Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reinvent and Reimagine

I use those words a lot (reinvent and reimagine) when I'm writing grants.  Recycling properties that were once used for industrial purposes and reimagining them into something new once they've been cleaned up - put back into productive use - I tell that story over and over.  In fact, am gearing to write it about 18 or so times over the next 60 days as I write for communities in the hopes of getting some federal funding to help move redevelopment along.

But I'm also using them a lot more around the ol' homestead these days.  (And I dare say - my spouse starts to cringe and shudder just a bit when they come out of my mouth - as they usually involve some sort of woodwork for him...)

Case in point - my first Annie Sloan Chalk Paint project.  When we moved into this house - we gave up a lot of storage.  A LOT of storage, apparently, because after I unpacked the last box to make sure nothing had been broken in transport, I realized we had a lot of crap treasures with no place to store them.

The curio cabinet we moved with us was bursting at the seams - and there was simply no place to store the platters and plates, bar ware and serve ware that had filled the built in cabinets in our old home.

Realizing I'm married to who is arguable the cheapest man alive - I knew new furniture was out of the question.  So I'd have to get creative.

Enter the Habitat for Humanity store + Stylish Patina.  I signed up and took one of the chalk painting classes at Stylish Patina after visiting the shop and warehouse sales.  I loved loved loved the shabby chic look - and wanted to learn the secrets to recreating it in my own home.

Then I found a whopper of a deal on a huge (and I mean HUGE) china cabinet at the Habitat store.  It was well built of solid wood - and heavy as hell - but in pretty bad shape.  I bought it intending to donate or somehow get rid of the top china cabinet piece - was really after just the buffet/server piece to go in our dining room (since we already have a china cabinet - to have two would just look ridiculous.)  We got the monstrosity of a piece home - moved the server into place - and stuck the china hutch in the downstairs hall.  Where it sat.  And sat.  And got in the way.  And collected dust.  And irritated the heck out of me because it was so in.  The.  Way.

So.  I decided to try to paint it and make a curio out of it.  Why not - right?  If I totally screwed up - it wasn't a loss - because I was ready to take a  hatchet to it to just get it out of my house.

Deonne came up with the idea of adding feet to it to make it look more like a curio cabinet vs. the top of a china cabinet - so I was off...

In the Habitat Store - waiting to come home

Protecting the really old really cool glass...

First coat Annie Sloan Provence Blue Paint

Ta Da!!!

I'm pleased as punch.  Turned out great - and the finish with the wax is so super soft.  (I'm happy to say I think even Kelly (owner of Stylish Patina and super chalk painter/teacher extraordinaire)'s mama would be proud...)

Now.  What else can I get my paws on to reimagine and reinvent.....

I Should Write A Book

Monday.  One of the worst days of the week.  The day when we all grumble about getting back into the routine that we've missed for a whopping two days.  When we force our children to rise by 7:00 am (gasp), get dressed (oh the horror), and put their shoes on to make it to the bus stop by 8:10 am.  I know.  Horrid, right?

Difficulties in getting said kids clothed and fed and reasonably groomed are exacerbated when one of them is ill.  Like Jack - who I was pretty sure had strep throat (later confirmed by the MD.)  

But this Monday was like no other.  

Fast forward to the afternoon.

Jack is napping.  (finally)

Anna is off to gymnastics with Deonne (so that I can stay home and tend to sick-o.)

James is watching TV after school and generally being a lazy sloth - begging for more snacks and laughing like a hyena to whatever garbage was playing on Cartoon Network.

I'm making a daily sweep through the downstairs - picking up errant socks, piling up random pieces of toys and junk that the kids have strewn about - and reach down to pick up one of the boys rubber snakes.

That started to turn it's head and look at me right as I was about to touch it.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next.  Yeah - I'm not proud.  I screamed.  Like a girl.  A lot.

James came round the corner to see what the fuss was about.  And he screamed.  Like a girl.  A lot.

I tried to make him pick it up to take it outside - cause it was just sitting there - staring at us and not moving.  For a moment I thought I might have imagined it - and it was indeed just a toy snake.  Until it moved.  And slithered.  And wiggled it's little tail.

So I tried again to get James to be the 'man of the house.'  No go.

I debated waking Jack up and throwing him in the car and driving away - anywhere - to get away from the vermin in the house. But seeing as he was still recovering from strep - and really needed the sleep after a restless night the night before - I decided that was a bad idea.

So I sent James for help.

He returned moments later with Steven.  Who is Steven, you ask?  The FIVE year old kid who lives next door.  Who happily showed up with a paper plate and a grin - ready to save us all from the serpent from hell.

