Saturday, December 9, 2017

Happy 3 Josie

Dear Josie,
Today you are 3.
We looked at your baby pictures last night and you wondered why you had a boo boo in the hospital.

It's hard to think back to those first days---you with tubes taped to your face and hooked up to all kinds of machines. The incessant beeping and the days I couldn't feed or hold you.

The day you were born I couldn't see you at all and those hours were so long and hard, yet not nearly as hard as the night I went home from the hospital without you. Daddy pushed me in a wheelchair into an elevator and out the door and my arms felt so empty without you.

Because from the moment I met you I knew I could  never live without you. You were meant to be part of our family and were such a special Christmas gift. You really make everyone happy. Your first real smile was at about 3 weeks. That entire first year  you never stopped smiling. I was obsessed with your gorgeous grin and I was the annoying mom constantly snapping your picture.

You are a little girl you truly changed our family and gave us a different outlook on life. How lucky we are to have you!

To you everything is exciting! You are so full of life and still the smiliest little girl. Even when you get hurt, you're quick to say "I'm OK!" with a sweet little smile. You genuinely love everything. Dance. Swim. Music. School. Animals. People. Pretty Dresses. Haircuts. FOOD! It's pretty easy to make you happy. Every morning you wake up and say "It's a sunny day Mama!"---even when it's raining.

You love your brother and sister and want so desperately to be just like them. You yell "Hi-Ya!" at karate and sing along as Julie strums her ukulele. You try to join in games of Chess and Heads Up, and Nerf gun wars, and you love chasing around all the big kids in the neighborhood. You just want to be included in everything.

You love to snuggle and you are completely irresistible when you ask for "huggies". You're infatuated with butterfly kisses and Eskimo kisses and ask for them over and over, and that's pretty hard to resist too.

Three years ago you won over our hearts and we just can't imagine life without you.

Happy 3rd Birthday Sweet Girl!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Happy 12 Julie

Dear Julie,

Today you are 12.

This is the first time I've missed your birthday and I'm so sad not to be there. I know the birthdays that you will still be at home are dwindling so I'm sorry to miss this one!

But here goes your annual birthday letter.

Julie, I think 11 might have been the year you discovered yourself and probably the world.

You were a star this year. You landed lead parts in three plays and you totally rocked the stage. You put your heart into every performance and everyone could tell you were loving it.

You earned your black belt! Three years, countless hours of practices and ups and downs, but you did it! You learned that hard work pays off!

To say we are proud of you is an understatement.

This year also meant growing up. It was the year you found out about Santa. You were completely devastated. Oh how much you loved Santa and all the magic of the season. And how much we loved doing all of that for you. I cried with you because it was all over. Our little girl who wholeheartedly believed in magic and fairies and mythical creatures was no more. It seemed like you aged about five years last Christmas.

While that was so sad to see your heart broken like that, I think it also made you realized you were growing up. I'm still not sure you love the idea of growing up, but I think you're getting the hang of it.

On your birthday you asked your friends and family to donated money to a charity. You told us that you have everything you need.

Many times you are wiser about life than we give you credit for. You hate brushing your hair and can't stand frilly clothes. On picture day you came downstairs wearing old gym clothes. You say it only matters what's on the inside, and you care less what other kids think.

You love every food (except tomatoes) and are eager to try anything! You love to cook and bake and sing and play ukele. You've probably checked out half the clubs at school just to see what they're all about.

Unique is a word that fits you perfectly, though you don't mind one bit if people call you weird.

I could have never imagined I'd have a daughter like you--so strong, brave and willing to take risks. So eager to try new things and not worry about anyone's opinions.

You have taught me so much about life over the past 12 years. That things don't ever go exactly as planned. That girls are sometimes tougher than boys. That it's always OK to go for something you really want if you might not get it. That it doesn't matter if people think you're weird because weird is cool. That being different is amazing. At 12 you have so many qualities I wish I possessed as an adult. You know how to just be you and that's pretty awesome.

Happy Birthday Julie. I love you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Happy 8th Johnny!

Dear Johnny,

Today you are 8.

7 was totally your  year wasn't it?

I smile just thinking about much you've really blossomed this year.

For a while there you had a tough time. You were my baby for so long. My buddy. I think it was hard for you to let that go. But now I think you finally get it.

