Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kindergarten Highlights

There are certain moments of the Kindergarten year that you can faithfully rely on happening, and be assured of enjoying, too. The first was "Hats Off to Mom," in which these sweet kids celebrated the many different hats we moms wear. Laura had the honor of narrating one of them (coach!), and I was so proud of her reading and speaking into a microphone in front of the gathering.
Second, at least at CKS, is the Kindergarten musical, which this year was "The Three Piggy Opera." DARLING! What's not to love about a show that includes the song, "I want a big, fat pig to eat!"?? As I sat in the audience of parents and watched the entire school file in to watch, it dawned on me why Laura kept telling me she was nervous for this performance, despite not having a specific role to play. That's a huge audience of BIG people watching them. But of course they shone! It was precious, as I know these moments and this age to be.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Our Elite Eighth Grader

Clare's eighth grade year at Marist has come and gone, and once again she has collected several accolades. At the end-of-the-year Foundations Awards, she was recognized as the Outstanding Student in Science - a bit ironic, given this is one of her least favorite classes. But, perhaps more impressive because of that. Her performance in the school geography bee, winning for the second year in a row (without missing a single question) and earning another spot in the state bee, was highlighted. As was the fact that she and her debate partner, Moira, earned their varsity letters by successfully competing against high schoolers. She continues to dazzle us with her enthusiasm for learning.
She also continues to surprise us with her eagerness to try new things. In last night's final chorus concert, she and her friends Isa and Paula performed a solo - something they had to try out for in a relatively competitive environment. I have since gotten many compliments about her performance, too!

This girl is more than ready to tackle high school!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Danny Turns 11

All three of the kids *really* look forward to their birthdays, and this year was no exception for Danny. Being a non-party year (in the blow-out sense of "party"), Danny came up with a great suggestion for how to celebrate: He invited 4 buddies over for an all-out nerf gun war in the backyard. Considering that he has been accumulating an impressive arsenal over the last year or so, it was nice to see them all get some solid use. And thankfully Mother Nature cooperated and gave us an incredibly beautiful, warm enough but not too warm, day!

After instructing Tim and I to hide the guns (and extra bullets) all around the back yard, the five boys let loose and proceeded to spend the next hour and a half in warfare heaven. Easiest party ever! Eventually they came in for some brownies and ice cream, then went back outside to play hoops until the moms started rolling in. We knew it was a successful event when each boy groaned at the sight of their ride home - no one was ready to leave! Danny ultimately pronounced it "the best birthday ever," which sealed the deal.
This was the culmination of a week of celebrations that began with our fivesome dining at his favorite place, Fogo de Chao. It really was a nice meal, the first time the five of us had been able to connect and relax in a while. From there we went home to enjoy his Hawaii Five-O inspired cake!

And a few days after that Donna and Larry arrived into town, which not only meant a nice visit with them but the big reveal of their gift to Danny: A trip to San Diego for a full-day excursion on the USS Roosevelt next month. Suffice to say, Danny is definitely excited about this!

A truly terrific boy deserves a truly terrific birthday, and Danny is most certainly terrific!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter 2017

As befits the occasion, we had absolutely stunning weather for our Easter weekend - and we took full advantage of it, from soccer games on Saturday morning, to a tennis match that afternoon for me, and then a fabulous evening on the "party porch" with the Francos. And that was just Saturday (with zero photos)!

Since Tim was singing at Sunday evening mass, we had a blessedly leisurely Easter morning. Eventually Laura did rally the troops to hunt for the eggs the Easter Bunny had hidden the night before:

Finally it was time to make ourselves presentable and head to church. I think we cleaned up pretty nicely (after two wardrobe changes for Danny...):

It was a day very easy for us all to feel blessed!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring Break (for Danny and Laura, At Least)

Gator hunting in the morning
The only real issue with Clare attending Marist while the other two are at Christ the King arises in the spring, when they have completely different spring breaks. Last year I simply took the younger kids out of school and headed to Florida. This year Clare was invited to spring break with Abby and her family, so then when it came time for the CKS break she simply stayed home with Tim and the three of us headed to Sarasota. I think we all wondered what it would be like to vacation without Clare and Tim, but I'm happy to say we managed to have a fabulous week (while still missing them, of course).

