Thursday, December 31, 2015

Laura the Artist

I've intended to write this post for quite a while...but hey, why not on the last day of the year?! And right before Laura's birthday, upon which she will receive a bunch of art supplies. Coloring, and drawing, is clearly not a passing fancy with this little girl, and she grows more proficient with each page. Well, maybe not with each page, given that she is quite prolific...but she is making her Grammy proud!
Laura and Mommy
Family portrait
She's also making her Mommy proud, because this marvelous past-time keeps her busy in a self-directed way. Even at the airport.
For Laura, coloring someone a picture is the highest form of flattery - and denying someone a picture her greatest insult! When she hears of evil-doing in the world, local or far-away, she often tells me that she will NOT color that criminal a picture. Would that her sense of justice could pervade the rest of the world!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Christmas in Buffalo

We were definitely dreaming of a white one when we made our plans to spend Christmas in Buffalo. Mother Nature didn't cooperate, but that didn't stop us from having a wonderful week of family fun. It was relaxing and cozy, filled with games, books, food, wine, and conversation. What more can you want?
How about a personal visit from the big man in red himself? Laura opened the door to him and was beside herself! We thought it was very considerate of him to drop by and confirm that our gifts should be delivered to Grandma and Grandpa's house.
Almost as exciting as Santa was the presence of Baby Ryan. Danny pronounced him "perfect" as far as babies and cuteness go. He and Laura developed a "Happy Snowman Dance" to perform during his fussy moments - and occasionally just for fun.

We were all very happy to just spend time together (and ok, on the new Xbox and playing with the My Little Pony castle). Six more months until we reunite in the Outer Banks!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Clare on a Mission

Enjoying some Starbucks before heading on the mission.
Service is a core component of Marist School, and something we whole-heartedly endorse. The students have no shortage of opportunity to broaden their horizons while serving others, and Clare seized on the first such chance presented to her: a Christmas mission trip to Kermit, West Virginia. This trip is excluded to roughly 20 7th and 8th graders, and typically is awarded by lottery due to the high volume of kids who would like to go. When Clare told me she submitted her name, she had no idea who else might be on the list. As fate (?) would have it, Abby and Hayden not only signed up, but all three were among the lucky kids selected to go.
This was a no-frills trip. They went via bus, slept on the floor of a classroom for three nights, and were not able to shower or access their electronics very often. But they were busy! They put together meals, shopped and set up a warehouse for families in need to choose gifts for their children, toured the area to get a sense of just how privileged their own lives are. This would be a great experience any time of year, but heading into the abundance of the holidays was ideal.

Clare loved the experience, but she was also happy to be home - and not just because of her comfy bed and warm shower!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Laura and the Dress

When we sorted through the boxes of hand-me-downs at the beginning of the fall, Laura was immediately smitten with this dress. While I instantly identified it as a Christmas dress, she believed it should go in the rotation of dresses to be worn any time. Happily, I prevailed after coming up with the compromise of letting her wear it for her Christmas party at school, too. Which, as time is wont to do, arrived before we knew it.

After awaking at approximately 5:30 a.m. (I knew this because I could hear her singing in her room), it was eventually time to get dressed. At which time, she began to muse about how a specific boy in her class was going to react to her in this dress! Oh boy. Here we go... Naturally, he has the reputation of being a bad boy of sorts. Paired with her current desire to be a pop star when she grows up, I think it is safe to say we need to start watching out...or run for cover, as one friend suggested.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Laura the Angel

