Thursday, December 31, 2009

Let It Snow!

The prospect of Christmas in Buffalo meant several things to our family, but to the kids it chiefly meant SNOW. Though we were warned before we arrived that there wasn't any white stuff on the ground, Mother Nature helped us out. Hours after we landed, so did the snow. And a beautiful thing it is.

I will admit that I most enjoy the view from inside. Fortunately for the kids, Tim is happy to get out there with them, and so they built a snowman, threw snowballs, made snow angels, and even played hockey.

But the piece de resistance for both kids was the next day's excursion to the Park Club, where Tim and Larry took them sledding. As you can see, they LOVED it.

A couple of views of Park Club during the excursion:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 2009

On Christmas morning, Danny and Clare came out of their rooms, peeked over the railing, and Danny declared, "He came!" So they worked their way downstairs and joyfully exclaimed over their respective gifts from Santa: Kit the American Girl doll and a box of Legos for Clare, and a Playmobil horse set and pirate Legos for Danny. These four items kept the two of them busy for the next 90 minutes. Finally they were willing to turn their attention to the array of wrapped packages under the tree, where many more wonderful toys and gifts were unveiled. And this was just Christmas #1!

After a lovely day at home, complete with homemade waffles, lots of playing, chatting on the phone with cousins, a fun lunch at the Balzuweits with friends and neighbors, more playing and an early bedtime, we headed to Buffalo for Christmas #2. Suffice to say these kids are not suffering for toys, though they have really seemed to enjoy everything they received. The Playmobil knights are the big winners (with both kids), especially when paired with the sets from Tim's childhood that Donna and Larry wisely saved over the years.

We adults fared very well ourselves, but both Karen and Brian pointed out that there's really nothing better than little kids on Christmas. We're savoring (almost) every moment. Since it's hard to narrow down the pictures, I've created another slideshow. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Last Bedtime

For approximately 23 days now, Danny has been asking me, "Is it the last bedtime?" As in, does Santa come tonight? Finally I was able to give him the answer he wanted! All in all we've had a delightful Christmas Eve, which began with making gingerbread cookies for Santa, then moved on to church (after Clare and Danny helped Tim wrap presents, sequestered in the guest room...excellent eavesdropping, let me tell you), placing Baby Jesus in the manger, and then finally time for festive pajamas, hanging of stockings, and finally putting the treats out for the big guy himself (and his reindeer). For the grandparents, I threw together a quick slide show. And, of course, stay tuned for the main event!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Version of the Thompson Party

(That's a reference to The Family Man, by the way.)

Grandparent alert: No photos of your grandchildren will appear in this post. Hey, it's not all about them.

When Tim and I first moved into our neighborhood, we despaired a bit that we had somehow failed to land in one of the idyllic, family-filled subdivisions we heard so many others speak of. Sandwiched between two older, child-less couples and across the street from a newly engaged couple, it felt as though we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gradually we became friendly with some neighbors, many of whom did indeed have kids - and most of whom lived on a different street. The old saying "location, location, location" really seemed to be ringing true.

Eventually, though, we attended enough happy hours, barbecues, playgroups and poker matches to break through the barrier. After almost five years in this house, we feel surrounded by friends and happy to be where we are.

Last night's holiday party at the Kings' has become an annual tradition that reinforces this feeling. It's a winning combination of 1) no kids, 2) an amazing basement, 3) a festive cocktail list, and 4) hilarious white elephant gift exchange. (I fear for the whereabouts of the jar of mayo, and I promise you that the balloon kit will make an appearance again, somewhere, somehow.) Of course, it all really works because of the fun group of people who attend. Special thanks to Bryant and Susana (who somehow didn't make it into my pictures - apologies!) for their gracious hospitality. Keep an eye out for the bass.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What An Angel

Last night was Clare's much-anticipated school performance of The First Christmas. She was soooo excited about her "big night," as were the other 60-odd first graders. By the time we arrived at school last night, the excitement had reached a fever pitch. What is it about being at school at night that is so exhilarating?

