Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Activity Level

Below is a photo of Harper, with the musical theater teacher, at a dance convention she attended a couple of weeks ago. It was the first time she's had much exposure to the musical theater style and she completely fell in love. There is a teacher at Harper's dance studio who has choreographed musical theater solos for other students and Harper's hoping she might get a turn to do one someday. 

Dance is the major activity that Harper is committed to right now. However, she is still interested in trying other things and Matt and I also want her to experience different sports/lessons before she decides to give all her time to one thing. She has enjoyed soccer, tennis, and guitar in the past. Beginning next week she's going to try a tumbling class at the Y. Harper's also gone to a couple of volleyball clinics - she may have the opportunity to play on the 4th grade team at our church this winter. 

But she's not sure she wants to play volleyball. I am fairly certain the reason she doesn't want to play is that she's afraid to make a fool of herself. While it takes a great deal of skill to achieve a certain level of play in a sport like soccer, almost anyone can run around on the field. Michael went weeks at a time without touching the ball when he played! Volleyball is a little different, the mechanics don't come naturally to most children. You have a lot to learn as you begin to play. 

Harper says she doesn't want to play but Matt and I would really like her to try. Since my brother, sister, and I all played in high school we are trying to convince her it is her family legacy. We're leaving it a little to chance - if the practices fall on Mondays and Wednesdays, then playing volleyball won't be an option because those are dance days. If practice is on Tuesday and Thursday I think we're going to go head and sign her up and see how it goes. 

I don't want to drive the children crazy, rushing them from one activity to another. I do want them to have lots of experiences and give them chances to figure out how they want to spend their time. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

This Girl

And today this wonder of a child is ten years old. It happened in a blink.

(Photos by Danielle - Chocolate Pudding Moments)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cheater Pants

Yup - I'm totally going to back-date entries so that one lands on each day, even though I've now missed several for this year's NaBloPoMo... That seems less awkward than posting many posts on the same day, or over several days, as I work on catching up.

This one is just a place holder, in the interest of full disclosure.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Winner Winner

Our big birthday celebrating will happen next weekend when family will come into town and we'll have a party for Harper.

Today was spent running a few errands and then enjoying Family Dinner Night at Harper and Michael's school. We ate pizza together in the cafeteria and then went to the gym to play board games, participate in raffles, and bid on silent auction items. Games and pizza are two of my favorite things, and several good friends were there, so it wasn't a bad way to spend a birthday.

Michael won the silent auction item that means he gets to eat lunch with the principal, which, in first grade, is considered a real treat. Best of all, I won the raffle for a reserved parking space in front of the school for the rest of the year - THAT was a wonderful birthday present!

Edited to add: I just realized this was my 1000th post. That's a lot of random thoughts!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Middle School

Every morning at the middle school the head principal and a handful of students come to a back room of the library where we do video announcements. We say The Pledge of Allegiance, read what's for lunch, give updates about sports teams and school clubs, and share the staff and student birthdays. So today the principal announced that it was my birthday (it's actually tomorrow).

Many middle school students work hard at NOT being impressed or excited about anything. So I found it very sweet today when several students wished me a happy birthday. A trio of 6th grade boys even sang happy birthday to me. Then they got all red in the face - it was adorable.

Flash forward to tonight. Matt and Harper went to a basketball game so Michael and I were on our own. We went out to dinner and then ran to a store for Michael to pick out a birthday gift for Harper. As Michael and I were heading for the checkout, I suddenly heard, "Hey! Hey! Hi! Happy birthday!" It was one of the middle school girls, not one I had seen during the day today. She went out of her way to talk to her school librarian in public.

I will consider it an early birthday gift.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


This is my favorite time of year, really. It is birthday season for Harper and I, Thanksgiving, then comes Christmas books, CDs, movies, decorations, and Christmas itself. Vacations, good food, fun secret-keeping and gift-giving. There will be time with family and time with friends.


Man, there is a lot to do between now and the end of the holiday season. It was always a lot to keep track of, but it feels nearly impossible when I'm working full time. All the preparations are normally part of the fun. This year, especially, I would really appreciate an extra four or so hours in every day. If anyone can make that happen for me, please let me know!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Passing Judgment

I make a sincere effort not to judge the actions of others. I'm aware, most of the time, that I don't have the information to evaluate a choice that someone else is making for herself or for her family. I don't know the circumstances. I don't know the struggles. I try, but today, I failed.

