Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

My Christmas wish list year was very brief: To not spend it in the hospital in labor and/or giving birth. As excited (and a bit anxious) as we all are for our baby's arrival, I really just wanted one last Christmas with Clare and Danny and a reliable family schedule. I am happy to say my wish was fulfilled!

Clare and Danny had lengthier lists that everyone nevertheless managed to exceed. Fortunately, they remained honestly appreciative of every gift, and watching them really made the day for the rest of us. Clare continues to astound us in the self-control department, too: We had settled on 7 a.m. as the appointed time for everyone to reconvene in the morning. I heard Clare use her bathroom at 5:30 a.m., and I knew full well that she did not go back to sleep. As they walked down the hill from their accommodations at our gracious neighbors' house, Karen and Brian reported that they saw her light on and her walking around her room. Yet she did not so much as crack her door open until Tim went to retrieve both kids. Suffice to say that she bounded down the stairs very eagerly once she was officially released!

For his part, Tim wowed us all with a new recipe for Christmas dinner that we will definitely prepare again: mustard seed-crusted prime rib roast. This, paired with the first white Christmas Atlanta has seen in 128 years, was just one of the many elements that made for a magical holiday.

We had a beautiful Christmas Eve, too. While mass in the school gymnasium is never ideal, but necessary unless we are willing to arrive two hours early to nab seats in the cathedral, it really was a nice affair. Every year we see more and more familiar faces, and this year we lucked out with Fr. Frank as our celebrant. From church we went home to prepare our annual feast of fried shrimp and twice-baked potatoes, followed by the kids hanging stockings, placing Baby Jesus in the manger (this year accompanied by Clare on the piano), and preparing cookies for Santa. There really is nothing like tradition.

We are so grateful to Karen, Brian, Donna and Larry for making the trip to join us for a very merry Christmas. Now we're looking forward to a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One Last Shot

I hadn't planned to take the kids to visit Santa this year. While they enjoyed their visit last year well enough, it didn't seem like that big of a deal to them. Between Jason (our "Elf on the Shelf") and the lists they wrote, I figured we were covered. Danny, however, did not agree. So a few days ago when he mentioned what he was going to tell Santa, I realized that he expected to visit him again. Great. He was really looking forward to this, too, and I could tell it was important to him. So I gritted my teeth, prepared to be jostled among the hoards and stand in line for a long while, all in the name of Christmas spirit.

Fortunately, we lucked out and got to the local mall's jolly elf at a time when there was just one little girl ahead of us. By this time, though she was previously indifferent as to whether or not she spoke with Santa, Clare had decided she needed to chat with him as well. It can't hurt to cover your bases, right? Particularly when an iPod is on the line. They opted to go together, making the process all the more speedy. Danny even presented Santa with one of his increasingly prolific Star Wars drawings, and it was nice that Santa had the time to ask Danny explain it to him.

I think both kids walked away satisfied, though they didn't seem blown away or anything. I guess it just struck them as a necessary step on the way to Christmas morning joy. Once it was accomplished, they were primarily interested in lunch. The apples don't fall far from the tree.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mele Kalikimaka

In response to a certain mother's relentless nagging for a new blog post, I present you with Danny's version of his favorite Christmas carol this year:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Showered With Love

I was reminded (again) of the many wonderful people and blessings in my life this past Sunday, when Amy B., Amy P., and Jennifer hosted a lovely baby shower for me. From darling invitations to a delicious (and gorgeous) spread of food, not to mention the marvelous bounty of gifts from the guests, it was the kind of event that makes a person feel very special, and very loved.

When I first received the invitation, I noticed that it was addressed to both me and Clare. Until that point I had never thought of having Clare there, but I instantly knew that it was a terrific idea. In hindsight, it would not have been the same without her. She reveled in the whole idea, and had so much fun getting dressed up for the occasion. As we arrived, she quickly found her niche, too: Explaining the rules of the game (everyone wearing a diaper pin necklace, with a list of four words/phrases you were forbidden to say; if you did, and someone caught you, you lost your necklace.) As we all know, Clare loves rules, and she also loved wandering the room, eavesdropping on the chatty ladies to try and catch someone speaking the verboten words. Needless to say (with a little help from sneaky people like Steph), Clare won the game hands down, and was pleased as punch about it, too!

In between, though, she did me proud with her ladylike manners and helpful ways. I try not to get my hopes up too much, but I think it bodes well for me when the baby arrives.

Thank you to everyone who made the day so fun, and who supplied us with so many darling and needed items!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tree Trimming Time

As usual, the Christmas season is rolling by at a quick clip. This past weekend it was time to make our annual trek to Home Depot to pick out our tree, which we decorated later in the evening. All four of us really look forward to this tradition, especially since it's accompanied by our tasty buffet. Clare and Danny didn't take the decorating quite as seriously as last year, as they were distracted by some game of their invention. However, since it kept them happily occupied without parental intervention, Tim and I were content to be the consistent trimmers. There was a certain amount of excitement for hanging the ornaments we bought at Wilderness Lodge in Disney - the trip that continues to crop up in conversation. One of the reasons why the ornaments we buy on vacations are typically my favorites!

We are very pleased with the results, too. We found our tree very quickly, but judging by its straight stature and lack of gaping holes, I don't think we made a hasty decision at all. We put the spare tree shopping time to good use, too, and picked up a beautiful lighted angel for our front yard. She's struggled a bit these past few windy nights, but the overall effect is quite nice.

After the tree was finished, Clare asked if we could sing Christmas carols. At my suggestion, she accompanied us on piano, which was very sweet if not professional quality. Hopefully this will become an annual tradition, too!

And so we have one more event under our belt, as Christmas and Baby Girl draw nearer!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Making His List

As much as I love to listen to Christmas music and the merry sounds of the season, of late there has been a much sweeter music to my ears. Over the past few weeks, Danny has been on a phonetic streak, sounding out words right and left and truly entering the world of reading. I definitely credit his teacher and school with this, and I also applaud Danny for an academic enthusiasm that, if I'm really being honest, never would have imagined him possessing.

The cutest example thus far took place just a couple of days ago. As we put the Thanksgiving decorations away and began the Christmas transformation of the house, both kids asked when they should make their lists. "The sooner, the better!" Later that same day, Danny got himself a piece of paper and announced that he was going to go make his list. I assumed I'd be hearing from him shortly thereafter for some help. Not so. A while later, as I was walking past the playroom, I heard him sounding out "Playmobil," "LEGOs," and "book." He was totally in the zone, and happy to work independently.

As you can see from his list, his fine motor skills haven't quite caught up with his mind. At the same time, I really appreciate that he opted to do his best, on his own. The editor in me cringes that he spelled "book" B-U-C, but the mom in me understands where my four-year-old arrived at this spelling. I really am very proud of him, as I also wonder just where my baby boy went?

Friday, November 26, 2010


Before I delve into the subject matter this post's title refers to, may I first mention that we had a most lovely, relaxing Thanksgiving yesterday. It was definitely more sedate than last year's festivities featuring the Needhams' visit, but for this uber-pregnant lady, that was probably for the best. We had some very pleasant weather that allowed a nature walk along the Chattahoochee trail, as well as outdoor playtime for the kids. We viewed the Macy's parade, cooked (I use the term "we" loosely, considering my mom definitely did the lion's share), and generally spent quality time with each other. Pretty much the perfect recipe for a day rightfully devoted to loved ones.

Clare very much looked forward to Thanksgiving this year. She also really looked forward to Black Friday, as she had been granted permission to participate with the Morlan women this year. For a couple of weeks now, Clare had occasionally asked me questions about Black Friday, including wondering whether or not it is considered a legitimate holiday. I told her no, but it really has become a tradition for my mom, my sister and me (and my Aunt Ann and cousin Kathryn, counting those years back). Now, we are not the "doorbuster" variety of Black Friday shoppers. We are wise enough to leave the house relatively early, but we also respect the need for some sleep and a decent breakfast!

Knowing that Sara would not be with us this year, that I was going to be ahead of the game on my shopping list, and that my pregnant status would prohibit the usual marathon of shopping, it seemed the perfect year to permit Clare to join us. Also because she is a true shopper at heart. She is very content to roam the racks and just look. You will note by the photo above that Clare was definitely looking for a plan to our day, which brought back memories of our time at Disney. She didn't so much care what the plan was, she simply wanted to be aware. I think writing the phrase "We'll just wait and see" was very difficult for her, but she took it in stride.

It was a successful day, complete with great parking spots and our traditional holiday music for the car. We secured nearly everything on our list (not to mention a couple of extras), introduced Grammy to the wonders of the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha, and were home in time to take an afternoon rest before wrapping a few presents. Please note that we did not eat in the food court, but rather the Nordstrom Cafe (also tradition), to which Clare gave two thumbs up. Also, Target should have been first on the list of shops (and remained Clare's favorite destination). All in all, I think the day lived up to Clare's expectations. As usual, she lived up to ours. Welcome to the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping world, baby girl!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Grandparents Day 2010

Once again, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving rolled around, which also meant Grandparents Day at CKS. Clare was very excited about performing in their program, which was very cute and an impressive 40 minutes, considering the entire school (more than 500 students) performed). Danny still thought it was too long, which makes it all the more difficult to believe that he'll be participating next year as a kindergartener!

The program was followed by the traditional visit to the classroom. Clare was an extremely thorough tour guide: my dad is certain that they saw every single item in the room. This included everything in her desk. At one point her teacher saw her showing these things to Grammy, and laughed to me that she was pretty sure no one else got as thorough a tour, "but if anyone was going to do this, it would be Clare!"

Meanwhile, this was Danny's attitude:

Fortunately we have a year to work on his level of enthusiasm. In the meantime, we were all thankful to head to Panera for lunch. Now we're enjoying some days off and time with family. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


This time of year always brings with it a flurry of activity, from cleaning closets and switching out wardrobes to maximizing our time in the fresh air and enjoying the glories of fall. We've been in hyper-drive as far as the cleaning out and organizing goes this year, considering we had to switch four rooms around. All in preparation for baby girl.

The highlight of this room roulette, at least as far as Clare is concerned, is her new room. Most especially the maps! And the desk! How she loves them both. At any given time of day she'll mention some place she recently located on one of her maps. She spends hours each week playing school in her room, which I think she truly views as her sanctuary. Mission accomplished.

With the house now restored to post-painters order, I have thrown myself into preparing for the holidays ahead of time. I'm not really a procrastinator by nature anyway, but with a January 4 due date I really don't want to get caught by surprise at Christmas. After all, the kids are very excited for the baby's arrival, but I'm pretty sure their excitement would be clouded if she preempted their also eagerly awaited Christmas.

Nevertheless, while I keep myself busy with the many tasks that attend the holidays, I think we are all increasingly aware of how soon our family is going to grow. My extremely prominent belly alone is a stark reminder. It's nice to have so many distractions to keep me from growing too impatient these last few weeks. But we are most definitely waiting. (An appropriate mode to be in as we enter Advent.) I think we're ready, too...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Preschool Classic

The preschool curriculum of today doesn't much resemble what I remember from my youth. At age 4, Danny is learning French, Spanish, full-fledged phonics...stuff I didn't even touch in Kindergarten (shoot, I didn't learn a language until high school). As a matter of fact, these photos were taken while Danny was working on his penmanship homework. So yeah, pretty different.

However, there is at least one constant: The feather headdress made around Thanksgiving time. With the politically correct update that if you say "Indian," Danny is quick to correct you to "Native American." This is undermined a bit by the fact that he follows this with the "ha-wah-wah-wah" sound made with his mouth and hand. He claims to have picked this up from the movie "Peter Pan," which is admittedly one of the least politically correct films out there as concerns aforementioned natives. Anyway, Danny is so enamored of his "headband" that he has worn it to soccer practice, to pick up Clare, and plans to wear it again to school. I don't know if this is part of his Halloween hangover, or if he's just embracing the next holiday. It's pretty cute (particularly when paired with footy jammies), so it works for me!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


What I am about to reveal may shock many of you. This past Saturday was the first time Clare, at 7.5, painted her nails.

I justified this primarily because of her finger habit. Truly, though, this was a convenient excuse to avoid one of my (totally irrational) pet-peeves: chipped nail polish, especially on little girls. I can't abide it. Even as a kid I hated seeing it on other kids. I think it makes their hands look dirty. And tacky. Blech. (I'm honestly not that fond of not-chipped nail polish on kids, either, but I know it's a harmless pleasure.)

However, I had been scouring my brain to think of some way to show Clare how proud I am for her kicking her habit not only immediately, but entirely without complaint. For one, Annie Bear has been returned to her, but I felt the occasion deserved more. So when Elise's mom asked out of the blue if we'd be interested in going to get our nails done together, I realized that was the great idea I sought.

Little did I know just how perfect a suggestion it would be. Clare, who has never once asked to paint her nails after being informed years ago that we wouldn't do it until she stopped sucking her finger, completely lit up when I asked if she'd like to get her nails done. For the days leading up to the event she would sporadically mention how much she was looking forward to it. I believe it even made her "morning news" announcement to her class at school one day.

I'm pretty sure just painting her nails at home would have been enough for Clare, yet I will admit it was really fun to go to the salon with her for this. She and Elise sat together and were just darling as they picked out their colors, waited patiently for their turns, and chit-chatted as we ladies all do. They were proud as peacocks of the results, too!

Clare couldn't wait to get home to show her nails to Danny and Daddy. We found them in the backyard playing baseball. Hilariously, moments after she went outside to show off her mani/pedi, Clare suddenly decided she wanted to play baseball and then kickball. Yes, the girl who has zero interest in organized sports. There's a lot to be said for being well-rounded, right?

This entire episode of kicking the habit and indulging in painting her nails has been enlightening to me regarding Clare's character. How often has she looked at her cousins', friends', and even my nails longingly yet never uttered a word? Baby Girl-To-Be has a lot to live up to.

Oh, and as for the inevitable chipped nail polish? Thanks to the CKS dress code, we had to remove it Sunday night :-) Hey, Clare's terrific and all, but Mommy's peace of mind, rational or not, is valuable, too.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010

All day yesterday, Danny would tell anyone he came across, "I know what today is! Halloween!!" His enthusiasm for this particular holiday has been impressive and long-lasting. He got to wear his costume to Sunday school, and thus pretty much all day. He even obliged us by falling asleep during quiet time, so he was well-rested for the main event.

The Francos joined us again, and once again we were a merry bunch. The weather was beautiful, too, so the trick-or-treating took place under pretty much ideal circumstances. Since it was a school night, everything started a bit earlier than usual, but free candy is just as tasty in the daylight.

We didn't outdo ourselves taking photographs, partially since we already had photos of them in costume from Disney. We also don't have any pictures of one of the spontaneous highlights of the night. The Francos brought glow sticks for the kids, which they didn't get to use until after dinner, when it was finally dark. As we adults sat enjoying pizza and wine, the kids went outside with the glow sticks and proceeded to run around for the better part of an hour. It was so fun to look out the front window and see the glowing sticks and shadowy kids holding them.

Not surprisingly, Danny has been a bit loathe to let Halloween go. Today being trash day, I decided we needed to go ahead and toss the carved pumpkins. I naively hoped Danny wouldn't really notice, or care. Pretty silly, since he harassed me for 48+ hours to carve them in the first place (his is the smallest jack-o-lantern, and the face was designed by him). He did notice their absence this morning, and immediately began sobbing. At one point he even looked at me, still crying, and said, "You ruined my whole life!" Happily, within an hour he had moved on. Knowing him, though, I haven't heard the last of it. I should start working on his Drama King costume.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Grave Adventure

Since her exploration of Forest Lawn in Buffalo, Clare has been eager to visit Oakland Cemetery here in Atlanta. After a week that began with some nasty wet, hot and humid weather, Friday presented us with not only a day off from school, but some glorious fall weather. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out. And while Danny does not share the same historic interest in cemeteries, his extreme enthusiasm for Halloween made him equally game. (As this post recalls, Danny has actually been here before. This time he at least had the grace to wear normal clothes.)

It was a unique way to get fresh air, and just a change of scenery in general. Clare had a lot of questions about graves and monuments, though not so much about death itself. Danny remarked that he wished he was buried beneath one of the monuments, which prompted us to inform him that he would then be, you know, dead. "But you would, too!" His grasp of death is definitely hazy, at best, and I don't really feel like correcting it right now.

We concluded with an alfresco lunch on the rooftop of Six Feet Under, a restaurant across the street. Hopefully it's not too macabre of us to spend such a pleasant day in or near a "graveyard," as Danny insisted on calling it. Then again, it's Halloween weekend...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Scarecrows In The Garden

Danny has been hit the hardest with vacation withdrawal. Sure, Tim has been less-than-enthusiastic about returning to work, and I've not been thrilled to resume laundress/chef/chauffeur duties. Clare has had plenty to keep her busy, not the least of which was her Brownie troop campout last weekend, so she's adjusted the smoothest.

At any given moment over the past few days, Danny could be found reminiscing about our trip or longingly planning for "next time." His teacher informed me on Tuesday that he had been a bit emotional. When I asked him about this, he indeed teared up and told me he just wished we were back at Disney. I had to maintain a pragmatic air and explain that we would all love to still be on vacation, but that it's time to readjust and settle into our daily routine. Inside, though, I really felt for him. What's not to love about having both parents around all the time, everyone in a good mood, and adults primarily following the kids' lead on what to do?

He made it through the remainder of the week a bit more chipper. Nevertheless, while the house is still in disarray from the painters and there are plenty of errands and chores for me to do, I decided that we were in need of a Fun Friday. The weather has been absolutely stunning, and since I've intended to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden's annual "Scarecrows in the Garden" exhibit for the past five years or so, this seemed like a ripe opportunity.

Danny was totally game, and fortunately so was a fellow CKS mom whose youngest is Danny's age. We had a terrific time and saw a lot of funny, well-crafted scarecrows. Not surprisingly, Danny's favorite was the knight, contributed by Medieval Times.

As we were using the restroom on our way out, Danny commented to me, "Can we come here again? I like this place! I mean, it's not as fun as Disney, but..." A Botanical Garden employee happened to be washing her hands at the same time and burst out laughing. (I suggested she use his comment in their marketing materials.) It was funny, but also exactly what I hoped to achieve with him today. Nothing will top Disney World for a long time, but as long as he realizes we can still have fun, we're in good shape.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Halloween, Magic Kingdom Style

In addition to gorgeous weather, October proved to be a fun time to visit Disney because of a special event at the Magic Kingdom: Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. We had received word from multiple friends before us that this was a worthwhile event, and Donna and Larry were kind enough to buy the tickets. The kids packed their costumes, and after a day at Epcot (and a good nap for Danny, Daddy, and Mommy), we trekked over for an evening of festive fun.

Disney may not be the least expensive place in the world, but I really do think you get your money's worth. The decorations were excellent, the crowd control was awesome (as a ticketed, after-hours event, we were able to nearly walk onto several rides), the parade and fireworks fabulous. Best of all, there were trick-or-treat stations scattered throughout the park!

Getting ready to brave the Haunted Mansion ride. They did really well!

I think Clare and Danny really enjoyed wearing their costumes around the park, too. Danny met up with more than a few other Star Wars characters, but I'm fairly certain Clare was the only Laura Ingalls Wilder on campus - which was just fine with her!

This was a special event that really capped off a magical vacation. It was our second-to-last night at Disney. On our last day, while Donna and Larry headed home, the four of us hit Typhoon Lagoon, one of the two Disney water parks. We were pretty sure we'd love it, and we were absolutely right. However, it being a water park means no photographic evidence. But I'm fairly certain that the Storm Slides have made their mark on Clare's memory, while Danny loved the Ketchakiddee Creek's shooting water guns and raft ride.

If Tyhpoon Lagoon hadn't closed at 5, I don't know how we would have gotten them out of there. We were a wiped out bunch as we headed back to the hotel, but we also needed some dinner. Tim decided to see if we could get a reservation at the Wilderness Lodge's upscale restaurant, Artist's Point. I had read that they featured a kids menu, so we figured it was worth a shot. Tim gave the kids (mostly Danny) a little speech about how it was important to be on their best behavior in this particular restaurant. It was late, they were could have been a disaster. Instead, they were marvelous. They politely colored, chatted, kept each other amused, and we ALL enjoyed a truly delicious dinner. A wonderful end to a vacation none of us will ever forget, and a reminder of how blessed we are in our children and our family.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dining with Character(s)

One thing people impressed upon me as we planned our Disney trip was the importance of dining reservations. This is something I may have taken a bit too lightly overall. Fortunately, I did make it a point to schedule some of the coveted meals with characters.

The first was dining at Cinderella's Royal Table, within the castle itself. I had hoped to make this a girls' meal, with Clare, Donna and I enjoying a meal with the princesses. Sadly, despite scheduling this more than three months in advance, I was only able to secure a reservation for two. So, off Clare and I went. Given that her princess mania reached its zenith about three years ago, I wasn't sure how excited Clare would be about this meal, although she had told me she wanted to do it. I'm so glad we did, too, because we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Clare beamed broadly for her photo with every princess that strolled through the restaurant, so much so that it was hard to choose which photo to post here. (I ultimately chose Belle because Clare has decided that she is her favorite, given that Belle loves to read so much.) She was thrilled with the wands they dispersed. Even the food itself was a pleasure for both of us (Clare got to decorate her own cupcake!). It was a very nice opportunity for us to get some one-on-one time and revel in girly pleasures.

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew headed over to The Crystal Palace for a buffet lunch. I chose this place primarily because it was also located in the Magic Kingdom, and I could get a reservation within five minutes of our princess lunch. The Crystal Palace was going to feature Winnie the Pooh and friends, something I feared Danny would pooh-pooh (ha ha) given his anti-Mickey stance. Fortunately, a jaunt on the Winnie the Pooh ride prior to lunch, after which Danny declared, "I have to do that again," made me feel better about the plan.

Rightfully so. After feasting on flank steak and other buffet delicacies, Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore came calling, all of which Danny happily reported to me when we met up after eating.

We had one final character meal on Tuesday morning, which was Donna and Larry's last day. We headed over to 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for a buffet breakfast. In addition to some excellent food, we got to visit with Mary Poppins, the Mad Hatter, Pooh and Tigger. Larry was probably the most eager to see Mary Poppins, and that's about all we'll say about that...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's a Pirate's Favorite Resaurant?

As we embarked on our seven-hour drive to Orlando, we quickly learned that Danny claimed to really not like Mickey Mouse. He decided that Clare could look at Mickey, go on Mickey rides, etc., but, as with princesses and any other "girly" thing, he had no interest. I think he associated Mickey with being babyish, a distinction he was eager to distance himself from.

Once you enter Disney, it's sort of hard to avoid the Big Cheese. Both Danny and Clare delighted in the "First Visit" pins they received upon checking in to the Wilderness Lodge, pins which prominently featured MM. They squealed with delight over the bath towels arranged in the iconic mouse ears shape. In fact, finding this shape in the wallpaper, manhole covers, etc. became quite a game for them throughout the week.

Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised when Danny selected a pair of mouse ears to wear. I made the offer to the kids based on my own sentimental childhood memories of wearing mouse ears around Disneyland each time I visited. Clare eagerly accepted, choosing a cute pair of Minnie ears. I really thought Danny would opt for a different sort of hat, but he quickly zeroed in on a pair of pirate ears. For both kids, the ears and the "First Visit" pins became like uniforms that they eagerly wore every single day. In fact, they even wore them on the long drive home.

The ears were a great talking point throughout the parks (and an easy way for people to learn their names, which we got stitched onto the back). Danny's in particular elicited a fair amount of attention, including from our breakfast waiter one morning. We were dining in the Whispering Canyon, the lively sit-down restaurant in our hotel. Our waiter was full of silly jokes that the kids found hilarious, and his slew of pirate jokes has made a lasting impression on Danny. Who has likely already informed anyone reading this what a pirate's favorite restaurant is. If he hasn't, just wait until you see him.