Thursday, December 19, 2013

20 Things That Happened Yesterday (Wednesday)

  1. I woke up thinking it was Thursday.  And proceeded to think it was Thursday all day long.  It wasn’t.
  2. I had to run two errands on opposite sides of town before going in to work.  Of course I was late.
  3. I got stuck in a traffic jam on the way home.
  4. Running late, but needing to change out of my dress and heels before before the bus came, I pulled on a pair of jeans that I wore a couple days ago only to find that they were tight.  What??
  5. Risking a popped seam in the leg (still don’t know how you gain weight in your leg in 2 days), I wore them anyway because I didn't want to miss the bus.
  6. After bus stop and hair appointment, get the boys started on homework.  The down side to letting them play first: getting them to settle down enough to do it.
  7. A slight temper tantrum over the fact that we have to go get MC from her field trip and then run a couple errands, including getting crickets for the tantrum-throwing kid’s toads.  Poisonous toads.  That eat live crickets.  Why the temper tantrum?  Because it means he won’t have time to play.  Which is what he just did for 2 hours.  What????
  8. The buses are late.  And we are early.  A lethal combo when both boys need to take care of business.  Much discussion rating how badly they have to go and assigning new numbers to bodily functions that will result if they don’t get to a bathroom soon.  And lots of farting.  Seriously.  Where does it all come from?  Hilarity ensues.
  9. The radio volume goes up and down.  The windows go up and down (see above).  All the jamming to AC/DC (Hell’s Bells and more hilarity that there’s a curse word in the title) and fumigating causes a strain on the battery of the car, which dies.  
  10. The bus still isn’t here.  
  11. The bus finally arrives, as does my neighbor’s dad to jump the car.  Love him.
  12. We can’t get the hood open, so I call my husband, who proceeds to ask me 1000 questions, when all I want to know is WHERE IS THE THINGY?  Because it is freezing and there are now several people helping me and I feel like an idiot and one of them (thank goodness) knows where the trunk popper is.
  13. The car is started, the neighbor follows me home, but if I turn off the car, will I be able to restart it and we still have to pick up 2 prescriptions and some crickets and the kids need meds more than the toads need crickets and so I have to make a choice and I choose my children.  Also, there is a drive through at the pharmacy and not at the pet store.  Poor toads.
  14. We hit the drive thru at Burger King while we’re driving through drive thrus and the speaker is malfunctioning so I cannot understand what the guy is saying and my children are screaming, individually and all together, at me to NOT forget their fries and somehow the guy can’t hear ME but he can hear MY KIDS and so suddenly I have 7 orders of fries in addition to the two fries that come with meals.  Sigh.
  15. MC has a math worksheet and a social studies quiz to study for.  Who assigns a quiz and homework the DAY AFTER A FIELD TRIP?  Ugh.  At this point her concentration level is below sea level, but somehow we manage.  The boys both head to the same bathroom, scream at each other for a few minutes, which makes me scream and then they scatter to different bathrooms.  One or more toilets will be clogged in 3...2…1…
  16. Having unclogged the toilet, eaten dinner and gotten through homework, I make 60 magnets to give as gifts to teachers.  I’m pretty sure Will’s PE teacher (a man) doesn’t want Christmas ball magnets, but whatever.
  17. Get the kids in bed, finally.
  18. Sit down with a glass of wine to watch a little TV, and the power goes out.  I sit in the dark for a while thinking it’s a momentary thing and will flicker back on.  It isn’t and doesn’t.  Fumble around for a flashlight, fumble around for batteries, fumble around for candles.  Grab my glass of wine and my flashlight and head upstairs.  Might as well read and go to bed.  But not without my relaxing much-deserved and highly anticipated glass of wine.
  19. Settle in, about to wrap things up, when the lights come back on.  Whew.  But every single light in the house is on and now I have to go back downstairs and turn them all off.  Sigh.
  20. Stephen walks through the door. He announces he is going to bed.  At this point, that sounds like a good idea.  I put my glass of wine back in the fridge (chugging it seems too desperate at this point although I really was looking forward to it but oh well) and head upstairs and thank the good lord this day is over.  And pray that I can face Thursday.  


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Talk

For Will, the past year has been the year of “the talk.”

First, there was “THE talk.”  Conducted by his father, it was alarmingly short and sweet.  That was followed by “the talk” at school – family life class.

More “the talk” this year in middle school health.  Much more.  Enough to make a kid break down.  They covered some pretty disturbing (but important) stuff.

And now, it’s time for “the talk” again.  Although the subject matter is much less discomforting than puberty and hormones and body parts gone amuck.

It’s time for the Santa talk.

Truthfully, it’s been awhile in coming.  He’s 12.  Do I think he believes in Santa?  No.  Do I think he believes in the magic?  Yes.  Do I think he’s scared of admitting he doesn’t believe for fear he won’t get anything?  Yes.  I may or may not have convinced him of that when he questioned me at age 7.  In hindsight, maybe not my best move but I was never great at thinking on my feet.  And maybe, just maybe, he was ready to not believe anymore, but I wasn’t yet.  So yes, it was a little selfish.  But he would not have been able to keep that from his 5-year-old sister or 3-year-old brother.  This I know.

He probably hasn’t believed for some time.  I suspect that he wants to talk about it, but he hasn’t yet.  Lately, I’m discovering a sensitivity to this child that I didn’t know existed.  Maybe he just doesn’t want to definitively HEAR THE WORDS.  Discovering how he got here set his world on its ear (he wouldn’t even look at me for days), hearing for certain about Santa could be the final blow to his childhood.  OK, that’s a little dramatic.

Or is it?

Maybe it would be better for all of us to let him exist in this suspended state between pretend and reality.  Do I want to be the one who, once and for all, ends the charade?

You know, as I was tucking him in the other night (he still wants me to do this – smile), I noticed in the glow of the lamp a faint dusting of blonde hair on his upper lip.

It took my breath away.

It’s time.

I’m sad to see this time end, but strangely, I felt excited about this next phase with him.  I’m discovering so many new things about him lately (example above).  When one chapter ends, another begins.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Dance

This weekend is the Holly Ball.

