Category Archives: Everett

The Boys’ Book of Days

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Creating New Rituals

In each area we have visited, we have stayed long enough for Everett and Louie to develop new little rituals that add a new flavor to the sense of “place” in each environment. It has been incredible to see how new experiences and environments ignite the imagination and expedite learning. When we return, Ben and I will likely narrate our epic vacation by summarizing the cities we strolled in, the beaches we played on, the historic sights we toured, and the new culinary delights we savored. However, this experience has been so different and so much richer through the eyes of our little boys, who find a sense of wonder in the unexpected and remind us that being young is a daily adventure no matter where you are.

As Ben and I sat on our Elba balcony this week, we sipped Espresso and recounted all of the little rituals that our boys have crafted that have added so much fun and whimsy to this trip, but that will likely be forgotten details when we look back at photographs and reminisce of this experience in years to come.

So this blog entry is dedicated to Everett and Louie’s “Top Ten” as we have just crossed over the midpoint of our time abroad. Obviously the list favors Everett’s curiosities, but Louie’s ever-developing outgoing personality makes a few appearances as well. This zoomed-in perspective may not capture the sweeping mountain, beach, and countryside vistas we are experiencing in this beautiful corner of the world, but it will offer a glimpse at what this journey has been like with a one-year old and three-year old in tow.

Everett & Louie’s Top Ten

  1. Food Lion

In Switzerland, Everett was intrigued by the wildflowers that grew abundantly across the mountain meadows. Within hours of being there, he became a collector and treasured a plastic grocery bag I found crumpled in the zippered pocket of the Ergo, strategically placed there months ago to assist in poop pick-up on a walk with Otis. The bag was labeled with “Food Lion,” meaning that it had to be leftover from a grocery trip in the Smoky Mountains that we took last October. Everett grabbed on to this and created a game of being a “Food Lion” on the mountain, filling the sack with sticks, rocks, fallen wildflowers, and any other remnant of nature that attracted his whimsy. Even on our dreariest of hikes through cold rain, desperately trekking towards the gondola that would deliver us to drier ground, Everett carried that water-weighted glob of white plastic with him, searching for his next natural treasure.

  1. Number Hunting

In Cannobio, Everett developed a fascination with the house numbers that denoted the individual residences that dotted the old narrow cobblestone street where we stayed. Every time we walked down the charming Via Castello, Everett would find great thrill in calling out the numbers that he recognized and asking us to identify the ones that he did not. The quest was always for “Number 50,” the placard outside of Tommaso’s apartment where we stayed. Louie would get in on the game too, excitedly pointing when we got close to the green shutters and tiled 50 that denoted our “lake house.” Everett had never really shown much interest in numbers before this trip; I find it fascinating and inspiring to see how new experiences can spark the hunger to learn.

  1. Coming Around the Mountain

On Elba, Everett has developed a love for the folk song “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain.” I think I busted it out on one of our first days here in a desperate attempt to quell a double tantrum erupting from the backseat as we were all getting carsick, while Ben did his best to jolt the stick shift Fiat around the winding mountain roads. Now as we take the stone staircase down to our “beach house,” we have to enact a very specific musical number every time. I carry Louie to the bottom of the twenty stone stairs, while Everett waits at the top.   When we get to the bottom, Everett will not descend until I begin singing “He’ll be Coming Around the Mountain.” I sing, Louie bounces excitedly in my arms, and Everett makes his cautious way down the steps with the biggest grin imaginable. And this is our daily ritual here, every time we return from a day on the beach.

  1. Bell Towers

In both Cannobio and all over Elba Island, there are old stone bell towers, usually standing guard above churches. The bells sound every 15 minutes, and both my boys think this symphony is something quite grand. Everett has become an expert bell tower spotter, spying the brassy bells peeking out of the pines from the Elban mountain road. Each time we hear the bells ring, Everett shouts excitedly, “I hear the bells!” while Louie perks up and begins pointing in the sky until he locates the tower. Everett usually follows his regal declaration with the question, “What are the bells telling us?” prompting Ben and I to look at our watches and tell him the current time or in situations when we need a little transition help, we may respond with, “They are telling us that it’s time for dinner… that it’s time to go to the car…or that it’s time to get in the stroller.” While the other Italian kids are building castles in the sand, Everett is busy building churches and bell towers from the white shingle rocks and sand that blanket the Mediterranean coast.  He has also pocketed two keepsake rocks from the beach: one that looks like a small circular pizza with olives and one that looks like a wedge of Parmesan cheese. These stone snacks might be coming home with us.

