Saturday, December 27, 2008

A glimpse of our California Christmas

The presents were well received, no doubt about it. But the best gift of all on this Christmas visit to California has been family time. The four cousins are on day seven of spending all their time together, and have been begging to extend their visit. The new toys have been left in the living room as they spent three hours outside and are now on hour two of some random, but engrossing, indoor game. And we adults are thoroughly enjoying the view.

It's impossible to capture it all with the camera, but the slideshow below is at least a glimpse into our holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Stockings We'll Hang

As is tradition in our family, we will hang our stockings by the chimney with care on Christmas Eve, right before bedtime. Over the years, my mom has lovingly needle-pointed a stocking for each one of us, so I thought I would showcase her handiwork here. I fear mine is just the right size for some coal...but will it be bituminous or anthracite?




Saturday, December 20, 2008

Clare's best day


Over the past week, Clare has been alternating between telling me that Friday was going to be the "biggest" day of her life, and the "best" day of her life. Being the last day of school before Christmas vacation, and a noon dismissal to boot, I could see how it would be a pretty good day - at least, for a lot of kids. But Clare told Max the other day that she doesn't want to grow up, because she loves going to school. So, what was the big deal for her with Friday? (And where did she learn this fine art of hyperbole, anyway?) The Kindergarten Mass.

In my limited, and completely unresearched, understanding, each class at Christ the King is responsible for one of the school masses throughout the school year. Turns out the Kindergarten classes (plus Pre-First Grade) are given the Christmas mass. For the past month they have been practicing several songs, with which Clare would serenade me on occasion. Earlier in the week she told me they would be wearing capes, which was quite the visual. Interspersed through it all were these near-manic declarations that Friday was going to be the "biggest" or "best" day.

So I treated it accordingly, which means I farmed Danny out so that I could attend the festivities sans the distractions of an annoying little brother. I'm so glad I did, too, because it was priceless. I scored a seat in the choir loft, which wasn't the best spot for pictures but did afford me a better view than the way back of the church, which was my alternative. The kids processed in, so very solemnly, and performed most of their songs before mass began, singing their hearts out. It was easy to see why this group was given the Christmas mass, because the combination of little ones during this season is truly magical.

When I met up with Clare later for her class' Christmas party (and surprise wedding shower for her teacher, who is getting married on New Year's Eve), she was beaming broadly and did seem to be thoroughly enjoying her day. Of course, now it's in the past and her new focus is on our trip to California (less than a day away), no doubt to be followed by Christmas itself. So it's hard to say if it lived up to being the biggest and the best - but happy is really the ultimate outcome anyway.

(In the blurry video below, Clare is on the left side, third kid in, three rows back, in a red "cape" or robe or whatever those things really are.)

video

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

More Finicky Files

Even though I poached the first part of this article from my own blog, check out the latest Finicky Files!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Lights of Life


I have a hard time imagining what the Christmas season looked like before civilization tapped into electricity. I do recall my grandparents sharing stories of the fleeting moments when their parents would light candles on their tree. They could only leave them lit for a few minutes, but I think that made it all the more breathtaking to them.

Such humble sights are not the 21st Century way, but we did manage to find some thrilling views of our own last night when we took the kids to nearby Life University for their annual lights display. We first fed the kids an early dinner, then let them put on a pair of Christmas pajamas to wear on our outing. I don't know what it is about wearing pajamas in unexpected places, but the kids were overjoyed, with Danny jumping up and down shouting, "I can't wait! I'm so excited!" To further the pleasantries, Clare and I had made red-and-green sugar-decorated rice krispy treats to eat in the car. Wow!


Thus we headed out. We had never seen the Lights of Life ourselves, though Clare and Danny went with Donna and Larry last year, and it sounded terrific. Which it was! Danny summed it up best when he declared, "This place is wonderful!" It's hard to do the lights justice with my pictures. The large displays wind through the campus, easy to see from all windows of the car as you drive through. The Santa hat-clad sea monster in the middle of the small lake was quite popular with Tim and the kids. I was amazed by Santa and his sleigh and the many trees surrounding Santa's workshop.



After we drove through most of it, we parked and walked through the concessions area. They had photo ops with Santa, but despite Danny's engaging smile and wave to the big guy, both kids declined yet again, keeping our Santa-free streak alive for the sixth year in a row. Much more importantly, they offered pony rides! We hit that at just the right time and didn't have to wait in line. Pony rides in pajamas - what a win!