I was on the way to pick up the children from school. There was a car driving next to me down a fairly busy road. The woman behind the wheel had her phone in plain sight and was just texting away. Texting while driving was dangerous for her, for the rest of us on the road, and for the infant riding in her backseat. When my children were that small I sometimes felt nervous even having them in the car at all - I cannot imagine deciding it would be okay to text while I drove with my baby in the car.

I know people do this sort of thing all the time, and I believe it is a universally bad idea, but something about seeing that infant in the backseat just made me so angry with that woman.

A bit further down the road I ended up behind the same car. I was consciously leaving extra space between us, worried that she would cause an accident by not seeing someone stopped in front of her. Just before pulling up to school I wound up close enough behind her, at a stoplight, to see the little sign she had hanging in her back window. It was the shape of those "Baby on Board" signs, but it was black and it said, "If you don't like my driving, *%&$@ off." Lovely.

I'll admit it - I completely judged this woman. I judged her driving habits and I judged the fact that she chose to publicly display those words. And I made assumptions about what kind of mother she might be.

I know we need to be kind to each other, I KNOW. I know most of us are just doing the best we can.

Still, I can't get that baby out of my head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


As so many have already expressed, today I am grateful for all the brave men and women who have served to protect our rights. There are many people in our family who've served our country, but today I am especially grateful for my brother-in-law, Jason, who is currently stationed overseas. And I'm praying for his safe return.

Monday, November 10, 2014


We were fortunate to be able to have Danielle from Chocolate Pudding Moments take family pictures for us again this year. I plan to share some of my favorites over the next couple of weeks. 

If you happen to be in our area and you're looking for a good photographer, I cannot recommend Danielle enough. The children wouldn't leave without giving her hugs after our photo session. 

When Harper was first born I was adamant about having her picture taken, professionally, and having the whole family photographed as well. We've done it every year, usually around this time. It's an investment of time and money but I never regret it.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


His bare feet hardly make a sound as he shuffles down the hallway, blanket clutched, thumb in mouth. It's over an hour past bedtime but Michael is standing next to me as I sit on the couch.

"What if the pizza party's not tomorrow?" he whispers.

Oh sweet boy.

The first graders at Michael's school all applied for a "right start" library card from our local public library system. Since every last first grader got a library card, the library is providing pizza lunch for them, as a reward, and the first grade teachers are contributing sides so that they'll have a complete meal. None of the first graders need to pack or buy a lunch tomorrow. Michael has packed his lunch every single day of school the last three years. Apparently he's been laying in his bed, worried about what will happen if he doesn't take a lunch and it turns out that tomorrow isn't the pizza party day.

I assured him that, as we've gotten a physical letter, an email, AND a phone reminder about the pizza party, it will be tomorrow.

Our boy is a big time worrier. There's definitely some genetics at work there, but something else that is uniquely Michael. I wonder how much of the last hour and a half he's been worrying about the pizza party, or if it just now occurred to him that there could be a problem. And I wonder about all the worries that he doesn't share.

If only it would always be so easy to reassure him.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Day 8

The problem with NaBloPoMo is that you have to write every day, even when you are too tired to put together anything coherent to say.

The good thing about NaBloPoMo is that you have to write every day and sometimes, even when you feel like you have nothing to say, you get started and realize you may have one or two valuable thoughts to string together.

Today is the first kind of day - good night!

Friday, November 07, 2014


We are really fortunate to have access to some wonderful shows/concerts/plays not too far from where we live. Tonight we got to take Harper to see Straight No Chaser. Matt and I have seen them perform twice before. When we saw they were coming again we purchased front row seats to take Harper to the show. 

While Michael spent the evening going out to dinner and hanging with Matt's dad, we took Harper to eat and went to the concert. Maybe by the next time around Michael will be old enough to enjoy it as well. Just like the previous two shows, my cheeks were hurting from smiling by the end of the night. 

I'm truly grateful that we were able to share this experience with our daughter - I hope she appreciates it, or will someday.

Two of my favorite people.

