Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Christmas Baby

I have been having so much fun with this girl, who is almost four.  She charms me.  She is a total ham, a tad mischievous, and has the heart of an older soul. (When asked what she wants for Christmas or her birthday she responds "Whatever you want to give me, I am sure I will love it.")

I have to admit that a lot of days, after I pick her up from preschool, the temptation (while Bronwen naps) is to turn on TV for her, so I can "get things done." I give in to this fake babysitter more often than I care to admit in writing. It's hard to resist the siren song of TV, especially when Madelyn asks for it.

But I have been trying, really trying, not to do this as often.  

This week we've been enjoying mild weather. We've been making up games like "Twirly Hugs" and we finished the Christmas decorating together.

Madelyn was excited when we pulled out this book:
She thought it was stories.  (We're doing the Christmas-book-a-night thing again this year.) I explained that it was Christmas music and that we could go to the piano where I would try to play while she sang.
 Well, be still my beating heart.  She was so into it. I think this will be the highlight of my week.
We sat together for half an hour or so, playing, singing, making mistakes, listening, starting over, and giggling. She loved "Angels We Have Heard on High" (we did it twice), "Once in Royal David's City" (also twice), and "Silent Night" (all three verses at least three times). We both had a blast.
In this book I found an accompaniment for "Away in a Manger" (Madelyn's favorite) that was easy enough for me to play with minimal goof ups. I really, really, really wish I had captured the audio somehow. This was the only carol Madelyn would sing as a solo, and her sweet little voice, perfectly in tune, made my heart melt.

I thought of sitting at the same piano with my mom when I was a girl, doing the same thing. And I know my mother did the same with my grandmother.

All this to say, it pays to turn the TV off. 

And this: to raise the kids in the house with a beautiful piano right here, and leaving it silent, would be a waste of beauty.

So I checked a book out of the library on easy piano lessons for kids.  If the kids won't let me try to teach them, I've got a line on a teacher who will come to the house instead. 

It's going to happen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Evening Elf

Bronwen woke up from her afternoon nap ready and raring to go. While her sisters rode bikes and scooters with the neighbors, she explored the front stoop, making it very clear she wanted to do it her way. No sweat, kiddo, I'll sit back and watch.

Almost lost her balance!
 "I'm safe!"

 "Oh, hi Mama! I think I want to go in now."

 "Stay back, stay back! I've got this under control."
"Okay. That was fun. Now I want uppies!"

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Tree

This year we went back to the same tree farm we visited last year.  The first order of business was making sure Bronwen was wearing this outfit:

Because it was the same outfit Jillson wore in 2007, when I dragged my parents out to a tree farm near Hilton Head to get a tree the day after Thanksgiving when The Gutsy Dad was away.  So that's Bronwen above in 2012, and Jillson below in 2007.

Jillson was far more willing to pose with the little trees and spent a lot of time running around, if I remember correctly.  

 Bronwen was not so easily coaxed.

She did not want to pose with her sisters near a little tree.

She did not want to pose with her sisters near the chosen tree.  She only wanted to be held by the photographer.

Phew.  That's better.

When we got home, we realized the tree was about a foot too tall, so the Gutsy Dad had to remove branches from the bottom and chop the trunk again.  Which reminds me I need to use the greens from those branches on our advent wreath...

FYI, the tree fell over shortly after this photo was taken.  No one knocked it over; it just went.  We  broke a lot of ornaments, most of which were basically expendable.  But I was sad to lose our art deco one from Vienna.  Oh well.  The tree is now secure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Real, Boring Life

I think one of the reasons that I haven't blogged a lot recently is that I haven't been taking the time to take beautiful photographs. It sounds superficial, and it is, but it's also true.   I've been too preoccupied or scatterbrained even to pull out the iPhone camera, let alone remember to bring the nice one from home. I've been savoring life instead of staging it. 

I've been feeling at a loss for words and inspiration, but not at all unhappy.  Isn't that weird?  For me that is weird.  Usually, when I stop writing or creating or sharing stories, I get bummed.  But not this time.

I've just been busy doing life instead of documenting it. 