A few weeks ago, I picked up Laura from school and she immediately began telling me what had just transpired at school: They received their parts for the upcoming Christmas program. From her tone, it was clear that this was not good news in her book, and I soon knew why: She drew the role of shepherd. She no sooner got out those words than she dissolved into tears. For an hour.  I endured countless variations of "I don't want to be a shepherd!" and "I'm not going!" and, as you may imagine, soon lost my sympathetic ear. Basically, I told her that I understood she was disappointed, but that this is how life works, and that yes, she would be going to the program. Eventually, after sobbing in her room for a while, she stopped, and we didn't discuss it for the remainder of the evening. The next morning, however, as we prepared to head to school, she started up again. Finally, as we were pulling up to school, I told her, "OK, here's the deal. If you can do so very politely, you may ask Miss Debbie if there is any way you might be an angel rather than a shepherd - Mary is already taken, but they might be able to use another angel. If they say no, then you say 'thank you' and carry on with your day." She seemed to absorb this information, but didn't really respond, and as she got out of the car I figured that was the end of that. Until an hour later, when I received an email from Miss Debbie informing me that Laura had asked to speak with her, revealed that she did not want to be a shepherd, and that of course she could be an angel instead! Laura 1, show business 0.

And lo, the angel was a happy being for the duration of practices, sang her heart out, and earned her post-show Christmas cookie! 
P.S. As mentioned in a previous post, here is Laura's Christmas list. The "MLP" is short of My Little Pony, because Mommy's patience for dictation only runs so long.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tree Time!

The entire family was looking forward to putting up our tree this weekend. Much of that was due to the festive nature of the event, but I think we were all excited for some family time, too. And the opportunity to wear seasonal garb, of course.
You know the kids are getting older when the ladder becomes a frequent tool for them.

All three kids maintained a steady, positive focus on the task at hand, and the results are quite lovely! One of my favorite moments came when we were finished. Laura requested that we join hands around the tree and sing Christmas carols, which we gladly did. Seems everyone is in the spirit!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Season of Thankfulness

Another blessed Thanksgiving has come and gone. First the first time in recent memory, we kicked off Thanksgiving with a beautiful mass at CTK. With so many blessings, it felt really nice to begin the day this way - and saw lots of friendly faces there, too.
We enjoyed gorgeous weather, both on Thanksgiving itself and for most of the days of Grammy and Grampy's visit. This enabled plenty of activity, from Grampy taking Danny and Matthew (via MARTA!) to the College Football Hall of Fame, to Black Friday shopping, seeing the lights at the Botanical Gardens without freezing, and more.

It was a terrific beginning to the most wonderful time of the year!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pilgrim Laura

As alluring as the schedule (and joint drop-off with Danny) of kindergarten is, I must admit that preschool presents some pretty cute moments. The Thanksgiving feast was certainly one of them!

I am very thankful for Pilgrim Laura!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Clare's First Debate

One of the many things that attracted us to Marist School was the large range of activities available to the students. Among these is the debate team, which is quite competitive on the high school level (top 10% in the nation!), and fabulously low-key for the 7th and 8th graders. They meet during activity period, which is once a week during the school day. So far, only five students have chosen to participate, but from what Clare reports, it's a blast!
Their first debate was on the subject of parental surveillance of electronics. Fortunately, Clare was on the affirmative side! (Not that she got to choose this.) Her primary role was to give her team's opening argument, which was also the first part of the program. There was quite an audience, between teachers, administrators, and high school students likely earning extra points for attendance. I thought she did quite well! 

Between public speaking, research skills, and learning to work well within a group, there a lot of reasons to promote participation in debate. Hopefully Clare will maintain her enthusiasm for it for a long time, but either way it's been a great experience to enhance her start at Marist.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Good (School) Sports

As the school year rolls on, both Danny and Clare are now engaged in sports teams for their schools. Clare finished cross country at Marist and has moved on to swimming, which of course is near and dear to her heart. The first meet was really fun for all, as it was fueled by school spirit that really elevated it to a true team sport.
Meanwhile, Danny has finally reached the age where playing basketball means playing against other schools. Better still, his dad is his team's coach - fulfulling a dream for them both, I would say.
Game face!
Tim was relieved and happy to win their first game handily, as the boys came together in ways not previously seen at practice...
One of my favorite things about games between Catholic schools: the pre-game Hail Mary shared by both teams.
Let's go War Eagles, and let's go Lions!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Laura's First Letter

Today I filed Laura's application for kindergarten online. In many ways, it feels like eons ago that I was doing so for Danny, much less Clare, but that's partially because it wasn't online back then! Mostly, though, time has flown and it's somewhat hard to believe that she'll be headed off to big kid school next year.

