The First Day…

…could not have gone better!



Once she woke up, Riley was super chipper and excited.  She and Daddy packed up all of their stuff, and away they drove while Adrian and I waved from the door.



Back inside, I got Adrian his breakfast and put on his new favorite show, Monster Trucks.  Then Sidney woke up.  We all got ready and were out the door by 7:28.

I had from 8 until 4 to myself.  Just me, a couple syllabi, lesson plans, paper prompts, Spanish verbs, a couple pages of fiction, and some composition theory to read in the morning.  Then a couple of hours of straightening up and getting our house out of summer-play mode and into a more functional, more sustainable state of play and organization for the fall semester.  Then it was back to the books before Shawn and Riley came home and we left to pick up the littles and go out for pizza to celebrate the first day.

Yes, I missed the little ones.

And yes, I enjoyed the quiet.  The time to myself.  I had an hour or two to myself a couple of times over the summer –  a morning of writing at Panera, an hour at Target in Virginia, some time at night – but mostly the time was full of family and food requests and block-building and running and swimming.  Just full.  Wonderfully full.  But I am glad to have a couple of days before my semester starts to gather myself, get the house in order, and enjoy the quiet.

Riley had a great day.  Shawn, too.  She learned three playground rules, read a book called No David, ate all of her lunch except for her sandwich, took a tour of the school, and held a boy’s hand while walking through the halls.

This morning, she was tired.  I basically dressed a zombie.  But then she got up, gave hugs, and headed out the door full of smiles.

I know she won’t always be this excited to go to school, but I do hope to foster in her an intense passion for school and learning.  Sure, there are problems with the public education system and yes, technology is bringing about some big changes in how learning happens.  But I have to believe that as long as she is excited about school, she will develop an intense desire to engage in all of the opportunities that will unfold in the course of the school day, opportunities to connect with her peers and teachers, opportunities to grow and learn, opportunities to understand right and wrong, opportunities to express gratitude and good manners, and opportunities to dream, and dream big.

And when I go back to school on Monday, these are the opportunities that await me, too.  I couldn’t be more excited!


Riley’s Summer Exit Interview

Riley’s Self-Pic

1.  What was your favorite adventure this summer?

The one that we find the leaves and different seeds (she’s referring to a nature scavenger hunt we started at the Athens Botanical Gardens).

2.  What was your favorite thing we baked together?

Those yummy brownies we made yesterday.

3.  What was your favorite thing we played at home?


4.  What was your favorite outside activity?


5.  What was your favorite dinner we made this summer?

My fried rice with meatballs (the dish I made last night!).

6.  What was your favorite thing about the summer?

Oh, that’s a tough question.  Bouncing on the couch like this (followed by a demonstration), reading books, watching TV, and playing games on my momma’s computer.  And that’s all.

7.  What are you going to miss the most about summer when you go back to school?

Playing games.

8.  What did you like the most about hanging out with Adrian?

To play with him.

9.  What do you like about playing with your brother?

Mmm.  That’s a tough one.  I don’t know.  (With some prompting).  Yeah, laughing with him.

10.  What did you most like about hanging out with Sidney?

To play with her.  To tickle her.

11.  What did you not like about the summer?

To not get my way.  Like when you don’t read me books when I want to read them.  Like on movie night (Okay, I should just say that we have read to Riley and Adrian and Sid every night except for one or two when we let them watch a longer movie at night.).

12.  What was your favorite He-Man and She-Ra story?

That one when they couldn’t swim.  The water one.  And those pools that they had to throw the stick in the water and it bubbled and hissed and hissss, hisssss.  That one.

13.  What was your favorite treat this summer?

Getting donuts today!  That’s today, momma. (I took Riley to Ike and Jane’s after dropping the littles off at daycare.  I wanted to do something special with her to celebrate today, and I loved going out to breakfast or out for coffee with my parents when I was growing up.  Pretty much the best start to a special day in my books.)


Riley: Mommy, can we be done now with questions?

Me: How about two more?

Riley: Okay.


14.  What did you learn this summer?

What I learned is that when somebody’s pastry is sitting on a counter (like at Panera), we don’t steal the sprinkles.  (You can guess how she learned this lesson and how embarrassed I was.  Riley (and Adrian), the Sprinkle Thieves.)

15.  What was your favorite accomplishment?

That’s a tough one.  How about a different question that that?

16.  Do you know what accomplishment means?

No.  No, momma.

17.  How about, what are you most excited about with school starting?

My backpack.  (With more prompting…).  A sandwich holder?  (With more prompting…)  Oh, to color mommy a picture.


Riley: Okay, Momma.  It’s time to go camping.

Me: Yes, let’s go (camping in the play room that is).