After dodging the over-eager goats, we found another spot to walk around and got a better look at the sea monster and other sights. More oohing and ahhing ensued, and then it was time to head home. Where we saw Tim's more modest, but nonetheless pleasing, lights display on our own house. Another Seymour tradition has been born. Happy holidays indeed.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Seventh (at least) Circle of Hell

I can't decide if I owe my parents a profound apology or a profusion of thanks. I always knew that they really didn't like going to Chuck E. Cheese's. Dread is probably the more apt word. And yet I remember multiple visits during my childhood, at least one on the occasion of my birthday. Man, I loved that place. What's better than animatronic rodents singing silly songs, cardboard-like pizza (I distinctly recall my dad using that word), and hours upon hours of skee ball, all culminating in the final visit to the prize counter to redeem tickets for candy and crappy plastic toys? I imagine that to the under-five crowd, Chuck E. Cheese's is strikingly similar to what Vegas casinos are to we adults.


Today we returned to Chuck E. Cheese's after an almost two-year hiatus. During our last visit, Clare (then three-and-a-half) cried almost the whole time, most vociferously when the big Cheese himself came out to wish the birthday boy a happy day. Danny was a mere eight months, but he sat in his stroller and handled himself with way more poise than she did. I'm happy to say that Clare was much happier this time around (though she did keep her distance when Chuck E. came out for the birthday greetings). And Danny? I'm not so happy to say that he loved it. To the point that we left with him in hysterics of a totally different kind.


You may think it's a bit histrionic of me to liken Chuck E. Cheese's to one of Dante's Inferno's Circles of Hell - and you're probably right. But after 90 minutes of pinging games, loud robot performances, and dozens and dozens of kids whining for a multitude of reasons, it honestly felt that way. Suffice it to say, the excursion ended with Danny moaning to me, "Mommy, stop screaming!" (Hey, it was a loooong car ride in what felt to be excruciatingly confined quarters.)

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" is probably not the marketing slogan Chuck E. Cheese's is looking for, but if they were seeking truth in advertising, I think it would fit. I have in particular abandoned hope of avoiding another visit - a show of just how much I love my children. At least I can console myself with the knowledge that I was (and still am) similarly loved.

P.S. Almost as if to prove my point, astute reader Brian passed along this gem from the Wall Street Journal: Calling All Cars: Trouble at Chuck E. Cheese's, Again

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pirates Evidently DO Decorate Christmas Trees


Today we purchased and decorated our Christmas tree. This is a much-anticipated event in the Seymour household, with much of the ritual having been passed down from my (Morlan) side of the family. Ever since I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure starting when my parents were first married, we would decorate our Christmas tree in the evening while enjoying a sumptuous buffet feast. This is really the only time I recall my parents condoning the consumption of chips and dip (we're talking salty potato chips and sour cream and onion dip - does it get any more decadent?), and Sara and I positively lived for that menu item. (We Morlans take our food very seriously. Typical breakfast conversations revolve around the topic of what we're going to eat for dinner.) The more gourmet members participating in the tree trimming also enjoyed offerings like smoked salmon and champagne, while the kids got sparkling cider. And while he used to come in handy when it came time to put the angel on top of the tree, I primarily remember my dad sitting on the couch to "supervise" while the rest of us did the decorating. Of course, we all reminisced as each ornament made its way out of storage.

Tim and I continued this tradition when we married, merging two collections of childhood ornaments and starting our own. It was always a lovely evening, but I must say it's even better now that we have kids. I wasn't sure what to expect from them on a participatory level, either. We were able to stave off most of their impatience while we did the lights by setting them up with play-doh, but by the time the lights were finished they were more than ready to hang some ornaments. Clare gamely wore one of the Santa hats I picked up at the store. Danny, however, only wore his long enough to say, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" before tearing it off and replacing it with his pirate eye patch.



Fortunately there was no mutiny against the tree. In fact, far from it. Both kids remained dedicated to hanging ornaments, with Clare ceaselessly calling out, "Mommy, look at this! Do you remember this one?" and Danny proclaiming each ornament "Gorgeous! It's my favorite!" They were happy to take a food break, but returned to the tree much more quickly than Tim or I. (No, there were no chips and dip, but there was brie.) And when Tim eventually sat on the couch and said he would supervise, the whole evening came full circle for me.