And our life is busy, messy, not always cute, and very repetitive.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, for example, I pick up Jillson from school (as opposed to letting her ride the bus), so that we can be on time to her tae kwon do class.  Pick-up time is no later than 3:25; tae kwon do is 3 minutes away from school, but it doesn't start until 4:15.  So we spend nearly an hour just sitting in the van.  Why don't we get out and do something more fun, you might ask, such as go to the library or go for a walk?  Well, Jillson has homework to do, and--most days--at least one or both of her sisters has fallen asleep during the commute.  And, frankly, hauling all three kids out of the car to do anything all together at that time in the afternoon is exhausting.

It actually works out semi-nicely when the sisters are asleep.  Jillson and I can focus on her homework and talk about her day.  Some days this goes smoothly; most days it is an exercise in keeping my wits about me while constantly redirecting the 1st grader to her homework.

Today, while I was getting Jillson's homework set up for her on a clipboard I was startled to see and hear Bronwen giggling right beside me. I was pretty freaked out until I realized that Jillson had taken Bronwen out of her carseat.  Wait!  Jillson had taken Bronwen out of her carseat?  When was THAT authorized?

Never mind that. Where were Bronwen's pants? Why was she covered in food and snot stains?  What happened to her hair things? Oh, wait.  I forgot.  This is not a blog post in which I pretend to have it all together.  So, there we were, with the 14-month old, covered in snot and crusty food, with no pants, surfing the console. Business as usual around here.

It occurred to me then that this was no fluke. This is my real life. Not the moments I carefully photograph and share on Facebook--that's the highlights reel.  But THIS is it.  Sitting in the van for hours on end pretending no one can see in our windows. And then I decided I would indeed pull out the phone and capture it, warts and all.

Funny, because after this nonsense went on for a while, Jillson and I actually took a break from the homework to have a talk.  I knew something was up when she asked, between math problems, "You know how when something is bothering you it helps to tell someone about it?"  Yup, I do.

Well, she was perplexed because for some reason her friend at school had called her mean.  This in itself was not the problem. Jillson doesn't even remember why the girl called her mean.  The problem was that Jillson had screamed back at her friend "I am not mean!" and then she recognized that screaming in someone's face looks, sounds, and feels mean.  Conundrum.

(I am not unfamiliar with this problem.  I regularly catch myself yelling "Stop yelling!")

Anyway.  The real problem was that she felt that she had then been mean and that the girl wouldn't be her friend.  We discussed ways to patch it up, and time will tell if it works.

That's it, friends.  Choir time.  Then an evening of cutting cardstock into tiny strips--1,200 tiny strips to be exact--for a craft related to a work event. Very real and very boring.

Good night!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Visions of Sugar Plums

Last week we took the big girls to see their first live performance of The Nutcracker.  (In fact, it was their first live performance of anything--they've never been to a play or a musical or a ballet or anything else in a theater; they've only been to one movie, and that was out of sheer desperation. But that is another story.)

Anyway, the kids loved it, especially Jillson. She spent almost the whole ballet on my lap, so we could whisper about what was going on.  We had reviewed the Nutcracker story before we went, which helped make sense of the scenes that were unfolding, but it's a great ballet for kids.  Not a lot of guessing required.   

The Waltz of the Snowflakes was a huge hit with both girls. They literally gasped and "ooh'ed." Madelyn kept standing up and putting her arms over her head in first position.  They were both intrigued and delighted by Mama Ginger's enormous size; completely bewildered as to why children would be under there.  Haha!  They also especially loved the "Neopolitan" ice cream dance, which I had never seen before.

As for me, I spent a lot of time comparing this version of the Nutcracker to the ones my high school did, remembering with significant nostalgia which roles my high school roommate Jess danced during our four years there.

Since then, we have been listening to LOTS of Nutcracker music.  Maddie asks for it in the car every single time.  I've been using a Pandora station, so we're mixing in other classical seasonal music (Vivaldi's Seasons, for example, also some Bach).  I'm loving that kids in general (and my kids in particular) still like classical music.  It's a good reminder for me to play it more often.  Sometimes Maddie and Jillson tell me the scenes they're imagining while listening.  Madelyn is also learning to distinguish between what she calls "church music" (i.e. choral music) and what she calls "nutcracker music" (i.e. symphonic).  When a piece of music starts she calls out "This is definnerly, definnerly a church song."  I love this.

