Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Houseguests

Over the long weekend, we had some great houseguests: Matt's friend Lisa and her husband Jim! Lisa went to high school with Matt (funny how most of our friends are Matt's high school friends—I guess that's what happens when you settle down in one partner's hometown!) and now live in California, so we don't see them very often at all. In fact, Lisa was a "groomsmaid" in our wedding in 2006 and Matt was a "bridesman" in their wedding in 2005, and those were the last two times we saw them! 

So, it had been a while, and we were so excited to have them stay with us for a few days when they came east for Lisa's college reunion in Virginia and a side trip to North Carolina. (If you're flying 2000 miles, I guess driving to locations 300 miles apart doesn't feel like such a big trek!)
Kate latched right on to Lisa, as we knew she would, wanting "Ms. Lisa" to read her bedtime stories. All four of us adults joined in the bedtime Memory games, so it was a big bedtime party each night!
After swimming and churching and chowing down on pizza and Thai food Saturday and Sunday, Monday was our partying day. Matt's parents had us all over for brunch in the morning.

(Just had to throw in this pic of Claire—I just love it! I found this Janie and Jack romper on eBay and it just seemed "so Claire" to me. Claire had fun demolishing a couple of Granna's brown sugar scones. When we pulled her out of the high chair, we joked it was like uprooting a turnip with all the dirt-like crumbs that kept cascading from her as I pulled her higher out of the chair!)

That evening, we had a cookout at our house for BHS alums (and folks who worked at the movie theater with Matt and Lisa) to come see Lisa while she was in town.

Everybody got a kick out of my "veggie island." I saw this done a while back when I stumbled into a live infomercial at our grocery store for the knives formerly known as Gin-Su. I didn't buy any knives, but learned to make an island out of a potato, carrot, and green pepper. (and a shark out of a cucumber, but I didn't tackle that one this time around!)
We even got out some toys and had fun with it later in the evening too!

Kate found a new playmate in Willow Grace, who will be five in July. They were having a great time running around all night, hiding in Kate's closet and bathroom to look at the Twilight Turtle in the dark. While I was putting Claire to bed, they came into the nursery wearing some funny dress-up clothes that I didn't recognize.

"Kate, where did you get those clothes?" I asked.
"Um... where our guests sleep," she replied.

Yes, they had raided our houseguests' suitcases and were parading around in t-shirts, dresses, hats, and 4-inch wedges! I half-scolded, but also just had to laugh, and (knowing Lisa and Jim wouldn't be mad) alerted the adults downstairs to the adorableness. And took some pictures. And video.

It was a really fun night. The high school memories flowed and sounds of raucous laughter filled the house (as did the sounds of children playing maracas and subsequently the sounds of an awakened baby). The girls were fading by the time we took this group shot, but it was a great Memorial Day and we'll have to do it again!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Stereotypical Family Beach Photo

Ever since we planned our beach vacation, Matt and I have been joking about the "stereotypical family beach photo." I'm sure you've seen them; maybe even taken them of your family! It's typically sunset, everybody is dressed in white and khaki. You may sit in front of the sand dunes and sea oats or stand with the ocean as a backdrop.

We actually saw a family taking their s.f.b.p. from our balcony the night before we did.

We decided to get a little radical and add blue to the mix of white and khaki. We didn't get one in which all four of us look perfect, but we did get a few good ones.

And there were some less good ones, of course :0) 
The "hey Claire, look at the camera."

The "I'm going to strangle my sister . . . with love."

The "I am so done with this photo shoot."

And the "Did I bump the camera after setting the timer?" 

I think at least one will be frameworthy. We had such a great time—I miss the beach!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Back from the Beach

I started this post at the beach, but didn't get around to finishing it since we were too busy enjoying ourselves! And we got back on Friday night, but I've spent the weekend in denial over vacation actually being over. Now trying to tell you all about our vacation in one post, I may breeze through it, but I'll try to hit the high points.

We arrived in Orange Beach, Alabama on Saturday evening and got settled into our condo. Since it's the nice down time between the spring break and summer peaks, we got a good deal on a three bedroom condo on It was nice to have separate spaces for each girl, so they don't wake each other up at night. It was dinnertime by the time we arrived and got settled, but we went out on the beach for a few minutes before going to eat.