This was the view looking directly up from our seats.
What a cool venue, I never get tired of seeing that ceiling.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Where's My Cape?

First things first... the answer to yesterday's guessing game is:

Michael's laundry.

Shoes and Lego pieces were excellent guesses and are, in fact, items I also find haphazardly strewn about the house.

Moving on -

Have I mentioned that the library I'm working at is going to be renovated this year? Thanks to an incredible grant all of the libraries in our district are being renovated/updated in order to better support our district's one-to-one initiative - which means each student is going to have his or her own device. A library with 25 big desktop computers won't be necessary. A library that can take advantage of a group of sixth graders coming with Chromebooks, that's what we need. There's more to it than that, but you get the gist.

Other than the computers, the library, as I came into it this year, looked a LOT like it did sixty or so years ago when the school was built. Here are some photos:

In order to prepare for the pending renovation, EVERYTHING had to be moved out of this space. The custodial and maintenance staff will handle things like moving the furniture, but guess who got to pack up all the books? This week the library was closed to students and, in four days, I moved a selection of books into a temporary space and packed the rest. So now it looks like this:

There are eight shelves with a few books still on them - I ran out of boxes! They WILL be packed tomorrow.

I'm not going to lie, I feel like some kind of library super hero for accomplishing this task. I'm working very hard NOT to think about how long it will take to put everything back in the correct order again!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Guessing Game

Tonight I collected _________'s _________ from the bathtub, the bathroom counter, the floor of a closet, the floor of a bedroom, the living room, the gate blocking the stairway to the basement, and a couch.

Whose what was I gathering?

For what purpose?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Spread Thin

I have learned, over the last two years, to set slightly better boundaries for myself when it comes to volunteering my time. I hate to say no, but I also really feel attached to at least six or seven hours of sleep a night. This is the third year that I have been co-president of our elementary school PTO - which has been quite fulfilling, but has also, at times, put a strain on our family life and relationships.

I am so grateful to have a partner in my presidency, because there is no possible way I could do this job by myself, especially when I'm working. This year both my co-president and I are working either part or full time which means we can't do everything. Fortunately our skill sets balance fairly well and we've managed to remain good friends, despite the occasional stresses of sharing this position. We have been able to stay on top of most tasks, but others have fallen by the wayside.

Schools, especially one the size of ours, need lots of volunteers. The PTO alone needs volunteers to run fundraisers, coordinate events, bring food for teachers on conference nights, etc. The teachers have volunteer needs as well - people to help check sight words or read with small groups, library helpers, brave souls to be responsible for other people's children on field trips, party planners, etc.

It's wearying, right? And we can't say yes to everything. I've been parts of several different organizations where it starts to feel like only a handful of the people show up to fill these needs. I find it difficult, sometimes, not to judge the folks who don't seem to help at all. I have to constantly remind myself that I don't have the whole story.

Last year was sort of a sweet spot for volunteering for me. Both of my children were in school all day. I was not (mostly) working. It was not such a stretch for me to show up for two library days a month, to read with kindergartners once a week, to help organize the guided reading rooms, to be on the PTO officer board AND to serve on event committees. This year, that has drastically changed. I'm not available during the day and my children have more demanding after-school schedules. I cannot do any of those during-the-school-day activities.

Today I left home early to go vote, then I worked in my school library (my job) moving and packing books all day to get ready for the renovation, then I rushed back to the my children's school to go to the PTO officer meeting, then hurried home to help with homework and make dinner, then ran out to pick up some supplies for PTO, then worked on the monthly PTO newsletter, now I'm blogging and in a few minutes I'll make the lunches for tomorrow before falling into bed. Today has been exhausting. (Thank goodness not every day is quite that busy.)

I don't deserve any kind of recognition or award for any of this - it's what parents do. But I also know that I'm hoping to stick with my current job and it means sustaining this level of volunteerism isn't going to be possible forever. There's nothing particularly special that I, personally, bring to this PTO position other than a willingness to do it. The PTO will go on just fine with out me. But I hope, when it is time to step down, that there is someone else finding herself in her own sweet spot for volunteering. And I hope that person will enjoy being a part of this sliver of community as much as I have.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Our Own HGTV Experience

Back in April we embarked on a remodel of our master bathroom. (Photographic evidence at the end of this post.) Let me refresh your memory, when I say we "embarked on a remodel" I mean we got estimates, made minor design choices, and signed bills. We are not handy people so this was a 100% outsourced job.