And he tried - he diligently tried to capture the snake.  He followed it into the hall closet - started pulling boots and jackets and other such winter items out of the closet in an attempt to find the evil one.  He asked me to help him empty the closet so he could get it.

I declined. 

Rather - I told him to stuff everything back in the closet and barricade the door and leave it until Deonne came home. All the while trying to get the creepy heebie jeebies to go away...

So Deonne finally makes it home after gymnastics - gets a good giggle out of the whole ordeal - and then proceeds to empty the closet.  And comes back upstairs empty handed.  No snake.  He tried.  I kinda freaked out - okay - I more than kinda freaked out - then said a few silent prayers that this thing had slithered off somewhere to die.  

Fast forward.  We get through dinner.  All is calm.  (as calm as it gets round these parts anyways)  We start getting the kids ready for their bath - I walk in our bedroom - and see a pretty good blob of ooey gooey blood.  On the floor.  Actually - on my favorite jeans which happened to be on the floor.

Shit.  That's where the cat had been sleeping.

So upon examination of Juna - the cat with the propensity to have clogged anal gland (APPARENTLY), we discover yep - she's blown her ass out again.  Ruptured abscessed anal duct.

Freaking awesome.

Fantastic ending to a banner day for the Longs.  

Monday morning chaos + strep throat + snake in the house + abscessed anal duct.

Can't wait to see what Tuesday brings.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Coming Up For Air

April?!?  April since I last updated this blog?!?

I can't possibly begin to detail the events of the last five months.  So in short format - since April and sweet Jack turning four, the Party has:

  • finished up spring baseball season with a base hit for Anna and a hit (not quite making it to base) for James
  • saw Anna in her spring musical performance of 'The Rocking Tale of Snow White' which was a t-total hoot
  • visited James' art show and oohed and aahed over the kids' artistic pieces
  • finished second grade and kindergarten with flying colors, surviving an ENTIRE school year sans Deonne in town for more than an errant weekend or two a month
  • fired a real estate agent; hired a new one; staged our home; and dealt with several more months of constant picking up and cleaning
  • FINALLY sold a house
  • rented a house
  • watched as three people worked over a day and a half to pack up each and every item in our home - catalog it - and pack it away in a gigantic moving truck
  • said tearful good-byes to family and friends-who-are-like-family, and felt our hearts breaking as we drove away from our family home on Overcreek Road - the place where all three Party Kids took their first steps, suffered umpteen illnesses, shared uncountable giggles, celebrated birthdays and baptisms, holidays, and every days
  • listened to two cats howl like banshees in their cage as they traveled from South Carolina to Virginia
  • survived living in our temporary home in the Residence Inn for 30 DAYS (2 adults + 3 kids + 2 geriatric cats = insanity)
  • watched gobs of movies (both old and new as we took full advantage of the dollar movies at the Fairfax theatre)
  • gobbled up gallons of ice cream and frozen yogurt - as we toiled away the summer with lots of treats
  • saw the Capital Fireworks on the 4th of July from the banks of the Potomac River
  • visited the national mall on numerous occasions, and hung out at our favorite museums - the Air and Space Museum (both on the Mall and at Washington Dulles)
  • enrolled three kids in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (our new church's VBS) where the Party Children were sorted into their houses (Hufflepuff for the boys and Ravenclaw for Anna) and spent a week engrossed in the world of Harry Potter
  • learned to swim (James) and swim well (Anna + James) thanks to a month at a hotel with a pool + a summer membership at the local pool for hours upon hours of swimming
  • partook of a Washington Nationals game where we saw the Nats hit a Grand Slam and furthered the Party Kids' love of baseball
  • introduced the kids to Star Wars
  • fully understood the meaning of moving when the moving company unloaded box after box after box in our new home - then left - with us living like Hoarders for weeks while we tried to sort through and figure out where to put all of our crap beloved items
  • enrolled two Party Kids in the Fairfax County Public School System - including Anna in the Advanced Academics Program which she more than qualified for
  • enrolled one Party Kid in the church Pre-School at Holy Comforter - where we'll be attending
  • became sick and tired of each other as we lived in such close quarters all summer with not a lot of opportunities to make friends
  • met our new neighbors upon moving in and finally felt welcomed in this new place after months of feeling alone and a bit discouraged
  • learned how to live together as a Party of Five vs. a Party of Four - which sadly was an adjustment after a year of being apart
  • learned to appreciate the art of full-time stay at home moms - which has been (and continues to be a steep learning curve for this mama who has ALWAYS worked outside the home and still isn't quite used to all day - all mommy access)
  • shipped two kids off to their first days at school - complete with riding the bus - THE BUS - meaning less harried mornings by dropping the simple yet oh-so-difficult task of strapping three kids with three backpacks into the car for the day (THANK GOD)
  • made this place a home

The kids and I decided that song "home" was our theme song for the summer.  We're in a new place, somewhat the same yet so different, trying to find our way, and doing our best to make it a home.