Craving Oysters Rockefeller, we found a great restaurant and ordered the big oyster sampler as an appetizer while Matt and Kate fed the turtles off the restaurant's patio. A big storm rolled in, however, and we had to move inside. That was the only foul weather of our trip, and the rest of the week was gorgeous!

Sunday, Mother's Day, we went to church at a cool service at the Flora-Bama, a well-known dive bar on the Florida-Alabama state line. The service was an outreach of Perdido Bay United Methodist Church, and it was great. Very, very well done, and as Matt pointed out, very Wesleyan in its taking church to the people. The bar opened at 11am on Sunday (the same time as the service) so people were already bellying up to the outdoor bars while the music and preaching were going on.
Me and my girls on Mother's Day 2012
After church, we headed out to the beach for our first big beach day.
Kate was excited.
Claire wasn't so sure.
My favorite pic—ultimate joy.
It took Claire a few hours to tolerate the sand
(prior to that, she cried whenever I set her down)
One of my favorite beach vacation activities is dining on seafood—especially at dockside restaurants. Viewing boats while eating shellfish is a beach essential for me.

Suitably dressed in a nautical smocked dress :)

We also enjoyed "Cheeseburgers in Paradise" at Lulu's (Jimmy Buffett's sister's restaurant). Claire got to try lots of fun "big people food"—garlic bread, crackers, and even cheese grits out of my shrimp & grits at Tacky Jack's. She's sitting up pretty well now, and is voracious for any food she can get her hands on. 

We also rode a ferris wheel at The Wharf, went to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, and took a dolphin-sighting boat ride!

We usually ate lunch in the condo, enjoying some shady time on the balcony before heading back out to the beach.
We even played Memory out on the balcony!
Claire is creeping pretty well now, going after toys that get away from her,
and after any food we have out—hungry little piggy!

The very best part of the beach was (as it should be) the BEACH! We enjoyed at least a few hours in the sand and surf each day. This was our set up: rented lounge chairs and umbrella, my big beach bag from Thirty-One (I saw several other families with the same bag in different fabrics—it is really a good pool/beach bag), and Claire's baby tent. 

The tent was the best purchase I made for this trip; she napped in it on the beach every day—longer and better naps than she EVER takes at home or school. (I got it from the One Step Ahead catalog, but it's also available on Amazon.)

Kate didn't like going into the water too much (getting saltwater in her eyes and/or mouth) but loved playing in the sand and at the edge of the water. We collected TONS of shells. I think I'm going to decorate a picture frame with them to hold a family pic from the beach.

It took Claire a few hours the first day to tolerate the sand, but after that, she seemed to enjoy it. We pushed sand up around her bottom (a natural Bumbo!) to help her sit up. Even when she did topple over and get sand on her face, she was totally fine with it!

Claire was equally skeptical about the water at first, crying if it touched her at all, but she later came to like sitting at the water's edge with me, letting the waves get her feet.

This is just a smattering of the almost 400 photos we took—I'll share some of the "nice" family photos we took in another post this week. If you're hungry for more cute beach-baby pics, you're welcome to check out the 240 best pics on Shutterfly, if it will let you view our album.

We never considered ourselves "beach people," always preferring city or inland-nature destinations, but after a very busy year, this relaxing trip really hit the spot. We had a great time and could have spent another week there at least!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Motherhood and Mortality

Most any parent will tell you, "I would gladly die for my child." It's true. I remember in my earliest months of motherhood, not wanting to leave Kate with anyone but grandparents. My criteria was that no one who would not jump in front of a bus for my baby would be entrusted with her care.

I had to get over that, for the sake of a date night now and again (we lived in Clarksville at the time, so grandparents weren't quite so close at hand) if not going back to work, which of course I did. But the anxiety and fear of something happening to your child never goes away. I remember describing it as "almost debilitating" during Kate's first few months, and it was renewed with Claire's infancy.

That fear of losing a child is perfectly natural and to be expected, even if I certainly didn't understand the magnitude of this new definition of "worst thing that could ever happen to me" before having kids. Who does?

What I didn't expect, though, was to view my own mortality differently. I've never been more willing to lay down my life for someone—and yet, at the same time, I've never wanted to live more.