Hmm... I can't find any pictures of the final product, so here are some just before finishing touches.

Still to come at this point when these picture were taken: trim around the doorway, the mirror, toilet, the shower-head and light fixture in the shower,hardware on the cabinets/drawers, and the shower door. 

That was an anti-climactic reveal. I'll get some real after pictures before the end of NaBloPoMo.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Working Girl

Back in August I posted something about a job interview. You've probably gathered by now (if you don't know me in person) that I did end up getting the job. I am working as the librarian at one of the middle schools in our district. Hooray!

We are now over a quarter of the way through our school year and I have two main thoughts:

1) This is a job that could actually work for my family in the long-term.

2) I am afraid I oversold myself in my interview and I'm not doing the job the way I hoped to be able to.

So, on one hand, I hope to be doing this job for a very long time. On the other hand, there is a corner of my brain that is afraid they won't have me back next year!

Starting tomorrow the library will be closed for a week so I can pack up all the books and other items to get ready for a renovation. I'll be moving, temporarily, into a classroom space while the library gets a 21st century update. Before and after pictures may be forth-coming.

There is much to say about all of this, but mostly I thought I'd share what I've been busy with lately.

I am going to make an attempt at NaBloPoMo. Two down, twenty-eight to go.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Welcome, November

In Ohio, in November, there are still deciduous trees clinging to green leaves. Not all of them, but some. On this day, November first, there is also a dusting of snow. The way it sits on our fence reminds me of coloring in coloring books as a young girl, the way I made a darker line of crayon along each black contour before coloring it in completely. This snow is just setting the stage for what will follow in the coming months.

Welcome to the Midwest, where seasons are just suggestions and the weather's going to do whatever the heck it pleases.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Six Years, Eight Months, and Seventeen Days

Dear Michael,

Somehow I never wrote you a sixth-birthday letter. If you are ever all grown up and reading this blog, please know that it isn't because I thought your sixth birthday wasn't important. I have barely written in this space all year and I didn't write at all in March, which is when you turned six. So what was going on?

For much of this March, I was substitute teaching. The teacher who filled the spot I left at my previous school had a medical issue which required her to be out for several weeks. It was an easy choice for me to help out but it did make our spring a lot crazier than we'd intended. We enjoyed celebrating your birthday, even though I did a poor job of recording it. We had our usual family celebration and you received LOTS of Legos. You also enjoyed inviting a few friends to a bowling party. When we asked about it you listed five friends you wanted to invite without hesitation, so that is exactly what we did.

Tonight we were talking about your sister's upcoming birthday and you couldn't resist adding some thoughts about when you turn seven. You declared you'd like a Christmas-themed birthday party in March. We'll have to see about that one!

So what are you like at six years old (which you will still be for a little over four months)? Sometimes I think you have a split personality. By all accounts you are calm and well-behaved at school and with most other children. With your sister, however, all bets are off. You have a tendency to be combative and physical with her in a way that has been contrary to your personality until this year. Most of this, I think, is fairly normal brother/sister stuff.

You've also been more, "difficult," for Daddy and I in the last four months. I think you really struggled with our lack of routine this summer as our activities varied from week to week and you were also TIRED from all that time at the pool. In addition to missing a routine, I think you also had massive anxiety about beginning first grade. This manifested itself in all sorts of unpleasant ways - most of which involved quite a bit of defiance and temper-tantrumming at home. Daddy and I have worked hard to help you deal with your frustrated and anxious feelings. There aren't a lot of things you have control over as a six-year-old and the youngest in the family. I'll be the first to admit that we don't always respond as the calm and level-headed adults we should be. We are all learning and growing together.

One thing you've always shown us is that you're just going to do things in your own time. So this year, when you spent the first soccer practice crying behind my chair, or the first swim lesson refusing to get in the pool, we've worked very hard to remember to be calm and patient. And you happily completed your soccer season (with the exception of that one quarter when you had to be goalie) and are thoroughly enjoying your swimming lessons. Last year it took you about a month (an agonizing month) to learn the first five sight-words and now you are a reading machine. You take your time, and that's OK.

