“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” —Norman Vincent Peale
The boys developed a love of washing windows, which I hope remains with them always.
A pool party, with dear friends.
To celebrate the end of summer we took the kids to Coney Island.
It was terribly hot …
and so much fun.
Sophie and Andy rode the ferris wheel …
while the boys had to watch (sometimes, being little is hard).
Of course, they managed to find rides suited to them, too.
Nini and Pop Pop joined us.
And still to this day we’re asked to go back, at least once a week.
We had tea parties with Colleen.
In September, Sophie tried out soccer.
We went to the Preble County Pork Festival, a family tradition, with lots of family.
The boys experimented with sharing sandals.
We went to Woodfill Elementary’s Big Top Festival.
And we took naps on the porch.
And in mid-October, it was still warm enough and green enough to climb trees.
“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.” —Celia Thaxter
This year your birthday started with a visit from Grandma and Grandpa in Baltimore. And, on the way to the airport, Owen threw up all over himself and the van. As I was trying to get him cleaned up with the few wipes and plastic bags I had, changing him into one of Daddy’s shirts slated for Goodwill I found in the back of the van, you ever-so-helpful said from the back, “Mommy, you are not prepared for this.”
And I loved that, the humor you gave to an otherwise awful situation. And I loved that, because it showed you are still young enough to always speak your mind. And I loved that because, when it counts, you really are generous and kind. You care, about everything, so much.
Which is why, in part, I felt so badly that your birthday was a bit of a bust.
It started out wonderfully, with a present from Great Aunt Susie—a handmade Elsa dress.
Still, on the day of your birthday party at the YMCA, Owen and James had been sick less than 48 hours prior, so both boys had to stay home with Grandpa. (But don’t worry about the boys—Grandpa came through with a small birthday celebration they threw for you, on their own, in the backyard.)
And you, I believe, had fun.
Nini and Pop Pop came to your party at the YMCA, and then followed us home where you opened your presents from them on our front porch. They were on their way to see your Aunt Katy, Uncle Tom and cousin Colleen, who, as you know, has a birthday the day after yours. They stayed on the porch in what we hoped was a germ-free zone, so as not to get pregnant Aunt Katy sick.
After Nini and Pop Pop left, you said your stomach hurt. I tried to convince myself it was the sweets, but then you, too, got sick. After emailing my sincerest apologies to all the other parents of your friends who were at your party, I sat next to you on the couch, holding your hair and scratching your back—not a great way to spend your birthday, any birthday, but especially a birthday when you’re 6.
Still, you said you wanted to open presents. It was clear you loved them, but you were quiet and reserved, and you hardly played with your gifts after, which included some much-anticipated Frozen merchandise.
Several days later you were ready for your meal-of-choice: scrambled eggs, fruit salad, bacon and cinnamon rolls “from the can.”
Still after, you had a stomachache.
So it wasn’t until you were 6 years and 1 week old that you finally had your Frozen ice cream birthday cake, which your dad, who has many varied talents, made for you.
We even threw in a couple extra presents, for good measure. And then, we had cake!
And now is when I normally write a personal letter to you. And I will, but privately. For you’re 6 now, my sweet child. You’re in kindergarten. You’re learning to read. Your friends are learning to read. My thoughts and reminiscences about the year past are no longer primarily focused on physical milestones and parenting mishaps, but more personal milestones—your emotional and intellectual milestones—your growth as a human being, into an adult. And they are yours. And for the ones we share, also mine. And they belong to everyone you choose to share them with, both in the present, and in the future, if that’s what you wish.
This was the first year I didn’t know what you wished for—you have secrets, experiences, thoughts and frustrations tucked away in your brain that I’m not privy to—as it should be. Still, I love when you share. And I hope you continue to share. And in return, I promise to respect your privacy, as well as a mother (who also is a writer) can.
Happy, happy birthday my generous, passionate, funny Sophie.
I love you, always.
“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” —Emily Dickinson
It’s snowing and almost Christmas so, basically, the perfect time to post about our summer vacation, no?
When we learned that Andy’s cousin, Julie, had gotten engaged, Andy and I talked about flying out, just the two of us, to attend her wedding. But then she sweetly asked Sophie to be a flower girl, and the boys to be ring bearers. (To illustrate how excited Sophie was with this request, let me just say that she practiced daily—and for months we had loose silk flowers all over our house.)
The rest is my fault.
I Google Mapped the drive from Fort Thomas to Dallas (where the wedding took place) and then decided I wanted to spend a day or two at the ocean (which is not at all on the way). And then I thought about how long it had been since we visited Andy’s sister, Liz, in Atlanta. So I tacked that on. I tried to add on a few days in New Orleans and Memphis, but Andy cut me off.
I’m pretty sure I packed all the kids’ clothes.
All of them.
First stop—Atlanta. We met Liz and Eric for pizza at Mellow Mushroom.