Anyway, I hope we'll have the chance to do this again--would love this to be a family tradition.  Also, on a final note, I totally love that my husband came along.  (Yes, he was given a choice.)  We went with a group of five other families, and only one other husband came along for the ride.  So special for me and the girls to share this with him.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cocktail of the (Last) Month -- Pear & Sparkling Apple Cider Bourbon Punch

For our festive Thanksgiving drink, we first tried out a Fig & Ginger Bourbon Fizz, which, I am sorry to say, did not turn out to be as delicious as I had expected. This is quite possibly because we did not use fresh figs, but rather some semi-dried ones. The fig flavor did not transfer at all. Sigh.

Next, we attempted a Pear & Sparkling Cider Bourbon Punch, and that was a hit.  It was enjoyed by men and women alike, and it would be simple to make a non-alkie version for the kids in your midst. Ours eyeballed the bunch rather thirstily, so next time I will make a virgin batch as well.

Pear & Sparkling Cider Bourbon Punch
2 cups pear nectar
2 cups sparkling apple cider
2 cups seltzer water
1/2 cup bourbon*
1 bosc pear, sliced, for garnish

Pour all liquids into a pitcher and slowly stir.  Pour into highball glasses filled with ice and garnish with a slice of pear.

*I will say that the Gutsy Dad inferred that, had my grandfather been present, he would have asked "Is there any booze in this thing?" For this reason, it is likely that I will up the bourbon amount next go round.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

World's Most Dangerous Picnic

Small town, coastal living = not only a hometown parade in the morning, but a "boats with lights" parade in the evening.  Boats with lights!  What's not to love? 

We set up camp near the marina, brought a picnic dinner, and watched and waited and watched and waited until the boats and yachts cruised by all decked out in lights.  My kind of night, filled with laughter, fun, and good conversation shared by three generations.

Here, the menfolk guard the waterfront.

Shortly thereafter Lexi accurately described our set up as "The World's Most Dangerous Picnic" when we realized conditions weren't really ideal given the ages of the kids we were trying to control.  Here we are, all set up in a strip of grass, sandwiched between a relatively busy road and a drop-off into the water.  At dusk. What could possibly go wrong?

Thankfully for us, we had plenty of grown-ups on hand, and nothing did go wrong.  

And then the boats came!  They were hard to capture on camera, but such a lovely sight.

Oh yes.  And fireworks.  Thank you, Richmond Hill!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mrs. Claus

Is it possible I really went all of November without a single blog post?  Of course it is.  Sigh.  

I think Facebook activity squanders some of my blogging mojo.  Also, the kids and the job might do that, too.

At any rate. It is December 1st. I am challenging myself publicly (to my three remaining readers, thank you), to do another December Daily via the blog. Hoping this will get those blogging juices flowing again, and I can return to more regular story telling here in 2013.

So. Today.

Today started early.

Today was the day of the Bridge Run in Savannah.  (It has some other really long name, but everyone just calls it the bridge run.)  I "got" to run up the Talmadge Bridge and over the Savannah River and then back again for a total of 6.2 miles.  (It was also possible to go over once for a 5K, or go over three times, the "double pump," for a 15K.  Glad I stuck with the 10K plan.)  The hill climb on either side is 0.7 miles long at a 5.5% grade. 

It hurt, but not as badly as I thought it would. If I had trained better and harder for it, I'm sure I would've had a much better time. As it was, I was pretty psyched that I did not have to stop and walk going up the bridge (except for the scheduled 1 minute breaks due to the run/walk plan I'm on), nor did my knees fall apart on the downhills.  I finished in 1:10.

And of course, there was a costume involved.  The morning started out cold, but heated up quickly (70's!). At one point during the race I managed to remove the long-sleeved black shirt I was wearing underneath my Santa dress without completely exposing myself.

While I was at the race, The Gutsy Dad took the girls to participate with Jillson's Brownie Troop at our Hometown Christmas parade. Now we're tackling some mid-day Christmas chores (bill paying, boxes to the dump, lights up, some decorating) and gearing up for the boat lights parade this evening.