You love playing the Wii, buildng with Legos, reading Berenstain Bear books (groan), and baseball. The Tigers are still your favorite team and you cried when they were eliminated from the playoffs this fall. You have a very tender heart that still makes it difficult for you to watch movies without being too upset. You are always ready to "go for a hike" and about lost your mind with excitement when we set up our new tent, so I think camping is one adventure you'll really enjoy when we get around to it. You care deeply about your friends and your family (despite all the fighting with your sister). You haven't learned to ride a bike yet, but you practice with enthusiasm whenever you have the chance, so I know that will come in time as well.

You frequently ask me if you can live with us forever, and of course I tell you that, yes, you can live with us as long as you want to. It may take you longer than most, but I'm confident the time will come when you, too, will be ready to be on your own. Until then, I will keep working on my patience, try to model responding calmly to upsetting situations, and continue to love you like crazy. I do love you Michael.


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Tums, Please!

Sometimes when change is imminent it feels a lot like nausea.

Something is going to change in the next week. It is either going to be a big change for our entire family or a smaller mental refocusing that will mostly effect me. Either way - we are waiting on news. Waiting on news is not something I'm particularly good at. There is turmoil in my stomach. The closest thing I can think to compare it to is waiting on pregnancy test results, but instead of waiting for three minutes I've been waiting for days. Actually a day and a half, but it feels like forever.

I had a job interview on Monday morning. More details for you if anything comes of it. The job would begin next Monday - in five days. It would be nice to know whether or not I'm going to work in less than a week, you know?

In the mean time I'll just be over here filling out back-to-school medical forms, readying PTO materials for meet-the-teacher day at my children's school, and keeping a list of appointments I have to wait to schedule until I know whether I need to schedule them around a job.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Not too long ago I was talking to a friend about how I am "blogging" in my mind pretty much constantly. But, for many reasons, I find myself actually blogging less and less.

I KNOW how dreadful it is to read bloggers blogging about blogging, so I'll be brief. Here are some of the reasons I think I've been blogging less:

1) With a smartphone it is so easy to share thoughts and pictures via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I'll think about blogging about something and then I wonder if it's overkill because I already "covered" that event, moment, thought through other social media.

2) I have many more local friends than I did when I began this blog. In the beginning it was a lifeline, a way to process. These days, I'm just as likely to process something through a face-to-face conversation with a friend. I still process quite a bit through writing, but do lots of that privately.

3) As the children get older, there are some things that feel off-limits. I've mentioned this before. For better or worse, they are aware that they have an on-line presence. It is not uncommon for me to take photo and hear one of them ask if I'm going to put it on Facebook for their relatives (and our friends) to see. Sharing photos doesn't seem to bother them. However some of the issues we're encountering now are less funny/cute and more serious. I still want to write about my experiences as a parent, but I am not sure I've completely worked out how to do that while still honoring the things my children may not find amusing to read about someday.

4) Another thing that has happened as the children have gotten older is that we've become more involved in the community. So when I'm writing about our experiences they are largely tied to people, organizations, and places that are meaningful to us. I will admit that I'm more concerned now about offending people than I was when I began - because very few people I knew were reading!

I am not yet ready to close the doors here. There's plenty that I do still want to find a way to write about.

Monday, July 07, 2014

1/2 Way

My children have been out of school for about six weeks and go back in five. Which means summer is more than half behind us. We've been to Michigan and Wisconsin and spent many, many hours at the pool. We've been to swimming lessons and dance classes. Harper and Michael are playing baseball. They have not learned to ride their bikes. The children have spent a little more time with electronic devices than I intended, but, eh, more time for me to read books (9 since school was out!). I have succeeded in getting Michael to read to me, which was a crucial goal this summer. When kindergarten started he literally could not recognize the word, "the." By the end of the year he was reading some actual books and I have been determined to help him avoid that dreaded summer slide. Getting him to write has been another story. You win some, you lose some and good luck to his first grade teacher.

