Thursday, October 23, 2014

Glowing Balloons, and Also Barbara Brown Taylor

Because our month hasn't been travel/busy enough (!) I took the kids to Charlotte last weekend, because a writer I like was speaking at a friend's church, and I think I have decided I am tired of telling myself these types of events aren't "for me" or something, and that I, a random housewife, am just as deserving/capable/interested/worthy of going to conferences and events as Real Professionals of a Certain Type, and ANYWAY, I bought a ticket to the conference, and I went, and it was awesome.

(It's Barbara Brown Taylor, by the way. She's an episcopal priest and now a college professor; a group I was in at Furman did a study of one of her books, ten eleven twelve (?) years ago, and I have liked her and been reading her stuff ever since.)

The whole event was smart and challenging and thoughtful, in all the right ways. I got to hang out with my high school friend Laura (who is the one who told me this was happening at her church) and I randomly ran into my Montreat friend Katelyn (who was lovely to hang out with and chat a lot with) and I am SO SO glad I went.

Her talks were about divine mystery, and endarkening as opposed to enlightening, and intentionally embracing the things we don't know and that we don't understand. And about how the language around darkness and light somehow implies that God is in one but not the other, and how to sort that out in ways that don't reduce people's dark seasons to an absence of the divine, which, no duh, is not true at all, because actually the dark might teach us things about God and ourselves that the light never could.

Anyway. It was a lot more than that, and a lot more nuanced than that, and it was fascinating.

And! I am doing it again! Next month I get to go see the fantastic Nadia Bolz-Weber in Minnesota (Another Nathan and I were in the middle of deciding what weekend I should come up, and then when it turned out NBW had an event in Minneapolis, suddenly picking a date to visit got super easy). Look! These events are for me too! I am fully embracing that!

So while I was being church-thinky at the conference last weekend, my kids were roaming around town with my Dad (who has a broken arm, because he fell off his bike, because he wins at retirement?) and Cathy (who is recovering from her last cancer surgery) and yes, they are awesome for it.

Dad took my kids, along with Ashley and John and their kids, to a big balloon festival which was apparently a long chaotic adventure of a day, including odd food planning and lots of preschool runs to porta-potties, but it ended with a yay! hot air balloons! at twilight!
(pic from John)
Liam and Charlotte are so great together. Cousin besties.

Also Anneliese was the only grandkid brave enough to strap in and jump on this big trampoline thing.

We fancy her the brave and outgoing one, but this pic that my dad took a few seconds before her jump might betray how she was really feeling about it. HA.

I keep looking at it. It keeps cracking me up.

So yeah, here's what we learned this weekend:
1.) My dad is a saint, and also dumb, and also not easily overwhelmed.
2.) Stop talking about the dark like it's always a bad/Godless thing.
3.) Hot air balloons are really freaking cool when they glow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

PJs and Pancakes Party

On the afternoon of Anneliese's birthday, we had some friends over for PJs and pancakes, and it was really sweet! I wasn't sure if a Monday afternoon birthday party would fly, but it did! It was easy and cute.

Anneliese requested a strawberry cake, with a rainbow with clouds on top. Done and done.

(It's no masterpiece like last year's rainbow cake - which was definitely the peak of my birthday cake makings - but I did make a damn fine strawberry buttercream, so at least there's that.)

We set up the kitchen for a big breakfast-for-dinner: bacon, eggs, yogurt, and milk in cute bottles (I had to drink a lot of frappucinos to have all those bottles ready for the party) (I'm a selfless mom, what).

And, make-your-own-pancakes! They could choose their "toppings" and whatever kind of pancakes they wanted, and we had several kinds of syrup to choose from. PSA: kids do not choose fruit when you give them the option of sprinkles or chocolate chips instead. #themoreyouknow

We let them decorate their own coffee tumblers, and then I put a packet of hot chocolate in each of them. Activity + party favor = easy win.

Because I'm not much of an organized games kind of mom, they spent most of the party playing outside in the yard on the swingset. I'm not sorry. It was easy, and it's fun, and other people's yards are always more exciting than your own when you're a kid, right? Especially in your PJs.

Then we opened presents and sang and had cake and ice cream.

Totally a delightful party. Happy birthday, sweet Anneliese!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Family Weekend in DC

So, before Anneliese's birthday, we took a little family weekend jaunt to Washington, DC.
why, with the monument and my head, random-passers-by-photographer? why?