I didn't mention this paperwork to her, as I figured it would primarily go over her head, but also might lead to confusion about when, exactly, she would start kindergarten. No thanks. Still, I think it's interesting that she chose the same afternoon, actually the very same hour, to write her first letter. Over the past couple of weeks, she has dictated sweet notes to Danny or Clare, but she seemed reluctant to attempt the writing herself. Today, though, when the "I need help with something" became a letter to Daddy, she evidently made the turn. I suspect she will be full speed ahead from here, too! Next time she might even be willing to write the final two words, which would have been "your Thanksgiving," had she not run out of space (and possibly interest). (The note reads "Dear Daddy, I love your heart. I hope you enjoy...")

Stay tuned for her Christmas list!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Halloween 2015, with More Smoked Meat

Laura as Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony; Clare as a latte (costume made by yours truly with Dollar Store supplies); and Danny as Legolas, an elf from the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings
When Halloween falls on a Saturday, it's just awesome. In fact, we parents were discussing how great it would be if the powers-that-be opted to change Halloween to the last Saturday in October. No rushing from work in horrific traffic; no hurrying around to get things going because it's a school night; and no chance of having the school activities wear out the kids before trick-or-treating even begins. (It's an added bonus when Luis can smoke meat without having to stay home from work.)
Really not sure when, or why, Laura has taken to posing as though she is on the red carpet?!
Suffice to say, we enjoyed our Saturday Halloween. Soccer games and swim practice in the morning kept kids active, and then they somehow found ways to keep busy for the rest of the day (with a rare, but necessary, nap for Laura mid-afternoon). Finally it was time to don costumes and head once again to the Francos for the seventh year in a row. This year, we were joined by the DiBiase family, which was a winning combination.
As usual, Tim took Laura trick-or-treating and reports that she loves Halloween and is quite adept at walking to doors on her own, and remembering her manners. He also planted the seed in her mind that she was gathering more candy than the big kids, which obviously fueled her fire!
Both Danny and Matthew had eagerly awaited the sorting and trading portion of the night, which apparently did not disappoint. As Danny declared this morning, this was clearly his most successful Halloween. I concur!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Pumpkin Procurement

While real life called to the Francos, we delayed our return to city life just enough to swing through Burt's Farm. Not only were we in search of pumpkins, we also owed Laura a hay ride thanks to a highly disappointing trip to an apple orchard/pumpkin patch the day before. If nothing else, that trip showed us that Burt's has really figured out the logistics of such sites.
Laura was delighted by the hay ride, which was a pleasantly relaxing experience for us all on this gorgeous autumn day. From there we proceeded to the plentiful patches of pumpkins and came away with some stunners, two of which Laura has already marked up with crayons and markers. A true artiste...or maybe just a good way to pass the time while I unpacked from our weekend.
We are now in the full fall spirit around here!

5th Annual Mountain Weekend

To say that we Seymours were looking forward to our mountain weekend with the Francos is among the grossest of understatements. And to say that it flew by way too quickly? Well, it absolutely did. Which, we keep reminding ourselves, just means that we had a wonderful time.
Our hike through Fort Mountain State Park took us above the cloud line. (Twinsies!)

We feel like we may have honed in on the right house for our weekend goals and may consider a repeat booking next year. It had terrific access to the river for fishing, a fabulous FIRE pit, appropriate accommodations for all nine of us, and was surrounded by gorgeous scenery. Done and done.
After their extensive, not directionally-challenged walk.
As usual, we worked in a hike, lunch in town, plenty of s'mores and glow sticks, delicious home-cooked dinners, epic foosball matches, fishing and outdoor play (the perceived lack of wifi on the part of the kids was a magnificent bonus).

Until next year! (With a little reminder to pack foil, salt and our own wine glasses.)