While the usual enticements of Florida - gator-hunting via scooter, heading to the pool, etc. - were certainly part of the joy, the presence of a brother-sister duo approximately the same ages made for many easily passed hours. The grandparents are friends of Donna's and Larry's, and the kids hit it off so well. The boys golfed while we gals dined out and enjoyed the water on the first night:
Laura looking extremely comfortable with a beverage on the beach...
This went so well that we invited them to join us at the aquarium the next day, which also led to lunch and then a fun afternoon at the pool (swimming is just so much more fun with friends!).

We did part ways the next day as Donna and Larry had rented a boat, which was a gorgeous excursion complete with a dolphin viewing (unphotographed due to Laura's dire fear that I would drop the phone in the water).

The stop at Casey Key beach was a major highlight for the kids (and wound up being our only beach visit the entire week, oddly enough):
The following day, Wednesday, was the designated day at the Magic Kingdom for me, Danny and Laura. It was very crowded, but we managed to thoroughly enjoy ourselves and worked in three rides on Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean, among many others.

Thursday was our final day on break, as we had to head home the following day in order to get home for Danny's basketball tournament. Unfortunately it rained all morning, so our planned beach excursion was a bust, but it did clear off in time for Danny to golf again with Larry and his buddies. It was much cooler, so we gals opted to do a bit of shopping instead of swimming. We all finished with a delicious dinner at Stoneybrook, where Larry regaled Danny with the life and times of Teddy Roosevelt, and I'm not sure who enjoyed that more!

Once again I was reminded of how blessed we are to enjoy such beautiful places and special people!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Shining Stars

Friday, March 31 was a big day for both Danny and Clare. And thank heavens they didn't overlap, so I could witness both!
First up was Danny's 4th grade Poetry Performance, which is a true highlight of that grade and a favorite of all parents. I want you to know that it was entirely Danny's idea to wear a sport coat, too! Good choice, might I add. He, and all of his classmates, performed beautifully and clearly enjoyed every moment.
From here Clare and I raced to the car and hit the highway (thankfully not clogged despite the collapse of Highway 85 just the night before), heading the the Georgia State Geography Bee in Milledgeville. This was a repeat visit for Clare, who once again represented Marist and was once again one of only 10 girls out of the 100 finalists.

As usual, we were immensely proud of them both!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fabulous 14

Another March 25 has come and gone, and our firstborn is now 14! It was a marvelous birthday weekend that kicked off on Friday with her going to the Marist high school musical with a couple of friends. They first came over to our house after school, and Danny found himself a welcome addition to their powwow on the trampoline. Who saw that coming?? As much credit as I give to him for his ability to hang with teenage girls, I also give props to Clare for being so inclusive of her kid brother. (Laura kept to herself, interestingly enough.)
Saturday, the actual birthday, began with these awesome birthday donuts, which were every bit as delicious as they were decorative. From there we filled the day with a haircut for Clare and soccer games for Danny and Laura, and some presents in between.
The celebration culminated in a dinner party for 11 teen girls, which wound up being a LOT more fun than I initially feared. Tim and I reserved an adult table right next to theirs, and coerced a few other moms to join us. We had a good time, but clearly the girls had a GREAT time, which was just a delight to observe.

I particularly enjoyed the end-of-party photo shoot, which entailed each girl needing to get her picture taken with the birthday girl. Clare was just glowing. She obviously has a great group of friends - but then again, why wouldn't she? She's pretty great herself!

We ended the weekend with Clare's choice of dinner for Sunday night - and cake! As the State Geography Bee is at the end of this week, her choice of decoration seemed pretty perfect.

Happy 14th birthday, Clare! We couldn't love you more, and we are confident you will change the world.

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Sweet Hike

For unclear reasons, Danny and Laura had today off from school. It was a lovely day, so I mentioned heading to Sweetwater Creek State Park, a place I've been eager to visit for years. Miraculously they were up for it (okay, especially when bribed with the prospect of an afternoon sweet treat), so after a leisurely morning we headed out. And I'm happy to say that it lived up to my expectations, and they both thoroughly enjoyed themselves as well! Danny particularly reveled in trekking out to the middle of the creek on some of the larger boulders, showing how far he's come from his more tentative days. For her part, Laura has actually become a little less of a daredevil than she used to be, but that's not a bad thing at all.