Our impetus was twofold:

1- The National Geographic Museum's special rotating exhibit right now is a big thing about spinosaurus, and... yeah. I just realized that sort of explains itself. SPINOSAURUS. So, we knew we wanted to take Nathan to see that this fall.

2- Anneliese has been asking for an American Girl doll for months and months, so we wanted to surprise her and get her one for her birthday. Yes she's a little young, and yes they're too expensive, but she made a giant effort at keeping her room and toys organized to prove that she is a big girl five-year-old who can handle having nice things, and I find zero objectionable anything about American Girl dolls in general (history! dolls! characters! books! they're good toys).  Anyway, the closest store to us (which is more fun than ordering online) is in DC.

So we mapped out the calendar looking for a weekend after the spino exhibit opened, before Anneliese's birthday, and when Mark was actually off work -- and last weekend was it. So we went! It wasn't the most conventional "Washington DC Family Trip" but we had our own goals of stuff to do, and we live close enough that we didn't feel like we had to do All The Important Things this time. So here's what we did:

1.) Rode the Metro a Lot - as far as Nathan and Anneliese are concerned, this IS seeing the sights of DC. That dark tunnel. Right there. Super! Exciting!

2.) National Geographic Museum - Mark and I know DC well, but had never been to this museum. Fun to do something that's new to us too. Also, the look on Nathan's face here, when we saw the spino they had specially installed outside the museum = maybe worth the whole weekend away.

3.) American Girl Doll Store - oh man Anneliese was so sweet wandering through this whole store (we had never been in one! I was overwhelmed) and seeing all the dolls and books and outfits and such. She waffled a while but then settled on Kit, and seems really happy about that, and she was so happy I thought she would burst. It was lovely and special in a way that 5th birthday treats should be, and it was so fun to shop excitedly with her. So, meet Kit, from 1934.
PS I just realized why we can't find Anneliese's orange hoodie anywhere at home. :/

4.) Air & Space Museum at Dulles - another new place for Mark and me! This is an extension of the Smithsonian museum downtown on the mall, and we have heard great things about it for years, but have never gone out to Dulles to see it. We did this time, and we are so glad. It was very cool. Like, the other museum sort of pales in comparison (don't hate me, internet, I still love the original too!) -- it is really hard to overstate the massive numbers of planes housed in this one giant hangar out there. Like, hundreds. HUNDREDS. Including some tough ones (the Enola Gay? Hm I don't want to explain that history to my fascinated child, kthx) and some cool ones (space shuttle!) and everything in between.

There was also a section with a tower where you could go up and see what was happening at Dulles airport, and a small exhibit on radars and air traffic controlling, which Nathan found a little more fascinating than the rest of us, but he was cute. (His favorite lego things to build these days are airplanes; this trip was good timing.)

I will leave you with this oddly fascinating fact from the museum at Dulles: the space shuttle is covered in... thermal blankets.


5.) Air & Space Museum at the Mall - it was the most crowded I had ever seen it, and it was hot inside, and the throngs of people were overwhelming, and also there was an area cleared for salsa dancing lessons, and I don't even know. We hit a few exhibits and climbed in two display planes and Nathan gleefully spent some allowance money at the gift shop, and then we were done. Basically I could not get us out of there fast enough. (And I love that museum! Just, not that day.)
we saw a lot of planes last weekend, y'all

6.) Carousel on the Mall - because obviously. It's close, it's easy, it's fun, it wasn't raining, so yes.

And then we sat and had a funnel cake, and let the kids run around and play, because sometimes unorganized fun is just... necessary.

Walking back to the Metro, Nathan wanted to take some pics with us and the Washington Monument. He clearly has a future in photography.
I mean. Yeah.

7.) Adorable Cosi Dinner - this is DC dining at its finest, right? HA HA HA. But it is a good place with kids, it's tasty and relatively fast and relatively inexpensive, and it ended up being a delightful dinner. The manager thought they were out of stuff for make-at-your-own-table s'mores, but then found more fire, and comped us the whole thing and extra brownies, for no reason at all other than he said we were sweet. SO NICE. It was all lovely. And cozy. (See what I did there?)

8.) Walk Around the Monuments - on Sunday morning we took a walk in a big loop around part of the mall - from the Washington Monument down past the White House and then over to the World War II Memorial.

It was gorgeous and sunny out, and the kids needed some time to run in circles where they wanted, instead of us clutching their hands crossing a million trafficky intersections, so they played in the grass and chased each other and had lots of big talks about being president. They somehow decided it would probably be Charlotte, because she's a lefty (?) and they kept asking her if they could visit when she lived in the White House. Adorable. (She said yes.)