My sweet middle boy---you've found yourself this year and life is good. There's so much to celebrate about you!

You're my lover of bugs and critters and everything outdoors. You're my inventor with a vivid imagination. You're my engineer---a self-proclaimed "nerd". My creative problem solver. You love discovering how things work, and you just have a completely unique way of looking at the world. You're silly and funny. You love to laugh and make everyone else laugh too.

You are a people pleaser and stellar student. You've had the most amazing second grade teacher who just seems to "get" you. And I think she may have captured your heart.

Because you are my lover. You always have been. Not many other boys your age would spend their own $16 on a necklace for their teacher.

You are so generous with your love and you're never afraid to show it. You're my expert hugger and super cuddler. You write me letters and poems and buy me jewelry and make me crafts.

The way you look after your little sister truly warms my heart. Who would have guessed my son, my middle child, would be the one to care for his baby sister as if she were his very own? You change her and feed her. Play with her and read her books. She refuses to take a bath without you and you're the first one she wakes up in the morning. You show her so much love that she can't help but adore you.

I told you being in the middle isn't so bad.

You will forever be my favorite boy in the entire world. My buddy. My partner in crime. You are still the best snuggler and I will never ever turn down your hugs.

You may be stuck in the middle, but you're right where you're meant to be.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sore Winner

If your team wins, you win. Right?

Well, Julie hasn't quite grasped that concept yet. She's so hard on herself and so competitive, that if she doesn't feel she performs her very best, it's a loss. Even if it's a win.

A couple weekends ago Julie competed in a karate team sparring tournament. The fact that she made the team before earning her black belt was pretty impressive in and of itself. But, she's a tough girl and she enjoys sparring.

Side note: It's still so strange and nerve-wracking to watch your little girl throw punches, kick people and sometimes get kicked in the head.

This was the first team sparring tournament ever, and it was such a fun experience. Teams of five compete against each other tournament style. So if you lose one round, your knocked out of the tournament. Competitors go one at a time into the ring to spar the opposite team, and points are given for punches, kicks, jump kicks, etc. Then the points from each team member are combined to determine the winning team.

Julie's team came in first for the sparring competition. But she didn't feel like a winner. During her rounds, she didn't spar as well as she wanted, and didn't earn as many points as she hoped.

Though she cheered on her team members, at the end of the tournament she was bummed. She sulked, pouted and asked to go straight home instead of to a restaurant to celebrate.

Scott and I knew she was upset, but we didn't let her mope. This was a lesson in teamwork, sportsmanship and qualities that are so much important than winning.

We tried to explain that we didn't care whether she won or lost or how many points she scored. When you're on a team, it's so much more important to support your fellow team members and be a gracious loser and winner---even if  in your heart,  you were disappointed.

I think we finally got through to her a bit. I guess we never thought we'd have to teach our kids how to win, but sports are all about life lessons.

Friday, March 24, 2017

She's worth it

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week and Johnny was determined to make his teacher, Miss Sumner feel special. He wrote her notes every day, and insisted on spending his own $16 on this starfish necklace he thought would look perfect on her.

I offered to pay for the necklace but Johnny said "I want to. She's worth my money because I love her."

It says a lot when a 7-year-old boy, who happens to also love money, spends $16 on a necklace for his teacher. How special she must make him feel for him to want to give back to her. Not every year do our kids have teachers that truly care about them, that know them so well, and want more than anything for them to succeed and feel loved.

In the beginning of the year, Miss Sumner introduced herself in a letter to parents explaining that she doesn't have any children of her own, but that the kids in her class are like her children.

I think she was right on when she wrote that, and she's lived up to that statement in so many ways.

So, thank you Miss Sumner for making my little middle boy feel so special and loved every day.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A new leprechaun

Since Julie was in preschool, a leprechaun has visited our house every March. He makes a mess. Leaves green pee in the toilets. And sometimes leaves St. Patrick's-sy treats like Lucky Charms or pistachio muffins.

This is something the kids get a kick out of every year, and Johnny, especially enjoys trying to catch the little mischief maker. He started designing his trap around Christmas time, and kept the plans on his desk since then.