Mind you, she had been rehearsing for weeks, both at school and at home. In fact, "Nativity" has been a favorite game of hers and Danny's for the past several weekends. This has provided several laughs, including Clare's get-up as Mary and the following from Danny: "Clare, the angel told the wise men that they have to joust Darth Vader!" At which point he galloped off on his stick horse, trusty light saber at his side. And while she has been at times painfully pious about this Christmas season, even Clare got a good kick out of that one.

These games served us well as far as getting Danny more interested in the play itself. Of course, to him the Roman soldiers were "knights," which he proclaimed loudly more than once during the actual performance. But since he said it somewhat reverently, he slid by.

Each child had a spoken line, so I feared a long night, but it was a swift yet darling performance. A carpool colleague mentioned last night that he and his wife used to attend this event even before they were married (okay, so his mom is the school principal), simply because it's such a great way to really get into the Christmas spirit. I couldn't agree more!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perhaps Not The Greatest Show On Earth...

...but Danny and Parker were justly proud! This week has been Show Week at The Little Gym. Clare had her gymnastics show on Monday night, which was so similar to last time around that I didn't do a repeat post. This morning it was Danny's turn. And since this has been his first independent class (as in, Mommy gets to drop him off and then go for a walk with Amy and Jennifer), his show is something to blog about.

Their teacher assured us over the past weeks that the boys had been working very hard on their "routines," and it was pretty cute to watch them in action. Of course, there were a few awkward moments in between, where Danny decided to get clingy, but he always snapped out of it in time to perform. The morning turned into a semi-private class, too, as one of their classmates never showed, and the fourth had a meltdown early on and had to depart.

Parker's dad Bill and I witnessed floor, bar, and beam routines, in addition to the always-popular medal ceremony. Parker's skills are more developed than Danny's, but they both get golds when it comes to effort, enthusiasm...and cuteness, naturally.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Where's the Mistletoe?

Danny's teacher informed me today that he is the ladies' man of the class. At least three of the female students frequently argue over who gets to sit by him. But as we see above, Lulu has his heart.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Clare's Mustard Seed Project Begins

This past weekend Clare began work on her school project, "The Mustard Seed Project Challenge." A bit of background: Recently, each child at Christ the King School was given $1 as "seed money" with the challenge to make it grow for the Mustard Seed Ministry. Specifically, the money will be used to benefit a group of needy children in Jamaica with whom the founder of the MSM has a close connection. The purpose of this project is to encourage creative thinking and a sense of giving to the wider community. It is also an opportunity for these CKS children to use their individual gifts.

After some consideration and conversation, Clare and I came up with an idea that we think is well suited to her interests and talents: reading. We then proposed to neighborhood tots and other friends that Clare would come and read stories for as long as their attention span warrants. Hopefully this would coincide with helping the parents out, too, enabling them to get dinner started, provide a distraction on a rainy day, or even give mom or dad a few minutes of peace on the computer.

In Anna's case, Clare read to her while waiting for guests to arrive to her second birthday party. Anna is such a sweetie, and since her mom is one of our book club's founding members, we knew we had someone highly supportive of our project. I was not there to witness it, but Amy assures me that it was "REALLY cute," and she was kind enough to take pictures.

We have until February 4 for Clare to make her seed money grow, so for those of you who expressed interest (and even tried to make an appointment), please let me know. We appreciate your support!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Elves on the Shelves

Today was a typical, terrific Tuesday wherein Danny and I invaded Amy and Parker's home for an extended morning of coffee consumption and playing (and then lunch...she always winds up feeding us, and this is in addition to the delicious pumpkin cranberry bread). Danny and Parker are just the cutest of playmates, and the best part is how well they amuse each other 99% of the time.