I find myself vacillating between the feeling that we need to pack the days with special outings so my children have magical memories of their summer vacations and the feeling that if I just give all of us a little time and space the magic will find its own way.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Almost Summer

Last summer we spent several days at a local swim and tennis club as guests of a good friend who is a member. This year we bit the bullet and joined the pool ourselves. We had lots of fun going to the pool with our friends last summer, but I did have a tiny bit of doubt about how it would go if we went on our own. 

The pool is open for this Memorial Day weekend, though it won't be officially open for the season until next weekend. We have a stretch of glorious days forecast so I knew we'd try it out this weekend. We went for a couple of hours today and it was a smashing success.

It's not a great day at the pool until someone makes red pepper walrus tusks?

I should clearly state that I was completely in favor of joining the pool. I lobbied hard to convince Matt that it was a good idea. Despite this, I still had a few reservations. Here are some of the things I was worried about:

    -My children wouldn't have fun if they didn't know anyone else.
    -I wouldn't be able to get over the discomfort of wearing a bathing suit in public.
    -Every rest break would turn into an argument about buying food from the snack bar.
    -The children would want to go home after we'd been there for 25 minutes.
    -Michael would only go into the pool if he was clinging to me, baby monkey-style.
    -The process of getting ready to go to the pool would siphon the will to live right out of me.

As it turned out, none of these were really a problem (today). There wasn't anyone else we knew when we first arrived and it took Harper about thirty seconds to make a friend (she's good like that). Michael got into the pool with me, but was minimally clingy and later got in on his own. They only asked for snack bar snacks once and did not argue when I denied their requests. They did not want to go home after 25 minutes. They also did not want to go home after two hours, which I'll take as a good sign. I'm never going to love wearing a bathing suit in public, but I managed NOT to think about it the majority of the time we were there. 

As for getting ready to go... I'm hoping that gets a little easier as we go along. It took about half an hour to gather towels and pool toys and snacks, to get into suits, and to apply sunscreen. As we go along I think I'll have a better idea about what we actually need and how much the children will actually eat. 

If anyone has tips for maximizing pool enjoyment with children I'm open to them, but, based on today, I think we're all set for a very nice summer by the pool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jumping Right Back In

Well hello friends! There has been a lot happening here. People turning six (I owe you a birthday letter, Michael). The start of soccer season. Me going back to work...

So the teacher who replaced me at the school where I worked last year had to be out for a few weeks and I stepped back into the job. I taught full time from February 27 until spring break started March 14, then went back for the first week of April full-time, and half days the second week of April. I've had a week and a half to breathe and I'm starting another five-day subbing job tomorrow. It's amazing how quickly we switched modes and the only things that got done around here were those absolutely necessary to our survival.

We're getting ready to participate in our 5th March for Babies walk, this weekend. Our fundraising has been disappointing this year, relative to the last four. If you're reading this and you happen to be a person I haven't already begged for money via Facebook or email, please consider donating to our March for Babies team. You can do so by clicking here. Incidentally, whenever I claim that we aren't doing as well as previous years, or aren't meeting our goal, I worry that people who've already supported us will feel like I'm not grateful for their donations. Nothing could be further from the truth. We might not raise another penny and I'm incredibly grateful to those folks who've already given. Thank you!

I know I'm jumping all over the place here, please bear with me.

Today has been an especially interesting day. I had a filling replaced this morning. This particular tooth is now on its third filling - the original dating back to my college days. The hygienist gently told me that the next time the filling broke down I would likely need a root canal and crown, so I'll be looking forward to/fretting about that for the next five to eight years. It seems unjust that fillings should have to be replaced.

We are finally having our master bath remodeled (I'll show why in a moment.) This bathroom is so bad that I can count on one hand the number of people not living in this house who've ever seen the inside of it. Having the bathroom updated is a huge positive, obviously, but the process... Excuse me while I bang my head against a wall, will you? Today most of the demolition was done. Which means things were loud and messy! There was so much banging that a decorative fish fell off the wall in the other bathroom and shattered. I guess that's what I get for having a decorative fish.

Also the dishwasher broke.

I believe that's the some sort of Murphy's Law of home improvement - you embark on an expensive journey only to have a bunch of less expensive, but still painful, repairs demand attention. As Matt is fond of saying, "It's only money!"