This year, however, the leprechaun was played by Julie. Read back a few blogs about our Christmas drama when she discovered the truth about Santa and all our fantasy characters who visit our house. Well, after her Christmas breakdown, she begged to be the leprechaun.

So she did.

And she was a darn good leprechaun. She faithfully waited until Johnny fell asleep every night, then made messes and left little messages. Scott called her "AIT" for Agent in Training". She just ate it up, and loved watching Johnny's reactions every morning.

Though it's kind of sad she no longer believes, it's fun to start a new chapter with her as our secret helper.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Memphis with the Girls

Two decades have passed since I graduated high school, but I can say my high school buddies are still my closest friends. Maybe there's just a connection we share because we grew up together. We understand our roots and we have countless memories we shared. We've been there through the awkward stages, the celebrations, the hard times. Pretty much every milestone since 14 years old, we've been there for it.

And though we've remained friends through the years--we've all changed so much--marriages, kids, moves, jobs, and all of life's ups and downs. We've been there for each other.

After high school, we tried to do annual girls trips. Though they took a hiatus after we started getting married and career or family-focused, we've restarted our annual trips in the last five years.
These are trips we all look forward to, and we all agree it's something we pretty much need. We bond, laugh, vent, cry, and act completely goofy and don't care.

We just got back from our most recent trip--this time to Memphis.  We were celebrating our friend Sophie who turned 40. It was an absolute blast and the city which made rock n roll famous--completely surprised us. The culture. The food. The nightlife. The history. It was all amazing and I, personally can't wait to come back with the family. We ended our trip by brainstorming possibilities for next year---the year most of us turn 40!! Can't wait to see what next year holds.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Our Annie

There's not a more iconic a role than Annie, in my opinion, at least. So, when Julie auditioned for the local "Annie" production and scored the lead role, we were all ecstatic.

Because of conflicting times, Julie had to give up basketball (her favorite sport), to be in the play. But, we figured being "Annie" was worth it.

For two months, Julie worked hard to memorize her lines and dance numbers, and Saturday was the big day.

Seeing her up on stage wearing a red wig and singing "Maybe", I couldn't help but get choked up. How awesome to see your little girl shine on stage! Though the production was much smaller than we initially assumed, and there were some hiccups along the way, our Annie was amazing.

Scott and I, both can't help but live vicariously through Julie, as she seems to literally light up on stage. It's definitely where she belongs...for now at least.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Some of my favorite memories include my cousins.
I'm a bit younger (five to 10 years) than most of my cousins, but I loved every moment spent with them. Whether it was ping pong tournaments at Thanksgiving, tubing at Deep Creek Lake in the summers, hunting eggs in my aunt's backyard or kickball tournaments in New York, there were so many moments I look back on and smile.

Cousins were a big part of growing up, and I think it's that way for my kids too. Though they don't have any cousins who live close, when they spend time with them it's always so fun.

Last week, we had a visit from Scott's brother and his family Todd, Melinda and their 2 1/2 year old son Matthew. Though Matt's quite younger than the older 2, he's the size of a 4 year old, he has a great vocabulary and he can do stuff that some 5 year olds can't--like ride a bike, hit a ball with a bat and whiz around on a two-wheel razor scooter. Julie and Johnny loved having him around. Josie too, though she couldn't quite keep up with her big (literally) cousin.

We loved showing them around---to the aquarium, zoo, a gold mine, and the local parks. Because we live far from family, these moments don't come very often, so when they do, we're sure to savor them.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Sting of Disappointment

This has pretty much been Julie's year.
She doing great in school.
She's excelling in karate--often earning the special "top gun" award for best performance. She's been scoring top parts in plays: Jafar in "Aladdin", Annie in "Annie" and Sebastian in "Little Mermaid". She was selected by her teachers to help with the school's animals on Zoo Crew and she earned a spot on the schools Honor's Chorus.

Things have been going her way this year.
So, I think she was completely shocked when her teacher didn't choose her speech as the best in the class. Fifth graders were asked to deliver a speech on optimism, and the teachers were asked to choose the best in the class to compete with other fifth graders in the school, then at the county, and finally at the state. Winners receive $250.

Julie was convinced hers would win. She spent hours writing, memorizing and practicing. Did I mention winners receive $250?

Friday Julie and her classmates each presented their speech and the teacher chose the best one to move on to the school level.