Lying in the grass looking up at the Washington Monument. I totally remember doing this as a kid.

Aaaaaaand that was our weekend. Honestly, one of the best parts might've just been staying in a hotel all together. We had two big beds and a sofabed so it felt big, and who doesn't like hotels, just in general, right?

this is like a vision of my own childhood, right here
The second night wasn't great sleep, but a slumber party in one room was mostly really fun! I like having all my people close. Especially when get all angelic when they sleep.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Birthday, Anneliese!

Anneliese is five today! FIVE! Five seems like such a big number. A new era.m Part of me can't believe it's been five! whole! years! But mostly I'm just excited to see what another year will bring to our joyful kind sweet baby girl, who is turning into a delightful cool little person, right before our eyes.

Some memories from the last year (also known as the year Anneliese wore that rainbow 4 shirt many times every week):

(If you can't see the embedded video, click here to watch it on YouTube.)
(To watch in a mobile browser, click here.)

And if you want to see Anneliese from the beginning:

Her first year
Her second year
Her third year
Her fourth year

Happy birthday, little lady! We love you!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Diaper De-Stashing

So here's a weird thing that caused more Feelings that I should admit: I sold our whole stash of cloth diapers.

Charlotte is potty trained, and Ali has her own, and... it was time.

I know this is a thing that parents should rejoice about, being out of the diaper phase. But mostly, I feel sad, a little bit because of the babies-all-growing-up thing, but mostly because I have loved these dang diapers.

Maybe more than I should have. I'm not sure that capital-F Feelings about diapers should be a capital-T Thing, but for me it is. I mean, LOOK AT THEM THEY ARE SO PRETTY.

I admit it. They made my days cuter, and made the unpleasant task of baby changing more fun. I'm not ashamed of my love.

I saved one cover to be sewn into Anneliese's baby clothes blanket, and saved one tiny/worn diaper for each kid, for doll and stuffed animal dressups. And I sent the beautiful Furman purple one to a very sweet Furman baby down in Texas.

But other than that, they're all sold (on various online diaper-selling forums and online swap groups) (yes, such a thing exists, in a very big way), and paypal collected, and shipped off to new owners. WEIRD, RIGHT?

Know what's also weird? Seeing the tiny baby, for whom most of these were purchased in the first place, suddenly a big kid helping you package them up to ship off.

Oh, man. It makes my diaper-loving heart go pit pat.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Anneliese at Almost Five

It's October 7th again, and I don't need any stinking timehop notifications to remind me it's Anneliese's due date. Baby Beanie! Who was due on this day, five years ago. FIVE.

I can't believe she's almost five.

I know from experience that five is an awesome age, and while the passing of time is always a little sad, and I will miss her babyhood, mostly I am excited to see what five brings for her. She has grown up so much in the last year. She's gone from a kid just pulling out of toddlerhood, into a... little lady. It is so cool to see. She's a bright spot in any day - happy, joyful, friendly. Delightful, basically.

Amongst our three, she seems like an extrovert, but out in the wild compared to the general population, decidedly less so. She's not shy, but she's not the most outgoing in a crowd either. She's friendly and chatty and easy to talk to.

She loves to swing, and play dress-up, and have books read to her, and dance. She hates being cold. She loves bright colors, as many as possible at the same time. She's never seen a rainbow anything that didn't thrill her.

She attaches to people and craves their love and wants to be with them. She and Nathan remain almost inseparable when they're home, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. There was a hurtful exchange of words last week that shook them both up (me too!) but even that, they've come right back from. I can't believe that five years ago right now, Nathan didn't even know her yet. His life, like all of ours, is so much better because she is in it.

I think, actually, that Nathan and Charlotte and Ali might each name Anneliese as their favorite -- she's a real middle child in that way. She adores them all and is happy to be the in-demand playmate, bouncing between trains and princesses and snuggles and dinosaurs and coloring.

When she does want to be alone (unusual, but it happens) she wants to sit on the deck and look at the sky and the pool. Or swing as high as she can, while singing a song at the top of her lungs. Or lie on our shoulders and close her eyes and suck her thumb. Or paint a picture in neon colors, covering the whole page til there's not any white.

