Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to Everyone!!

This photo was a Christmas miracle.  Had taken a mediocre one in the fall with the foliage and it was beautiful except for Caroline's faces.  In the one decent shot of Caroline, Piper was being a pill.  I was going to use it but then on that beautiful snow day in early December, I told the kids they could go out to play only if they let me take a few photos of them.  I took like 20 shots and this one was the FIRST one I took.  I was so happy with how cute and sweet they looked (good acting) and the way he photo came out with the background and snow.  I swear, I think it was Christmas snow just like what they made Frosty with.

Have a wonderful Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sleepover Success

I wanted to come and blog about this before I forgot.  On Friday, December 6 we had Caroline's 10th sleepover birthday party at our house.  I was very nervous about it leading up to it given that I didn't know 4 out of 6 of the girls who were coming.  It's one thing to have a kid over to your house for a play date that you don't know but it's another to have 4 of them and have them spending the night!  We sent out the invitations in early November and on the invitations where I didn't know the girls' parents, I wrote a separate little note on the back that they were free to call/email me if they had any questions or wanted to meet me.  Of the 4 girls, I didn't know, only one of the parents seemed a little nervous about the prospect of having their daughter spend the night somewhere with people they'd never met.  I was actually kind of relieved when the mom wanted to meet and it was so nice meeting her and her husband a few weeks before the sleepover.  (We'd now be more than happy to let Caroline go to their house too so the feeling is mutual.)

Anyway, the other 3 girls I didn't know all had their moms drop them off and stayed for a few minutes.  I took all of their cell phone numbers down just in case and assured them they'd be supervised and safe.  I was so happy they had come whereas I think the parents were happy to have their daughter out of the house for a night.  I guess it was a mutually beneficial arrangement.

As for the party, the girls were wonderful!  Seven 9/10 year old girls was a perfect amount and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Well maybe not right away but I wouldn't be the least bit nervous to have any of these girls over to my house again.  It was really fun!  They were all so well behaved and fun.  They didn't all know each other but they quickly bonded and dissolved into giggles and squeals.

They started the night making rainbow loom bracelets (they all brought their stuff) and after everyone arrived, I served some snacks and they hung out in the basement.  After I got cleaned up, I set up a craft activity for them where they each painted their wooden first initial.

Then we did an ice cream sundae bar and brownies (instead of a cake, per Caroline's request) and Caroline opened her gifts.  Then came the part that Caroline was SOOOO excited for....makeup!  I bought a cheap set on Amazon that had like 48 eye shadows, blushes and lipsticks and told the girls to go to town:

They had a blast!  The girls were just so fun together and I loved that they included Piper for part of the night.  (Bryce went to my mom's, thank goodness!!)  Here's Piper with the girl who did her makeup - she was so happy to be included:

Thankfully, I had stocked up on makeup remover wipes!  But they cleaned up the bathroom when they were done and got out their sleeping bags and sat around talking and laughing.  Around midnight I told them that it was quiet time and they were already watching a movie. (This was the point where I had to drag Piper upstairs to her bed kicking and screaming!) I didn't hear another thing all night!  Caroline said they were up until about 1:30.  This is where having a finished basement made all the difference.  We were a full 2 floors away and they had their own space and own bathroom - it really was ideal.  

The next morning I was up around 7:30 and made pancakes and bacon and they all meandered upstairs ready to eat.  Once again they were as pleasant as could be and then talked and rainbow loomed until their parents came to get them.  

Caroline had the time of her life and I am so glad we were able to do this for her 10th birthday.  I had my first sleepover at 10 years old and remember it fondly as I think she will too.  Quite honestly, this was actually her first birthday party too.  At her old school, there just weren't really any kids that were her friends and so we'd just do things with the girl down the street.  Not that she was in any way deprived but I think this party made up for it and it made me very happy that we were able to do that for her.

I was really nervous about how the evening would play out and if they would be bored or get into trouble but I think their ages are really good ones in that they aren't all into boys yet and they just could enjoy being together.  I was also glad to have met so many other parents and now have more options for girls to come to the house to play.  So glad I kept my anxiety in check and did it.  She really is growing up and was totally ready for this.  She has really sweet friends and I'm happy she's feeling connected at her new school. Whew!

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Caroline is 10

Happy 10th Birthday, Caroline!!

I know, I never blog anymore.  I look at it from time to time and feel terrible about not blogging.  I'll even have a passing thought to blog about and then feel guilty that I've neglected for so long that I a silly little post isn't worth it.  Anyway...