It wasn't Julie's.

She was crushed. After school, she burst into tears and proclaimed her utter dislike for the teacher.

"But I was the only one who memorized it! The girl who won kept looking at her paper and reading super fast!" she bawled.

I do think she had a pretty darn good speech, and the way she delivered it was impressive for a fifth grader. We were proud of her, regardless of whether she won.

But, there was a bigger lesson.

Sometimes you don't win. She really hasn't lost a whole lot this year, or in life in general, and things have pretty much gone the way she's wanted. So, this was a little teachable moment.

She came around a little, and admitted the winner, who happens to be her friend, had a great speech, though her presentation might need some work. And while she tried to blame it on her teacher for choosing the best behaved kid in class, we eventually got her to understand that she's pretty amazing but she's not going to win everything or be the best of the best all the time. Sometimes things don't always work out the way you want. Besides, other people have to win occasionally right? ;)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Roses are Red

"Roses are Red. Violets are blue. Keep messing with me and I'll karate chop you!"----that's the poem Scott's brother Todd suggested Julie write to the class bully. 

The kids are supposed to write Valentine's cards to every classmate. "I'd rather not write any than have to write something to him," Julie said of this bully.

Because. Yeah. There's this bully. A real jerk of a kid in her class, who bears a striking resemblance to the freckle-faced mean boy on "A Christmas Story"---messy red hair and all.

All year he's been picking on Julie.
The first I noticed was probably before Thanksgiving break, when I started reading Julie's school emails. (They go directly to my inbox, but I hadn't bothered to read most of them until I saw she had a few from a boy named Joseph.)

They weren't long. Just short little bratty snippets. Shut up. You're weird. What's wrong with you? Go home. Etc.

Julie had never uttered a word about this boy until I brought it up. Then, she told me the whole Joseph story--how he's mean pretty much every day. Says mean things, tells her he's wiping dog poop on her chair, called her "the worst actress ever" in the school play.
But, that it doesn't really bother her. She's Ok because she knows none of it is true.

While I'm extremely proud of her confidence, I was not OK at all with this boy's behavior. Point blank. He's a bully. I told the teacher, who in turn, promised to talk to the kid and possibly his parents.

Of course things died down after that, but, like most bullies, a few months passed, and he started right back up.

So, here we are a week before Valentine's Day and school protocol says kids have to give every classmate a card. What would you do?
I totally get why she doesn't want to write this kid any sort of love note. I, personally, would like to write a note to his mother, and it wouldn't be a nice note.

But, do you force your child to give a Valentine to someone who has been mean all year?
Do you let them not give one? Do you allow them to make their own decisions? She is, after all, in fifth grade.

I'm so torn. Part of me thinks, teach kindness. Encourage her to be the bigger, better person. The other part, thinks she has every right to not want to be nice to this boy, and that she can decide for herself.

Still not sure what to do, but I feel like there's some sort of life lesson in this whole thing. You agree?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Too much is too much

It's Friday at 7:30 a.m.---15 minutes before the bus arrives.
Julie is feverishly writing, and obviously stressing. I look over her shoulder and she's writing a letter to Trump begging him not to build "the wall."

I don't get much response when I ask her what the heck she's doing, but after some hounding she confesses that she's working on a school project due Monday. A major Social Studies project worth a large portion of her grade. And she hasn't started.

Say what?
This was the first I had heard of said project, and after looking over the assignment, her scribbled letter to Trump didn't come close to meeting the project's requirements.

To say I was pissed, was an understatement. We've backed off a little this year, and let her take responsibility for her assignments, and up until this point, there haven't really been issues. Almost perfect grades, and never a missed homework assignment.

I was dumbfounded at how she could put off on starting a project. How could this happen?
After some discussion, Scott and I realized the poor girl has too much going on. She's trying to earn her black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and takes classes three times a week. She's rehearsing for two plays, in which she has major roles. (Annie in "Annie" and Sebastian in "Little Mermaid"). She's in chorus and Honor's Chorus, takes theatre classes and on Monday mornings she helps take care of the school's animals with the Zoo Crew.

It's just too much.

Though we aren't taking her out of any activities yet, we told her how we felt and that she can ask for help whenever she needs it. And, also, that if grades start to slide, something has to go.  She wasn't happy about that.