We're getting there - are sorting through the last of the boxes and settling our house - figuring out the best places to get pizza and ice cream - and most importantly - becoming friends with the people we find ourselves living among.

We miss our South Carolina life - we miss our family and our friends - DESPERATELY - but we're still excited about this place and the opportunities it holds for us.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Rock Star In the Making

I almost titled this post 'investing in my retirement' - but that might be a bit too presumptuous...

So Jack turns four years old in April.  Today, in fact.  ouch.  I'm not going to get all sentimental just yet - rest assured that is coming in another post - but for now - let's talk about rock and roll.

Now - I've confessed that I don't know a whole lot about music.  And that my three-year old (now four-year old) has a much more extensive music vocabulary and knowledge of the great rock and roll stars throughout history.  Thanks to his dad, youtube, and an ever-increasing desire to know more about music - and you have the perfect storm of musician wannabe.

When the time came to plan his fourth birthday party - he immediately piped up that he wanted a 'rock star' party.  I had no idea how to handle that.  Thank God for Pinterest and Al Gore and the Internet.  After way too much time researching and pinning, oohing and aahing over several parties posted on the web - I was on my way to superstar rock mom legend status.

So it all began with the invite - a back-stage/all access pass to the party.  In conference name tag holders and hung on lanyards.  Of course.  I heart Photoshop.

Then we had to have official concert posters and t-shirts, right?  Right.

T-shirt logo
We cleaned out the garage, pulled out Jack's drum set (and every musical instrument we had), along with his brand spanking new karaoke machine, and set up for a concert in the garage.  I can't even begin to tell you how much fun it was.

When kids arrived, they were asked to 'autograph' the Rock and Roll ABC book (which I highly recommend - it's got awesome photos of the top rock legends.)  They were invited to get rock star-ed up with wayfarer sunglasses, blinky light up rings, and glitter guitar tattoos.  They got to 'mod' their own card stock guitar (complete with ribbon strap so they could wear it when they were finished), and snack on Hershey's Kisses (Jack's favorite treat - and the Official Turning Four Snack.)

Speaking of snacks - kids get mighty hungry and thirsty at concerts, so they need lots of energy to refuel themselves.  Like Bon Jovi Berries, Pink Floyd Potato chips, Uncle Kracker Jacks, and Blind Melon kabobs.

They also snacked on Def Leppard Drum Sticks (chocolate covered pretzel rods) while slurping up some Judas Priest juice boxes, Lemonheads lemonade, and Everclear spring water,

And then - and THEN - what's a rock star party without a true concert?  Holy Moly folks.

We are truly blessed to know some amazing people - who will do things for our kids that not many will willingly volunteer for -  like dress up in spandex and pretend to be the Riddler (Brian C) for James' 5th birthday - or don wings and sparkly make-up like a fairy godmother to entertain and dazzle little girls (Laurie C) for Anna's 7th birthday.  And now, awesome ('real' - as Jack would say) musicians - who play in 'real' bands - to come and play and make our little boy's dreams come true.

Scott Rankin, from the Kenny George Band, is such a friend.  Despite feeling cruddy and like he was coming down with a bug (not to mention tired from playing a late night gig in Greenville - over an hour away - the night before) he willingly came with guitar, speaker, microphone, and amp - and played along with Jack.

Yes.  I said with.  It was awesome.  He played guitar and sang while Jack banged along on his drums.  And I gotta say - the kid actually has rhythm.  And he took his job very seriously.  He watched Scott intently for timing and cues for his drum solos and big finishes.

It.  Was.  Awesome.  My kid got to live out his dream - he truly was a rock star for a day.

But wait - it gets better.  In addition to playing along with Jack - Scott welcomed audience participation - and before we knew it - we had a great background percussion group.

These kids had a ball.

Including the entourage of girl groupies pictured in the photo above.  They all heart Jack.  Apparently he's the school heart throb.  (Can't say I blame them.  He is pretty cute.)

It truly was an awesome time.  I loved hearing Scott play - and was particularly proud when he told Jack they were going to play 'Brown Eyed Girl' and delighted, Jack piped up 'Hey - my mommy has that on her phone!'  See.  I do know SOME cool songs.