Today, as we moved into hour four of the playdate, Amy and I were finishing our lunches when Parker, and then Danny, pulled up barstools, climbed up and then sat still, giving us very cheesy smiles. After bemused laughter from us, the boys informed us that they were Norky and Jason, a.k.a. the Plummers' and Seymours' respective elves. Ohhhh. From here they would scramble off their stools and head back to their "secret laboratory" (who needs Santa's workshop when you can have a laboratory instead?)...and then do the whole thing all over again. Of course, each time they requested that we act surprised and say, "Oh, look! Jason/Norky is back!" and then explain how we had been soooo good.

As you can see, the smiles got cheesier and cheesier until they were more manic than anything else...but we still think they're pretty cute.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

O Christmas Tree

While it may not get quite the same fanfare as the tree in Rockefeller Center, tonight the 2009 Seymour Family Tree (Atlanta edition) came to glittering life. As always, it was a group effort, beginning with its selection from Home Depot's finest on a very chilly morning. The frigid temps (and perhaps the lingering effects of Tim's late-night poker game the previous evening) led the two of us to make a slightly hasty decision, much to Clare's dismay. "But that was too fast!" She loves to wander the aisles of trees and invent worlds, this time being a bakery wherein the palettes were the ovens and the pine needles were the baked goods. Danny tried in vain to join in, but ultimately just sat down and complained about the cold. Grandma and Grandpa, I hope you have a LOT of layers for his visit to Buffalo!

After an afternoon of birthday parties, hair appointments, and naps, we prepped the tree with lights (during which we kicked the kids outside for a while, though once again the cold quickly drove Danny inside) and finally it was time to decorate. I had a hunch that Danny would be fairly enthusiastic about this, based on the miniature tree in their playroom that he has decorated no fewer than six times over the past week. I was right. Both he and Clare dove into the boxes of ornaments and steadily decorated, with Tim supervising and me making dinner. This year's feast featured crudites, pigs in a blanket, lamb meatballs (awesome leftovers, Dad!), and cheese fondue, plus our traditional champagne. Between cooking and eating, I did very little decorating, and that was fine since the kids were enjoying themselves so much.

And so we admire this tree, the fifth in this house - and eleventh for Tim and I. Time really does fly when you're having fun.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Elf on the Shelf

It's that time of year again. Jason, our Elf on the Shelf, made his first appearance of 2009 on Saturday night. (Don't ask - Clare named him something unmemorable two years ago, when she was four, and then named him Jason last year. I'm not sure if this was indicative of her having a crush on our carpool pal Jason or if it was simply the first name that came to mind. I do know that it's sort of creepy to say, "Remember, Jason is watching you!")

This is the third year we've had Jason, but it's really Danny's first year with the elf, as he clearly didn't remember him from last year. And now that Danny pays a little more attention to Jason's existence, Clare also seems more interested. As soon as she is dressed for school, she comes out of her room looking for him and wants to make sure Danny doesn't find him before she gets a chance to search.

Aside from a cute holiday tradition - and behavior modification tool - Jason provides yet another glimpse of the differences between Clare and Danny. For example, yesterday Clare received some candy after Irish dance class, which she proceeded to share liberally with Danny, even though I explained to him that it was her candy and she didn't have to share. (Trust me, he had his share of treats by way of samples at Trader Joe's and Publix while we waited for her class to be over.) Later in the evening she was racing around to help me anytime she overheard me mention if I was looking for something, or getting ready to do something. Not quite Eddie Haskell, but a tad obvious.

Danny isn't quite going that route. On the contrary, when he did something that frustrated Tim and I the other night, I mentioned that Jason would likely report the offense to Santa. Danny looked crestfallen, and at bedtime whispered to me that he was going to hide from Santa. Poor kid. I have since dialed back the rhetoric...but I'm still keeping it my back pocket, just in case.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jolly Old St. Nick

December 1st has always been a special day to me. As a kid, it was the day my dad finally let us start listening to Christmas music, and the day my mom would begin to cart out all of the decorations. Although I know it shows my age, I distinctly remember putting our favorite records on the record player and immersing ourselves in the spirit of the season.