She loves every one of these activities, and excels at them all, but her plate is full. Every day after school, and even on Saturdays she has a commitment. So much so that she's had to step back from some things because they would conflict---like basketball and Girl Scouts.

"But I love being busy. I love being in a lot of things," Julie blurted out, when we told her what we were thinking.

But school comes first, we told her.

Needless to say, I think we've learned our lesson. While it's so fun to see Julie enjoying her activities, there's a point when it might be too much. I'm thinking next year, especially since she will be in middle school, some tough choices might have to be made when we limit the number of extra activities.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Two butts

Apparently, in the process of potty training I gave an unintended sex ed lesson last night.
Josie, who has been running around naked during this whole process, ran to the door when two neighbor boys stopped by to play.

Shocked, one boy, who's 5, screamed "What?? Does Josie have two butts?? Because that's what it looks like!"

Yikes. No comment, just whisked Josie upstairs to put on pants.

While this was pretty hilarious, I did have to inform the boys' mother that she might get some questions later. She just laughed it off, but Scott was not happy.

First, a little background. The potty training book I've been reading suggest kids initially go naked, or at least pant-less. Apparently, this gets them more in-tune to their bodies, and also it's just easier for them to quickly sit on the potty when they have to go...instead of trying to get their pants down---which is almost impossible for a toddler.

I've been following this advice, because it seems to be working. Josie is pretty much accident-free when she's bare bottomed. Scott is so not a fan of this because (1.) He hates when the kids run around naked. (2.) It's just gross.

But, I've been doing it anyway because I'm determined to get this girl trained! 

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Case of the Missing Frog

I think it's safe to say we aren't the world's best pet owners.
(Read previous blogs about our dog who we had to give away, and you'll learn the story.)

We travel a lot and with three kids, the house is constantly chaos, so it's hard when you throw animals into the mix.

But, the kids love animals, and they desperately wanted a pet.

It started with Grandma buying Johnny a pet frog this summer. Where we live, frogs are a big part of summer. There are frogs everywhere. I'm pretty sure Johnny caught two a day. Just look on our deck in the evenings and you're bound to spot three or four tiny frogs. Johnny absolutely loves those critters. There was one particular frog Johnny fell in love with last summer, while Scott and I were away on a work trip. Grandma was in charge and gave Johnny permission to keep the frog.

Of course the little guy escaped, I'm thinking with the help of his ornery big sister. And Johnny had a meltdown. So, grandma, of course couldn't help but take Johnny to buy his very own pet frog at the pet store. His name was Croaky.

Well, Johnny took great care of Croaky, feeding him and cleaning his cage, and playing and snuggling with him. (This may have aided in his demise). But, three months later, Croaky lived up to his name and croaked. Johnny was devastated, and we buried him beneath the deck. Croaky was immediately replaced, to ease Johnny's sorrow, by "Scroaky," who Johnny claimed was the father of Croaky. (Don't ask.)

A couple months go by and it's almost Christmas and Julie is requesting an iguana for Christmas and Johnny is saying Scroaky wants "friends" for Christmas.

So, under the tree on Christmas morning was a larger cage for our pet frog, and permission to go the pet store to pick out two more frogs. Along came Piggy and Ridey because when Julie and Johnny saw them, they were giving each other piggy back rides. (Yes. Yikes. I know...but we haven't seen any baby tadpoles yet.) 

All is good in the world of Scroaky, Piggy and Ridey in their brand new cage with a little swimming pool, a big pile of moss to play on. Until....last week Scott was away for work and I was in charge of feeding the frogs their crickets (Yuck at first, but actually kind of cool).

One afternoon, I went to feed them and the top of the cage was open a little, and there were only two frogs sitting there.
Panic Mode!

Not only did I feel bad that I lost the kids' pet, but more importantly there's a frog hopping around my house somewhere, and if I don't find that sucker soon, I'm sure we'll all find him a few months from now, when he starts to smell.

Well, we looked everywhere for that guy. Seriously. Everywhere. He's  nowhere to be found. I'm dreading the day we find the remnants. I'm hoping he somehow hopped out the door!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My least favorite parenting duty (or maybe it's doody?)

I'll admit it.
I'm awful at potty really bad.
I hate it with a passion.