Today you are TEN.  10!!  How?  You were just a baby.  You were my baby.  And then Bryce came along and you had to turn into a kid.  I always have felt bad about that.  Like I really didn't get to enjoy you enough and that sometimes our expectations of you are a little high.

You are temperamental, creative, and intelligent.  I'd call you a dreamer with a healthy imagination.  You love to read and write and I can't keep you in books because you read them so quickly.  You are also your father's daughter in ways I am learning all the time.  You sometimes do things and your father will look at me and say, "I used to do things like that."  Frustrating doesn't cover it sometimes but I know that's just you.  You struggle with organization at times but when you know that push comes to shove you can make your room look stellar.  Perhaps that's why I get so frustrated with you because I know how capable you are and you sometimes choose not to be.

I think you have a hard time being the oldest.  I know it's hard having two younger siblings that talk CONSTANTLY so that you would rather just be quiet than try and talk over them.  Your father and I know how important alone time is with you and we make efforts to talk to you alone as much as possible without the squawk boxes chiming in.  We love to hear the things you have to say and you always have an interesting way of looking at situations.  You are my most introverted child and don't always seek out hugs like your siblings and sometimes get railroaded by their boisterousness.  I wish there was a way to mute them for you.  You can be very patient with them and I love to see how your relationship with Piper is growing.  She looks up to you and emulates you more than you realize.  I hope that you will always be close and I love how you and Bryce still have that early sibling bond since neither of you remembers life without the other.

I love that you still hold my hand in public and that you look up to me even though I can't always understand why.  I love that you're not overly concerned with seeming older or acting grown up and that's just how 10 years old should be.

I am so excited for you because you are having your first sleepover party this weekend to celebrate your birthday.  I'm looking forward to seeing all of your friends in one place!  It might be a little crazy, but I think it will be a lot of fun.

With such a milestone birthday as 10, it makes me realize how quickly the time is passing and how your childhood is mostly over.  Sniff.  You will be thinking about college before I know it and I will have to let you go.  I love you to pieces and I'm so proud.  All the younger neighbor kids adore you and look up to you as the big kid.  Babies love you too and you've earned the nick name "baby whisperer" from our neighbors and your aunt!  You cannot get enough of babies and I am amazed at how they are so taken with you.

So happy birthday, Caroline!  Please don't grow up too fast.  Being 10 is still a kid and I want you to enjoy that for as long as you can.


I was hoping to do some sort of photo montage but we have had a computer meltdown of sorts.  All of our photos and such are backed up on an external drive but we can't currently access them since we don't have computer to hook them to.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Pierced Piper

On Sunday we had an impromptu mall trip with my two neighbor friends.  We decided to make it a girls only day since the men wanted to watch football so I took my girls along with Bella, Piper's BFF.  We took baby Bradley along too but he's only 4 months old and doesn't "count" as a kid yet.

While we were there, I had a though - why not get Piper's ears pierced?  She has been asking off and on for a while now and this was the perfect opportunity since Bella was with us (and she has hers pierced which was one of the reasons that Piper has recently started asking).  When I asked her she started jumping up and down - she was so excited.  

We headed over to Piercing Pagoda since that is where Caroline had hers pierced and I liked it.  However, in four years, they had greatly increased their prices and my hope of getting Piper the same earrings (with her birthstone) were dashed when I saw the $55 price tag.  Um, what.  I was just about to pull back and head up to Claire's when I saw these pink, crystal starts for a much more reasonable price.  Caroline and I easily persuaded Piper to pick those - she really did like them - and we were set.  

Piper climbed into the chair and was all smiles.  I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best because THIS was where Caroline's piercing went downhill.  

But, she continued doing great!  She sat very still while the woman marked her ears.

She seemed fine as she waited for them to get set to pierce them both at the same time but I could tell by the look on her face she was very nervous.  She didn't say a thing but sat there quietly looking nervous but didn't once say a word.  The two women did the piercing at the same time and in a flash, it was done.  I thought she would want to look at her ears right away, but she didn't.  She got out of the chair really fast and came right over to me where I was kneeling down and she buried her head into my shoulder and we just hugged.  I rubbed her back and told her how proud I was and that she was so brave.  Caroline and the other two moms thought she was crying but it just looked that way.  I whispered to her, "Do you want to see your ears?"  At first she said no but then it kind of registered and she quickly put her head up and looked right in the mirror!  A huge smile spread across her face and she was fine although I could tell she was still processing it all.  She wasn't that interested in the stickers or lollipop like her sister hadn't been either.