When the trimming was finished and we had admired our work, I sat on the couch with the kids and read a couple of Christmas stories. Clare eventually moseyed off to prance around with her own book in hand, but Danny stayed with me. As cozy as it was, the evening was getting late, so I announced last call, expecting one more seasonal tale. Not so much. Instead Danny chose, with great glee, Pirates Don't Change Diapers. And so we ended our beloved annual ritual with me growling in my best pirate voice. Definitely a first - but I must admit, sometimes it's fun to tweak tradition.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Bevy of Blessings

When it comes to major events like Thanksgiving, I have a hard time knowing where to begin a post. It can be a bit overwhelming, particularly when it coincides with a trip out of town to visit family. As usual, we had a lovely tim in Buffalo, and it reminds me yet again how much we have to be thankful for.

Like an excruciatingly stubborn, but entertainingly determined little boy (who insisted on pulling this suitcase through the entirety of Atlanta's very large airport):


And fireside reading (which, with Clare, turn more into chats, but that's okay, too):



There were the firsts of an outing to see the Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular...



...provided by a loving and generous Grandma:



And Danny's first chicken wing (because when in Buffalo...):



So many entertaining moments:





There were snowballs thrown at Mommy, stories with Grandma, Bingo with Grandpa, fun with Finn the dog (and Aunt Karen and Uncle Brian, too), and of course lots and lots of food. We are thankful for each moment of the visit, and thankful for our wonderful family.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Buenos Dias

I've been thinking about the differences between my generation and my kids' a lot lately. It started when I volunteered in Clare's computer class a few weeks ago. I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that she was sitting in computer lab at the age of five, getting on the Internet and learning electronic ways - something I barely scratched the surface of in college. And then there's the language thing. Both Clare and now Danny have been studying Spanish since they were two. Don't get me wrong, they're not fluent or anything, but the mere fact that they've been exposed to it at such an early age is vastly different from my own experience of starting in high school (aside from a few scattered lessons in junior high). What I find most interesting is that this is totally the norm for preschool-age kids. All of my friends could be writing the same things about their own children's education. It remains to be seen if this actually has any bearing on their future linguistic skills, but you have to figure it can't hurt.

These Spanish lessons have made a big impression on Danny, as that is what he most often reports about when telling us about his school day. "We sang 'Buenos Dias'!" Or, in a disappointed voice, "We didn't sing 'Buenos Dias.'" So here, for your viewing and listening pleasure, is Danny singing his favorite song:

video

Friday, November 21, 2008

Danny in Wonderland


Danny may have blotted his eventual application to Christ the King today. It was my turn to assist during art class, and I was assured by the room mom that it was perfectly fine to bring Danny with me. She did suggest that I have snacks and something for him to play with. Well, the snacks only lasted during the time we had to wait for the class to arrive (of all days for them to run late). Having seen each place set up with newspaper and pencils, Danny was itching to get his hands on some. He had to wait until the class arrived so that we could see if there was an absent student whose spot he could nab (hence the early consumption of the snacks). Lucky for him, there was a vacant seat. And I was pleased to see that it was between two well-mannered young ladies - anything to help keep him in line so that I could actually turn my back on him for a moment to assist the teacher. However, it was not so lucky for the sweet, quiet, angel-faced girl to his right, to whom Danny began chanting, loudly, "You're naked! You're naked!" No, I have no idea why. I do know that she didn't look terribly pleased with this development, nor do I blame her. Fortunately, the paint bottles started to get pass along, thus distracting everyone, His Rudeness included.

The art project proceeded without too much more disruption, although of course Danny insisted on making one as well. He also proved very deft at talking loudly whenever the teacher would ask the students to be quiet. Awesome. She is a mother herself, so I think she was fairly sympathetic, although her girls are in 8th grade and college respectively, so I imagine she has lost a bit of perspective. Although that might have just been my mortification projecting itself. Anyway, eventually the eternity that was this 30-minute art class ended, and the students lined up to go back to their class. There was a bit of chitter-chatter going on during this lining up, and when the teacher asked who was talking, several of them pointed to Danny. Which wasn't inaccurate. Danny then proceeded to worm his way into the back of the line, much to the amusement of some of the boys. He was fairly devastated when, after marching a few steps with the class, I pulled him aside so that we could leave.

Where, you might ask, was Clare? On the other side of the room, honing that crucial big sister skill of ignoring the little brother. Turns out she's really good at it - she didn't acknowledge him once.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

La Biblioteca


(I've always thought this was a word superior to "library.") What is it about that clear, plastic wrapping on library books that makes them so irresistible? I love the sound they make when you open the spine and start flipping through the pages. I don't know how protective they really are, but since they've been around for years without alteration, apparently they're functional as well as fabulous (although, as Tim repeatedly rants each time he retrieves some, the packaging on graham crackers hasn't changed over the years and yet desperately lacks on the functioning front).