I guess you could say I successfully potty trained two kids since they are no longer in diapers. Granted, they're 11 and 7. But still...I've been there. Done that.

It's just that I despise the entire process, and for my older ones it seemed to take forever.
With Julie--my mom convinced me that 15 months was a great age to start potty training. Sure. She was trained before her second birthday, but that was 6 months of hard work, frustration and constant badgering a little girl who probably wasn't ready. Then, there was my Johnny. My sweet, lovey, little boy who wanted to please me, but for whatever reason just could not get the hang of potty training. I started him a little later, but not much. 18 months. He seemed to love it at first, and the treats. But that excitement lasted about a week until he resisted and had potty issues almost until he was 4. I can't even think back on that whole thing without cringing. I'll spare you the details.

Needless to say I've been dreading this whole process with Josie. She's a little firecracker as it is--a busy little girl who has a mind of her own. I wasn't sure how or when to start, but she turned 2 in December and Julie and Johnny were thick into potty training by then.

A few weeks ago, she started asking to go potty a few times a day. I felt if I waited any longer, I might miss that little window of where she might (cross my fingers) potty train easily??

I read a book my sister-in-law, Melinda had used for her 2 1/2 year old son, Matt. The whole process, which I think they followed verbatim, seemed to work wonderfully for Matt. He was pretty much potty trained in a week. That sounded so much better than my half-year-plus sagas with my older two.

The idea behind the book is to basically devote your life to potty training for at least three days. The kid runs around naked and the parents follow him/her around with a potty. No one leaves the house until the kid pretty much gets the whole potty training concept. Pull-ups are forbidden and even underwear is discouraged for a couple months.

The book was kind of extreme for me--considering it's next to impossible to stay home for three days straight and focus entirely on potty training when we have two other kids who have homework and a million after school activities.

Starting on Sunday, I decided to try (the book says don't say try, but that's exactly what I'm doing) a watered-down version of the whole concept. While we're home Josie is bare bottom and I leave the potty wherever we are playing. So far. So good. Kind of. Definitely some accidents, but I will say the start is probably better than the other two.

I got brave yesterday and decided to venture out with her sans diaper to Julie's orthodontist appointment. You can probably guess what happened. A little puddle on the orthodontist floor. "At least it's sterile," Melinda joked when I told her the story.

Scott was livid I let her go without a diaper, and I was completely mortified. From now on, we'll be diapering or pull-up-ing for outings. We'll see how this thing goes, but I'm keeping positive. If she's trained by summer, I'll count it as success.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Feeling the Love!

Just look at that happy boy posing with his cutie-pie second grade teacher.
It was the week before Christmas and Johnny's teacher, Miss Sumner had just given all her students the most thoughtful gift after their holiday party.

A framed paper with their name surrounded by a dozen or so adjectives describing them.

The week prior, Miss Sumner had asked the students to write words describing each of their fellow students. She used these words to make the adorable framed collages.

What a confidence booster!!

You can't help but smile when you see all these wonderful things your friends and teacher wrote about you. That was just what Johnny needed.

My super sensitive boy sometimes needs reminders that he's special and loved. We have discovered when he's grumpy or acting out, he tends to feel left out. A typical middle child, Johnny sometimes has to fight for attention.

But, when he's feeling loved, that boy is the sweetest ever. He'll talk your ear off, help around the house and write everyone nice notes.

He just needs to feel the love!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Grandma's in town

Scott's mom, Janice, grew up in California and never once moved from the Golden State.
Her entire family lives there---all five siblings, her other son and his family, as well as cousins, aunts, uncles and her mother (until she died last year).

So, it came as a complete shock when Janice expressed interest in moving out here to Georgia. She was visiting this summer, when she first mentioned the possibility of moving here. Looking for a change, and not able to afford California housing, she told us she was seriously considering the move. In early fall, we found a perfect senior apartment complex for her and by that time her mind was made up.

Then, a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, she packed up her belongings, and traveled across country with a good friend.

It has been almost exactly two months since Janice has moved to Georgia and she's loving life. Her apartment complex is bustling with activity. Wine night is Monday. Movie night is Thursday. Cards are played on Friday and there are always friends to go with to lunch or shopping or to just sit and talk. Life at the senior apartments kind of reminds me of college dorm life...where there's always someone to hang out with and always something going on, that you can't  help but love it.