Let’s backtrack, shall we?  Will is being forced participating, against his will much to his chagrin, in Cotillion.  It’s what 6th graders around here do.  He’s learning, among other things, to dance.  They dress up once a month and meet at the Women’s Club, where hundreds of preteen boys and girls tolerate each other, flirt with each other, and generally grit their teeth to get through it for the sake of their mothers, enduring sweaty palms, watery lemonade and many left feet.  Last month, to his horror, he got pegged to demonstrate, on stage, how one does the Foxtrot.  Apparently he’s a Foxtrotting machine.  I was watching up in the balcony (that’s my little cutie pie!); I’m sure he wanted to die.

This next dance is the Holly Ball, a formal dance where the parents get to step in and dance with their sons/daughters.  I think it will be lovely and I am looking forward to dancing with my sweet, handsome son.

He couldn’t be dreading anything more.

The general consensus from a backseat of boys on the way home from last month’s dance: “yeah, Holly Ball is gonna suck.”

Will broke his thumb last week.  He gleefully announced to me that it will be impossible for him to dance with his cast, because you have to hold hands.  I’ve seen the hand holding going on and let me tell you, those kids are barely grazing fingertips.  He’ll be fine.  This is the kid who’s been outside playing football and riding his bike, went to (and participated in) basketball practice last night, and has no problems doing anything, except for homework.  And, apparently, dancing.  Then, he found out he has a basketball game on Saturday and now is overly concerned there will be a timing conflict.  Um, we’ll manage.  The reason-du-jour?  The cast's stench.  It would be impolite and inconsiderate to subject a poor girl to the horror.  

At least he's getting something out of this, Foxtrot notwithstanding.

(side note:  The fact that he’s so squirmy about this delights me to no end!)

Wish him luck.  I will be placing all of his clothes out early, so that “misplaced clothing item” won’t be the next excuse (trust me, I’ve seen him squirrel away a tie or two in the hopes it will magically disappear forever).

Wish me luck that I can Foxtrot my way through all the excuses to get to the actual event.  Do you know how hard it is going to be to keep a straight face through all of this?  I might even cry.  For real.  That would really throw him for a loop.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Seven is such a great age for children (and after having 3, I think I can authoritatively declare this).
They’re big but still little.  Mature but still babyish.  Independent yet still snuggly.  
Precious and darling and delicious.

I feel like 7 is that magical year they start to discover all their possibilities.  When they begin to truly formulate their own opinions, when they’re eager to try everything.  And learn about everything.  And do everything.  Seven's enthusiasm is unmatched.  
It is magic.  

It’s the year they start to understand and appreciate your humor.  The year they begin to develop their own style and their own way of doing things.  I feel like 7 is the year they truly begin to interact with you on a more advanced level, having more actual conversations and exchanging thoughts.  It's the year you start to truly "get" each other.

I love 7. 

I have 2 more months of 7.  

And I plan to enjoy every little second of it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

10 Things

The other day, Tate and Meems were fighting.  As much as I would like to NOT be writing that, it's not reality around here.  On that particular day, the fighting reached an extraordinary crescendo that resulted in the destruction of a new toy catalog and a giant Sharpie slash on the sofa cushion.

Two words: 1) permanent, and 2) ink.

After their dad's head split open being sent to their rooms, they were given their consequences -- early bedtimes.  Womp.  Oh, and also, because they had been having so much trouble getting along, they each were charged with writing 10 good qualities about each other.  Womp womp.

A little later, each emerged from their rooms with their lists.


I thought he made some very wise observations about his sister, and said some lovely things.  Although, the "not a morning person" comment, while true, isn't necessarily what I had in mind.  At the same time, it wasn't offensive and she enjoyed that comment, so we left it at that.

Meems' (please ignore the spelling - my girl is a terrible speller):

Ahem.  It seems someone likes to have the last word.

After discussing how "he can be jealous" and "he can be annoying" are not positive characteristics, it was decided that some revisions were in order.  Lucky for her, #9 is true.  If he'd written those things about her, she would have come unglued.

The hope was to focus on the good that they saw in each other as we move forward.  Of course, they are 10 and 7.  We'll keep our fingers crossed and think optimistic thoughts.

A new toy catalog came in the mail today.  Now, if only someone would send me a new sofa cushion...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Monday

I haven't done this for a while.  

Yesterday, in our Sunday School class, we talked about thankfulness.  It's easy to be thankful when we're reminded to do so a la an aptly named holiday.  It's quite another to be thankful every day.

I'm guilty of this.

Some days just seem really hard around here.  It's easy to get mired down in the little struggles of every day and forget that in those struggles, there are blessings.  

We talked about how to teach our children about thankfulness.  We talked about the habit of thankfulness and how it improves your life in general -- bringing a peace and happiness that trickles over into every aspect of life, including physical and mental well-being.  Even when things are hard.

I Thesalonians 5:16-18 says: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 

Joy and thankfulness can be discovered in even the worst situations.  The trick is being open to finding it.

And being thankful for the little things that make all life's struggles worth it.

Today, I am happy for yesterday's Sunday School class.

Happy Monday!

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Power of the Written Word

Last night, my daughter found herself in some trouble.

Make that double trouble.  Because during her reprimand, she let her emotions get the best of her and, as she is prone to do, got sassy.

She found herself alone upstairs in her room for the evening.  She’s too young to realize it, but alone time is probably what she needed all along.

This morning, she presented me with a card she had made.  And I could just imagine her, sitting up in her room, contrite and sad and angry and all alone with the weight of her conscience.

It read:

"I LOVE you Mommy.  Just pretend that that never happened and will you forgive me?"

Such a poignant expression of her feelings – words both vulnerable and brave.  But that’s my girl.  Like me, her pencil becomes her instrument of self-expression.  Like the time, during a particularly frustrating round of homework, she wrote and then erased “I’m trying.  Really hard.”  Like her journal entries I happened to stumble upon as I was looking for paper for her brother, which state how proud she is of her brothers, how excited she is for her best friend and how much she loves her family.  The things she would never say out loud, but I know she wants to.

She watched me read the card with anticipation and worry.  We hugged and I assured her she was forgiven.
I hope that, one day, she’ll read this and understand how much that note meant to me and how much she means to me.  I hope she will see why I've written this blog, which is my own way of processing and documenting my feelings, concerns and joys.  And I hope she and her brothers will be able, through my words, to understand just how much I love them.

