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.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Eve of All Hallow's Eve

It's not lost on me that I feel as though I have come back from the dead just as Halloween approaches. (Huge props to Waksman and Fleming. And Dr. Smith.) My recovery from bronchitis has happened just in the nick of time, too, because you really can't phone it in with Halloween.

I was pretty bummed to miss Danny's Halloween party on Monday, but Tim stepped in and reports that Danny had a marvelous time. He even took pictures, but I failed to get them off his Blackberry. You'll see Sir Danny again tomorrow, though, so sit tight.

Fortunately I was around to get my black cat prepped for her fun day at school, which culminated in the annual CKS Halloween Carnival. Isn't it cute how Quincy is checking her out?

Once she returned from school, while high on a fun afternoon, impatience quickly set in for both kids. I had promised an evening of pumpkin pancakes and Halloween shows (temporarily displacing the usual Friday night movie and pizza). It's pretty great when Halloween is on a Saturday, because you can really draw out the affair. However, I wasn't ready to start making pancakes at 4 p.m. as Danny requested, so I threw them in the bathtub instead. It was during this time that I remembered we hadn't carved our pumpkins yet. Clare wasn't too interested, having declared this a rather boring procedure to watch last year. But Danny was fired up.

Until I actually cut in to the pumpkin and revealed its innards. At which point he turned his back on the process, declaring it too gross to watch. This from the boy who selected the pictured plastic beetle for his treasure today at school. Fickle, thy name is Danny.

Abandoned, I nevertheless persevered. We have eerie, glowing pumpkins on our porch as we speak, and I even toasted the seeds for the first time ever. Danny decided, without sampling them, that they would make him sick, but Clare ate several with gusto.

The pieces de resistance, though, were definitely the pancakes. I finally took advantage of the pumpkin molds I received a couple of years ago, and the kids actually noticed! Enough to report about them to Tim even after they were consumed. Truly gratifying. This coupled with Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake Mix and a couple of slices of bacon made for a rave meal as far as they were concerned.

Stay tuned for pictures from the main event tomorrow...rain or shine.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Feat of Parenthood

I find myself gazing at my kids' feet frequently, particularly for someone who, as a general rule, really dislikes looking at feet. Specifically my own. I have many fine qualities, both physically and personally, but my feet are simply not one of them. (At least aesthetically - I need to stop knocking them, because they treat me very well in the various activities I choose to do.)

I happen to think that Clare's and Danny's feet, though, are adorable. Probably because they, happily, do not resemble mine in any way, shape, or form. Which really makes me think about what my offspring have and have not inherited from me. I'm hard-pressed to figure out what physical attribute Clare gets from me - I've been told that if a stranger saw the two of us in a room full of people, they would never put us together - but she definitely gets certain personality traits from me. For example, her OCD tendency to put things away immediately, or straighten things that have gone slightly askew. In fact, I just ran off to straighten a Halloween decoration that I noticed earlier was a bit crooked. I kid you not. Blame my maternal grandmother, who was notorious for re-arranging ornaments on our Christmas trees upon her arrival.

There's also Clare's need to cut to the chase with a story or piece of information she thinks is important, often trumping the pleasantries of social norms. I've been known to do this, especially with a Tim who has freshly returned from work. Though, I am much better than when we were first married.

Of course, Clare also gets plenty from Tim (and I'm not just talking about her looks). Her studious intelligence, her obedience, and her serious focus all reflect Tim as a child. She's more social than he was, though, which is back to little Lizzy.

Danny's traits are still developing, and I think his characteristics are going to be more subtle blends. He's outgoing but doesn't command the room; he loves to play with boy-like gusto but is also capable of sitting quietly with books or art projects; and he loves to make us laugh. And, while he's not a carbon copy, I don't think I could get away with abandoning him on a street corner. Er, not that I've ever considered this.

I suppose my awe resides in the fact that we have produced two unique individuals. We can see ourselves in them when we want (or don't, depending on the situation), and we can sometimes take credit for them (even when we shouldn't). In the end, though, they are their own selves, right down to those cute little piggy toes.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fall in the Family

Ah, autumn. I relish every ounce of this season, and the rest of the family is pretty wild about it, too. Especially when it comes to our family pumpkin outing. We decided to really make a day of it this year by heading back to Burt's Pumpkin Farm, about 90 minutes away in the North Georgia mountains area. After an early mass we struck out, enjoying the drive and eager for some fresh air. We saw deer, goats, cows, and horses along the way, not to mention beautiful scenery that is just now beginning to transform into colorful bursts.

Burt's is a popular place this time of year, but we had the right outlook for the day and didn't mind the long lines for hayrides or cashiers. Both kids were just the right age to be totally enthusiastic for the hayride. And both were perfectly content to stroll the aisles and aisles of pumpkins (big ones, little ones, orange ones, green ones, plus squash, gourds, Indian corn...). Once we selected our four pumpkins and wheelbarrowed them back to the car (the wheelbarrow alone is worth the visit as far as Clare and Danny are concerned), we took out our picnic and ate with gusto. Clare and I then succumbed to the mouthwatering aromas of the freshly-baked pumpkin pie. Except that Danny scarfed my entire piece. Who saw that coming?