After the concert was over - it was time for cake.  I actually made the coolest electric guitar cake.  And it looked really good!  I even impressed myself!  But the best part was Jack's utter delight - and jumping up and down when he saw it.  It could have looked like an old tennis shoe - but as long as he loved it - it didn't matter.  (But thankfully - it didn't.)  Unfortunately - I didn't take a good photo of it.  I thought I did - but must have been distracted (imagine that?) so no good total snaps of it.  Oh well.  I'll remember it in my mind's eye.
And surely make it look better there than it did in real life.

Our little Jack is a very loved boy.  In addition to Scott playing especially for his party, he was also serenaded by another musician - Jack 'Bigger' - so coined by 'Little Jack' to differentiate between the two boys of the same name.  Jack (who came early to the party to help set up) decided he wanted to play for the birthday, had his mom bring his sax, then got online, downloaded the music to 'Happy Birthday' and played it perfectly while we sang.

Love that boy.  If Little Jack turns out half as awesome as Jack Bigger - we'll have done a great job as parents.

I think it's safe to say this little boy's birthday wishes came true.

We wrapped up the fun with impromptu jam sessions in the garage - with drum solos by all the kids who wanted to play.  And a few mamas may have gotten into the karaoke machine - and may have sung a few Taylor Swift songs.  To the utter embarassement of their older daughters.  But I can neither confirm nor deny that.

All in all a party fit for a rock star.

My rock star.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Annual Long Quarantine

Barf.  A lot.

Three kids who love each other so much they want to share their germy love.  Compounded by two boys who can't keep their freaking fingers and toys and any other piece of junk out of their mouths no matter how much I bribe, coerce, and/or threaten them.  I swear those two are worse than teething babies....

It started last Thursday with the littlest one who had a one-time episode right as we were trying to leave for school.  It continued Thursday night when Anna woke up screaming that her tummy hurt and ended up dry heaving every thirty minutes for about four hours.  She slept soundly for four more hours - then woke up late Friday morning feeling fine - and asking if the whole thing had been a dream.

Um.  NO.

I thought we were over it after a weekend of no 'episodes.'  And then Jack.  Sweet little Jack.  So he gets the gold star of throw ups.  I've dealt with a lot of barf in the past 8.5 years.  But never have I had a child vomit profusely inside a store - let alone Target - a.k.a. my Holy Ground.  My Mecca.  My Temple of Sanity.

But that is precisely what he did.  Monday night we were at the Holy Place shopping for a home printer.  Deonne and I were discussing the particulars of one that was on sale.  The boys were playing a rousing game of hide-and-seek - but not disturbing anything (that I know of) until IT happened.  Little Man came round the corner from the end of the aisle - holding his tummy - saying 'I think I need a bucket.'

Out of the blue.

I applaud his knowing he was going to toss his cookies.  Just not his timing.  Because there ARE no vomit buckets in the electronics section of Target.  Perhaps if we'd been in housewares or the cleaning section - hell - I'd have taken the shoe department where I could have emptied a shoe box.

But no.  We were in electronics.  And there was nuttin' around to catch the contents of his tummy that came pouring out.

Did I mention he'd just consumed a very large cup of frozen yogurt?  CHOCOLATE frozen yogurt? And without going into TOO much detail - I'll just tell you that partially digested chocolate yogurt on white linoleum tile makes for a big 'ol mess.

(Parenting is so much fun.)

So Deonne immediately ran over and picked him up - because I sort of froze in place - looking around for something - ANYTHING - to either catch any additional barf or to try to clean up what was now a spreading brown mess.  And then he retched again.  And I sort of turned around in circles - desperately searching among the USB cords and phone chargers, Wii games and printer cables for something to help the situation - completely befuddled what to do.

James took it upon himself to start squealing like a stuck pig 'EEEWWWW!!!! GROSS!!!'  Because we needed to draw MORE attention to ourselves.

(SO not helping James.)

I finally came to my senses and tracked down a sales associate - who was deep in conversation with another sales associate next to the camera case.  Now, I'm typically a very polite person.  I abhor interruptions and am proud to say that I try my best to never interrupt others.  Not this day.

Our conversation went something like this:

Me:  Excuse me - ma'am?  You're not going to like me.  Not one bit.  My three year old just threw up.  Everywhere.  We didn't know he was sick - he just threw up.  A lot.  And I don't know what to do to clean it up.

Target Lady:  Silence.  (The stunned look on her face was priceless.)