We got home a little later and she was so excited to show everyone.  She showed Jason and all of our neighbors and then called my mom to tell her.  She was so proud!  Then later she asked me to take her photo again with her sticker:

So now we're in the cleaning and turning phase of the ear piercing.  I reminded Piper not to be touching her ears since her fingers are probably dirty and we don't want them to get infected.  So on Monday, I got home from work and she runs up to me and says, "Mommy, a whole bunch of kids at school were touching my ears!"  I didn't really believe her because who touches ears, but I also know that when my sister was in pre-K she broke her arm and the teacher made a point to tell the kids not to push her and then they all did.  (Famous Chrissa story!)  I didn't think much more about it until last night when she was getting out of the tub and said, "Hey mommy, remember how I told you all those kids were touching my ears?  Well, you know who those kids were?  ME!!"  I guess she had been touching her ears a lot (which you would understand/expect) and felt guilty about it so she made up a story.  Not quite the truth but it did make me laugh to know she felt guilty about touching her ears.

Thankfully, they look great so far and I'm looking forward to seeing her get some earrings for Christmas this year.  I know she can't wait until Thanksgiving to be able to change them!

Monday, September 16, 2013

School Update

Now that we are almost a month into the school year I suppose it's time for an update.  Probably because I feel like I can finally catch my breath a little since the new daily routine has become just that - routine.  For the most part, the kids are doing okay with me getting them out of the house by 7:30am.  All of their alarms go off at 6:40 and they are all downstairs by 7am eating breakfast.  Some days things go swimmingly and other days I am chasing after them at 7:25 to get over their drama and get their stuff together.

On the days they do well, I commend them and let them know it.  On the days there are problems we discuss what we could have done differently.  We've all learned a lot, actually.  Piper knows that no matter what she needs to stick with the outfit she chose the night before. Bryce needs to untie his tennis shoes when he takes them off...no knots left for the mornings!  All three kids need to do a better job of not all trying to get into the bathroom to brush their teeth at the same time otherwise screaming and drama ensues.  I don't expect every day to be perfect but I do expect them to work with me.  I've learned that Piper needs non-cereal choices for breakfast if I expect her to eat something before school.  I tried making some peanut butter oatmeal bars this weekend and she actually ate one this morning.  (I was getting tired of the ones we had from Costco - too much sugar, not enough protein and fiber.)

Thankfully, the cubbies we bought when we moved in have been very helpful.  Everyone's book bags and jackets are where they are supposed to be and kept neatly.  Everyone puts their binders and folders in the "inbox" to be signed each night.  My organization habits are working, thankfully.  We would not be able to manage without it.  I hate that a whole corner of my family room that could be used for a desk is taken up by it, but it really has been so helpful and it's the only good spot for it since we don't have a mud room.

As for individual adjustment to school, they are doing fine.  First Caroline, I knew she'd have the toughest time because she is the one that spent 4 years at her old school.  I think we're finally at the point that if I told her she could go back to her old school she'd say no.  I don't think I could have said that 2 weeks ago.  But since then, she's made a few friends and is starting to feel like she fits in.  Her teachers are very attentive and I have been very impressed by her Reading/Writing teacher.  She still hasn't completely bought into the new school yet and will make comparisons with her old school.  She'll laugh at things she thinks are weird (school pledge) and doesn't take them at face value the way someone who has always been there would.  But she's doing really well so far. Her grades the teachers have posted online have been very good and she's clearly not behind.  Her handwriting is beautiful (how is this MY kid?) and I am amazed at some of the narratives she has been writing.  I love to read them! She's also finally getting used to going to the before care program - HotSpots.  She gave me the hardest time of the three kids with that.  But I finally had to have a conversation with her that this was our only option, it's a good option (they are at the school, no external buses to ride, it's safe, and it's only for a little over an hour) and that it allows me to get to work so that I can leave by 5pm (which is still later than I'd like).  I think she keeps her complaining about it to herself now because she knows that I won't stand for it.  I told her it's part of our family's teamwork and she needs to be a team player.

Bryce has been doing well too. He has made friends with "everyone" in the class according to him and that sounds just like his experience in the past.  He's a friendly kid to begin with and typically girls and boys like him.  He's made some soccer buddies too which I know he enjoys.  He's the only one that there have been any slight behavior issues with and apparently that only happened on Friday and it seems to be "just" talking issues.  If any of my kids would have that issue, it would be Bryce.  Mr. Talkative!  (A few of my neighbors have declared talking to Bryce is like talking to a 25 year old - if you look out your window it's common to see him shooting the breeze with one of the men on our street.  Our next door neighbor declared how much he loves hearing Bryce talk about his soccer games.  It's kind a hoot.)  I think Bryce is doing well in school - all the papers he brings home seem to indicate that, but in 2nd grade, the grades are a bit different than 3rd grade and beyond.  I'm not worried as I can tell his reading has improved already and he continues to love math even enough to want to play a game they played in class at home with me this weekend.  All good signs!