We are so happy she has found a home in Georgia, and we are absolutely loving having her here. We probably see her once a week for dinner, but she's around if we need her, and we are here if she needs us. She loves having the kids (usually one at a time) sleep over, and she plans to go to all the kids' sporting events, plays, concerts and anything else they have going on.

For 11 years we haven't had family so close, and it's wonderful.

Now...if we could just convince my parents to move close too!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Holiday Fun

So, despite Julie's infamous Christmas Day meltdown, the holidays were pretty awesome-filled with plenty of parties, family and friends.

We just love living in our neighborhood here in Georgia. It's small---just 80 homes--but most of our neighbors are young families who love to socialize-just like us!

Scott and I threw an adult-only Christmas party a couple weeks before Christmas, which was a blast. The idea was to play a bunch of old-school party games in our basement---which is completely not fancy. We invited about 20 people, sent the big kids to Grandma's and had a great night.

That very next day, my parents came into town, so we were able to celebrate all the holiday festivities with them. And then, Kelly, Rob and their littlest dog, Taz came to visit the day after Christmas, and they stayed until New Year's Day. And, of course Scott's mom was here, because she moved to Georgia right before Thanksgiving (but that's for another blog.) It's so nice having everyone together on Christmas. Scott and I have always been a bit selfish about Christmas. We basically refuse to travel on Christmas because we like celebrating at home with the kids. So, we say Come to Us!

I think the kids love staying at home for Christmas too. I know Kelly and I always loved it as kids. There's just something about those little traditions that develop over the years that only feel right when you're at home.

After Christmas we had fun taking Kelly, Rob and my parents on different outings and of course cooking elaborate meals. That's something Kelly and I love to do together--cook!  I will admit she's the better cook, but we loved having her here because she literally cooked every night and it was delish!

For New Year's Scott and I planned a fun little run around the neighborhood. We invited the entire neighborhood, charted the course, and planned a little "Countdown til' Noon" celebration after the race. The kids ran around, stuffed themselves with doughnuts and played with balloons and danced, while the adults sipped mimosas.

We were a bit tired after our early morning partying, but most of us still managed to stay up until midnight, and we even had a few friends over that evening to sing karaoke and play games.

Overall, the holidays were busy, festive and pretty wonderful.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Budding actress

The acting bug has bitten Julie, but I'm not so sure she was a natural born actress.

Up until last year, Julie really didn't have a desire to get on stage.
As a preschooler, she sat timidly on stage for school performances, refusing to sing a note. In kindergarten she froze during her first ballet recital--just staring around at the other dancers.

Funny how things change.
These days drama is all she seems to think about. She nailed the part of Jafar in the school play "Aladdin". She loved playing the part of the villain, and truly became Jafar--evil laugh and all.

"OK I'm ready for my next play," Julie proclaimed the day after the "Aladdin" performance.
So, she auditioned at a small local theatre company for the play "Annie", and she was given the role of "Annie."
Granted, it's a really small play, but she was ecstatic, and so excited to play the lead role. We just love that she has the confidence and desire to perform. Next up is the school's "Little Mermaid" performance, for which she auditions on Friday.

Getting up in front of people was definitely not my forte. I can recall a handful of times I stayed home from school on days when I was supposed to give a speech or book report.

It's an awesome skill to possess--to be comfortable in front of an audience. Though we've had some angst this year about giving up other activities (basketball and Girl Scouts to name a couple), I think, from drama she will learn life-long skills.

Not sure what the future holds for this little actress. But she's determined to shoot for the stars.

"I want to be on Broadway," Julie tells us these days.

I say, Go for it!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It's Over (kind of)

"Mom, do you believe in Santa?"
I knew this was coming. I mean, Julie is 11, and had never once doubted the existence of the man in the red suit. It was just after Thanksgiving and it was the first time she had ever asked me this question.

Even though I knew the topic might come up this year, I still wasn't ready at that particular moment. I was in the middle of changing Josie's diaper, and hadn't really thought through what to say.

So, I simply replied, " you?"

The answer I got in return was not quite what I expected, "Of course I do! And this is going to be the best Christmas ever because I'm going to ask Santa for magic dust to make all my books come to life!"