  1. The Gondola

Despite the fact that we spent far too much of our first week here using the gondola to flee from the horrible weather in the Swiss Alps, the transportation experience has rooted itself deep in Everett’s imagination.   Even though it has been two weeks since we rode the gondola for the last time, Everett still beckons the mountain cable car scene to both our Italian lake house and island beach cottage. Several times a day, he is a “gondola worker,” focusing intently on pushing imaginary buttons and arranging kitchen chairs to ensure a smooth glide up the mountain to our “snow house.” He has constructed gondolas from the rocks on the beach, from our cell phone charger wire wrapped intricately around a table leg, and from a piece of dried smuggled seaweed draped from his car seat to the car door handle. Forget choo choos. Gondolas are way more preschool-chic.

  1. Gelato

It’s no surprise that this Italian delicacy has won our little guy’s heart.   Everett can spot a gelato stand from a mile away, usually by the garishly colorful trash cans perched outside every gelateria that are shaped like large ice cream cones. “I want to get gelato!” in a little sing-song voice has become a frequent chorus on our daily soundtrack and in most cases, we are happy to oblige. For two Euros, you get a “piccolo” cup of two flavors and Everett’s reliable favorite has been “mint and melon.” We keep encouraging him to branch out, but this combo has become his trademark treat.   And oddly enough, we can’t get Louie to eat gelato. He continues to ask for a taste each time we cozy up to a park bench with those colorful little spoons in hand, but the instant that cold creamy goodness touches his mouth, he cringes at the lip freeze and lets the delectable glob fall wayward. But don’t worry, he is definitely down with little Italian cookies from the pasticerrias—and again, we are happy to oblige.

  1. Italian Radio

Everett has developed a newfound fondness for music on this trip, specifically new sounds that he hears on the car radio. The day we drove out of Switzerland, he began “singing along” with a catchy tune sung in English by a female vocalist. When the deejay came on at the song’s end, I tried to decipher his German to catch the singer’s name and heard something to the effect of “Sophie Homan,” helped by the fact that the name “Sophie” showed up on car dash display. While Internet searches have not turned up this Swiss/Italian/Euro diva’s identity, Everett continues to ask for his “Sophie Homan” every time we get in the car.

And in the evenings, when we are making dinner, Ben has put Andrea Boccelli on the iPad, to construct a lovely stereotype of Italian kitchen artistry. Everett immediately stops what he is doing and just listens, transfixed by the melody and focused on mimicking the pitch and notes with his little voice. It’s pretty darn cute.

  1. What Do You See Next?

This popular vacation pastime is Everett’s version of “I Spy” and we play it constantly as we explore new places. In the car, on the balcony, while hiking, on the beach… Everett is constantly inquiring, “What do YOU see next?” Some favorite sights: bell towers (obviously), wildflowers, mountains, the ocean, the beach, motorcycles, bicycles, and Fiats (also paired with a new interest in types of cars).

  1. Potties

Even before our grand adventure, Everett was known for being a potty aficionado. Ever since he became potty-trained, he has had a fascination with public restrooms. He wants to see the potty in every establishment and then describe it with adjectives such as, “This is a tall potty; a nice, clean potty; a dirty potty; a potty with pink, vanilla soap, etc.”  So you can imagine the amusement that potty patrol has brought us here. The flushers are not handles, but large flat buttons that you press in to the wall. Some of the sinks in Elba restrooms are turned on by stepping on a pedal on the floor. We have experienced the stand-up-and-pee-in-the-hole-on-the-floor potties at Lake Orta (much easier for Everett than for me).   In Cannobio, Everett favored the “lake potty,” a public W.C. located in the center of the main promenade and his first experience with a urinal. (There is no using the regular toilet anymore if the urinal is an option). At our Cannobio “lake house,” Everett had his own potty to himself, outside his bedroom on the third floor. He would only go in “my upstairs potty” when he was in the apartment and has told us how much he misses this latrine now that we are in Elba.   The only downside to Everett’s potty hobby is that public restrooms seem to be an endangered species in Italy. I’m still trying to figure out where all these Italian tourists are peeing when they are out and about. Maybe I don’t want to know, given how much time Louie spends crawling on Italian soil.