So, today seems like a good day to post the picture of Clare and Danny's visit to Santa Clause. Hopefully this won't prompt anyone to call DFACS, but this was the first time either one of them visited the big guy. In my defense, I gave Clare the option the past few years and she always declined. This year, though, both were game...and both seemed to enjoy their chat. For all I know this will be their one and only experience with him, so pretty clever that I put them in matching outfits, eh? (It's also most likely the last year that Clare will be willing to wear clothes that match her little brother's.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Tonight I attempt to blog about Thanksgiving. I've mentioned in the past that I find it difficult to post about these major events, much more so than the random occurrence that either elicits a spontaneous essay on semi-related thoughts, or for which a passing comment will suffice. Not so for a holiday, especially one that we prepare for and anticipate for so long. This Thanksgiving was no exception. In fact, we anticipated it more than most, because the Needhams were coming!

It was, however, an exception in that it defied the conventional wisdom that the more you look forward to something, the more likely it is to disappoint. On the contrary, this was a magical (if brief) visit. Sure, we had delicious turkey and pie, but it was the unexpected moments like the hours around the volleyball net (a stroke of genius by Grampy) and hilarious conversation among the cousins (ask any one of them about shark attacks versus toilet injuries) that will stick with me the longest.

It's bittersweet to reflect on what wonderful memories we made, given how far apart we live. But I know we're fortunate to see each other as often as we do. And we're definitely blessed to anticipate so happily each gathering, knowing without a doubt that we'll enjoy our time together. For this and everything else I am truly thankful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grandparents Day

"You're in for a great day, you two!" This was Clare's comment to Grammy and Grampy last night, not long before she went to bed. And when I got her up this morning for school, she greeted me with, "Oh yay, finally! I can't wait to go to school!" Evidently the students had been preparing for today, Grandparents Day, for quite a while and with much gusto. And it really was pretty cute.

The occasion began with a school-wide program with the theme, "A Day in the Life of CKS." The classes all performed something, including a rousing and humorous song by the first grade called, "Growing Up." Clare had been very secretive about this song, so I had no clue what it would be. She takes it very seriously when the teachers tell her to keep something a surprise.

After the program we were invited to visit the students' classrooms and meet the teachers. It was here that Clare presented Grammy and Grampy with a card/book she created in class (again, very secretively) along with some turkey artwork. She proudly showed them around the room, and then she attempted to introduce Danny to her teacher, but he wasn't really cooperating. The program about did him in, I fear (about 1/4 of the way through it he asked me, "When are we getting out of this place?").

The best part about Grandparents Day is that we were finished before 11, free to go out to lunch. Not a bad way to pass a Tuesday, and definitely a nice way to begin the Thanksgiving holiday. We are certainly very thankful for ALL of our grandparents! (We missed you, Grandma and Grandpa - maybe next year?)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tim's Proudest Moment

I don't even think he minded taking second billing here. (I can't seem to get the image to stay rotated, but I'm sure you get the idea.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who Needs Pilgrims?

Yesterday was Danny's Thanksgiving party at school. I will be the first to admit that I don't particularly enjoy attending these events, because a) preschool time is when I'm supposed to be having my precious ME time, and b) kids get weird when their parents show up at school. However, since I had to bail on his Halloween party due to my bronchitis (though Tim stepped in admirably), I decided to go. The moms in charge did a fabulous job, complete with cute turkey crafts, a waffle-cone cornucopia snack and the cutest pilgrim hat cookies.

Danny was, in fact, a little goofy when I was there, but he was clearly delighted as well. It is nice to feel loved. I helped him with his craft, watched him gobble his snack, and then it was story time. Between books, the mom reading the story asked the kids what they were thankful for. Several told us that they were thankful for their families, or their dogs. Danny very enthusiastically shared, "I'm thankful for ninjas!" So much for his aforementioned thoughtfulness. Although, I think this can be interpreted as a nod to his daddy, as the two of them had a weekend of male bonding over the glories of ninjas. Ever heard of a ninja turkey? Danny and Tim can fill you in. (Grampy, I think it's time for you to resurrect your ninja barbie game.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Next Generation

Yesterday I had two separate volunteer opportunities at CKS. The first was in the lunch room, helping kids open applesauce containers, throwing away trash, cleaning tables. Refreshingly similar to what lunch used to be like when I was in school.

