Sheet Walls, Listening Ears, and Church Change

Halloween pictures and three quick stories…

Sidney is walking all over.  A couple nights ago, we rigged a “secret base” in the playroom by arranging a sheet over the couch and the chair.  Sidney saw the sheet edge that was hanging down and went after it like it was a wall.  Down she went, laughing all the way.  On her next pass by the secret base, she did it again.  Sheet, lunge, forward fall, laugh.

Adrian has been struggling a bit with listening recently.  He’s even missed his evening show a couple of times as a result.  We’ve been working with his teachers to help him work on his listening skills.  At school, they started this thing with listening ears.  Adrian reaches up to both ears and makes a clucking noise to turn them on.  They still turn themselves off sometimes (maybe they are solar-powered?), but it is adorable watching him turn them back on and get focused on listening and making better decisions.  Of course, he’s also been really sweet recently.  He hugs Sidney all the time and helps unpack her bottles at daycare.  He gives me kisses and holds my hand.  He helps set the table and clean up the playroom.

When my parents were here this past weekend for the UGA football game (and to visit us!), my dad gave Riley a pocket full of change for the collection plate at Sunday School.  She is so happy to be jiggling her change all morning.  The plate comes closer to her, and then the tears start to flow.  She does want to give up the change.  First we get her to get a coin out.  Then one for her brother.  Mind you, this is all under duress, and now she’s crying even harder.

Through sobs: “I don’t want to give it all.”

Same girl who the day before made a collage for a teacher at her school who gave her a pack of Skittles the other day.  Exact same girl.  It was awful.

Finally, pocket empty, face red and wet, Riley calms down, and the ordeal is over.  Apparently generosity has an on and off button, too.

We used this as an opportunity to talk about giving to others.  And we laughed about it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tell me about baby pictures…

I am doing a project for school that involves baby pictures, so I have been thinking a lot about them, the ones I’ve taken informally, the professional and semi-professional ones I have had taken, the ones I’ve seen on other blogs, on Pinterest, on Facebook.

First, let me say I love baby pictures.  They make me unbelievably happy.  But they are also a source of anxiety for me.  What clothes should the kids wear?  Will they look cute in the pictures?  Will they behave for the photographer?  How many prints should I order?  What do I do with all of these pictures?  You get the picture.

And now, we have Pinterest with so much family photography inspiration.  We have props and over-sized hats and flowers.  There are iPhones and Instagram and Facebook newsfeeds.  Baby pictures and kid pictures seem so complicated and yet so simple.  What does all this mean for us as mothers, keepers of childhood, preservers of those precious smiles and wispy hair and gumdrop eyes?


But maybe this simultaneous stress and pleasure is mine alone.  I am curious how other mothers feel.

Dear mommy readers, 

What do baby pictures mean to you?  Do you have a favorite?  What is the picture-taking/memory-capturing process like for you?  Do you have a schedule?  Do you have albums full?  Do you wish you had more?

I would love to get your feedback and insights.  I would be really appreciative if you could leave me a comment with your thoughts about baby pictures.

I also would like to put together a collection of baby pictures to try to capture certain trends and themes.  If you are interested in emailing me some of your pictures, that would be great, too.

Thank you!


This is why I love fall…

1.  Pumpkin swirl coffee from Dunkin Donuts.  If I could, this is how I would start every day from around September 15 until Thanksgiving (after that, bring on the peppermint mochas!).

2.  Butternut squash lasagna.  Recipe from Women’s Day.  I made this over the weekend, and it has lasted for three dinners and three single serve lunches.  And wow, is it good.  It might be one of the best dinners I have ever made.  I cannot wait for my children to appreciate more complex yellow food.  And sage and nutmeg.  One day. 3.  Corn maze.  We headed over to the Athens Corn Maze on Saturday.  Had a ball.  Definitely did not find all six checkpoints in the maze, and we would probably still be in there if we didn’t have a map.  The best thing about the corn maze was the corn box.  Really, just a box full of corn kernels for the kids to play in.  They loved it.  Riley especially. Adrian took a little break to go visit with the animals.  He said hi to every bunny, duck, pig, and horse.  So cute. 4.  Fantasy football.  Sure, my bench team usually beats the team I put in, but I am on a two-game winning streak!  I like that this is something Shawn and I do together.  It keeps us in touch with some of our distance friends, and adds a little fun to our Sunday afternoons.

5.  Halloween cakes.  Last night, the kids helped me make and decorate a confetti cake.  They decked the thing out with all sorts of sprinkles and candy corn.  I told them this was our warm-up Halloween cake, seeing as how it is still only September.