And how I understand her so much more than she thinks I do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Now I Get It

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a runner.  I use that term loosely, as it was not for the love of running that I ran.  I ran because: 1) having sports on my college applications made me look well-rounded; 2) I enjoyed the social aspect; and 3) I was not athletically equipped to do anything else.

During this time my father, who was and still is a runner, in every sense of the word (in fact I recently learned he’s been putting off a hip replacement for years because it means he’ll have to stop running) occasionally invited me to run with him.  My father always encouraged my running, and I think he knew that if I gave myself half a chance and showed a little dedication, I could be a better runner.  This is where we are different – my father never listens to that little voice inside that says “no.”  I do.  Or, rather, I did.

Although I loved that my dad asked me, I always felt self-conscious and awkward during those runs.  Self-conscious because I slowed him down.  A lot.  And also, he was serious about it.  I was not.  There was the time I tried to chew gum and it broke down into a million pieces in my mouth and we had to stop so I could "relieve" myself of the gum, trying to spit-gargle my mouth clean so I wouldn’t choke.  He inwardly shook his head in exasperation and quietly suggested it might not be a good idea to run with gum in my mouth.  He had a point.  I remember laughingly showing him how my friend and I ran backward or used our arms like windmills when it was windy, to be silly.  I truly don't believe he thought it was as hilarious as I did.  It was ridiculous. I slowed him down.  I got cramps.  Honestly, I psyched myself out so much over these runs that I think I just went to the land of “I can’t.”  Which, despite the fact that I had hotel points there, wasn’t a place he ever visited.  I was thrilled for the one-on-one with him, but I never actually got a chance to enjoy it because I was too stressed out.  Inevitably, he’d escort me home and he would take off to get a few more miles in.  Miles where he didn’t have to contend with dissolving gum issues and he could empty his head of the ridiculous image of me and my friend wind milling our arms through the streets of town.  

Or so I thought.

Thanks to this man, for the second time in my life, I am running, although this time, it’s because I actually (gasp!) enjoy it.  It clears my head and organizes my thoughts.  I have a chance to talk to myself and to God when I run.  Or just revel in total silence.  And also I’m still not athletically equipped to do anything else.

And sometimes I even run with my dad.  But I can’t talk (I have to focus on not dying), so it’s largely in silence.  It’s still a little stressful, because he’s still faster than me, but as I have gotten slower, so has he.  And I enjoy just being with him.

The other day, I decided to take advantage of the break in Richmond rain to go for a run.  Tate intercepted me on my way out and asked if he could go, which totally made my day.  And so, we set off on a 1.3 mile loop around our neighborhood.  A couple stomach cramps later, I deposited him at the house with some high-fives and a big hug and, feeling good, ran off to squeeze in another couple miles before football practice.

Alone with my thoughts, I realized I had pulled a “dad.”  And also, in that moment I realized this:

That maybe my dad was not relieved to get rid of me and do his own thing, having finished the pity run.  He just wanted to run a little farther.  And maybe just clear his head.

That he was not upset when I had a cramp, even though I suspect he knew there were times I was just pretending.

That he must be the most patient man on earth, to put up with running with me and my gum and my windmills and endless teenage girl chatter.

That he endured all these things, without complaint, because it meant just being together.

The joy I felt having run with my little man, just that time spent together, connecting…I got it.

And I realized...that was the point.

That was always the point.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

That Would Be Lovely

You know what would be lovely?  An afternoon of stress-free homework.  Make that an afternoon of no homework.

You know what would be lovely?  My children needing me in staggered phases as opposed to ALLATTHESAMETIIME.

You know what would be lovely?  A sit down dinner with the entire family at a normal hour, instead of a forced sit down early-bird special so we can get to cheerleading practice.

You know what would be lovely?  If someone would clean my house on a regular basis.

You know what would be lovely?  If someone didn’t second guess me at every turn.

You know what would be lovely?  Hugs from my children for no reason other than that they love me.

You know what would be lovely?  Being able to freeze time.  Although, maybe it’s a blessing that we can’t.

You know what would be lovely?  Grass in my yard.

You know what would be lovely?  Being able to go to all their games, all at the same time.

You know what would be lovely?  A weekend without any games.  Just one.

You know what would be lovely?  More time for myself.

You know what would be lovely?  Finishing their baby books.  Or starting.

You know what would be lovely?  Uncomplicated, happy days where my biggest concern was getting home from Target in time for a nap.

You know what would be lovely?  Having a glass of wine while they play in the tub, then squeezing each and every one of them while I towel them off,  pack them in their little  jammies, and have them climb into my lap with their sweet-smelling pudgy baby skin and wet hair to read a book and snuggle and twirl my hair.

You know what would be lovely?  If one day, they all reminisce about how I did know what I was doing, how clean my house was (or so they thought), how much fun they had in the yard, how I never missed a game, how it’s funny and “so Mom” that their baby books are half-finished or empty altogether, how they used to take baths together and snuggle up to read, how they loved having family dinners, how they only pretended to be annoyed by my hugs and snuggles but are really glad I did that, and how patient I was with their homework.  OK, that last one probably isn’t going to happen (if this week is any example).

Wouldn’t that be lovely??

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Pied Piper

My girl Meems is dying for a sister.  Anyone who knows her or has read about her knows this.  DYING.  Specifically, a younger sister that she can carry and dress up and mother and mentor and who can be her student when she's playing school (because her little brother is having none of it, unfortunately).

Lucky her, Tuesday through Thursday she gets a gaggle of 'em.

Those are the nights we have football practice.  Seeing as it's little boys who are still just a tad too young to drop off for practice (and the fact that Richmond weather dictates at least one fast-moving thunderstorm/threat of a thunderstorm a week), there are plenty of parents (and therefore siblings too) hanging out in their collapsible chairs fantasizing about being somewhere else and trying to figure out how they're going to get everyone fed and in bed before 11.

Meems has made a few friends at these practices.  There are a couple girls roughly her age, and considering they are all in the same boat (the S.S. Boredom) they enjoy running around doing cartwheel after cartwheel.  Meems is a cheerleader.  There's always a cheerleader practice, and down deep inside, all little girls are crazy about cheerleaders.  Meems enjoys teaching them her cheers and just hanging out.