Me:  I know - it's horrible - but we didn't know he was sick.  It happened all of a sudden.  And it's all over the floor.  Over there.  (pointing to the back wall by the giant TVs)

The other sales lady hightailed it out of there - I think I actually heard her shoes squeaking on the linoleum when she turned to jet away from the scene - lest she get pulled into cleaning it.

The one that I'd spoken to finally snapped to attention and said "I'll take care of it" and immediately got on her little black walkie talkie - asking for some sort of 'absorbant materials' to clean 'something' in the electronics section.

I kept waiting to hear 'Clean Up In Electronics...' coming over the store loudspeaker.

So I walked back to Deonne - who by this time was hightailing it to the bathrooms (AT THE OTHER END OF THE STORE) while pulling James along behind - who was still complaining LOUDLY, with the added dramatic effect of plugging his nose.

I didn't look at the sales lady as we brushed past her.  I did overhear her repeating 'absorbant materials' like it was a hazmat scene.  Well - I guess it sort of was ...

As we flew down the aisle between electronics and toys - I saw another Target guy - carrying yellow cleaning gloves and what looked like four paper towels.  I thought to myself 'dude - you're gonna need a LOT more than that.'

I didn't make eye contact with him.

After Deonne cleaned Jack up in the bathroom we headed to the car (after abandoning our purchase - that I think was still in the middle of the printer aisle)- with thankfully no more barfarama episodes from this guy.

Fast forward seven hours.  Close to midnight.  We hear squealing and screaming over the monitor (James)  and figured it was a nightmare.  For some reason that boy typically has a bad dream somewhere around 11 - 12 each night, then settles down and sleeps solidly until morning.

We should be so lucky.

Deonne heads upstairs (I think he's feeling bad about not being home much and has been on 'dad' duty since he's been home this week, giving me a break.)  I hear more screaming/crying, then that all-too-familiar retching sound, followed by heavy footsteps to the bathroom.

'Another One Bites The Dust' kept playing in my head....

I suppose I should be more sympathetic and kinder to my children.  Deonne refused to let me handle the mess from the hosing-down-of-the-top-bunk (THANK GOD) - got James cleaned up - and sent him downstairs with a bucket and a beach towel (which is how we manage barf in our house - when we know it's coming, that is.)

And what do I say to my boy?  My poor sweet boy who is gray and pale as a ghost and clearly feels awful because he just threw up?  Not the loving response a worried or kind mother should give.  Not a reassuring hug or a kiss or a 'it's okay sweetie, mommy's here.'

Nope.  He got the 'don't you wish you'd listened to me when I told you to keep your fingers out of your FREAKING MOUTH?'

I wanted to firm up my candidacy for Mother of the Year, you see.

I do think we're over the worst now that all three have had it and our house officially smells like Lysol.  (knocking on wood)  And am now faced with my big dilemma.

How will I ever show my face at my beloved Target again?  How will I make my weekly pilgrimage to my happy place of cheery red shopping carts and pretty things where shopping for stupid stuff like dish soap and cat food feels like a treat?

Damn kids.  Damn stomach bugs.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Red nails.  Red lips.  Red sparkly guitar tatts.  Red sangria.  Red signs.  Red truck.

Awesome time with my girl.

Anna got to experience her first concert Saturday night.  The coveted Taylor Swift 'Red' tour.  We'd been asked to go about a year ago - the last time Taylor toured these parts - with a good friend in North Carolina. But I didn't think she was quite ready yet (that whole freaking out in big crowds and overwhelmed with big spaces like indoor coliseums thing...) and didn't want her first concert experience to be tainted with being scared.

But this year, she was ready.  More than ready.  Excited beyond measure ready.

After collaborating with a few fellow mamas - a plan was put together for dinner out, a 'red' makeover, and then the show.

I gotta pause here and give my girl snaps.  See, all of the Party kids L-O-V-E Taylor Swift.  They all sing and dance and shake their booty's to her tunes.  But I wasn't prepared to take the boys just yet (they're still too young in my opinion - and I want them to remember their first concert experience.)  So when I told Anna that we had the coveted tickets, I made her swear up and down NOT to tell her younger siblings.  And to her credit, she did not.  She didn't ever mention it, discuss it, or utter one remark that could in any way elude to our planned night out.  I'm really proud she was able to keep the secret and not spill the beans.

So we all met up at Tio's (local Mexican joint) for nachos, quesadillas, and the best sangria I've had.  Ever.  5 girls at one table.  3 mamas + 1 daddy at another (within arms reach.)

Of course RED nails were in order - thanks to awesome Mama Nic who brought just the right shade of polish.