6.  Candy corn.  The kids convinced me to get our first bag of candy corn at the store on Sunday.  But really.  I have a big Halloween bowl I just set out in the dining room, and what is a big Halloween bowl without candy corn?   (Adrian wanted some last night, and to reach the bowl, he pushed over our play table from Ikea and climbed right on up.  Such a resourceful candy-holic!  Boy after my own heart.)

7.  Fall projects.  My parents brought the kids Halloween crafts and an activity book. We’ve been stringing together spider webs and coloring monsters like mad around here.  This weekend, I may have the kids help me make twig candle-holders.

8.  Next week, the weather might be cool enough to break out our new fire-pit!  I’ve already bought chocolate for our first round of s’mores.

Did I mention this is my favorite time of the year?


My twin sister has been telling me about a book called Babywise recently.  I haven’t read it.  I actually haven’t read any parenting books.  It’s funny.  My list of books to read seems impossibly long and I am always adding to it, but it never occurred to me to read a book before we started having kids.  I was on Babycenter a lot, though.  I consulted message boards online pretty frequently.  Then we had Riley in 2008, and we sort of just jumped right in.  I remember how Shawn and I used to check in with each other once we brought her home:

“Is that too much cream?”

“Is the bath water too warm?”

“Am I holding her right?”

“Is her poop supposed to be that color?”

On and on.

At least the night we had Riley was the same night that we had signed up for a baby care class, and Shawn was able to go since we were at the hospital anyway.  That night, he learned how to swaddle.  I’m pretty sure that’s his favorite baby skill: the un-ninja-able swaddle.  He’s good.  I’ll give him that.  Not quite nurse good, but he’s good.

So now fast forward: four and a half years and three kids later.

Now, I actually feel like a mom.  Like a real mom.  Sometimes I’m more confident.  Sometimes I still flounder.  But I like the feeling that being a mother feels integral to my identity now.  And so I thought I would take a moment to remember and note a few of the things I have learned along the way.  Here’s what I came up with this morning:

1. As soon as you figure something out as a parent, there’s five more things you need to know.

2. Hug and hold your babies as much as possible.

3.  Read regularly.

4. Never say no to fruits and veggies. (Riley likes to remind me, “Mommy, you said we could never have too much fruit.”

5. Invest in at least one soaking bin and quality stain-fighters (I like OxiClean) right from the get-go.

6. Smell your baby’s hair after every bath.

7. Parenting is fluid ground.  Kids ‘likes’ constantly change; their habits, their moods are fickle.  Be fluid.

8. Embrace redundancies.  (I once say ABC’s to Adrian for a solid 45 minutes without pause.  It was the only way to survive a solo car trip when he was just a few months old.)

9. Quiet moments are fickle.  Embrace them.

10.  Crying-filled, crazy moments are fleeting in the big picture.  Get through them and move on.

11. Ask for help.

12. Be ready to try new things until you find something that works.

13. Prep kids for major routine changes (We started moving up Riley’s bedtime to get her ready for the school year a couple of weeks before school started.  She eased into it really smoothly.)

14. Set boundaries for things and time.  (I still struggle with this, but I am getting better.)

Now, it’s time to get some writing done so I can meet Riley for lunch.

What We’re Stuck on…


White Collar (My new series to watch on Netflix.)


Spanish translations (at least until my test on Wednesday…)

Baby pictures (for a school project)

Coding (just finished my first website, hand-coded in HTML5 and CSS…will post a link once its live.)


Gymnastics (She has one sad-looking cartwheel.  Imagine a turtle attempting such a feat!)

Hugs (I gave her 17 hugs before bed the other night.  A good night.)

Fast shoes (aka her sneakers)

School.  (She tells me all about it at dinner…centers, books, jobs, lunch, kids that misbehave, etc.)

Sorting. (The other day, she put a penny, cup, button, and straw on each desk in Shawn’s classroom.  I take full credit for her amazing sense of organization.  One of these days, I am going to turn her loose on my closet.)


Songs (“twinkle twinkle star,” “boat ride,” and “bus ride” are his favorites.  And grandpa has at least a half dozen verses in “the wheels on the bus.”)

Sitting on the counter in the kitchen (“Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.  Up, please.”  That is how our days start.)

Any activity that involves a ball (soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, egg-toss, ping-pong, etc.)

Stuffing food into his face so he can be considered “done.”

Helping me prepare dinners and bake.  (From his counter perch, he can be quite helpful.)


Eating (Peas, poofs, cheerios, toast, mango, banana, sweet potato, etc.  Girl loves her food.)

Standing up and cruising

Crawling on top of me when I attempt push-ups and sit-ups

Sophie the Giraffe  (Her new favorite toy.  One squeak and she is all smiles!)

Riley and Adrian (She can sit and watch them play for hours.)


In a word, Atlantica.


Oh, and stickers.  We all love stickers.  I would post the pictures of the kids covered in them, but they are minimally clothed.