Here are some before photos of the bathroom. I resisted the urge to take close up photos that truly show how nasty it is - you'll have to take my word for it.

Taken from the doorway.

Notice all the stuff on the counter due to lack of storage.

Lovely curtains.

Taken from the shower. All of the red walls used to be wallpapered. 

The shower is one of the things that had been "updated" before we moved in.

Everything is as tiny as it looks. The toilet and counter were low, the sink little, the doorway narrow (although that won't change).
Now here are some photos of what it looks like currently, after the first day of work:

I'm so lucky to sleep next to this tonight - it looks like some horror-movie creature could just hop right up through the floor boards.

The shower opening will be wider and taller, now that the "updated" shower stall has been removed.

Oh look! You can see right into the basement!

Don't let our fascinating bathroom remodel distract you from donating to our March for Babies team!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Another Weekend

Saturday morning looked like this:

Saturday evening looked like this: 
As it turns out we are people who attend dance competitions.
Harper started taking ballet class in first grade. This was at the suggestion of Matt's mom but we were more than happy to let her do it. Harper loves music and dance, and, though she is not particularly flexible, seemed to have an aptitude for learning her dance moves. She enjoyed class and really enjoyed getting up on stage and performing in her first recitals.
After two years of regular class she was invited to audition for the competition team at her studio. At first she wasn't interested. Then she found out several of her friends were going to audition and she decided to give it a try. You could have knocked me over with a feather when she was actually invited to join.
I had all kinds of reservations about taking that step. It is a lot of time/energy/expense. The director of our studio reassured me that in reality it was nothing like that TV show... and, for the most part, it isn't.
I never imagined I would be a person applying lipstick or false eyelashes to my nine-year-old's face. The truth is that I still have mixed feelings about that part of things.
But I also never imagined I could offer my daughter a situation where she'd take nearly 11 hours of dance class in one weekend from well-known choreographers. I never imagined how proud I'd feel when she didn't give up, even when it was unbelievably difficult for a dancer of her (low) level of experience. I never imagined how my heart would swell watching her get up on a competition stage, in front of bright lights, judges, an audience, and perform like she'd been waiting her whole life to do it. It looked terrifying to me. I asked one of the other mothers if children (because they ARE children) ever get up on those stages and just freeze.
"If she can do this," I thought to myself, "what on earth would she ever be afraid to do?"
We've been doing this for less than a year, but I can already see how Harper is growing from the experience. She's learning about time management, commitment, sacrifice. She's experiencing what it is like to work with a group, over a long period of time, for a common purpose.
Sure the costumes can be crazy and the false eyelashes are downright ridiculous, but if I had to choose one word to sum up what this experience has been like for Harper so far it would be: empowering.


And I don't regret it one bit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Sleeping Over

We had a major milestone in our house last weekend - Harper's first away from home sleepover. 

Nine years old isn't really all that young to go to a sleepover, and we've had other children sleep at our house a handful of times. I'm sure any parent feels some anxiety when a child spends the night away from home. For us, the anxiety is ratcheted up a bit because it means handing responsibility for Harper's food allergies over to someone else. 

We've had lots of practice trusting other adults with Harper's safety, but mostly in the public school setting where we actually have a legal document that details steps to be taken and procedures to follow. We have also had babysitters responsible for Harper, but in our nut free home.

It's rare that Harper even goes to play for a couple of hours at another family's house without her father or I with her. So how did we end up sending her away overnight?

This fall Harper started dancing with the competitive group at her studio. We leave tomorrow, heading to Pittsburgh, for the first competition of their season. The parents of another competitor wanted to have all the girls over to spend the night together and bond a bit before our trip. 

If it hadn't been for this specific situation, I think we would have continued to pass on sleepovers for another couple of years. I really didn't want to say no to her attending and have her be the only girl to miss out on the fun. I replied to the invitation and inquired whether the mom was willing to take on the responsibility of managing Harper's allergy for the night.

As it turns out, another child in that family is very close friends with someone who has severe food allergies. The mother already knew how to use an EpiPen and was totally willing to work with me in terms of handling the food that would be available at the party. She was even willing to let me spend the night as well! (I passed.) It helped that they only live a few minutes from us and the hospital was in between our houses.