Followed by glittery rock star tatts for the girls - and perhaps the mamas too. (Much to my mortified daughter's dismay.)

A healthy dose of red lipstick - and we were on our way.

We piled in Nici's minivan - and headed to the concert.  Best quote of the night?  Madeleine (blue jacket):  Hey guys!  Let's pretend this is a limousine.  Even though it's DEFINITELY not.

Ensue mama giggling.

The girls were excited to wave their sign to Taylor - but the security gestapo confiscated it at the entrance.  Spirits were only briefly dampened, however, with the promise of concert t-shirts.  And seeing Taylor, of course.


Thank goodness for friends like Nici.  My anxiety and crowd phobia started to kick in while we were in 'line' for concert t's.  Line is a loose term.  More like mob of MOMS pushing to get up close to the table to get shirts.  And MOMS trying to get clothing for their girls are the worst.  I know.  I'm one of them.  It was hot.  People were pushing.  I could feel sweat dripping down my back.  My heart started pounding. Not a good scene.  So when Nici graciously offered to stick it out while I took the girls to a safer and more open spot, I happily obliged - and the girls and I perused some of Taylor's costumes from her famous videos and performances.  Very cool. (and no pun intended)

I managed to score really good seats (Row 1 of Section 201 - which is the section just opposite the stage and right next to the sound booth.)  So we had no one in front of us - no obstructed view - so we could relax and see everything.

And. It. Was. Awesome.

I didn't realize how much of a show this concert tour was - that every song was a skit with amazing costumes and theatrics.  (Neither Anna nor I understood the correlation of some of them - like the harlequin ballerinas before Love Story or the whole circus theme for Never Getting Back Together - but nonetheless - it was entertaining.)

I gotta say, my favorite performances though were the simple ones.  When Taylor came to the little stage right beneath us - just her, her guitar, a stool, and a microphone - and sang/played unaccompanied by the full band, sparkles, and lights.  It was awesome to see her play, hear her voice, and really see her true talent.

Of course the warm up guy was amazing too.  Ed Sheeran.  My new fav. I'm always a sucker for British dudes, and this guy was really talented.  The whole time he played I kept thinking of my Jack - and his love of guitar - and how he'd have loved to see something like that.  If there had been a way for him to see just the warm up show and then go home - that would have been ideal.

But maybe ole Ed will be a superstar by the time Jack is 8 (the promised age to get to go to a concert) and he can choose to see him.

It was a great night.  One of those nights when everything fell together seamlessly.  Anna was completely embarrassed at the start of the show - seeing me dance and sing and clap.  But about half-way through - she loosened up - started clapping and singing along as well - and kept looking over at me with a grin from ear to ear.

So not only was it a completely amaze-balls show - but it was an amazing experience to share with my daughter.  One of those moments I hope she remembers forever - a story she can tell her own kid someday of the first concert she ever attended....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


One of the greatest gifts I hope to bestow on my children is an appreciation of the art of sarcasm. A witty sense of humor, a sharp ability to come up with clever remarks and a well-rounded vocabulary will serve them well in life.  (Oh, and an ability to see humor in the stupid crap people do.  That always helps.)  I figure that if nothing else, these children will have a good chance at growing up to be the people everyone wants to talk to at parties.  They may not become extroverts (although that seems completely impossible now given their non-shy behavior), but they'll be able to slide in a few conversational zingers now and then.  Interject a sarcastic comment here and there to make those around them smile.  Maybe even laugh.

Anyway - the other reason I want to teach them the art of sarcasm is purely selfish.  It's completely awesome to watch their brains try to figure out if my responses are the truth or sarcasm.  Jack will pause - squint his eyes at me - tilt his head and say 'Mommy, you're teasing!  Right?'  James is quite similar - although he's usually giggling so much it's hard to know what he's saying.

Also - it's really fun to completely torture them.  Take Anna for example.  I relish in feeding her sarcastic remarks - and watching her squirm and argue in protest.  She's a different pickle from her brothers all together.  She gets offended when I tease her, and takes everything literally. And often times way too seriously.  It's been a struggle getting her to lighten up - to relax - and let humor in.  (I do try hard to tell her that I'm not laughing AT her - rather I'm laughing WITH her.  That we all need to learn to laugh at ourselves. And I do try to show her that I laugh at myself. All. The. Time.)

Sometimes it works.  Sometimes not.  But she's coming around. Slowly.

For example - we were in a rush to get to church on Sunday.  (When are we not?) The kids were dragging their feet from a no-nap day + late night the day before - coupled with being unjustly torn away from the treasure the leprechaun left them.  I may have bribed them a little - telling them I had a 'special treat' for breakfast.  That sorta prompted them to get their butts in gear - and get to the table - where the boys were delighted to see I had doughnut holes on the table waiting for them.