I smiled, a little shocked, and just thought to myself, well I guess we have one more year.

Little did I know, a couple weeks later her world would come crashing down.
Before you label me as a psycho, dramatic mom, let me paint a picture of my 11- year-old daughter Julie. She has always had her heads in the clouds---always thinking and dreaming and believing in fantasy and the impossible. Every year for Christmas she has asked for something way beyond reach---something so out there that we always have to scramble to make it halfway come true. When she was 9, she requested a time machine to transport her back to the days of Jesus. Instead, I had a book specially written, telling a story of how Julie traveled back in time to see Baby Jesus. Of course, Santa wrote a note apologizing that he could not give her a time machine.

So, you get the idea. She has loved everything magical and imaginary, and of course we played into that. Because, well, because it was just so fun. Seeing her believe in all our little imaginary creatures made us so happy. There was Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Elf, the leprechaun, and her favorite---the Christmas Angel---which was an old Angel doll belonging to me, who we made come to life when Julie was 3. Around Christmas, the Angel left encouraging and heartfelt notes in her pocket to Julie, and eventually Johnny and Josie. (Truthfully these were my love letters to them, but that's for another blog.)

Anyway, our house is consumed by fantasy and we all love it.

Christmas morning it all came to a halt.

Julie and Johnny woke up early as usual on Christmas morning---all happy and excited and anxious to get downstairs. They checked to see if Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk. They cheerfully opened the presents in their stockings.

They rushed downstairs to see the mountain of presents under the tree.
Then, Julie went racing upstairs, into her bedroom and locked the door behind her.
Baffled, Scott and I went upstairs, and pleaded with her to open the door, as we listened to her crying loudly. Finally, she opened the door, where she lay head buried in her pillows, weeping uncontrollably. Scott and I looked at each other and we knew.

She knew.

After much coaxing, Julie wailed "OK!! I know Santa's not real!!" Two weeks before Christmas, she was sitting at a table in art class with a group of kids as they one by one explained how they found out Santa wasn't real. Julie, who still believed in Santa until that moment, said she sat there feeling silly, and then she knew.

"Why did you lie to me?" she choked out, her eyes streaming with tears.

Ugh. Punch to the stomach.

Hugging and petting her hair, we explained the story of Santa as best we could, and told her it was all about love and kindness and we did all those things because we love them so much. (I'd read so many blogs about how to tell your kids about Santa, and I could only recall about half.)

She calmed down a bit, and sniffled "I'm so sorry I don't believe any more. I loved all of it. Everything about it."

Then, I lost it.

I pictured all the Christmases past, and all I could think was how fast it all went, and how I really loved everything about it too. There's nothing like seeing Christmas through the eyes of your little kids, and when they stop believing, it truly breaks your heart too.

It's over and Christmas will forever be different. Of course, Julie has promised to help us keep the secret for Johnny and Josie, and we still have many years to come. Now it's just a little different.

But, I'll forever cherish those early years when everything was magical. For all of us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Here's to 2017

I haven't posted in 8 months.
I'm not really sure why. Lack of motivation? Lack of inspiration? In a rut??

Well, it's a new year. Time to start anew right?

I'm not quite sure how to catch up on the last 8 months---other than with this little apology post to myself. Because, let's be real---at this point not  many other people read this. And it was always intended for me---a continuation of my diary I kept since the age of 7.

I'm not sure what I'll do with these blogs (if anything). What I do know is that when I write consistently and honestly about my life it's therapeutic of me. It's my "Me Time." I'm writing what I feel and think and there's no one to judge (OK, if you're reading this, I guess there are people to judge), but I'm writing for me and no one else.

I might not do anything else productive for the entire day, or I might have a really rotten day with whiny kids and a messy house. If I find 10 minutes to write down my thoughts---the whole day spins in a different direction.

I feel so much better about myself, and life in general.

That sounds so silly, but, even as I'm writing this, I feel a weight lifted off my shoulders.

So, while this post isn't saying much at all. To me, it's a new start. Let's call it a New Year's Resolution. I resolve to take at least 20 minutes a week to blog, journal, write whatever comes to mind....

Here's to 2017 and catching you up on my life. If you don't care to read, move on. It's just for me, after all.