Of course Harper had no hesitation about being with her friends!

Here are a few photos of the evening that I borrowed from Facebook - I wasn't sure how the other parents would feel about pictures on the blog, so I covered most of the faces:

They made posters to put on their hotel room doors.

No drama here...

All's well that ends well - Harper had a great time at the party and I even managed to get a little bit of sleep. I know that she is getting to an age where she won't always want her parents with her at every event. She's learning how to be more responsible for her allergy and we are learning to hand over a little more trust and responsibility. 

One step at a time!

I am so grateful for this parent - and for all the caring, supportive adults and children we've encountered - who was willing to go the extra mile to make this routine childhood experience possible for Harper. It means more than she probably realizes.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Throw Back Thursday

Do you recognize these itty-bitty children? 

That picture is from April 2008, just a few days after Michael came home from his month in the NICU. Harper was playing, "This Little Piggy," with his teeny toes. You can see that he had an apnea monitor. I think we had that for a month or two after we came home - funny that I don't quite remember the details any more. What I do remember is how awful and piercing that alarm was, and that Michael frequently moved enough during the night to disconnect himself from the leads and set it off despite not having an actual problem.

When I look at Michael now, it is hard to reconcile my nearly-six-year-old boy with the preemie he once was. Look how wee he was in the picture and he was probably five or six weeks old already! He is a beautiful reminder of all we have to be grateful for and why we work each year to raise money for March of Dimes.

Yes, I will again be asking people to please consider donating to our March for Babies team - the link to do so is in the right sidebar. Or you can click here. I am incredibly thankful for all the support we've had in years past, enabling us to raise some pretty impressive family team totals. I would love to see our total this year surpass last year's number. Please remember that every little bit helps. Feel free to share the link and thank you for considering making a donation!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Well That Was Interesting

The very same day I wrote a post about missing our routine and some regularity, I came home from taking the kids to dance feeling horrible.

My temp was 103.6.

After two days of crazy fever Matt hauled me to the doctor and we realized I had strep throat! For the first time in my life!

I am glad not to have a reason to take antibiotics too frequently, but wow, are they amazing things. Monday night/most of Tuesday I really thought I might die (only a slight exaggeration) and by Thursday night I felt almost back to normal again.

I spent much of today catching up on things I completely failed to attend to last week. Now that my health has been restored I feel good about two things:

     1) My family does, in fact, appreciate many of the little daily things I do for them.

     2) They could get along with out me if I got hit by a bus tomorrow. Though it would probably take some adjusting.

So I'm working on getting back on track and I owe a big apology to anyone who has been waiting for me to reply about something - I'm on it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Routine Required

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this winter has been brutal, no?

We are firmly planted in the Midwest, but not far enough north to expect a bunch of snow and sub-zero days as a general rule of winter. This winter, however, my children have already have five snow/cold days off school. There have been many school years when we had zero such days, or maybe one. We are officially at the point that we will have to make up days if any more school days are cancelled.

I have to be honest, not working this year, it hasn't been that big of a deal to have those extra days off. Our winter break was extended by two days and we all enjoyed some extra laying around in our pajamas. I'll admit that I don't even cringe much at the thought of needing to add an extra day or two to the end of the school year, especially since the children's last day of school is supposed to be May 22. (Though I'm not sure anything academically significant will happen in those extra days!)

So in theory I don't really mind the days off. However, between the winter break, snow days, a blessedly small handful of sick days, I can really feel that we are out of our routine. Now that they are a tiny bit older, the children definitely roll with the punches better than they did when they were infants or toddlers. But, man, this has been a rough stretch. I feel it, too. There's plenty to be done around her but the unpredictable nature of our schedule lately kind of makes me want to take a nap and not much else - which is partly responsible for the lack of posting here. As for Harper and Michael - they are growing irritable and weepy, respectively. We all do better when things go the way we expect!

We are in the thick of another frigid stretch, tonight/tomorrow being the worst, and I'll be surprised if the children have a full day of school tomorrow. But maybe, just maybe, we can get back to our regularly scheduled schedule after that.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year!

Once again, in lieu of making a list of resolutions for 2014, I am choosing a word which I hope will steer my decision-making this new year.

My word for 2014 is nourish.

What's yours?