (green iced of course) and shamrock cookies.

And what great day doesn't end with a dance party?

I found an Irish pub music CD - and we've been listening to it all evening.  Anna danced her version of an Irish jig, coerced James to join in, followed by Jack.

What fun.

I sit here now in the glow of our dinner candles, sipping Irish coffee, and reflecting on the day.  It's been fun - that's for sure.  I love that the kids are so excited about holidays.  I love the innocence of youth that fully believes that leprechauns visited our house.  I love that they are so happy to eat store-bought shamrock shaped cookies. 

I love that they love the traditions my mom started years ago.

I miss the big holiday meals - the St. Patricks Day dinners of corned beef and cabbage that we shared over the dining room table of my youth.  I miss crowding around my Aunt Maria's table as an adult child, visiting her home during my spring breaks from college - where she'd have to cook several briskets to feed the growing crowd.  I miss the super-hot tiger mustard she'd serve along with the dinner that we ate on her fine china.

But I count my Irish (or Italian) blessings for my little family - for my Party of Five - and the dinners and traditions we share over our own kitchen table.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When I was a little kid, I always slept well at night just knowing my mom was down the hall.  I knew that no matter what happened, mama would take care of it.

Now that I'm a mom of three, I tend to have a lot of angst.  I worry and fester over everything - wondering if I've done the right thing, made the right decision - from the basics to the complicated.  Nighttime is when it seems to peak.  Many a sleepless night has occurred due to this brain of mine that mulls and ponders and considers and never seems to slow down.

Turns out, I have no reason to worry.  I'm totally safe and protected.  I've got not one, not two, but three superheroes just across the hall, ready to step in at a moments notice to fend off any evil characters that might make their way into our home.

Take Spiderman for example.  His super strength and agility paired with his ability to cling to any surface and shoot webs from his wrists are sure to protect us from any evil-doers that should happen to cross his path.

Or Ironman.  This super-smart engineer is always prepared and ready to fight off any crime with his powered suit of armor.

Of course, there's always Batman.  This little guy is always ready to put on his bat costume to help the greater good, and will always be there to protect us from creepy villains such as the Joker and the Penguin.

So I can rest easy and sleep in peace at night, knowing that any of these superheroes is happily willing to ensure my safety.

Don't you wish you could be so lucky??

*All face paintings are the work of Sarah Dippity - Comedian and Face Painter Extraordinaire - the delight of all children in the greater Columbia area.  If you haven't met Sarah Dippity yet - you should.  She is a true gem, and all three of my children adore her - from her performances at birthday parties they have attended to their weekly visits at local restaurants - Sarah Dippity is something to be treasured!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Kanuga 2011

My posts are all over the place these days. This is what comes of not posting/recording memories and events in chronological order. Note to self. Don't do this again once caught up...

So let's rewind back to mid-February. I think I've mentioned that Deonne and I (and our family) moved our membership to a new parish. We love it. It's a much smaller church than the cathedral we were once part of, much more our speed, much more - oh, I don't know the word - home-ier I guess. The kids love their Sunday school classes, look forward to Wednesday nights for the children's program and parish dinners, and can't wait to see their new friends. Deonne and I like recognizing the folks we worship with each Sunday - where the size is such that it's not a whole different congregation every service. Our Sunday school class is great, we're making new friends, and I really really like the Wednesday night programs as well (and the fact that I don't have to cook or clean up the kitchen one weeknight a week is an added bonus.)

Most Episcopal churches in our diocese take one weekend a year for a parish retreat. Our diocese goes to a camp called Kanuga located about 10 minutes out of Hendersonville, North Carolina. It's only 10 minutes from a thriving town, but feels like it is miles away once you are at the camp. Quiet. Secluded. Full of trees. Quiet space. Rustic cabins. Beautiful chapels (both indoor and out). A lovely lake.

Deonne and I frequented Kanuga before we had children and when we were very involved members at our previous church. As youth advisers, we stayed with the youth (teenagers) in their cabin during that church parish retreat, we attended conferences there as youth advisers to learn more about how to effectively work with youth, and took a few kids up there for special camps at various times.

It is a special place. Some could say, a holy place. It is where Deonne and I made the decision we were ready to start a family (not knowing that it would take over a year from our deciding conversation to actually conceive a child.) It is the place we prayed feverishly for a child about a year later (as it turns out, two days before we returned home and I found out our prayers had indeed been answered.) A place that is very much a part of our Christian life together.

So when we saw in the church bulletin that St. Johns parish retreat was coming up in February - we immediately decided we wanted to go.

We ended up sharing a cabin with some new friends and their children. Insane? Perhaps. But the truth is, it was such a fun time. One cabin. Four adults. Six children age six and under. Loads of laughter and giggles from the children as they cemented their friendship. Quiet time between us adults as we shared glasses of wine once the kids were asleep and deepened our growing friendship.

It was a special time.

The cabins are very rustic. No TVs. No phones. Limited cell phone coverage. The idea is to really and truly get away from it all. There was programming for the adults and children on Saturday morning, and nursery for the little ones, but the afternoon was free for playing, running, reading, talking, tricycle racing, and story telling. Meals are scheduled and family style. Big tables and a big buffet of home cooked meals. Challenging, yes, when us parents were scrambling to fill plates and cups and glasses for the kids who were always hungry - from all of that outdoor play - but well worth it. No cooking. No cleaning. (AMEN to that one.)

James' birthday fell on the Saturday we were there. The congregation celebrated by singing 'Happy Birthday' to James during the lunch service. We celebrated in our cabin with cupcakes and candles - then turned the kids loose to run off all of that sugar.

Sunday morning, after chapel and before lunch and departing for home - we took the kids to visit one part of Kanuga that I've never been to - but one I've always wanted to - the Labyrinth.

It was beautiful.

Deonne carried Jack. Anna and James followed behind. They didn't speak. They didn't giggle. They didn't hop or jump. They simply walked behind their father. Step for step in peaceful unison.

A lovely moment.

I walked the labyrinth alone. I was a few paces behind from taking pictures of my husband and my children. As I walked the lines and curves, I could glance up now and then to see my life and my future before me. And about the time I reached the center point, I realized I was leaving some things behind me... slowly letting go of another piece of the grief of losing my dad. Slowly shedding the guilt of not being able to be close with my mom. Focused on how to help heal the strained relationship with my stepdad.

Oh, Kanuga. Just what I needed. A breath of fresh mountain air. A chance to escape our daily life at home. An opportunity to deepen friendships with some lovely people. A moment of peace to think about my parents, to miss them, to hold them dear, and feel the hurt in a safe haven.

I can't wait to return again.

A perfect end to a perfect weekend.