The bonus is that there are some younger girls too.  Who see the big girls running around and follow along.  The older girls are very sweet to these little girls and let them play along.  Which satisfies Meems' craving for a little sister, as I frequently see her carrying one of the smaller girls or scrunching down to talk to the little ones at eye level.  I love watching her at these times.  There she is in her element, all sweetness and love.  In 5 minutes she might bop over to her chair for some water and pop me some attitude or accusingly declare that she's hungry (because clearly I'M the one keeping her from her dinner) and then skip off to return to her sweetness.

The other night, while we were at a scrimmage, I noticed several other little girls had joined the gaggle.  Girls from the other team, apparently.  There is a certain solidarity in these football sisters -- a certain unspoken bond.  Meems, as usual, is leading the little ones around.  They follow her like she is the Pied Piper.  Skipping after her until she stops, turns around and scrunches over to talk to them.  Then she turns around and they are off again, following, squealing with delight and laughter and general little girl chatter.  It's not until she runs closer to me that I realize what I have mistaken for squealing is actually yipping, and what she's turning around and scrunching down to say to them is "good doggie.  wanna treat?"

She has convinced all these little girls to pretend they are dogs.  DOGS.  And they are happily panting along.  It's not a malicious endeavor -- that's something that would never occur to Meems.  I look around, slightly mortified, so see the other moms' reactions.  None.  No one is upset, no one is yanking her daughter away.  I wander over to Meems, innocently ask her "whatcha' doing?" I explain to her that maybe the other girls don't WANT to play doggie, to which she replies "it was THEIR idea!"  Seeing as all these panting, yipping girls are smiling, I decide to let it be.  One little girl is chasing her tail.

No harm done here.

Unstructured play generates creativity, no?  Isn't that what it's all about?

Her older brother is mystified.  He tells me he'll never understand girls.  Truth kid.  But I can't  help but see he's a little impressed with his sister right now.  Heck, I am too.  Solid leadership skills.

That kid is going to rule the world one day.  There's your proof.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

There He Goes

Will started middle school yesterday.

I have been dreading anticipating this moment as much as he has these last few months.  In my heart I know he's fine.  But he just seems like he's still my baby.  My little baby.  And I cannot bear that he's growing up so fast.

He asked me in the spring (apparently, he had been plotting how to let me down easy) if I could NOT walk him to the bus stop this year.  Well, of course I won't!  He's in  middle school!  He's got a reputation to establish and maintain!  I am not going to be that mom who can't let go!  I KNOW when to let go!  No, my feelings are not hurt (they truly weren't)!  I totally trust you (I do)!  You haven't NEEDED me to walk you to the bus stop for a long time (but I have).

Yesterday, my friend and I spied watched as her son and Will got on the bus, from the safety of her very shaded driveway.  It was more to satisfy my curiosity than anything.  The middle school bus stop has always been a big mystery.  And now the mystery's been solved.

Today, I watched as he left the house, turned the corner, and walked out of sight.  How is it that a kid can seem so small and so big all at once?

And why am I having such a hard time with this?

I immediately came inside and squeezed the 7-year-old nearly to death.  I just needed to absorb the sweet warmth of a little one, to hold on tightly to that child for just a minute... I could bear to let another one go.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back To School

Lemme' just say, I love Jen Hatmaker.  And her blog.  This is a woman who gets it and isn't afraid to put it out there.  And it's always hilarious.  Because you have to find the humor in parenting, or else you will lose. your. everloving. mind.

Today marks the one-week point to the first day of school.  Truthfully, I have had mixed feelings about this...I have really enjoyed this summer with my kiddos.  We have had some great, fun family times.  I'm not ready for the rigamarole of the school year just yet.  The thought of homework is enough to send me to my sick bed with a mother-of-a-headache.  And don't even get me started on packing lunches.

But then this week happened.

I went into this week knowing it was the moment of truth.  For us, that last week of summer vacay is always the killer of good times. Would this year be different?  I was hopeful.

But no.  At this point, my kids are b.o.r.e.d.  And sick and tired.  Sick and tired of themselves and each other.  Sick and tired of me yelling for them to find something to do and that it's not my job to entertain them.  Sick and tired of me in general.  Sick and tired of the heat.  Sick and tired of the pool.  Sick and tired of their rooms. Sick and tired of bowling, movies, games.  I suppose I should take this as a sign that they have a super awesome amazing who keeps them from becoming sick and tired.  But I think by the end of last week, she was even arriving at sick and tired too.  I, too, am sick and tired.  Sick and tired of the fighting (they are on each other's last nerves), sick and tired of the boredom, sick and tired of them destroying every single room they enter, sick and tired of snacking, sick and tired of them asking (to no avail) for soda to drink.  Sick and tired of reminding them to brush their hair and teeth.  Sick and tired of them thinking that the kitchen is a restaurant and I am their own personal short order cook.  Sick and tired of the slugs they have become here lately.

In conjunction with the bored, they are hyped up with the excitement/anticipation/dread of school.  The combination of all these things is lethal on its safest days.  Our house is a grenade of emotion and drama and someone keeps threatening to pull the pin.

Even the dog is in on the action.  It's like she just KNOWS they're about to leave her and she's driving everyone mad.  Or maybe it's because she's ready to get back to her routine and they are driving her mad. Regardless, I'm convinced that dog is really Satan's offspring wrapped up in Labrador retriever cuteness.  

I am working from home this week, due to lack of childcare. I made this clear to the children early in the week.  Working from home is both a blessing and a curse -- a blessing because you get to have some flexibility and be there with your children.  And a curse for the same reason.  They were on board. Excited. Supportive.  Total solidarity.  "Got it, mom."  

So, why, every morning is the first thing out of their mouths "what are we going to do today?"  This morning, my son asked me what we were having for dinner before he'd even had breakfast.  I told him "whatever you decide to make."  He looked at me like I'd lost an eyeball.  They have become slugs.  Bickering, filthy, ravenous slugs.  

Today, it rained.  Because we weren't all ready to kill each other before.  My husband is out of town.  The noise level in my home is awe inspiring.  Why are they always yelling?  Even when they're not fighting it's just yelling.  Can no one speak in a normal tone?  I finally put in the movie Elf just to get them to stop talking; after 30 solid minutes of arguing negotiating, it's the one movie they could agree on.  Can you believe I am actually hoping the football scrimmage/cheerleading practice does NOT get cancelled tonight?  At this point, 1.5 hours of silence and no one needing me or whining or fighting trumps the fact that my "me" time might take place in a downpour.  