Next I headed to help with Clare's first grade class in the computer lab, where they go once a week. I remember being a bit amazed last year that kindergarteners were learning computer skills at such a young age, whereas it was college before I became remotely proficient in them. But this year is truly mind-boggling. The first graders are making individual Power Point presentations on the alphabet. Each letter gets a page, and the students have to include a picture of the letter plus three images of words that begin with that letter, all of them labeled. I was already stunned when they each logged in and went to the server to open their files, then moved on to open the particular programs they needed. Let me remind you that they are six. Just imagine what they will be able to do when they go to college.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Giving Thanks

Today's update from Danny's class included the following: "Danny added two leaves to our Thank You tree today. He told us he was thankful for his sister and his family." Enough said.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lobbing One In

There's not much to report of late, but I figured this picture would tide over certain needy grandparents. Danny has been extremely "affectionate" with Quincy lately. And against all sense of reason, Quincy really does seem to be relatively fond of the Danimal. Go figure.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Trophy Kid

Danny's soccer team had a slightly early end-of-season celebration tonight after the game. There are still two games left in the season, but in order to accommodate the coaches' schedules we opted to toast the Magic tonight. Fortunately, the trophies had already arrived - because let me tell you, the majority of these kids definitely had their eyes on the prize!

Honesty compels me to mention that Danny's season didn't exactly go as we had blithely assumed it would based on the first game. I mean, he put forth a decent effort and stayed relatively engaged (relatively being the operative word). He's not terribly aggressive, though, and hasn't exactly developed his follow-through. Then again, he's three, and if this experience has taught us anything it's that three-year-olds really don't need to be playing actual games. That said, he was always enthusiastic and I imagine he'll be gung-ho once the spring season comes around.

I don't know, though, if he'll match the excitement he had for tonight's festivities. "I'm going to tell everyone that my mom brought trophies and cupcakes!" And sure enough, the minute we arrived at the fields he made his announcement. As soon as his game ended, he raced over to where I had laid out the precious cargo, waved his hands towards the treasure and said, "Everyone! Here are the trophies and cupcakes!" A veritable stampede followed.

So, while we have no actual record of wins, losses, or even scores, it appears to have been a winning season.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Main Event

I discovered the downside of having Halloween on a Saturday: Kids who spend the entire day moping around, waiting for it to be time to go trick-or-treating. So the first part of the day was a bit of a long one for all of us, but once it was time to put on the costumes the mood picked up, and it was happy sailing from there.

Danny was positively elated when Ninja Daddy made an appearance, too. Danny had declared long ago that Daddy was going to be a ninja for Halloween - something Tim decided he just might act upon. Danny also decided I was going to be a witch, which I did not follow through on, and somehow got away with. Anyway, a major battle ensued between the ninja and the knight, and somehow both parties emerged satisfied.

This year was going to be a bit of a departure from the annual neighborhood festivities, because we decided to incorporate traditional trick-or-treating. In the past the kids have been too young (generally) and the neighborhood too hilly. We kicked it off with the usual parade of kids and costumes, and from there the trick-or-treating began. It appears to have been a big hit with many of them. Clare declared it downright "awesome."

We invited our CKS friends the Francos to join us so that Clare would have a friend her age (she gets mildly frustrated lately by the young median age of the neighborhood crowd). This proved a winning move. While Danny hung in for 70% of the trick-or-treating, Clare, Isabella and Gabrielle hit every single house offering candy. For those of you who have witnessed the hills in our neighborhood, you'll recognize what an achievement this is - and yes, we did it all by foot. Once we returned home, Danny was happy to join the girls in the age-old fun of sorting and reviewing the loot. (We parents put up our feet and refilled our wine.)

So, while there was quite a bit of impatience for Halloween to arrive (especially from Danny, who has been asking about it daily since around September 15), I do think it lived up to their expectations. Sweet.