Books are definitely a weakness of mine. I am not one to shower my children with toys (their overflowing playroom notwithstanding), but when it comes to books I find it easy to justify adding to our collection. These days, though, when tightening the belt is in order, I have rediscovered the joys of borrowing from the library. Clare and Danny love it, too. Not only is the outing itself fun, but the idea that you can borrow a sky-high pile of books is also quite alluring. As much as we love our trips to Barnes & Noble, they're lucky if they walk out with a stack of one. So today, to combat the cold and the temptation to veg in front of the TV all morning, Danny and I ventured out to the somewhat new local library here in Mableton. It was marvelous! The children's department is very large, and the books seem virtually untouched. Danny immediately gravitated toward horse book after horse book (or at least books featuring illustrations of horses), and was happy to sit on the floor and thumb through the pages. Later he crawled into my lap while I read him a few books, and I honestly can't think of anything better than cuddles and stories. We easily passed the time until lunch, and with my brand-spanking-new library card walked out with a tower of books for the two of them. Which I think we'll delve into during these post-nap hours...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Primarily because I haven't posted in a week...


...but today was one of those days where both kids were just a joy to be around. So when Clare suggested we head to the playground before dinner, I was happy to oblige. We were the only ones there, other than a random black lab who roamed around, much to Danny's delight. For a neighborhood of approximately 1,000 homes, it always amazes me how little the playground is used. We get our money's worth, and have been doing so for about three years now, as these similar photos of Clare (at age two-and-a-half) and Danny (now also two-and-a-half) will attest. This of course reminds me that Clare was potty-trained in the above picture, and Danny is not...but no, no, it was a GOOD day and I will focus only on the positive!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fort Seymour


What to do when you have a whole lot of timber and two imaginative kids? Build them a fort, of course!


Tim and I rolled up our sleeves yesterday and capitalized on my dad's idea to use the chunks of wood from our felled trees to make the kids a fort. Tim's original intention was to stack the pieces 2-3 levels high, but he quickly realized how unstable they would be, and didn't want somebody getting crushed (and the likes of Eric B. suing us). Still, the one-story fort - and the process of creating it - met with the kids' ecstatic approval. Danny particularly enjoyed hauling wood as he "helped" Tim.


Clare immediately set about creating a password for it, which shortly transformed into a password/song.


Then the playing began. Enemies, beware!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Can we go to the zoo?


From the annals of the masters of the obvious: Kids have selective hearing. Over the past few months, Danny has misheard me on multiple occasions and hopefully thinks that we're headed to the zoo. Other times he has just flat-out asked, but at typically inappropriate moments, such as bedtime. Yesterday, though, things finally worked out in his favor. It was a stunningly beautiful fall day, and we had a free post-nap afternoon. So when I greeted him after his nap by asking if he'd like to go to the zoo, he eschewed his typical groggy/cranky state and was more than ready to go. As we put on our shoes, made final pit stops, and gathered coats, he kept saying, "C'mon dudes, let's go!"


It was a bit of a hurried trip, because our 3:45 arrival only gave us about 45 minutes before the zookeepers would begin putting the animals in for the night. But we saw plenty, including the most up-close encounter with lions we've ever had at any zoo. The mom and her cubs were separated from us by mere feet (and a glass wall), and they frolicked and in general put on a great show.


We also lucked out in that they keep the kids' area operating until 5 p.m., so even though we missed out on the kangaroos, we did get to ride the carousel and run around the playground. So despite the hype, I think the trip to the zoo lived up to Danny's expectations. He already asked to return this morning...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tim can do it. We don't help.


At my wedding, as part of my dad's toast, I recall him joking about the dismaying day when I announced that the steep tuition money he was spending on my Notre Dame education was going to go towards an English major. To paraphrase quite a bit, he offered Tim his condolences. Sure, Tim was a fellow English major, but his double major in economics helped land him a more lucrative job in the financial world than the one I scraped together in magazines. Well, that and the greater amount of drive and ambition Tim possesses when it comes to careers.

Never having made a great deal of money in my various positions, it was an easy decision for me to stay at home with the kids, particularly since I wanted to do so. There are days when I know that Tim is relieved that he gets to walk out the door while I change the diaper, referee the arguments, and prepare countless, unappreciated meals. But regardless of how appealing it is to leave the house for a few hours - and of course there are many times when he'd prefer to stay and hang out - the burden of being the sole breadwinner is firmly planted on Tim's shoulders.