It's official.  We are done.  Summer is over.  If we all survive until next Tuesday, it will be a miracle.  I entered this week daring my kids to prove me wrong about it being time for them to get back to school.  It's the one time they refused to accept the dare.

I love summer.  But I know my kids, and I know me and that means I know that we will all be happier with some structure, separation and distraction.

Hello school, nice to see you my old friend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy Monday

Last week, my boys went to spend some time with their grandparents.  We had Little Meems to ourselves for a whole week, and while she enjoyed the one-on-one time (who doesn't occasionally?) she was quickly bored and lonely.  Middle child syndrome -- they don't know how to be alone.  Or rather, they don't like to be alone. We did mani/pedis, went to dinner, daddy/daughter dates, sleepovers, and finally a canoe trip down the river.  It was lovely.  

On Sunday, we brought the boys home.  As I sat in the car, I listened to the three of them chit chat.  I listened to them fuss at each other.  I listened to them playing car games and seeing who could hold onto the overhead bar the longest.  I listened to them extolling the virtues of Ice flavored water, declaring it "delicious," and "extra yummy" and "so refreshing!"  I marveled at how something as simple as fancy flavored sparkling water could bring such a thrill.  It reminded me how innocent they all are.  How little, really. Babies. My babies.

As I woke up on Monday, the house felt different to me.  Full.  Warm.  Bustling. Too noisy for being so early in the morning.   


And I realized with a smile that all was right again in my world.  That my universe had come back into balance.  My cup was again full.  

And that made it a happy Monday.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tooth Fairy Fail

It happened.

Again.  (hangs head in shame)

The Tooth Fairy forgot to make an appearance.  To be fair, she had only visited us the night before, leaving with a hefty haul of 4 teeth.

And then yesterday, surprise!  T lost a tooth.  I didn't even know it was loose.

As most 7-year-olds would be, he was excited.  Excited enough to tell his babysitter when she came to pick up her check.  Jumping up and down a little.  Eyes twinkling.  When your children smile, reaaaaalllly smile, and you can see it in their eyes and you know, you just KNOW how happy they are?

That was T.

This morning, T came into our room, leaned against the bed, and said in his little voice "the Tooth Fairy didn't come."

You know that screeching sound you get in your head when you realize you've really messed up?  It's the sound of a car crash, record needle scratch and and piano dropping from the sky all at once.  And then silence.  The deathly quiet of guilt.  That was me.

"Oh, buddy, she's very busy.  She probably just didn't have time.  She was just here the night before...maybe she got confused?"

"Yeah.  Maybe."

"Why don't we take the tooth to DeeDee and PopPop's, and she can come there."

"Ok."  And he padded out of the room.

Lying there, I was hit with the gut wrenching realization that the Tooth Fairy is hit or miss around here. Which is a sad truth to admit.  I consoled myself with the thought that one day, when we're all gathered around the dining room table for dinner -- us old and gray/still amazingly blonde (!), them with their spouses/significant others -- we'll get a good laugh out of it.  I know hope we will.

But I don't really feel any better.

And that doesn't make today's disappointment go away.  I told T that even the Tooth Fairy makes mistakes, but typically, she makes up for her transgressions the next night with an even bigger reward.  Something to look forward to!  "But she forgot me last time too," was his response.

Womp womp.  Mom guilt times ten.  I try to make peace with my imperfections as a mother, but I can't forgive myself this one.  Not this time.

It's happened to all of them.  Scratch that, it only happens to the boys.  Little Meems still won't let the Tooth Fairy in her room, so I have to put her teeth under MY pillow.  W doesn't believe anymore, although he won't admit it for fear of not receiving anything.  He's just in it for the moola.  T, on the other hand, still believes in the magic.  But if I keep this up, not for long.

I know I'm not the only mom out there to miss this event.  I do get it right, more often than not, but I'm not perfect.  That's no excuse, but it is a reason.  And I come to terms with that realization every day.  It's like God's little reminder to be humble, and without pride.

The Tooth Fairy's pulling out all the stops tonight.  Money, a note, gum...she might even throw in a little fairy dust for good measure.  She'll bring the magic.

I don't want to lose that magic.  Not just yet.  Because he's my baby.  Because he's excited.  Because, really, this is the easiest money he'll make in his life.  Because the happy, smiley eyes get me every time.

Because THAT, my friends, is true magic.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy Monday

I took a break.  I seem to that over the summer.  You'd think that, with school letting out, things would be calmer.


My friend recently Facebooked that she's got to get over the idea that Summer Break is truly a "break."  Truth, sister.

While we ARE enjoying a break from school (and SOL madness, honestly I couldn't hate anything more), it occurs to me that it's already the end of July and I don't know where the summer has gone.  Between swim team, lacrosse tournaments, summer programs, work and travel, it's been a busy (but fun) summer.  A happy summer.  And, as I reflect on summer thus far, it's making this Monday most happy too.

Happy Monday!
5th Grade Graduation...OMG

A weekend in Williamsburg.

It's hot.  There's no shade.  And I have been watching lacrosse for 8 solid hours.
Not happy.  3 game loss.
When kids are bored, they take pictures with  your phone.  Sometimes, they turn out quite nicely.
A little fun to cap off the weekend.
Because every 9 year old needs a beer mug hat.

Beach fun with cousins.

New adventures.

Lots of this.