Tomorrow, I won’t be able to say that.  So today, yes, we’re going camping.

down the LEG and in the FACE

Down the Leg

Poop, that is.  More specifically, very watery poop running down Riley’s leg.  She didn’t quite make it, she said.  I don’t really blame her.  From the look of her leg, this wasn’t exactly something she could control.

So I tell her not to move, not a single step, while I get some wipes and then start a bath for her.

On my way to the wipes, I stop in the bathroom to run her water.

Poop.  Everywhere.  And pee.  Probably 60 percent of the bathroom floor is covered in something yellow or brown.  Thankfully, we have a small bathroom.  Her bath is going to have to wait.  First wipes.  Then bathroom floor.  Then bath.

I threw away the towel I used to mop up all the poop.  That’s how bad it was.  But now, I think our bathroom floor is cleaner than it has ever been.

In the Face

On Saturday morning, Shawn and I started playing racquetball together.  We’ve played at different times in our relationship here and there.  This is how it goes: Shawn plays one game with the racket in his right hand.  He beats me pretty bad.  I think yesterday, my best day, the score of the first game was 15-6, Shawn.  Then he switches to his left hand, and things get more competitive.  For me, the goal is and has always been to get Shawn to switch back to his right hand.  I think in the beginning, like the first time we played together, I don’t think I realized Shawn had switched to his left hand; I just thought I was Most-Improved-Racquetball-Player-of-the-Day or something.  Now I know better.


So we started playing again.  Apparently, our racquets were pretty old, too.  So old, that on Monday, a gentleman walked by, stopped, and popped his head in to ask exactly when the last time we had played was.  The 1990’s?  Then he proceeded to let me borrow one of his nice, new, wide, and light-weight rackets.  Man, was that fun.  I even beat Shawn once or twice (after he switched to his left, though).

So when we were out running errands yesterday, we treated ourselves to 15 dollar new racquets.  Seriously: how was I supposed to go back to using one of our old rackets?  Sorry, Daddio…I think the next stop for them is our garage toy bin or ebay.

Then we played last night.   And I took two hits to the face.

The second one wasn’t that bad.  It really just grazed my forehead and still managed to hit the front wall.  But the first one stung.  Right to the cheekbone.  I saw the blue coming and couldn’t turn out of the way fast enough.  We finished playing, but by 11:00, I was done.  My head hurt, and I just wasn’t feeling great.  My head is still spinning this morning.

Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  Plus, I kind of love battle wounds/scars/bruises.  Am I thankful Shawn was playing with his left hand?  Absolutely.  Do I need a pair of racquetball goggles?  Probably.


The Short Version

Riley RAN a mile tonight.


Four laps around the track at the Y.


The Long Version

Her incentive was a monster cookie from Publix.  Gotta love extrinsic motivation.  She even got dressed in a tank top for the occasion.  We headed to the track after Kid-Watch and playground time at the YMCA.  We had to wait for Shawn to get done playing hockey.  Then he watched the littles while Riley and I took off for the first two laps.  She ran the majority of the time with a couple ten-second walking breaks.  But she never stopped moving.  And she never complained.  She just kept on trucking.  We held hands for part of our laps.  I told her a He-Man and She-Ra story for another part.  Then Shawn took over.  He even carried Adrian while jogging with her for half a lap.  Sidney and I cheered.  Riley finished with a sprint to the finish.  She did awesome!  Adrian and Sidney let her ride the stroller back to the car.  Tomorrow, we will head to Publix.

I think I will offer a monster cookie to myself if I pass my translation exam in Spanish at the end of the summer.  I need some motivation to keep studying.

And maybe I should give myself a monster cookie for completing the Javascript course in Code Academy.


Just kidding.

So, so proud of my little runner.

PS  Sidney is cutting a tooth!  Her first one.  That news seemed to fit this post, too.

A Candy Land Birthday Party

Saturday was a beautiful day for Riley’s birthday party!  We had it at a nearby park with a covered pavilion, plenty of wide open space, and a playground (that we never made it to during the party.).  The pavilion was ours from 1-5 to give us an hour to set-up and pack-up around the two hour party, and we needed that whole time and then some!  Just after noon, we packed up the family and all of the party stuff in two cars and took off for the park!  Alli, CE, and my parents came down from Virginia to celebrate Riley’s birthday and Easter with us.  I don’t know what we would have done without their help!


1. I took this idea from Pinterest:

And had Shawn and CE put up the table cloths across the top of the pavilion.  It was a bit breezy, but they certainly filled the space nicely and created a cool effect.