As for Ms. Piper, I cannot say how proud I am of her.  As the youngest of all my kids starting kindergarten (just turned 5 as opposed to almost 6 or already 6), I was worried.  It's a long day especially with getting there over an hour before school starts and the new rigor of all day school, but she seems okay with it.  I even got an email last week from her teacher telling me how well she has adjusted. She even managed one day to get "blue" on her behavior chart which is above and beyond green.  I asked her why and she said, "I was working quietly on my own."  She is too cute.  She loves to report about the "bad" kids in her class every day too but then, so does Bryce.  One of the things about Piper that is frustrating for me as a parent is that she can be quite stubborn and if I want her to do something she has to do it in her own time.  Well, that's worked well with school because things she won't do for me (writing her last name, holding her pencil correctly) are things she is HAPPY to do for her teacher.  But I'm okay with that.  Proud, actually.  She was pleased as punch to show me that she knows how to hold her pencil now.  I cannot wait for American Education Week to see her in class.  I love the way she describes things and tells stories about her day.  Listening to her each evening is one of my highlights right now.

I feel like we've finally gotten over our final hurdle of the moving process.  I had so much anxiety about switching schools and it was the last thing we had to do.  It's hard to believe it's been a year since we started this crazy process.  It's amazing what can happen in a year.  It's funny too because I just realized we have now officially been in our house longer than the time we lived with my mom and dad.  It seems like we've been here a long time already.  It is starting to feel more like home.  If only there was more time to paint.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blog Pause

I don't know when I will ever have time to blog again.  Between the uptick of the school year beginning and a crazy first two weeks schedule-wise and with my new position at work (which I still haven't blogged about), I don't know if I will ever have time again.  Instagram is about all I can muster at the moment.  Feeling quite stressed and overwhelmed at the moment.  Wake me when September ends.  Wait, you say it's NOT September yet?  How is that possible?  Yes, that's where I am right now.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Staycation 2013

We didn't do the OBX this year for a number of reasons but as the summer was going along Jason and I realized we needed a week off and last week was it.  Overall, it was a good week but the weather was CRAPPY.  But then, this summer has been overly disappointing in terms of weather.  We had a few good weeks of sun and heat but mostly it seemed to have started late and now we're in what seems like a monsoon season.  I should have known when there were days in May where it was chilly that it wasn't boding well for a hot summer.  The only really good thing about it is that our sod has had plenty of moisture to get nice and established and we've hardly had to get the sprinklers out.

Anyway we started the week last Friday night at the O's game:

It was the girls' first game and they were all so excited.  We were treated to a Chris Davis home run along with a Nate McLouth grand slam!!  (Although Bryce, Piper and I missed the Crush HR because they wanted to fill up their water bottles.....classic!)  It was a slug fest which is fun for kids and the O's won so a good night was had by all!

Saturday we went to my parents to celebrate our friend Oliver's 6th birthday.  Unfortunately, the pool party didn't go as well as hoped because of the rain.  But it was a nice afternoon and we went home in the early evening.

Sunday was a beautiful day - sunny and not too hot!  Because some of our neighbors had been away and others were getting ready to leave, we had a Sunday Funday get together.  We all brought food, the kids played and we sat around just enjoying summer.  A really fun day!  We didn't stay out too late though because we had an early start planned to Hershey Park!

The park didn't open until 10am so we figured leaving by 8am would be plenty of time.  Nope.  Somehow we didn't really factor Baltimore rush hour traffic into the equation (because you know, I ride in it every.single.day) and we ended up taking the worst way possible around the beltway (but it did teach me how NOT to go to work when I start dropping the kids off at before-care in two weeks).  It took an hour to get to I-83 and then once we got past Harrisburg, we sat in traffic.  We didn't arrive at Hershey Park until 11am!  Needless to say, this is NOT how I like to do theme parks given our Disney success.  But, there wasn't anything we could do at that point so we scarfed down the lunch we brought a little earlier than planned and went to the park.  Bryce and I went to ride some roller coasters since he was jonesing for one and the girls went to ride a tamer ride with Jason.  However, once that was done they were dead set on getting wet.  Mind you it was sunny but only like 75 degrees.  I took one for the team and rode slides and played in the splash zones with them. They had a great time even if it was a little chilly.  They just loved the tubing slides.  After an afternoon in the wet zone, we dried off and had an early dinner and then went on the little motor cars.  Caroline drove her first car by herself.  She was so nervous but we assured her she would be fine and she was.  (This was the first ride we rode at Disney last year and she was so grumpy about it but driving her own car was exciting for her this year.)  Then we rode a bunch of rides together as a family although Bryce and I squeezed in the Super Dooper Looper - his first upside down coaster.  Caroline is not a coaster girl (just like her dad) but she likes the carnival type rides.  They were so happy to ride the swings and tilt a whirl again.  Although I was surprised that Piper couldn't ride the bumper cars (seriously?) or the regular swings (she had to ride the kiddie ones).  And while they didn't really want to, I made them ride the carousel.  (It was my first chance to take some photos):