We had ice cream after. We let the kids share one bowl, picking whatever they wanted—which resulted in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone with orange ice cream topped with gummy bears. I said I was full.
The kids were thrilled with the hotel room. Considering most nights we have at least one-if-not-two kids in our queen-size bed with us we thought it would be no big deal to all pile in a king-size bed.
We were wrong.
After breakfast with Liz and Eric, we headed onto Pensacola, Florida. We stopped here for boiled peanuts. Turns out, I don’t like boiled peanuts. I do wish, though, I could capture everything about the man who sold them to us—he has been selling them on the side of the road for sixty-plus years, I think (June was a long time ago now). He and his stories were worth the stop.
Next stop: the ocean!
Turns out, Owen isn’t a fan of the beach. He is a fan of sitting in his beach chair eating fruit snacks all afternoon, however.
Later that day we discovered Quietwater Beach—which was basically a knee-deep, bathwater-temperature haven for the kids.
We wore them out that day.
And then promptly woke them up for a stop at Joe Patti‘s for fresh shrimp.
Andy made the most delicious shrimp scampi that night.
We spent the next day back at Quietwater Beach, this time walking the boardwalk and venturing out farther, which meant life vests.
We stopped for some homemade popsicles at a cute little place and then did one last walk on the beach.
Owen wasn’t a fan of the noise of the waves.
I loved that last walk.
This was our cute little cottage, which I found online.
There were two bedrooms—we packed bed rails, and this was how the kids slept.
Next we had two days of driving, first to Shreveport, Louisiana and then on to Dallas for the rehearsal dinner. We stopped at a high school for a picnic lunch.
We made it to Texas. I’m skipping so much. Details about how we didn’t eat any fast food, choosing instead picnic lunches or roadside diners (with some successes—who knew roadside Thai could be so delicious in Texas?—and some failures). Of will-they-ever-go-to-sleep-in-this-one-room-hotel bedtimes mishmashed with the late-night, slap-happy, all-five-of-us giggling I so very well remember from one-room-hotel vacations as a child. Of colossal van meltdowns. Of the most fantastic family bonding that only happens on trips like this. Of a thousand games of “I Spy.”
But I digress. The wedding was at The Cotton Mill in McKinney, Texas.
It was hot. And beautiful.
Here are the boys practicing pulling their wagon, which held the third ring bearer. I have to admit: When Julie told me her vision (that the boys would be pulling a wagon together, without an adult, down the aisle and that another living being would be in the wagon) I pretty much envisioned disaster. Turns out, I wasted a lot of time worrying. They were great.
Here’s Julie, the bride-to-be, showing the flower girls where to be.
Emmy and Sophie
That night was Fourth of July. So after the lovely rehearsal dinner at The Pantry Restaurant, we surprised the kids with sparklers outside our motel room. This went splendidly—until Owen burned his thumb (great parenting, no?).
There was a lot of waiting.
Check out Sophie’s hair—one of the bridesmaids did it! I struggle with putting her hair into a ponytail so I thought this was just amazing.
Julie gifted the flowers girls with pink shimmer dusting powder, which, as you can imagine, was a huge hit.
Here’s Andy fixing the bow ties on our two handsome little boys.
I took a quick picture of the empty reception hall.
pink bow-tied brothers (love)
a few more pictures of the grounds and decoration
This is Blair, Emmy’s mom—she made both of the flower girl dresses. Not only can I not do hair, but I also can’t sew. So again—I was in awe.
Sophie, who loves all poof, couldn’t have been happier.
And here she is putting on more shimmer dusting powder—on her feet.
the beautiful bride and her beautiful mom
Aunt Fran (the bride’s grandma) and Jill (Sophie’s grandma)
the boys, waiting
Ross, the groom, built the cross.
I was in charge of moving the wagon and getting the boys back to their seat after their walk down the aisle, so I don’t have any pictures of it (Andy was in line with Sophie). I’m pretty sure I had more butterflies than they did over this simple walk but again, they were great!
Sophie and so-chic Grandma
Next up—pictures! I didn’t realize they had intended for me to be in a huge extended family picture and I missed it. I’d like to say it was for good reason but honestly it was a combination of 90°+ temperatures and Spanx …
fancy dress, glass of wine and a diaper bag
Of course we had trains at the wedding.
The kids loved loved loved dancing. Blair found lacy rompers for the flower girls to wear under their dresses, which both Sophie and Emmy stripped down to as soon as the reception started.
The reception was great fun and it was so nice to catch up with and meet extended family and friends.
This is pretty much how we all felt once it was over.
The next day we went to Tracy and Jeff’s house (Julie’s parents) for a cookout and swimming before the happy couple left for their honeymoon.
It was a fun, exhausting, beautiful, hard, memorable, completely worth it trip. Thank you, Julie and Ross, for inviting our kids to be in your wedding—it’s something they still talk about, to this day.
I’m already beginning to talk about our 2014 summer vacation. Andy just keeps changing the subject.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” —Helen Keller