2.  We had three helium-filled Mylar balloons for the cake table.

3.  Alli did streamers around each of the pavilion poles.

4.  On the tables, I just had table cloths and bowls for candy and food in Candy Land colors.

The Party Plan

Our idea for the party was four half-hour blocks of time for the following activities: games, eating, art, and playground.  But actually, we ended up with blocks for games, eating, art, and free-play around the pavilion while the parents and fam all chatted.  The two hours went by so fast, and I think everyone had a good time. I hope so!  Riley said she did!


1.  Balloon Pop Candy Race.  We did this last year, but with dinosaurs and lizards in the balloons instead.  The kids formed two teams of three, and raced out into the field where they popped a balloon, retrieved the candy, and ran back to tag off.  It was adorable watching all of the kids run and find new ways to pop the balloons.  Good times.

2.  Easter Egg Hunt.  This one seemed like a no-brainer considered Easter was the next day, and the party was focused around candy!  Alli and CE and Riley stuffed the eggs in the morning, and my dad and Adrian hid them around a field.  Total: 131 eggs!

3.  Bucket Ball Toss.  I had this idea from Pinterest for this game:

But instead of buckets, I used brightly colored pots and ping-pong balls.  Then, we just had all of the kids stand around and try to toss a ping-pong ball into a pot.  Okay, so this was a little lame, but the kids seemed to have fun!  Next time, I’ll just get buckets!


1.  Cookie Cakes.  Since I had had a cookie cake for my birthday, Riley wanted a cookie cake for hers.  But instead of one cake, the plan was to create four 9″ round cakes (since she was turning four and I had bought four packs of cookie dough).  In the end, we had three.  Two rounds turned out perfectly and popped right out of the pan (Kroger’s brand).  The next two didn’t, and I ended up destroying one cake and leaving the last one in the pan (Nestle’s).  Then, Riley and I iced and decorated the cakes with M&M’s, so they looked like giant pieces of candy.  Who knows?  She may be the next Cake Boss.

2.  Candy.  In keeping with the theme, we had a ton of candy at the party!  It was also part of the party favor, but during the party, we had all different sorts available for everyone to enjoy: gummy bears, jelly beans, Hershey kisses, Reese’s cups, M&M’s, Robin Eggs, and assorted mini Hershey’s bars.  We still have a bunch of candy left, too!

3.  Snacks.  We kept it simple since we had so much candy: pretzels, grapes, and strawberries.

4.  Drinks.  Capri Suns for the kids and bottles of water for everyone.


1.  I picked up a balloon animal kit for three dollars from Target.  The plan was to have Shawn blow them up for the kids, so the kids could decorate them as snakes (or something simple).  Instead, the kids helped blow them up and got a chance to wave them around a bit until they popped.  Adrian went through at least ten balloons!

2.  My dad is a sign-making genius!  So I asked him to make a banner for the kids to color together at the party.  Riley loves to color, and I thought it would be nice to have a chill activity in addition to the games.  My dad brought markers, and I picked up glitter glue pens and stickers.  The adults did most of the work on the banner, but the kids sat down for a little while, and it was nice having something for them to do quietly for a time.  I will definitely post a pictures of the completed banner once I get it from my dad!


1.  A friend of mine, for her baby shower, attached a thank you note to the favor for all of the guests, and I thought it was a genius idea!  So Friday afternoon, Riley picked out thank you notes and filled them out for her friends.

2. Then we picked up water bottles for all of the kids and attached the thank you notes to them.  At the party, the kids filled their water bottles with candy before they left.

I love being able to celebrate our kids’ birthdays in fun ways.  Now that Riley is getting older, it is nice having her help plan and prepare for the party, too.  A big thanks to all of Riley’s friends for coming to her party!  A big thanks to my family for being there and helping so much!

Enjoy the pictures!

Riley’s Day One Remembered…

I remember April 7, 2008 in glimpses:

My gym bag packed in the backseat of the car…

The first day of spring break

An appointment for an ultrasound to check on the baby since I was measuring small…Shawn coming with me before heading to a track meet…

Sitting on the table and watching the ultrasound screen.  All that white around our little one…

My doctor saying, “See that white?  That’s calcification in your placenta.  It looks like we are going to meet this baby today.”

Me not breathing…

A rush to get registered

Shawn running home to get a bag of stuff for me, my list scrawled on the back of something…

A gown, monitors, IV, nurses, the anesthesiologist

I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast…

Back to the OR

The first attempt at the spinal leaves half of me tingly…

Shawn comes back…he’s smiling…

Not even two hours after our scheduled appointment, the baby is out…

“It’s a girl!  A Riley!” 

6 pounds, 6 ounces.

She’s okay, she’s crying, sort of.  She’s so small.

Two pictures are snapped: our first family portraits.  Then she is rushed off.  She’s grunting.

Then Shawn is gone with our daughter, and I am left alone.

Behind the curtain, it is quiet.  I can’t move.  A nurse squeezes my arm.  She asks if I’m okay.