I do not fear my own death. I would wish for preparation time to write letters and buy gifts and those sorts of things, rather than an unexpected death, but I don't fear "what comes next." Before parenthood, if I had been diagnosed with a terrible disease, I think I would have chosen quality over quantity, forgoing any treatment that would have been too risky or drastically reduced my quality of life. Not that I wouldn't fight at all, but when things were looking truly bleak, I think I would have peacefully accepted it.

A couple years ago, a guy I knew in college was diagnosed with cancer. It was bad, and round after round of chemo did not help. "Why does he keep fighting it?" I wondered. "Wouldn't he rather enjoy what time he has at home with his wife and son, rather than enduring debilitating treatments and traveling for clinical trials?"

Similarly, I used to take an "I'd rather just die" approach to debilitating injuries like paralysis, amputations, etc., they now would certainly not stand in the way of my being there for my kids, seeing them grow up, knowing my grandchildren, and so on. And if it were my child enduring such a trial, by God I'd just be thankful they were alive, whatever physical ailment they may face. 

I think parenthood makes the difference.

If there was any chance of beating the cancer, to live to see your child grow up, you would strive for that. Reason might say that there is no chance, but the desire to live would make you keep trying. My friend from college died almost a year ago, and he fought right up to the end. He died mere days after the doctors told him there was absolutely nothing more they could do. That girl in Atlanta right now losing limbs and organs to a raging infection—she might say "just let me go" if she were conscious, but her parents are fighting for her, wanting to know her and be with her as long as they can.

I want to be there for my girls. They'd be fine without me (I tell Matt he'd have no trouble attracting a new wife, with daughters as adorable as ours :0) but I want to be there to experience all the conversations and consolations of growing up. I want to hug them through childhood's boo-boos and talk them through the trials of adolescence, to take them to college, be there for their weddings and know my grandchildren.

It's such a scary world. Stories of freak infections, children and young adults with cancer, massive accidents, kidnappings, and so on hit me harder than ever these days. It's hard to watch the news. I can only assuage the fear of losing a child with the resurrection promise that Life has the last word, and I can trust in the one iota of selflessness I have in that I would do anything in my power, even give up my own life, to save my child if ever in such a situation. But even with those comforts, I just want to live, to live life together and love my children for as long as I can.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Bits and Pieces

A few thoughts, pictures, etc. for the week:

Derby Day

As a native Louisvillian, I love Derby. I've tried several times since leaving home to seduce new neighbors into loving it as much as I do with fun parties. The most successful was my senior year of college at Furman, where I first tried my now-famous jalapeno cheese grits. The least successful, arguably, was two years ago when the great Nashville flood occurred on Derby Day, and one by one, our party guests called to say they were flooded in and could not make it!

A month or so ago, I saw a poster for the Juleps & Jockeys event at Carnton Plantation in Franklin, and decided that's what we needed to do this year. So Matt and I got dolled up and enjoyed great hors d'ouevres, juleps, and the big race in style.

Time Flies

Not wanting to lug the big camera to the Derby event, I broke out the little camera, which had not been used in months. On it was this video of Kate, taken seven months ago, on October 2, 2011 (about a month before Claire was born).

It's amazing how much more "babyish" her voice and face seem, though it was not so long ago. (And yet I recall butting heads with her in some very teenager-ish altercations with her during this time period!)

Stuff Kate Likes

Gymnastics has definitely usurped Sesame Street as Kate's current obsession. Rather than begging to watch "AbbyElmo" all the time on the computer, she wants to watch gymnastics videos on YouTube. We all enjoy going to to her "'nastics" class on Thursday evenings.

Here she is doing the bear walk across the even parallel bars...

 And playing Memory before bed every night. I admit I love it too (except when she realizes it's our last game of the evening and she suddenly "forgets" which order we were taking our turns in and pulls other shenanigans to prolong the game).

Beachward Ho!

We are going on vacation soon, and to enhance the anticipation for Kate (and help her to learn to count backwards!) I created this fun beach countdown garland for our mantle. Each day, we take something down  and count the days remaining until our trip.

We have been looking forward to this vacation for months. With such a busy spring, we just can't wait to relax and play together as a family. I keep saying I don't care if it rains the whole time, I just want to take it easy in our beachfront condo! We're going to have a great time.


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