Conquering fears.
And sometimes just conquering.
Gosh I love this kid.
How T does breakfast.
Always smiling.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

As You Turn 10, Some Things Big Girls Should Know

1. Always be kind.  Everyone has heaviness on their heart, a problem with which they struggle, a reason to feel different.  Let experience guide you how to treat others.  The Golden Rule is called that for a reason.
2. Take pride in your appearance.  You are a darling, and I love to see your blossoming style.  I have found that if you look good, you feel good.  It’s a wonderful trick – one that works on others as well as yourself.  Can you believe people actually think I have it all together?!  I know, right?!  Shh, that’ll be our little secret.
3. Don’t strive for perfection.  It is unattainable and the pursuit of it will make you miserable.  Do strive for your best.  You don’t even know yet what that is, but I do.  Surprise yourself…it’ll be worth it.
4. Beauty is more than skin deep.  It’s what’s in your heart that matters.  Don’t let society make you think you’re not beautiful.  You are.  And if you stay as sweet and kind and compassionate as you are today, you will always be a knockout.
5. Your brothers DO love you.  I promise.  But they are boys and boys are wired differently.  They will not hug you.  They will not tell you how pretty you look.  They will tease you mercilessly.  They will give you noogies and wave stinky socks in your face.  This is the way they are and no woman really knows why.  Just know they do.  Trust me.
6. Make lists.  Lists of what you need to do.  Lists of what you want to do.  List for what you want to achieve.  Lists of what you dream of.  Lists of what you dream to be.  Lists of what you hate.  Lists of your favorite things.  Lists of the places you’ve been.  Write it all down.  It will keep you organized, provide focus and nothing feels better than checking things off your list.  Both in the long term and in the short term.
7. Don’t be afraid to try.  That is, unless it’s illegal, dangerous, hurtful to someone else, or all of the above.
8. Watch your tone of voice.  It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
9. Use your good manners.  Not just with other people, but at home too.  Good manners can take you places, trust me.  Moms looooovvvvvveee kids with good manners.  They make a positive impression.
10. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.  You’re shy, I know.  It’s hard to make a new friend, but oh, it feels so good!  You may get knocked down once or twice.  That’s OK.  Chances are, they’re not good for you anyway.  Be a good friend, and you’ll be lucky to find a good friend.

I can't believe you're 10.  

You are a gift.  I treasure every day with you.  And I couldn't love you more.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Moving On

It is almost over.  The last week of school.  Can I get a hallelujah?!

Between parties and field trips and picnic lunches and SOLs and contributions to this and to that and short days and school performances and deadlines at work and rearranging schedules and business trips and back to back (and sometimes simultaneous) practices and the influx of school supplies being sent home…my cup (and my trash can) runneth over.

But so does my heart.

Because, for Will, what's also over is his elementary school career.

My baby!  All grown up.  Where did the little baby I put on the bus for the first time so long ago go?

First day of school.

You know, the little baby with rosebud lips, hair that stuck straight up, and big blue eyes?  The kid that drooled incessantly and kicked the bed to fall asleep?  The kid that was on the move as soon as he developed limbs?  I look at him and I can’t see that baby, but I can see pieces of that baby…the mouth, the auburn hair, the big blue eyes, although he’s grown into them now.  He doesn’t drool anymore, thankfully.  He was a good, easy and easy-going baby…that hasn’t changed either.  He is as chill and even-keeled as ever.

He is as active as ever.  In fact, I don't have any shots of him where he's not moving.

I’m proud of the kid he is, nervous about the teen he’ll be, excited to see the man he’ll become.

Mostly, I am grateful beyond words for the blessing in our lives named Will.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This Kid

Is funny.
Is irreverent.
Is curious.
Is creative.
Is imaginative.
Is smart.
Is sensitive.
Is his own person, completely.

He writes songs, passes up ballgames so he can focus on the blueprint for his next invention, makes robots out of paper. 

 Loves science.  Loves nature.  Loves Captain America.  Loves animals.  Loves mustaches.  Loves stories.  

He recently spent two rain-soaked days looking for a frog in the backyard, to no avail.  Finally his dad took him to the pet store, where too much money, many hugs, and “best day evers” later, he added two fire-bellied toads to his little family.  Meet Cuff and Link. 


The truth is, this kid never asks for anything.  He doesn’t mind hand-me-downs, is content with one pair of sneakers to last the whole year, and doesn’t mind that the outdoor toys he’s finally old enough to enjoy have pieces missing.  He’s content in his brother’s old lacrosse helmet, old sports jerseys with the names of players who are no longer active, and the smallest room (but with the coolest bed).  

So when he does want something, it’s been thought out thoroughly and planned for accordingly.  And wished for silently, but fervently.  He has hoped for it in his head, as well as his heart.  

When he does want something, it’s hard to say no.  Not impossible, but definitely hard.

So now we have two fire belly toads.  They are poisonous.  They eat crickets doused in calcium.  Live crickets.  

He has spent a good deal of his free time watching them.  Observing how Link is chill and Cuff is aggressive. Cuff tries to escape, gets mad and knocks Link from his perch on the log.  He loves those little guys.

And getting to love them makes him the happiest boy on earth.  

Who could ever say no to that?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Exasperation = Epiphany?

I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Will and some of his friends.  For this I feel fortunate, as he has a great group of friends.  As in, they are great kids.  Nice kids.  Exactly the type of kids you want your children to befriend.

Of course, they are 11.  Still little boys (a little).  Still na├»ve and oblivious to drama.  And also to girls.  Boys in the last hurrahs of elementary school.  Boys who are silly and goofy and still enjoy potty humor.  Boys whose mustaches are made of Gatorade, soda or milk, instead of actual whiskers.

Kids straddling the fine line between mature and, well, not so much.

Boys are different than girls in this way.  Girls, once they plant their feet in the land where maturity reigns, are loathe to ever go back.  Boys…they keep running away from the shore line, hesitant to be so firmly planted.  Not. Just. Yet.

As a girl, I am sometimes confounded by my son and his behavior.  As a parent, often this behavior downright makes me cringe.  Between forcing him to take showers, reminding him to use his napkin, to wash his hands, to brush his teeth, to hang up his towels, to put his clothes away neatly, to use deodorant, not to stick his brother's head under his shirt in his sweaty armpits, not to fling his dirty socks across the room, and to wear shoes (how often do I look outside, only to find him throwing the lacrosse ball in his socks? I’m not going to answer that. It’s embarrassing.).

This weekend, I sat in the pouring rain waiting for lacrosse game after lacrosse game.  The fields were muddy and swampy and, well, let’s just say I have never seen so much mud.  Red clay mud...the worst kind.  In the rain, Will is wearing his socks with slides.  While running around throwing the ball with some of his friends, his shoes get sucked into the mud and he continues his sprint, madly laughing, cradling the ball, through the ankle deep mud in his socks.  I happened to witness this event as I was waiting for the porta potty.  Exasperation.  There we go with the SOCKS again!  I mean, who thinks it is hysterical to run around the mud in yours socks?  Next to porta potties.  In the rain.  When you have to wear those socks later in a game.