I try to appreciate this as best I can, knowing when to ask him about his day, and when to let him leave it at the office door. Kids being kids, though, Clare and Danny live in their self-centered worlds where the food always shows up in the kitchen and the clothes always fit. While "Hi, Daddy-at-work!" is a phrase the kids and I routinely call out whenever we drive past his office in Home Depot's headquarters, I know they don't give much thought to that "work" part. It's a large, imposing, and elusive building where Daddy has a lot of meetings. And lunch.

Well, today we cracked open this mysterious world just a bit by joining Daddy for lunch in the Home Depot cafeteria. Clare has been clamoring to do this - specifically to eat pizza - for quite a while, so we took her unexpected holiday from school as the opportunity to do so. As Tim said, after three-and-a-half years, the cafeteria has grown a bit tired for him, so he often prefers to venture out. But to Clare and Danny, it was exciting. In fact, Danny walked through and exclaimed, "Wow! This is amazing!"

And if he thought the cafeteria was amazing, you can only imagine his thoughts on the museum, which we visited next. (Yeah, the place has its own museum. It's pretty big, this headquarters.) Clare remembered the Mickey Mouse at the entrance to the museum from the last time we visited, which was approximately two-and-a-half years ago (Danny was soooo tiny, and we did not eat in the cafeteria). Danny was wowed by the tools, and construction guys, and the baseball bat! And football helmet! (No, I have no idea what those things were doing in there. You think I read the plaques?)

I'm not going to say that the kids walked away from their visit with any greater appreciation for Tim's hard work. (Although Danny did ask him how his meetings were, so he clearly has a general concept of what Tim does all day.) I do think it helps them to have a visual of where he spends his days, and over time hopefully this will blossom into understanding. In the meantime, we sign off with not our usual mantra of "Just work harder, Tim" but rather, "Thanks, Daddy."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ah, Autumn



The Indigo Girls have a fabulous song called "Southland in the Springtime." And I'll grant you that the spring here in the South really is lovely, unlike anything I experienced growing up in Southern California. But for my money, autumn is the truly stunning season around here. Sure, New England gets all the glory for its fall color, nor do take anything away from them. But Atlanta is no slouch in the foliage department, either. For one thing, the sheer number of trees around here is astounding, particularly for those of you who have no idea what the geography here is like (perhaps I'm projecting my own cluelessness from before moving here). Over the past week, the color has just exploded, and it's impossible to adequately capture in pictures. So I just stuck to pictures taken within my own neighborhood, to give you a mere glimpse of our current surroundings. For me, it's breathtaking.

I find it appropriate to post this on election day, too, because when I think of "America, the Beautiful," I think of the golden glow of fall, and Thanksgiving, and the Pilgrims, and where it all started. In the midst of a lot of bleak news, I'm thankful for this spectacular show nature puts on - and the freedom to write random posts about it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween!


I just stole a piece (okay, several pieces) of candy out of Danny's trick-or-treat jack-o-lantern. He's still young enough that he has no idea what was in there before he went to bed, unlike Clare, who catalogued the items with glee. As I poked around in there, I caught a whiff of that smell I remember so well from my own childhood Halloweens. You know, that smell of a big pile of candy, all mixed together and just waiting to be devoured.


We've had the decorations, the orange lights, and the Halloween books out for a few weeks now. The costumes have been waiting in the closets, the subject of plenty of conversation and planning. Compared with our childhoods, Halloween has a lot more fanfare these days, which is fun. But I also worried that with so much build up, the main event would wind up disappointing. I'm happy to report that this was not the case for Clare and Danny today - and not just because they both wound up with a hefty supply of treats, though that didn't hurt.


No, from the minute it was time to put on the costumes, they were fired up. This was particularly fun in Danny's case, because at his age we couldn't be guaranteed that he'd be willing to wear his shark costume, much less be excited about it. Fortunately, he loved it, and embraced its spirit whole-heartedly. You may not have known this, but sharks roar.


For the third year in a row we participated in the neighborhood Halloween event, whereby the kids line up in one of the neighbor's driveways and then parade down a designated street, "trick-or-treating" along the neighbors that have lined up to watch them process by. It works very well for our neighborhood, because we have so many small children, and our streets are so hilly. After the procession we all get together at one of the neighbor's homes for a happy hour-type event that this year involved pizza. The weather was spectacular, so we were able to stay outside the whole time and chat with each other while the kids enjoyed the swing-set, or played baseball (Danny), or just ran around and enjoyed their sugar highs.

Halloween is pretty darn great for kids. But we're finding that it's also pretty fun for we parents, too!