Fueled by a solid lunch, we headed a mere 1/4 mile up the road to Amicalola Falls. The kids were fairly gung-ho to hike the trails, at least at first, but our three-year-old companion petered out pretty quickly. Still, we saw some lovely scenery and have plans to head back some day (perhaps when Danny hasn't been exhausted by a three-hour excursion to a pumpkin patch).

We are now back home, enjoying a peaceful Sunday evening wherein Mommy is blogging and Daddy and the kids are building a pumpkin patch with blocks and Little People. There's not much mystery about why I love fall.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crisp Nights and Cozy Toes

One of my very favorite things about the temperature dropping this time of year is the opportunity for the kids to wear footy jammies. As a child I loooooved mine, and even found an ill-advised pair in high school (that I thankfully did not take with me to college). Earlier in the week I was mildly devastated when Danny informed me that he doesn't like footy jammies. Fortunately, he had a change of heart this evening when Clare donned hers. It just doesn't get any cuter, does it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

You May Think That's Clare...

...but it's really Kit Kittredge, American Girl! Today, as part of the CKS book fair, students could dress up as their favorite book character. Of course, Clare refused to identify one singular favorite. But Kit was deemed a great choice because Clare not only really enjoyed the books, but also had an appropriate ensemble. The hat was the key item, naturally, and for my money, this girl can wear hats! (Not everyone can, you know.) You can imagine how excited Clare was for this particular day. There was a moment of doubt when both of her (male) carpool mates got in the car and neither was dressed up...but she shook it off quickly. Later reports revealed that plenty of students, not to mention teachers, got into the spirit of the day. The highlight for Clare was getting to write in her "special notebook" all about Kit and why she chose her. The highlight for me is that Clare is enthusiastic about books and characters every day. May it always be so.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Art from the Heart

Given Donna's knee surgery, we've had a lot of motivation recently to create works of art. But there have been other inspirations, too, many of them out of the clear, blue sky. Take, for example, the horse picture that Clare drew for Danny a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to be sure and get this on record, because as sweet and caring as Clare is, she's not given to many words of affection. Which in some ways is nice, because when she says something like, "I love you," she truly means it. So it really warmed my heart when I read this note to Danny that said, "And don't forget, I love you!"

Danny was also a good reason for her to channel her creativity today, making him a coloring book while he napped. He naturally had no appreciation for it, but Tim and I did!

For his part, Danny isn't quite there when it comes to creating art. He has lately become very fond of using his stamp set, though, most notably because it features a variety of dinosaurs. Yes, Grandma, a stamped masterpiece is headed your way!

Lastly, I wanted to include this sweet painting from Parker. He worked very diligently on it, as you can tell, and he was very excited to give it to Danny. In fact, it was this particular exchange that got me thinking about these artistic expressions as a whole. Parker was so very sincere in wanting his friend to have this offering. Just like every piece the kids make for Daddy's office is a genuine gesture of affection. Yes, they're prolific and sometimes hastily finished. But these quick moments add up to a lot of love.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Giving Couch Potatoes a New Rep

Danny and I like Thursdays. It's the one day of the week that Danny is guaranteed to see his bestest bud, Parker, as the two of them are in a Little Gym class these mornings. This is a great class, because they are old enough to go in sans parents, plus it's a full hour. So Amy and I drop off the boys and go for a vigorous walk, frequently accompanied by our third musketeer, Jennifer. Yes, our tongues wag faster than our legs, but those are moving quickly enough, thank you!

Ever since these classes started, we've set the precedent of letting the boys play together after class is over. If it's nice, we head to a nearby park. If not, off to Parker's or Danny's house we go. Today we ventured to Casa Seymour, because little Miss Anna was joining us while her mommy was on a conference call. At 22 months, Anna was of little interest to Heckle and Jeckle, who listlessly greeted her and then bolted for the basement where, Danny informed us, they were doing "silly stuff." Sweet Anna didn't seem to mind, and peacefully thumbed through our selection of Halloween cats or occasionally wandered into the playroom.

Then the boys came upstairs, and before we knew it they had embarked on the sofa olympics. First they were doing forward rolls off of the ottoman. Then, when Anna was taking her turn - and taking too long, according to Dan-o and PK - they started jumping off of the end of the chaise. And diving. And bouncing. (At this point Tim is no longer wondering what, exactly, is causing the demise of our couch.) They would stack all of the throw pillows in a heap and then jump on or over them. Apparently it was a whole lot of fun. Anna wisely remained involved only on the perimeter, but from her giggles and smiles she seemed to feel happily included.