He did.  And so did his friends.  I thought it was ridiculous, and started to admonish him for being ridiculous.  And in my exasperation, I had an epiphany.  Because, like it or not, this is the kind of behavior that makes my kid my kid.  This is the kind of thing he’s willing to do for kicks and the laughter of his friends.  I hear from parents regularly that kids like Will because he is crazy and funny.  He’s silly, and although it can be irritating, what’s wrong with being silly?  This is what makes him who he is – a love of the irreverent, a penchant for ridiculousness, a lack of inhibition.  If I spend so much time correcting this behavior, in doing so, I’m changing him.  Changing the things I love about him and the things his friends also love.  The things that make him who he is.  Was he hurting anyone by getting muddy?  No.  Was it as ridiculous as I thought it was?  Not really.  Socks can be washed.  Blisters from wet socks can be healed.  Being embarrassed in front of your friends as your mother stomps around in the mud collecting your shoes…that can’t be fixed.

The truth is, we have so much going on right now that I feel pulled in a million directions, like I’m treading water, constantly.  I am not a control freak, but I don’t like feeling out of control either.  And right now, I have no idea whether I’m coming or going and have been feeling the need for some control.

I thought I could control dirty socks.

But I can’t.  And I shouldn’t want to.  Are dry socks going to make me feel better?  Maybe.  It's the I-am-so-mature girl in me.  The reality is, I have three kids.  Life is never going to be organized and I will always struggle with the out-of-control-ness of it all.  In trying to gain control and make myself feel better, I’m stressing everyone out.  And more than control, I want laughter, and chatter, and talking and snuggling.  Happiness.  But not at the expense of letting my kids be themselves.  Maturity will come.  Eventually.  Ok, hopefully.  And to some of my children earlier than others.  But I can't control when it happens.

And there it is.  My exasperation epiphany.

Besides, after being surrounded by boys of all ages this weekend, literally hundreds of ‘em, I see that the best thing I can do for myself is to go with the flow.  Because it’s not something he’ll ever outgrow.  Not completely.  Boys only grow up so much.  And in the end, isn’t that why we girls like them in the first place?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Did You Know???

Little Meems gave me a fortune teller she made especially for me for Mother's Day.

Under each number is a "did you know?" fact about myself, as she sees me.

Let's just say, it was enlightening.  And also very honest.  Girl tells it like it is.

Did you know sometimes you can be a bit crazy?
Did you know that you can be a bit annoying?
Did you know that you  make things up?
Did you know that you always pinch my buns?
Did you know you drink wine at 4:00 in the afternoon?
Did you know I love you?
Did you know you are the best mom in the whole world?
Did you know I love you more than you could ever imagine?

Now here are some things I would answer in response.
Yes, please don't ever lose your silly.
Yes, but I'm the mom and that's part of my job.
Yes, I make up nicknames and crazy word combos.  They help me express how much I love you.
Yes.  You have cute little buns.  So do your brothers.
Yes.  Wine is tasty.  And sometimes necessary.  And 4:00 is really not all that early.
Yes.  But sometimes it feels like just the opposite.
No.  There's no way that could be true.  There are much better moms out there than me, but I'm trying.
Yes, baby girl.  And trust me, the feeling is mutual.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy Enough

Update:  Little Meems didn’t get the solo.

And thus, the little thing had her very first heartbreak.

As a parent, you wish you could shield your children from this.  You can’t. 

The news was announced Friday morning at school.  Her best friend got the part, and she was so excited for her!  She held it in all day…

…and then broke down walking home from the bus stop.

The thing is, I don’t know if she ever would have said anything if her dad hadn’t asked her.  Brave little thing.  Trying so hard, STILL, not to cry. 

But it was too much.  And no one should have to suffer heartbreak alone. 

She had a good cry, followed by some chocolate and girl time shopping.  Things got a little better.  Things always look better after chocolate.

She’s happy for her friend, so happy that on Saturday, she bought her friend a gift.  With her own money. 

And she decided to try out for a speaking part.  That’s my girl!

Yesterday, she told me she wasn’t going to try out after all.  Concerned that she had become afraid of taking that risk, and wanting to encourage her to not be discouraged by this little setback, I gently asked her why.

“Because, I’m getting to do all the things I love in the show…the singing and dancing…and that makes me happy.”

"Are you sure?  Are you worried you won't get the part?"

"I'm sure.  I don't think it would make me happier...well maybe it would, but I'm really happy just the way it is."

In our parental quest to push our children toward achievement, do we ever stop to consider that good enough is OK?  That happy enough is a good thing, and not somehow a deficit?  Yes, I want my children to aspire to great things.  I want to push them toward greatness if I can.  I want to encourage them to try and teach them that living with the disappointment of failure is far better than living with regret.  BUT, ultimately, I want them to find their happiness.  I want them to appreciate simple pleasures and the gifts they have and be content with the everyday joys of this case, singing and dancing.

Would getting a speaking role make her happier?  Possibly.  Would losing that role break her heart even more?  Certainly.  Will she regret not trying?  Perhaps.

But, to know where your happy place is and be utterly content to live there just the way it is?  How can I find fault with that?

Besides, she's 9.  She has plenty of time to aspire and dream big.  To try and succeed, or try and fail.  

And so I'll let her be happy enough.  Because that is, truly, enough.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Vain About the Vein

Little Meems thinks she has a vein on her neck.

Backtrack.  Little Meems has a vein on her neck.  It is one we all have.  It transports blood to our heads.  It's kind of important that way.

She has discovered that this vein protrudes slightly on her neck.  Especially when she's screaming.  Don't ask me why she knows this.  Or how the investigation started.

She is just beside herself over this vein.  It was the first thing she mentioned to her father when he stepped through the door after his business trip.

And this vein is driving me insane.

I tried to explain to her that we all have those veins.  That some people's are more visible than other people's.  That she, being slender, is probably one of those people.  And that she will be like me, who takes after my father in that every vein on our bodies is visible.  At all times.  We have "poppy" veins.  And I have the vein in my neck that pops when I talk.  I hate it, but I need it, so what's a girl to do?  I have had the hands of an old woman since I was 11.  Big veins, popping out everywhere.  As I've gotten older, the veins have become more pronounced, and they twist and turn up my arms and in my neck.  My dad has them, his  mother had them.  It is a family thing.