I nod.  I’m okay.  Just worried.  Just overwhelmed.  Just looking forward to holding my baby girl.  I try to picture her, to hear the sounds again.  I wonder what is to come.  I’m thrilled.  I’m terrified.  My belly is empty, but I feel full.

And now, four years have passed.  Four wonderful, wonderful years.  Happy birthday, my Riley-kins.  I love you.


Riley’s Birthday Eve Interview

On her last day as a three-year-old, I thought I would interview Riley.  I am hoping I remember to do this every year from here on out (with Riley and the other kiddos).  I found this idea on Pinterest, and it is originally from Reaves, Party of Four.  I like this as a birthday tradition.  A fun Q &A snapshot.

We just made and decorated Riley’s cookie cakes.  We finished our birthday party shopping.  Favors and thank you notes are good to go.  Now it’s time to relax a little.  Now it’s time for the questions…

1. What is your favorite color? Green
2. What is your favorite toy? A ball
3. What is your favorite fruit? Mandarin oranges
4. What is your favorite tv show? Ice Age (which is a movie, but it is currently her favorite thing to watch)
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Peanut butter sandwich
6. What is your favorite outfit? This outfit (which happens to be her cupcake shirt and polka-dotted leggings)
7. What is your favorite game? Hide and seek (“But we don’t peak or tell them where to find us.”)
8. What is your favorite snack? Candy, especially M&M’s (which we just used to decorate the cookie cakes…coincidence??)
9. What is your favorite animal? Dinosaur, especially a Pterodactyl
10. What is your favorite song? A lullabye
11. What is your favorite book? Books about dinosaurs
12. Who is your best friend? Caley
13. What is your favorite cereal? Berry Crunch (which Riley picked out at Kroger’s this past week)
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Swing (“I push myself.  I push myself.”)
15. What is your favorite drink? Ice lemonade
16. What is your favorite holiday? (“Birthday?  Butt butt?”)  St. Patrick’s Day (“You mean the one we wear green?”)
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? My blankie
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cereal
19. What is your favorite dinner? Chicken nuggets 
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? An artist

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There you have it!  I can’t believe I am a day away from having a four-year-old.  Riley amazes me more and more – with her generosity, her creativity, her thoughtfulness, her energy, and her compassion.  She spoils me.

And can I just say: I can’t believe I’ve been a parent for four years.  Now it’s time to get some schoolwork done so I can enjoy a birthday/family/Easter weekend.

Please tell me this is a phase…

Riley is obsessed with three phrases right now, all in a similar theme:


Butt butt

Bootie butt

And she will use them in creative ways, too.

1.  I was singing the ABC’s in the car the other day.  Riley starts to sing along…

“A, B, C, D, E, F, POOP…next time won’t you POOP.”

2.  This is the version of Little Bunny Foo-Foo that she sang on our walk yesterday:

“Little bunny BUTT BUTT hopping through the forest, scooping up the field mice and bopping them on their BUTTs….I’ll give you three chances and then I’m going to turn you into a BUTT.”

3.  Or sometimes, she just likes to go around the house with her rear end cocked out, saying:

“Do you like my BOOTIE BUTT?  I like my BOOTIE BUTT!”

Please explain to me how this happens!  And why?  It’s not like Shawn and I go around saying things like this.  Sure, we change songs and make them personal, but in cute and endearing ways that usually just involve our kids’ names or introducing animals to the bus (for “The Wheels on the Bus”).

So far, this has been going on for two weeks.  She doesn’t talk like this when we are all out in public, and she assures me she doesn’t talk like this at school (but I may need to check with her teachers).  And sometimes, it is so freakin’ funny!  The ways she thinks to bring POOP or BUTT into a conversation can be pretty creative.  We’ve been trying to ignore it, but it is persisting.  We’ve also let her know we don’t like when she talks like that.  I don’t really think this is time-out worthy.  She isn’t gross or mean about it.  She cracks herself up about it.

So that’s what’s going on in our house these days!

Do we just wait this out?  Keep trying to ignore these phrases?  Any other ideas?

Baking Prodigy?

Me: Riley, we have those two really ripe bananas.  Wanna make some banana nut bread tonight?

Riley: Sure, Mom.

Me: Although we might not have enough eggs.  We’ll have to see.

Riley: Well, if we don’t have enough eggs, we can substitute apple sauce.

Me: Why not?  Good suggestion, kid.

PS: This conversation occurred on our way to school.  Girl cracks me up!  We’ve had to do some substituting recently to bake with the ingredients we have at home.  We made cupcakes for the grandparents last week with only two eggs instead of three.  As the batter was mixing, I asked Riley if we should add a mashed banana.  I think that is where she got the idea from.

PPS: The cupcakes turned out really good.