The ruins of an old manufacturing plant.
Score one for Mother Nature, and some unscheduled time on a Monday! But now back to our regularly scheduled sports practices...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Father-Daughter Dance 2.0

Laura counted down the days to the Father-Daughter Dance as though it was a major holiday. Truly, it's hard to overstate her excitement. Tim wasn't exactly as enthused, but he did a good job of feigning it for Laura, who for her part had been practicing moves for weeks. As we all knew would happen, the actual event entailed much more of her running around with her posse than time spent between the two of them. But, she declared the event a success, which is all that matters!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Danny's Maiden Voyage to ND

After a few years of (sort of) patiently waiting, Danny finally made it to the hallowed grounds of Notre Dame. He and Tim made their way for a basketball-filled weekend, and it was a rousing success from start to finish.

They flew in on a Saturday and made straight for campus, where one of the first stops was to The Rock, where they succeeded in getting their hands on a basketball and shooting hoops for 45 minutes. Evidently this was one of the major highlights for Danny.

Eventually they caught up with Demay and his daughter Giuliana, cruised around camps and ultimately witnessed a nice victory by the Irish over Florida State.
Fortunately the next day they saw another victory by the women's hoops team, so it was a winning weekend in all senses of the word. They even scored on the weather, which was in the balmy 50s in the middle of February!

We'll get him there for a football game one of these days, but I think it's safe to say this was an excellent introduction.

Monday, January 23, 2017

SHINE 2017

With Cherry
My Noonday venture began back in the spring of 2016, very eagerly supported by Clare but certainly by Tim, too. Actually, all of them - Laura has modeled pieces and drawn Noonday art, Danny has willingly made product videos. I'm a lucky gal. Still, I wasn't sure what kind of feat it would take for me to attend the annual conference, SHINE, in January - but I knew I really wanted to go.
With Jalia, Noonday's first Artisan Partner
Fortunately, I have incredibly supportive and helpful in-laws who were more than willing to trek up here and help Tim with the kids in order for me to go. I had been told by fellow ambassadors that it would be an amazing weekend (a word that is way overused, in my book), something definitely not to be missed. I was really looking forward to it, but I did wonder if it would live up to the hype? Then again, having a hotel room to myself for three days was probably going to make the trip worthwhile regardless.

I headed to SHINE in Austin, TX not knowing a soul, at least beyond being Facebook friends. Honestly, this didn't really bother me. It was very clear from the get-go that this was a group of women it would be extremely easy to merge with. In fact, I met my first friend before I boarded the plane. (We were easily identifiable to each other, what with ALL the Noonday.) Bev had recently moved to Atlanta from Chicago (!), AND was meeting up with her daughter who is also an ambassador - something that I was SO excited to share with Clare. I can absolutely imagine that for us in the future.
Bev and Kaley, the awesome mother-daughter duo
In truth, I just loved everyone I met. By the time we headed to the hotel from the Austin airport, we were a merry bunch of maybe a dozen, and it was clear that every time I turned around I would make a new friend. And occasionally brush shoulders with Noonday royalty - I shook founder Jessica Honegger's hand in the elevator (after SHE introduced herself to ME), and as I turned around I realized I was standing next to Cherry, the unbelievably inspiring artisan from Ethiopia. I had barely checked in, and the weekend was already a success as far as I was concerned.
This was a truly impressive conference, blending emotion, inspiration, and nitty-gritty content that left us feeling pumped up and ready to change the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Stellar Sixth Birthday

"My birthday is my favorite holiday!" exclaimed Laura, both in anticipation of and at the conclusion of her big day. Coming on the heels of the traditional holidays, it makes sense that she would consider her birthday to be one of them. Probably also true for the rest of the family, given that it typically marks the final hurrah as far as eating goes.
Once again, Laura opted to celebrate not with a party, but with an all-day play date with Meghan, beginning with breakfast from Dunkin Donuts.
From there they played at our house until it was time to head to the American Girl Cafe for a celebratory lunch. The experience echoed Clare's 7th birthday, and it was so fun to watch the girls delight in it all. (It was also very helpful to have Clare with me when it came time to hit the restroom, stand in line to pay at the store, etc.)
Naturally we couldn't escape the mall without a ride on the carousel, at least not when it's your birthday!
From here it was time to go home, change clothes, frost her cake and then head to Catch Air for some play time. It was a zoo due to the rainy weather and day off from school and work, but the girls managed to have a terrific time and played for two solid hours.
This proved to be the perfect way to work up an appetite for more cake and ice cream. I loved that as we left Catch Air, going on about nine hours together, they were trying to negotiate MORE time together - a testimony to a successful day!
It really was a happy birthday, which was evident from Laura's beaming face. Sweet girls, sweet day!