Anna slumped and slouched in her chair.  Rolled her eyes.  Said 'really?  Doughnuts?  This is what we're supposed to get excited about?  SO exciting mom.  Really. SO exciting.'

My first reaction was to get really pissed off - and to tell her to wipe that snarly grimace off her face.  However, I turned to her and said 'good job Anna!  Excellent use of sarcasm!' Then turned back to the kitchen sink.

I did happen to look up just in time to see her grimace turn into a smirk, and for a fleeting second, a smile.

So maybe, just maybe, this kid will learn to lighten up.

There's hope.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Or 'cheers' for you non-Irish speakers... 

So, St. Patty's Day.  I love St. Patty's Day.  Always have.  As a kid, we got to hang out at the Clover Island Yacht club with my dad and his drinking buddies - who always did something incredibly stupid jolly and festive like dye their winter beards orange, then shave them off, or make sure that the keg o' beer was green.  Mom always made her traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner, and we got to eat in the dining room with little golden chocolate coins decorating our plates.

As an adult of true drinking age (and not one day before - promise), I came to enjoy the festivities of the day, hanging out in Irish pubs in locations across the globe, toasting good friends and good times with big glasses of thick Guinness stout (the best pub experience was the year I lived in Scotland.  By far.)  Later, after I moved to Columbia, I came to relish the fun of St. Pats in 5 Points - and the complete crazy chaos that takes place in a four block radius.

But now that I'm a respectable MOM, I've come to appreciate the kid fun of St. Patrick's day - the non-alcoholic appropriate fun that doesn't involve orange facial hair or green beer.

The kids are at that magical age where they are filled of the wonder of the holiday.  Jack's preschool class tie-dyed t-shirts, made green paper-bowl hats, and painted flags to carry and wave in their traditional St. Patrick's Day parade.  That would be little Jack O'Long you see below...

So.  Stinking.  Cute.

This year, we got to hang out at a friends house on Saturday afternoon - for an Irish themed three-year old birthday party.  It was full of fun things, including a scavenger hunt to try and find a pot of gold and treasure left by a sneaky leprechaun, rainbow coloring, and shamrock-hand painting.  All to a background of Irish music and dancing - which Jack O'Long thoroughly enjoyed.

Before we went to the party, however, we decided to try our luck at catching a leprechaun.  We'd heard about making leprechaun traps from a few friends, and thought we'd see if we could make one ourselves that would entice the little fellow ... so we could trap him and take his treasure.

Anna created the doorway and entry into the trap... which was a clementine box that we decorated then propped up on cardboard dowels.  Anna and I taped a golden coin to a ribbon that would trigger the trap to fall if he took it.

If I were a leprechaun - I'd want to go into that cool little place - hang out under the little rainbow, and play with the glittery beads....

Anna was a little bit worried about our construction.  She told me that we didn't properly cover the sides of the trap - so the leprechaun could sneak in and steal the coin without getting trapped.  I told her it was fine - he'd go in through the door she made - then pick up the coin - and WHACK - be trapped.

Unfortunately, she was right.  When we came downstairs the next morning, the trap was closed, the sign she'd made had fallen, and the ribbon pulled out to the side.  Golden coin was gone.  No leprechaun had been trapped.

She was really upset with me.  'I told you MOM.  We needed to put something on the SIDES of the trap.'

Oh well.  I told them that next year, when we're together in Virginia, she and her daddy could put together a better constructed trap.  He is the engineer in the family and all ....

However, even though we tried to catch him (unsuccessfully), that sneaky little guy still left a pile of treats.  In addition to a trail of shamrock confetti, he put golden chocolate coins in Anna's slippers, made a castle out of paper cups in the kids bathroom, made a smiley-face of coins on the boys' bedroom floor, and a trail of coins leading to the TREASURE of all leprechaun treasures.  A big green box filled to the brim with all sorts of cool green things - from fluffy weird writing pens, to silly string, beads and necklaces to MORE chocolate coins, green candy dispensers, and green pinwheels.

The kids were excited.... well, except for my negative-ninny son - who kept wandering around the house looking for other things that the 'leprechaun was supposed to mess up.'  Sorry kids.  I guess the leprechaun that came to our house was a bit of a dud this year - perhaps he was just tired and didn't have the energy to turn toys and books upside down, or unroll rolls of toilet paper in the bathroom.  