Filling out Fall Wardrobes


This past weekend, one of the major bi-annual consignment sales was held in town.  Athens has a good four major locations for these sales, and they all have a fall and a spring run.  I try to hit two and stock up on clothes for the coming seasons.  These sales are amazing as long as you browse carefully and take your time going through the items.  I look forward to them for weeks.  They run Thursday through Saturday, but I usually wait until Saturday morning because a lot of great clothes are still left, and most items are half off.  The first one I went to was back in Gainesville.  A big thanks to Natasha for introducing me.  I don’t know how I would keep my kids clothed otherwise.  I kid, I kid.  But not really.  The kids grow so fast.

This time, I probably had my best outing.  My goal is always a dollar an item.

Riley, Sidney, and I headed out at 7:45 on Saturday morning so we could get there right around 8:00am. Of course it was crowded, but I had Sid in the Bjorn, and Riley was in a great mood.  She played with toys and in the racks of clothes while I browsed.  By the end, my back hurt, but I was really happy with our finds:

  • 2 long-sleeved shirts for Adrian.
  • 3 long-sleeved shirts for Riley.
  • 2 pairs of pants for Sidney.
  • 1 sweater and 1 sweatshirt for Sidney.
  • 2 long-sleeved shirts for Sidney.
  • Riley also picked out a cute toy for her cousins.

All together, 11 clothing items and a toy…




Summer @Home Highlights!

Shawn’s been back in school since last Tuesday.

The littles are back in daycare as of this morning.

Riley goes back on Wednesday.

I start teaching next Monday at 9:05am.

I start my classes on Tuesday.

Where, oh where, did the summer go?

I thought to celebrate the end of our family’s summer, I would compile some highlights and reflections.  Enjoy!

Best Family Meal:

Shawn: Lasagna and bread crumb pasta.  He can sure do Italian!

Me: Probably my meatball and pea pie.  I also got really good at making carrot fries.

Best Dessert: Banana Bread Cobbler.  Hands down.  Did I mention I am making it this week?  Again?  No way I am letting the kiddos eat all our bananas two weeks in a row!

Best Baked Good: Zucchini Brownies.

Best Lunch: Sweet potatoes with peanut sauce.

Best Outing: Atlanta’s Children Museum and Splash Park and Athen’s Botanical Gardens.

Favorite Adult Activity: Racquetball.  Nothing like whacking a little ball around an enclosed space with your significant other with whom you have spent the vast majority of weeks on end.

Best (Adult) Splurge: New racquetball rackets and my new outdoor firepit!  Instead of stocking up on coffee, I picked up a firepit at Bed, Bath, and Beyond yesterday.  I have really wanted one, and I cannot wait to enjoy it once the weather gets a little cooler.  Me, sipping some tea (or hot cocoa) and reading by the fire after the kids go to bed…  Or our family, roasting marshmallows on the weekend…  Can’t wait!  The kids have already volunteered to pick up sticks!

Proudest Moment: Riley picking up litter at the park the other day.  Adrian giving Sidney big hugs every day.

Cool New Tricks: Sidney standing up.  Adrian and his colors.  Me and my diaper cake (pictures coming!!) and Spanish.  Riley recognizing words.

Favorite Home Improvements: My new shutter message board and vintage key holder in the kitchen.  I’ll post pictures of these soon!

Favorite New Kid-Friendly and Affordable Restaurant: Dickey’s BBQ (and kids eat free on Sunday!)

Biggest Grocery Splurge: Beverages.  Coke Zero (for Shawn), other Coke products for me, coffee, and Chrystal Light lemonade and ice tea mixes.

Favorite Kid Activities:

Riley: Mets Bear Rescue.  Shawn would put my Mets Bear stuffed animal in precarious places, and Riley would have to rescue him.  She saved him from burning lava, floods, high peaks, and cages.

Adrian: Blocks, Trains, and Golf.

Sidney: Hanging out with her older siblings and putting things in her mouth.

Best Realizations: 

  • Enjoy and make the most of every moment with the kids but don’t get overly sentimental.  Time passes too quickly.
  • Recipes are good guides but experimentation can produce fun, tasty, and healthy dishes with on-hand ingredients.
  • Be firm and hug often.
  • Take turns with the Mood.  Don’t hog it but don’t refuse it either.  Everyone gets the Mood from time to time.
  • Days pass so freakin’ fast.  But don’t say freakin’ too much around a four-year-old unless you want her to start saying it, as in “I’m so freakin’ cold, Momma!”
  • I love being a mother AND I love writing, reading, studying, and teaching.  My days are full, and I am pretty freakin’ happy.

Stay tuned for my Summer Exit Interview with Riley and Adrian!  Should be fun.  I started compiling questions, and I cannot wait to hear their responses.