Once enough energy had been expended, Parker introduced Danny to the age-old joys of building a fort from couch cushions. (Who among us didn't do that as a child, loving every minute?) My favorite part about this particular activity was when they brought all of the Halloween books in with them to read. They asked us to cover them up with the blanket, and then proceeded to read their books - and giggle, of course. Sadly, Anna was not included in this exclusive club, but she took it in stride and only once moved the blanket aside to see what was going on. I can only imagine that she, as I so often do, was saying to herself, "Boys!"

But they're pretty cute boys, aren't they?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Mom, the Blogger

I've already bragged a few times about my mom's stunning artwork. I am now happy to report that she has decided she's ready to do some of her own show-and-tell. Behold her blog: JAM Today Studio.

I am more proud of my mother than words can say. One of the things I am most inspired by, though, is the path she has taken in her life. As you will read in her bio, she never fully abandoned her artistic ambitions, but it's in these retirement years that she is finally realizing her dreams. So whenever I am tempted to think it's too late for me to accomplish something, I simply look to her and see what amazing things lay before me, provided I open my eyes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Perfect 10

It's been a fairly normal weekend around here. Considering that I generally really like our weekends, I think that's a great way for Tim and I to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. As I think about how our weekend has gone, it makes me appreciate our marriage and our family and hopeful that the next decade will be as rewarding.

Friday, Oct. 2, was our actual anniversary. Tim played poker. Well, first we made homemade pizzas with the kids and watched Toy Story. Then he went to play poker, and shortly thereafter I went to bed. I wanted to get a good night's sleep for the 10 miles Allyson and I ran Saturday morning (fairly early, might I add). These runs, including transportation and coffee stops, take well over two hours, so I figure it's a decent trade for the poker thing.

Later on Saturday I took soccer duty with Danny while Tim spent some time with Clare. He took her on an adventure that involved crossing the oh-so-exciting bridge between the Cumberland Mall parking lot and the Galleria, as well as riding the elevator of the Waverly Hotel. Tim is great at making these things exciting, which is one of the things I admire about him as a dad. I think we both enjoyed getting some one-on-one time with the kids, too.

We rendezvoused at the house in the afternoon (Tim brought me gorgeous pink roses, which Clare helped select), and watched another nail-biter of a football game with the Irish barely victorious over Washington. The kids weren't quite as interested in the football game as we would have liked, but I managed to keep them entertained with the Halloween decorations while keeping one eye on the game. Danny was especially interested in the decorations, though I wonder if that was because he thought putting them up would instantly bring Halloween.

Once overtime ended, we hustled the kids into bed and then performed Clark Kent-like feats of preparation for our date night. Of course we'd like to go out even more frequently, but Tim and I do manage to get out a fair amount. While we're going to fully toast this milestone anniversary with a weekend away next month, we decided to at least go out to dinner this weekend. (For the locals: We opted for Floataway Cafe, which we definitely recommend.)

Today has been a fairly average Sunday as well, with bagels, church, and low-key time at home. Danny did have a make-up soccer game to attend, which meant no nap for him. To counter-act any potential over-tiredness, Tim patiently read several Halloween stories to Danny, who was contentedly perched on his daddy's lap. Now the two of them are off to the game. When they return we'll feed and bathe the kids and then plan to make ourselves a delicious steak dinner. We do try to eat as a family more often than not, but sometimes our desires for an adults-only Sunday night dinner prevails. It's a carry-over from our newlywed days, when that night was sometimes the only home-cooked dinner we made that week.

Times have changed, and so have we, but the evolution has been a wonderful journey. I look forward to seeing what progressions the next years unfold!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Patching Things Up

Unlike last year, I was looking forward to today's field trip to Berry Patch Farms, despite it being my fifth year in a row. First of all, I was grateful to be going at all, because that meant Clare was well enough to return to school. Secondly, the forecast was sunny and gorgeous. And finally, there were going to be lots of friends of both Danny's and mine in attendance.

Danny was also very excited about the excursion, which added to my own enthusiasm. Last night as I kissed him good night, he whispered excitedly, "Tomorrow we go to the pumpkin patch!" He happily donned his pumpkin tee, and from the minute we disembarked from the car he was ready. Ready to play with friends on the swing set. Ready to ride the hay ride and select the perfect mini pumpkin or gourd. (He opted for the strangest gourd he could find, which he declared looks like a sea monster. Boys are so weird.) Ready to sample apple cider and enjoy a picnic lunch with his classmates. And ready to harass the farm animals. (The turkey got back at him, however. As Danny told Clare and me this afternoon, "when Lulu and I ran past the turkey, he gobbled us!" The ensuing hysterical laughter from Clare and me didn't go over very well - this was a serious, scary experience!)

So it was a glorious, sun- and fun-filled day (although we did miss Parker and Miss Amy), and a great way to kick off fall and the Halloween season.

I had to include the picture below, because it illustrates just how much Danny looks up to Zach. As they were standing around, Danny noticed that Zach was standing on one foot. So here is Danny attempting to emulate him: