Thursday, December 27, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Christmas comes with so much anticipation, and not just on the kids' parts. While I have learned to enjoy the preparations as much as the day itself, I still heard a lot of "I can't wait!" from Clare and Danny. I am happy to say that I think the day lived up to their expectations, while we all enjoyed time spent with Donna, Larry, Karen and Brian. It's always hard to recapture the glory of the holidays, but here are a few images for our memories:

The Christmas miracle shot of all three, together in their fine duds.

Just a little resemblance among these three...

It was Danny's turn to put Baby Jesus in the manger this year.

Wearing matching jammies and surrounded by their new plunder.

A Colonial Christmas (plus Laura)

Lego Hogwarts gets built, thanks to Aunt Karen and Uncle Brian.

Clare with her Lego creations. Lots of Lego action this Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Our Sweet Joseph

One of the perks of Pre-First is you not only get to help lead the CKS Christmas mass again, but you get to play a bigger part in it. And Danny got some juicy parts indeed: He was assigned to read the first reading and to be Joseph!

After last year's living nativity put on by the cousins, I was really looking forward to seeing him dressed as Joseph - and he did not disappoint. He was beaming the whole time, which isn't exactly the impression of Joseph we are usually given, but it was very, very cute.

Here is Danny reading:

YouTube Video

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 17, 2012

Clare in Wonderland (a.k.a. Williamsburg)

Here is just one example of why my in-laws are so marvelous. Not only did they take Clare on this magnificent trip December 6-9, but Donna was willing to write a guest post about it. Read on:

I have been to Colonial Williamsburg several least twice as a child, then at some point, Larry and I took our kids there.  But seeing it through the eyes of our nine-year-old granddaughter might just be the best experience ever.  Clare has had a love of the colonial period from reading her American Girl books, and we often talked about what it was like "back then."  That was what prompted us to issue her an invitation for a weekend where she could experience colonial life.  Of course she had to bring Felicity, the doll of that period - and Felicity came complete with her own wardrobe of daily changes!  During the long, 9-hour drive, Clare amused herself listening to music she had on her iPod, watching a movie and just observing the changing scenery, all the while holding Felicity on her lap.  It was too precious!   

Upon arriving at the Woodlands, right on the property, we checked out our rooms. Although I had explained that we would have two adjoining rooms, I don't think Clare quite got the concept, but was delighted when she saw "how fancy her room was"!  In truth it was a nice enough room, but she had her own television which she was quite thrilled with.  She loved the complimentary soaps and shampoos, and relished the idea of taking them home to show Mommy. Best yet, she learned that someone made your bed every day.  She definitely thought that was pretty neat. 
When Larry had checked us in, he found out that we could get a reservation at King's Arm Tavern right on Duke of Glouster Street.  So we immediately changed clothes and drove there.  Now Colonial Williamsburg is very authentic, meaning they have no street lights, nor are the homes electrified, so the area at 6:30 pm is very dark, hardly conducive to seeing the town. But Clare was taking it all in...the street fires set to warm your hands, the candles in many windows, a few colonial townspeople walking about.   Upon arrival at the restaurant,  we were escorted to a lovely table by a fireplace where our young lady had Mr. Jefferson's Mac and Cheese.  Our waiter was in colonial garb and very knowledgeable about the time and place.  The weekend was off to a great start.

Our first stop on Friday was to see a short movie explaining what was happening back in 1774 to make Williamsburg so significant.  Clare took it all in, but when we got to the Governor's Palace, Clare had mentally transported herself back  to that time.  You could just see it on her face!  The guides we encountered at every stop were wonderful, explaining things as if we were there in December of '74.  At this location, our guide acted as if he was allowing us to enter the palace while the family was out doing errands in preparation for the evening's ball.  We had to be spirited from room to room lest the housekeeper see us.  Clare loved the role playing!  We even learned an appropriate bow so we would not be embarrassed at the ball!  

Each of the venues we visited offered a wonderful view of life at the time.  Dropping by the Milliner's shop, the woman explained to Clare how women changed the look of a dress or hat by adding buttons, new trim or feathers. At the Court House, which Clare asked to see several times before we got there, we took part in a trial of a woman accused of singing "loudly and disrespectfully" against the king.  Since Larry was chosen to be part of the tribunal, Clare sat on the edge of her seat with anticipation. At the Apothecary we saw the herbs and spices that might be used to alleviate a headache.  Another "fancy" dinner, this time at Christiana Campbell's Tavern was the culmination of the trip.  Mrs. Campbell herself stopped by our table and was very sure that Clare must have been exhausted from her three-day trip from Atlanta!  

We did take a break from colonial life on Friday evening and headed over to see Christmas Town at nearby Busch Gardens. We saw lights and music as we visited the various countries. Clare was quite taken with the tri-colored pasta she ate in "San Marco Italy" where we ate after seeing a musical production. We also visited Ireland and saw another musical production there, and watched "oh Tannenbaum"  change colors as music played in Germany.

I think I knew all along that Clare was enjoying herself, but when we finally arrived back home, she told Danny that they were going to play Williamsburg!  Danny was not too sure this was a great idea until Clare told him he could be a militia man who was called up from his farm to fight against the King's men.  That appealed to Danny!  In the course of their play, I could hear her explaining so much of what she had seen and learned.  It had all been worthwhile!  But more importantly, we got a chance to spend some quality time with our delightful granddaughter, seeing places and learning things through her thoughtful questions to the presenters.  The history teacher in me had really wanted to make this trip a reality; the grandmother in me is so happy we did it.  Some wonderful memories were made. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Laura's Expressions

This morning, around 4 a.m., I jerked awake from a random dream by the sound of Laura crying. It was definitely a distraught, overwrought cry that roused me swiftly out of the bed, as opposed to the more moderate whimper that I tend to ignore. Something was obviously wrong. When I got to her room, I saw that she had been crying for a long time, but thanks to her tampering with the monitor the previous afternoon, I hadn't immediately heard her.

Once I entered the room, I was relieved to know she hadn't gotten sick, or fallen out of her crib. Usually this would lead to a bleary-eyed session of trying to determine what was wrong. But as we are now entering the glorious phase of effective verbal communication, she was able to tell me while shaking off my efforts to pick her up. She pointed to the door between her bedroom and the bathroom, saying, "Close! Close!" Now, the door was already closed. But I noticed light streaming from underneath it, as Danny had evidently left it on when he went to bed. Wondering if it could be this simple, I turned off the light, closed the door once again, and returned to the crib to soothe Laura. Who didn't need me, because once I did those things she sank back down and, with a few sniffles, returned to sleep. (Too bad it took me a lot longer, but oh well.)

I get so caught up in the charm of her emerging speech that I sometimes forget how truly helpful it is to us both. Clare and I used to say to each other, while riding in the car, how nice it would be if Laura could indicate which book she wanted, rather than just "book." Now she can. She still has some funny things, like "wee-oo wee-oo" for shopping cart - but they get her message across. And then there's "CHICKEN!" which I heard last night after a particularly late session at swim practice. Loud and clear.

My favorite, most recent expression of hers isn't remotely helpful, but it cracks me up every time. "What the heck?" I can enjoy it, too, since I don't have to think it so often anymore, wondering what she's trying to tell me!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tree Trimming Trio

As we have decked our halls, Laura has been increasingly impressed and proclaiming "pretty!" quite often. So it seemed only right that we include her in our tree trimming tradition this year. It definitely could have gone either way, as I had visions of her removing ornaments as we placed them, fighting with her siblings over them, or simply demanding to be held the entire time. Fortunately, none of that happened.   

Getting a decorating tutorial from Clare.
She was, however, mostly enamored with the feast portion of the fete. I think buffet is definitely her ideal meal. In fact, it wasn't until she had eaten quite a bit that I was able to snap a worthwhile photo of the three kids in their matching reindeer PJs.
Laura sat here, eating, for quite a while...
Eating more while overseeing some decorating.
Evidently the jammies were inspiring, as the three of them proceeded to play reindeer for quite a while once the star was atop the tree. (They dubbed Laura "Blitzen," which I think is pretty apropos.) Tim and I watched from the couch, admired the tree, and toasted our good fortune.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy December!

Perfectly timed this year, December rang in on a Saturday, making it the ideal day to pick out our Christmas tree. I set out in a good mood, too, having managed to snap a cute picture of all three kids together in their festive duds.
A gorgeous day, we comfortably cruised Home Depot's lot after a family trip to the bagel store and also bumped into our neighbors, the Kings. They clearly coveted the tree we finally settled on, sealing the deal. As Tim and I have a party to attend tonight, we'll decorate it tomorrow to round out our weekend.
To cap the excellent day, we re-christened our elf from Jason, a name I was never very comfortable with, to Manti. You get only one guess as to who suggested that name - but we all think it's perfect.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Danny's Comments

Part of our weekly school routine is the Thursday Packets that go home with each student. They are filled with a week's worth of work, as well as any other paper communication the school needs to send. Our instructions as parents are to review the enclosed, sign and date the envelope, and send it back with our student. There is also a line for "Parent's Comments," which I have never, ever used.

A few weeks ago, Danny mentioned to me, "You know, there's a compliments section on the Thursday packets. Why don't you write something?" I corrected him, saying it is a "comments" line, not "compliments." And I thought that was the end of it.

So when today's envelope came home, as I went to sign for the week, I burst out laughing when I noticed the below:
 Classic, lovable Danny.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We have so  much to be thankful for, including a Thanksgiving weekend filled with family, friends, football (go Irish!!) and fun (and not a lot of photography). One snapshot I did capture, though, describes one of the things I'm grateful for these days. Laura is increasingly interested in what her older siblings are doing, and trying to keep up. The above photo shows the three of them watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which thankfully kept them busy for quite a while and allowed me to chill out a bit after my half marathon. Yes, we have plenty of "Mommy! Up!" moments, but I'm slowly getting some space.

I am so thankful for these three. Yes, they are loud, sometimes needy, occasionally annoying even, but always loving. They are healthy and happy, and we are blessed.

Friday, November 2, 2012

St. Clare

 One of the many rites of passage for Catholic school kids is the saints project, whereby you research and dress up as a saint. CKS does this in 4th grade, in conjunction with the All Saints Day Mass. Clare, fittingly, chose St. Clare of Assisi. Below are photos of her processing in, with the entire 4th grade (and Archbishop, who presides over this mass), and then her class.

Coming immediately on the heels of Halloween, most parents (and teachers) breathed a sigh of relief to have this completed, but it really was fun to see, too.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween 2012

As Danny mournfully commented last night at bed, and again this morning, "Another Halloween has come...and gone." I take the level of his sorrow at its passing as an indication that he had a good time, as I'm pretty sure did they all.

For posterity, Danny was dressed as Harry Potter (we are currently reading the third of the 7-book series, and he is loving them). Clare went as Hermione, the main female character from the Harry Potter books. 

Once again the Francos joined us for the evening - it really wouldn't be the same without them. We adults had agreed to let the four big kids trick-or-treat by themselves, to their utter delight. I am pleased to report that they returned safe and sound, and we received only positive comments from the neighbors. They also returned with their biggest haul yet, which prompted me to suggest the old "sort and swap" that I so remember enjoying when I was a kid. This was a big hit!

Laura started out the trick-or-treating rather tentatively, but once she saw the first piece of candy her enthusiasm picked up.
I still managed to steer her home after just a few houses, where she holed up at the table in the playroom with her bag, likely marveling at her good luck and not wanting to jinx it by interacting with the adults.
Her good-natured attitude toward the costume was such a delightful surprise (compared with the knock-down fight she and I had early that morning regarding a jacket and hat). Here's hoping that next year I am equally successful in getting her into the shark costume.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Three Tiggers

I was sorely tempted to dress Laura up as Hedwig the owl in order to have a complete trio of costumes this year. However, this was the one year when the heirloom Tigger costume would fit, so we stuck with tradition. Keep in mind that both Katy and Nicki wore this costume before my own kids (and we even loaned it to a neighbor one year, so it's held up quite well).

Here is Clare as Tigger in 2004:

Danny in 2007:

And Laura:
While I feared the worst, it turns out Laura was the easiest of the three to get into the costume. She kept patting her stuffed belly and pointing to her "hat." Terrific!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Annual Autumn Retreat

For the days leading up to the annual CKS auction this past spring, and then immediately afterward, both the Seymour and Franco kids were anxious to know if we had once again secured a weekend at a mountain home. Happily we had, with the added bonus of booking it when the kids had a three-day weekend. Last year's time flew by far too quickly, and we knew we'd enjoy an extra day. (Props to Tim and Luis, who worked until midnight and all night, respectively, in order to take the time off.)

This year we headed to Lake Chatuge in Hiawassee, Georgia. This spot is so close to the North Carolina border that on the day we ventured to hike some trails, we crossed the state line about 5 minutes after leaving the house. Fortunately, we enjoyed paved roads the entire time. We traded lofty mountaintop views for a spot right on the lake, complete with a fabulous lawn that saw a lot of football playing, gymnastics and glow-stick glory. In fact, these activities topped the list when I asked Clare and Danny what were their favorite elements of the weekend.

On our first full day, we recalled enjoying a family-friendly hike last year and sought a similar experience. The nearby Jack Rabbit Trails seemed a good option, and we set out on what we thought would be a 3-mile hike. We took a small detour to get us down to the water, and thus it became a 4.1 mile walk that seemed significantly longer. Keep in mind it was a very hilly, tree root-studded trail (and I was pushing a stroller the entire time). Nevertheless, Danny and Gabrielle were intrepid and probably ran half of the way, if not more, eager to stay ahead of the pack and prove their mettle. Their elder sisters brought up a dragging rear, and I must commend the younger kids for not rubbing their noses in it too much!
The fearless hike leaders.

Looking for frogs and skipping rocks.
The next morning the kids asked what we had in store, and I could tell they were wary of any plans for further hiking. We adults had seen a corn maze that we thought would be a good bet, so we ventured out once again. We really had some beautiful weather, and it was glorious to spend time in the fresh air. We managed to solve the "FSI" puzzle as well as make our way out of the maze, enjoyed a hay ride, and the kids couldn't enough of the bed of corn kernels they could wallow in. After lunch we made a quick stop at Goats on the Roof, where there are, indeed, goats walking on the roof. Aside from the option to feed these goats, though, it's really an odd spot...

The bulk of our weekend revolved around football (GO IRISH), food, chilling out, and glow sticks. Deanna and I had both loaded up on them at Target's Dollar Spot, and we definitely got our money's worth. Something about the freedom of running around outside in the dark, unfettered by adults, really struck a chord with the kiddos.

So, I'm pretty sure this is a tradition for our two families. Next year I will work to find the Francos a bedroom that is not subject to the sounds of Laura's early morning wake-ups, and we have decided that we are bringing lots and lots of paper plates. Other than that, we've definitely got a winning formula.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Laura at a Glance

Laura gets a lot of flack for being a menace, strong-willed, etc. etc. But when I stop and think about it, she's a pretty accommodating kid. She spends hours in the car every day and is always more than willing to do so. She happily rides in the stroller every day. She willingly goes down for her naps and bedtime every single time. She even loves to have her diaper changed (in fact, I harbor not-so-secret hopes that she will potty train early and easily). For the most part, we ask her to adapt to our family lifestyle, and she does.

So what do her days look like? She wakes up early, which is annoying on weekends but works pretty well with our weekly carpool schedule. She greets me every morning by saying, "Breakfast! Dressed!" Laura really likes her meals and her clothes. She likes me to put a bow in her hair and a bib on her for meals, and these are all things she can now communicate verbally.

Sometimes she spends the morning with James, pictured below, and Misty, the Bergstroms' awesome nanny who is also my book club friend. We also attend music class with James, and another neighbor Emma. You can see why we are often asked if James and Laura are twins.

Other social occasions often involve Jane, the youngest of our carpool's family:

Laura asks to go outside every day, multiple times. Lately she is literally a tree hugger.

I used to joke that the only time Danny, as a toddler, was happy to play by himself was when he needed to poop. This is sometimes also true of Laura, but recently she has taken to spending time by herself in the playroom...with markers. This does not get old for her, and as they are washable I am more than happy to indulge her in this.

She asks several times a day where Danny, Clare, and Daddy are, and is definitely happy to see them when they return home. We both enjoy interacting with others, too, and running errands - I truly think she gets afflicted with cabin fever as much as I. Still, I think we're pretty comfortable in our time together. And as soon as I stop and think about what she was like a year ago, I realize yet again how quickly that time is flying by.