It was still a great St. Patty's day - complete with a bit of afternoon baseball at a friend's house and mom's traditional corned beef and cabbage.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Conversations from the Breakfast Table

I really wish I had a tape recorder handy to save some of the conversations that take place around my breakfast (and dinner) table.  (Crap - did I just date myself or what?  Who uses tape recorders anymore?)

Anyway - some of the random discussions we have are hilarious.  Thankfully the humor is not lost on me despite the chaos that is normally going on when I'm trying to get them all to the table.  With washed hands.  JAMES.

I've gotta start keeping track of these - so I can look back one day and remind myself of the innocence of their childhood.  And perhaps blackmail.

Here's one from yesterday.

7:40 am (FYI - The school bell rings at 8:00 at the kids' school. And on any given day it takes approximately 15 minutes for three kids to put on 3 jackets and 6 shoes.  Slip on Crocs and Emu boots, mind you.  Which is the topic of another post entirely.)

Picture me - trying to hurry Jack along to finish his breakfast while reminding Anna and James for the FOURTEENTH TIME to put their dishes in the sink, get their backpacks, go downstairs, put said shoes/jacket on, and get in the car. While making sure everyone has had their medicine, lunchboxes, books, and that I have my work laptop and all of the miscellaneous crap I haul around on any given day, while also grabbing leftovers from the fridge for lunch.

Jack:  Mommy?  What are you doing?

Me:  Putting my lunch together to eat at work.

Jack:  Oh.  What do you have?

Me:  Leftovers from last night.

Jack:  Oh.  I didn't like dinner last night.

Me:  Yes, Jack.  Thanks for the reminder.  Now can you please finish your waffle?

Jack:  Mommy?


Jack:  Where's your blankie?

Me:  My what?

Jack:  Your blankie.  For nap time.

Me:  Jack, sweetie, I don't have nap time at work.

Jack:  Well.  Where do you sleep?

Me:  Jack.  I don't get a nap at work.  Some days I barely have time to eat, or even go to the bathroom.  (yes, in retrospect, I realize that's probably too much information for a three year-old.)

Jack:  What?  No nap?

(Insert his befuddled look of complete shock.)

Me:  No.  No nap.  And you know what?  I take back every single time I protested napping as a small child.

Anna:  (interjects from the top of the stairs) Yeah, Jack.  When you get to be a big kid - you don't get to take naps anymore.

Me:  That's interesting that you say that Anna, miss smarty-pants, as if you miss taking naps - when YOU protest every weekend afternoon when I merely ask you to have some quiet time and read books.

Anna:  (no reply - just the eye-rolling stink eye as she FINALLY slinks down the stairs)

Jack:  Well when I grow up, I'm going to take naps.  I'm going to work as a worker and I'm going to get to take naps.

Me:  That's great Jack.  When you figure out what job that is that will allow you to take naps during the day, you let me know, m'kay?

Pause while Jack fiddles with his waffle, wads up his paper napkin, and turns his cup over - that thankfully is empty save a few remaining drops of milk.

Jack:  Mommy?

Me:  YES Jack?

Jack:  Did you know there's no kangaroos in Africa?

There is no response for this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Uh Oh, It's Magic!

Our little magician James turned six in February.  Because of the way the weekends fell around his birthday and Deonne's ability to come home for weekends, we postponed his party until the first weekend in March.  I tried to keep it somewhat smaller and simpler this time - having him invite only his closest friends - the kids he actually plays with - rather than everyone he (and we) know.

But you know me, and 'simple' just isn't a word I'm used to when it comes to party planning....  So when I asked him what kind of party he wanted to have - it came as no surprise to me that he wanted a magic party.  He loves all things magical ~ from magic tricks and pranks to magical stories and shows.

He'd been dying for YEARS for local magician/children's comedienne Sarah Dippity to come to one of his parties - so once we figured out the theme, tying her in was an easy task.

Now - I gotta give credit where credit is due.  Thank god for Pinterest.  There are so many awesome ideas out there - so many cool things that I had a hard time keeping things 'simple' and focusing on just a few.  But I managed - and the details are below:

I struggled a lot with this cake.  I think the fondant was too thin and the cake too tall...

 Playing Card Sugar Cookies

 A box of magic tricks and whoopie cushions for favors

 James started the show off with a performance of his own magic trick!

 Ta Da!

 Anna and EG, bffs

Gotta love Sarah Dippity!

I'm not sure who had more fun - James or Jack! 

Buddy Blake from FLE

 Sweet Maddie

 James was laughing so hard during this that I thought he was going to explode.

A magical birthday for a magical boy.  Happy day sweet James!