Physically, she is a Norris (me) through and through.  So, duh.

Back to the vein.  I have been hearing about this vein consistently since its discovery 3 hours ago.  She will talk for me and I have to watch to see how it behaves.  See how it pops out??  SEEEEEE?????  Head wagging side to side like it's going to pop off.

I don't see anything, really.

"Well, it's there and are you blind?"  She is nearly hysterical and also, she's being disrespectful so I do some head wagging of my own, only I'm not as good at it as she is, but my voice is scarier.

Melodramatic exasperated sigh.  And another one.  So she stomps off to the mirror in the bathroom and practices talking in varying degrees of loudness and intensity -- mad, clenching her teeth, laughing, smiling.  I can hear her every facial expression.  She emerges, convinced more than ever that it's there and determined more than ever to convince me of the same.

She is irate that it is there.  She doesn't WANT it to be there (I can tell by the way she keeps throwing up her hands in disbelief and utter surrender, like "I give up!"), but when I tell her that I don't see anything, instead of relief, her face twists itself into agonized disbelief that I can't see this horrible awful thing, as she slaps her hands down in exasperation and waggles her head side to side some more.

I'm confused.  I don't know what answer she wants, but it's clearly the one I don't have.  But, I try, and so when I tell her that it adds personality, and makes her unique, she juts her bottom jaw out at me and stops breathing for a minute.  You know, that look you give your parents that says "you're an idiot?"  Well, she's got it mastered.  Honestly, I think girls emerge from their mother's womb having already mastered that look.

And then I see it.  And it's a doozy.  And I know in my heart that someone is going to be very scared of that thing one day.

And it makes me smile a little.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Lights are Bright on Broadway

Today is the day that Little Meems has decided to try out for a solo in the 3rd grade musical.

I have written many posts about that little girl and her singing abilities.  Using the term "abilities" loosely, here.  Veeerrrrryy loosely.

I am nervous for her.
I am anxious for her.
I am worried for her, that the other kids trying out  might laugh.
I am hoping her music teacher is the kind, graceful human being I think he is.

I am proud of her.

I am in awe of her.

Never, never would I have had the confidence to do this at the age of 9.  Never, never would I have had the belief in myself to do this, despite the fact that others (her brothers) regularly cover their ears and beg her to stop.  And, occasionally, her parents suggesting oh-so-nicely that she can sing out loud all she her room.  With the door closed.

I keep vacillating between hoping she gets the part and hoping she doesn't.  Unfortunately, that's my truth.  It's my job to promote her and protect her.  I desperately want her to get that part, but I hate the idea that she could be hurt by doing so.

She might just surprise us all (she has a way of doing that) and work it.  I'm hoping that seeing this tiny girl up on stage, belting her heart out to a tune only she hears will make people smile.  And make them realize how incredible children are.  How blind faith and a belief in yourself aren't bad qualities to possess.

And wonder why, and when, we lost that anyway.

So, good luck to my Little Meems today.  May your dreams of Broadway be realized.
Go get 'em girl!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Life With an 11-Year-Old Boy

Look closely at this picture.  Do you see it?

Here’s a closeup.

This is life with an 11-year-old boy.

This is life with an 11-year-old boy.  Socks flung everywhere.  Or, socks are stuffed into one another and used as weapons.

This is life with an 11-year-old boy.  I know this won’t get better.  Believe it or not, he cleaned his room yesterday.  Truth.

This is life with an 11-year-old boy.  

And this?? I think I might have to read this.  I have no more clue what’s going to happen to him than he does.  I should probably know these things.

This is life with an 11-year old boy.  He'll never just smile.

11-year-old boys shoot videos of themselves skateboarding down a hill in a snowstorm.

They have monthly 7:30am appointments at the orthodontist.

They are constantly moving.  A typical day consists of basketball, lacrosse, swimming, video games, ESPN, baseball, skateboarding, bike riding, walking the dog, oh, and school and homework, of course.

Life with an 11-year-old boy requires tolerance for the endless discussion of bodily functions, and an appreciation for the hilarity that ensues.

Life with an 11-year-old means reminding him 4 times to brush his teeth, or wash his hands.  And him complaining about being reminded.  And then forgetting to do it anyway.

Life with an 11-year-old boy means holding your breath a lot and double-checking your health insurance coverage.  And upping coverage where necessary.  You might want to make friends with your local orthopedic surgeon.

It means limited hugs, or any physical contact, for that matter.

It means interesting and lively conversations.  Or mumbled mono-syllabic answers and lots of silence.  Either/or, never both.

It means  you have entered that “parents are so embarrassing” phase.

It means getting each other’s jokes.

It means you can have a little fun embarrassing them occasionally.  Appropriately, of course.

It means there’s never a dull moment.

I love life with an 11-year-old boy.

Life with an 11-year-old boy is crazy and fun.  It is breathtaking.  It can be frustrating, but it is always interesting.  It is easy yet complicated, exhilarating yet exasperating.

A blessing.  Beyond wonderful.  

Especially life with our 11-year-old boy.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

True Confession

This picture makes me laugh so hard.  

Do you ever have days like this?

This photo was taken at 4:00 on a Friday, many years ago.  

I like to think of it as the stay-at-home mom's dirty little secret.

Little Meems is in there somewhere.  Can you find her?

The Happiest Place on Earth

I saw a commercial for Disney the other day.  It made me so nostalgic and wistful.  Our trip there was so amazing. I don't know when I've enjoyed my family more.  Just the five of us, everyone so happy, perfect weather, total relaxation.  Stephen told me he'd like to go back.  I always thought I was a "we're doing this one time and one time only" kind of person, but I kind of agreed.

I just came across pix that we took.  Some of which, I had never seen.  It made me realize that I need to stop and give myself time to reminisce, and to soak in the joy of my babies as much as possible.

Are we there yet?

Getting squirted.


Still a kid.  A happy, happy kid.

Before we got stuck inside Splash Mountain.

Tate's hero.  Wonder what they're talking about?


While the boys rode a water ride, Meems climbed.

 Let me add that among the 3-4 kids climbing (all boys except her) she was the only one who consistently made it to the top.  Much to the chagrin of those boys.  She actually had an audience ("look at that little girl!").  Proud mama.

Visiting with cousins on the way - priceless!