She remains ever loyal to Hattie, who is more flat and less green every year, yet as loved as ever. I made Anneliese a friendship bracelet in June and she requested a matching one for Hattie, and now they both have rainbow bracelets they wear all the time. Yes, still. My four-year-old has been wearing one single bracelet for almost five months. And hasn't lost it. Which, considering the rate she loses everything else under the sun (on my gravestone: ANNELIESE WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES), is pretty unbelievable.

She is incredibly helpful at home (especially with Ali, much more than she ever was with Charlotte... maybe just an age thing?) - fetching things and soothing tears and zipping jackets and putting socks on toddlers. She loves helping. Her teachers at preschool tell me she's the same way there.

You'd think this would mean she's great at cleaning up, but no. NO. NOPE. She leaves a trail of mess behind her wherever she goes, somehow shedding stickers and glitter and feathers and toys that she must pull out of thin air, just to drop on the ground. Some days she literally leaves rainbows in her wake.

She'd rather roll around in a mess giggling than clean up, when it comes time. Well, until the giggles turn to sobs. Cleaning up usually ends in sobs. The effort she will put into not cleaning up seems so much harder than just... cleaning up. I don't get it.

Like every other almost-five-year-old in America, she loves Frozen. She also likes to watch Daniel Tiger and My Little Pony, and she loves the Olivia books. She likes nature magazines and she pores over the American Girl Doll catalog any time it comes in the mail (how can this be starting already?? curses, CURSES to whoever got us on that list).

Her love affair with cottage cheese seems to be over, which makes me sad, even though it's gross and I can't fault her for finally realizing that. But it was her first favorite food! These days she loves hot dogs and bananas and yogurt and mac and cheese, and -- her very favorite food in the world -- Daddy's spaghetti.

She sometimes says really profound things without knowing it: I was sad when that didn't happen, but it's okay because it felt good to hope for it.


She feels her feelings, big, all of them. Sometimes that means she hurts, and it's hard to watch, but mostly I'm really glad she's like that. I'm wired the same way. I get it. It's a curse but mostly a blessing.

She asks every Friday to have a sleepover with Nathan, and we always say yes. She asks every night to be tucked in one extra time. She asks every night for us to leave the hall light on til we go to bed. She tells us every night, still, for years now -- love you night night, like it's all one phrase, like a good-night is always connected to love you. We all say it that way now. She's a good influence on us.

Happy due date, Anneliese. You delight us every day with your kindness and your sweet heart and the joyful way you love people. You are a ray of sunshine to those of us who get to be around you. It's tempting to believe I love you so much that I couldn't possibly love you more, but I know I will again tomorrow. You keep chasing those rainbows, little lady.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Some Other September Things

Here are some other things we did in September (alternate title: let's take a journey through my phone's camera roll) --

One Friday night when Marky was working, the kids and I made popcorn and turned the lights off and snuggled on the couch and watched a movie together. We had never seen Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. It was delightful.

I snuggled with Ali a lot. Because she is also delightful. She's turned into a super happy baby recently. I'll take it.

We took a lot of pictures at the bus stop. Some days, even in non-yellow shorts.
(Anneliese now has a carpool ride two days a week --
they pick her up from N's bus stop!)

Anneliese learned to brush her own hair and suddenly she's a teenager.

Charlotte did her first round of swim lessons. She can't swim on her own yet but she also didn't poop in her swimsuit at all, so that's a hearty win.

Nathan got a bad case of swimmer's ear (seven years! three kids! our first ear infection!) and we barely slept for several nights and he was generally miserable and in pain but it's over now.

I did some more preschool homework FTLOG.

Another Nathan came for a weekend to visit, he and Mark shucked some corn fresh from Minnesota and grilled dinner and we played with the kids and ran errands and it was all right and normal and good, and then we waved bye til next time.

Anneliese and I painted our toes yellow.

We set up Mark's old phone with Nathan's email so he has a way to text/call us (through google hangouts) and we can leave him home alone for an hour or so when we need to. One night he was home doing his homework and practicing, while I hopped over to church for a few minutes for preschool orientation, and Mark had the girls at dance. This is what texting with a seven-year-old looks like:

Anneliese's cutie friend Beatrice has been with us for a few afternoons, and as always, we love having her around. (Especially when she can pull some cheerfulness out of Anneliese these days.) We decided these two are competing for the best-dressed award at the weekday school.

Charlotte got in the habit of wearing a cape to go poop. Like you do.

Nathan graduated out of his first cello (from this eighth-size to a quarter-size, coming soon). He's very excited but I am mostly sad. His first cello! Aw. I will miss this tiny sweet thing.