The Christmas spirit has definitely arrived in the Hill.

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Can't Help It

I am well aware that I should not compare my children, but I can't help myself.  

There is no mistaking a Gutsy Girl.

Here's one-year-old Jillson.  Blue eyes, two bottom teeth:

And almost-one-year-old Bronwen.  Blues eyes, two bottom teeth:

 One-year-old Madelyn:

And Bronwen again:


Bronwen, Bronwen, Bronwen:

I could stare at her all day.  Lucky for me, I can.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Life Right Now

Amazed that Bronwen can climb all the way up the stairs.  And she does it with gusto.

In love with the curly hair forming at the nape of her neck.

Psyched that I can run 10 miles again.
Grateful for an incredible bunch of running buddies.

Amused listening to Jillson and Madelyn playing in the bathtub.  “It’s your BATHtism!  I bathtize you in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit!  No, I bathtize YOU!”

Listening to classics on Audible. Tenant of Wildfeld Hall.

Also reading Praying for Sheetrock.

Tired of election coverage.

Watching Homeland.

Managing arguments, tears, turns.

Savoring giggles and hugs.  Madelyn came running back to the house from a play date next door, threw open the door, sprinted over to me, breathless, gave me a hug, said "I love you!" and sprinted back over to her play date.


Finished with a project for a friend: 200 thank you cards to insert with t-shirts she sold for her husband's memorial fund.

Helping Jillson--just a little--as she reads Magic Tree House to me.  Love.

Annoyed when I think too hard about Halloween.  Trying to get into it for the sake of the kids.

Worried about surviving another RLBT.  Hope is always there, but it is tempered with the fear that comes from watching the reality of loss.  She said: sometimes I can’t breathe when I remember that I will never be able to talk to him again.

Humbled. Holding on tightly.  Digging in.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

She is One

Bronwen Eliza is one.  It happened when I wasn't looking, when I wasn't ready, in the middle of a busy week. It happened without fanfare, with little celebration, but with much, much sentimental reflection.

She is one. And my heart breaks a little knowing that I will never have a child under the age of one again. Measuring age in weeks and months is over. She is one.

She is one and full of beans.  Into everything.  Crawling and yammering and giggling and singing and cooing.  She says Mama and Papa and Yayayayayayaya!

She is one. My final baby is barely a baby anymore.  She stands on her own.  She cruises.  She walks with assistance. She commands a room.

She eats indiscriminately: all fruits, vegetables, protein sources, snacks, anything you put on her tray, as well as books, paper, toys, dolls, dog toys, shoes, keys, dirt, sand, rocks, dog hair, clothing, binkies, stuffed animals, playing cards, hair things, stickers, blocks.  She has six teeth.  Three on top, three on the bottom.

She claps her hands.  She points at things.  She bats her arms to say "hi" or to mean "gimme."  She may or may not have socked the rector in the nose.  She makes the sweetest, lightest singing noises you have ever heard.

She has a crazy, deep, chortling laugh, just like Jillson had. A real belly laugh.

She is fiercely independent already (Lord help us all), unless she wants to go somewhere on her feet or unless she is hungry.  Then she crawls over and climbs up my leg, patting my knee until I do her bidding. 

Do not stand in the way of this girl and her food.  She growls.

She is an amazing and self-assured member of this crazy clan.  She rolls with it all.

In spite of her independence, her choice is often to be wherever her sisters are.

Did I mention that she loves water?  She will play in the bath, the ocean, the pool, the sink, a puddle for hours.

She is trusting and laid back.  A good sleeper.  A snuggler when exhausted or ill.  She gives funny, lean-in, head-only snuggles at all other times, a sort of reassuring pressing of temple to temple, or cheek to cheek, letting the full weight of her head meld into mine.

She is adored by her biggies.

Sweet Bronwen Eliza, I love you beyond all measure, beyond reason, beyond explanation.  Like your sisters, you are a piece of my heart. I can't wait to see what you'll become.  

You are one.  And you are on your way.  

I love you tremendously.
xoxo Mommy