It really was a great day.  The kids went all day and there was virtually no complaining.  This was very different from Disney where Caroline complained every other step.  The weather was perfect - we couldn't have picked a better day that week.  Thank goodness!!

Tuesday - we were exhausted from the day before and we kind of just laid around until we had dinner with our neighbors who were leaving for Disney the next day.  I ran an errand in the morning with my other neighbor and had lunch so I was very glad to have gotten out of the house for a bit.

Wednesday we went to Annapolis.  We wanted to do something historic/educational and since Jason had never been, we thought it would be a good day.  Thankfully, it stopped raining when we got there and the day was overcast and not too hot during the whole 2 1/2 hour walking tour.  The kids were really good and patient.  We even had some other people on the tour tell us which was appreciated since we didn't feel like they were being that good but honestly, no one melted down and complaining was also minimal.  Caroline got the most out of it, I think.  They liked seeing the state house and the Naval Academy the best.

At the state house

State Senate Chambers

USNA Chapel

Crypt of John Paul Jones - they loved it!

Bryce and Herndon

Bancroft Hall - largest dorm in the US!

A sample midshipman room

Inside Bancroft Hall

On the city dock in Annapolis at Pusser's for lunch

Had to let them do a crazy shot

Thursday was probably our toughest day of the week since it rained (AGAIN!) and we didn't have any plans as a result. We had hoped to fit some pool days in during the week but they never panned out.  We ended the day watching the original Willy Wonka movie and the kids loved it.  There's just something about that room where everything is candy that is so enchanting to kids.  Glad we watched it together!

On Friday, Caroline was picked up by her friend, Sophia's mom, and went to spend the day/night at her house.  I was glad because I knew Caroline needed some older kids to play with.  So Bryce, Jason, Piper and I headed to Marshy Point Nature Center for a while and then were headed to Honeygo Park for more outdoor time when we noticed how dark the sky was.  Shocking, it was going to rain again.  Mid-drive, we decided to go another route.  Piper and I would get pedicures and Bryce and Jason would go to run an errand at Home Depot.  Obviously, Piper and I were on the winning end of this decision!  Piper got her first pedicure!

Then we had an early dinner at Ledo's and dessert at Yogi Castle.  All in all, a good afternoon & evening, if you ask me!

Saturday morning, I took Piper to Build a Bear Workshop because she had some gift cards from her birthday.  This is probably a place I would never take my kids any other time since they don't need any other stuffed animals and it's at Towson mall (which I loathe).  But we had the gift cards so we got there right as they opened.  She really enjoyed it though so it was a very special treat:

Filling up her bear with stuffing

Putting a wish inside the bear's heart

Giving her bear a bath

Introducing Rosey the zebra striped bear!
We made it home by 11am!  Then a little while later, Lily and Harper came to visit us!  I hadn't seen them in a few weeks and they are getting so big - they were 6 months old yesterday:

Then we headed up to Fallston to see our old neighbors who also just moved and to pick up Caroline.  Bryce was a trooper with all the girls and it was really nice to spend time with Joe and Chrisie.  They were great neighbors and I'm glad we're staying in touch:

Caroline & Sophia
Sunday was a sunny day so after we did our normal Sunday chores, Jason took the kids to my mom's to swim since I had a bridal shower to attend for one of our neighbors.  I really would have rather gone to the pool since it was one of the only truly sunny days but I was glad to have been invited to the shower too and spend some time sans children with a few of my other neighbor moms.  

It was a good week, all in all, I just wish it had been more summer like.  But we made it work and I'm glad we took the time out of our schedule to do it.  We'll definitely be resuming our OBX visits next summer though.  Staycations are hard because it's hard to NOT get into your usual routines and habits when you're still in your house.  (I have a hard time not cleaning and doing chores, as does Jason.)