10.  Island Walking

And this last one is for Louie, who is getting closer and closer to taking his first independent steps everyday.   Last night, he held Ben’s index finger and walked a long pedestrian mall stretch in Marino di Campo, shuffling his little bowed legs with controlled awkwardness and beaming with exhilaration at his newly realized freedom. Everett might be even more excited than Louie about this anticipated milestone. Every time Louie sets out to practice a micro-step or two, Everett will stand a few feet away, arms open wide and shout joyfully, “Walk to me, Louie. Walk to me!”  Each stumbling shuffle ends with the sweetest brother hug.

So years from now when I am scrolling through photographs of the majestic (albeit underwater) Alps of Riederalp, the paradise of Aquavivetta Beach, and the bustling charm of Cannobio, I hope that I can also recall these daily moments and little rituals that made traveling with two munchkins so unique.

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At the stunning beach of Aquavivetta. What you don’t see: Louie throwing a tantrum because I am not holding him. He is 100% mama-clingy this trip.

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Louie taking a guided stroll through Marino di Campo on Elba Island. Pretty much his first sustained handheld walk.

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“Walk to me, Louie!”

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Building a church and a bell tower with the rocks on the beach.

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Zebras

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A few months back, I posted about the challenges of approaching the “three-year-old zone” with Ev. The nap battles, the emotional swings, and the obliteration of all things rational.  While there are still trying moments, my perspective is evolving and I am really focusing on cherishing the amazing things about this stage.  Everett’s imagination has really taken off in the last couple weeks.  This imaginative play coupled with his ever-increasing verbosity has given us a window into his thoughts, his personality, and his interests–and let me tell you, this is magical stuff for a parent.

Today we had the longest sustained imaginative play scenario to date.  Here’s a photograph of the scene:

IMG_1902It doesn’t look like much is happening, but if you ignore the dirty kitchen floor and pile of food-covered dishes in the sink, you will see that some serious focused play is happening.  The two wires you see belong to the stick blender and hand mixer respectively, threaded through the kitchen drawers to create a cage.  Everett is a zebra in this scene.  He is eating a salad for dinner and keeping the other zebras safe.  While he was building the cage, he was a zookeeper–but in a moment of magical role transfer, he was crawling on all fours with the other zebras.  For nearly an hour, he crawled in and out of the cage, enacting different zebra actions.  The zebra’s bathtub was in our bedroom.  We had to get the imaginary hose and shampoo out and pretend to scrub him down.  The zebra got on a boat at one point to go to the grocery store to buy tomatoes…tomatoes for the salad.  You can’t make this stuff up.  It really is creative magic, like out of a wacky dream or a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.

Everett has never been in to toys.  In the beginning, this frustrated me.  As a first-time mom, I worried that my son was not “normal” because he did not gravitate towards balls or trucks or trains…or even television.  (We tried that in some desperate moments when Louie was a newborn, and he never bit.)  I would find myself getting frustrated when he was pulling the DVD player off the shelf and unhooking the cables in order to wrap the cord around the holes in a plastic laundry basket with an astounding level of focused tinkering.  I would be embarrassed at playgroups when he would sneak off to the corner to open and close a cabinet latch twenty times or fashion a door stopper from a wooden block instead of playing “chop-choos” with the other boys.  Eventually, I gave in to his whims and let the train table become a place to stack all the unused toys.  Eventually, I started to realize that I actually loved the fact that Everett was “non-traditional” in his play.  And now that he is able to verbalize these fantastical stories to accompany his constructed scenes of small kitchen appliances and Tupperware, I am deeply entertained.

I still can’t get him to take a nap at 1:00 in the afternoon when his eyes are fluttering and his temperament starts to waver, but I am starting to be okay with that.  I am enjoying this afternoon intersession when Louie is fast asleep, when Everett can have uninterrupted play that often times does not require my full participation.

All of the milestones are splendid, the first steps, the first word, the first time they sleep through the night…but this one might be my favorite–the first time I can really see my little guy developing into a thinking, creative individual.

The Rollicking Spree of Approaching Three

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Oh my… everyone always told me that it is “the terrible threes” with boys and that battle moniker is beginning to ring true in our household. While I obviously still adore my almost three-year old, his antics are certainly starting to chip away at my patience stores…at a rapid pace.

So because I need to use this blog as a good therapeutic vent today, here are my top three pet peeves of the approaching three’s:

Constant Noise
During all waking hours, Ev emits constant loud noise from his vocal chords. I think I could handle it better if it was actual coherent speech or even the dreaded repeated inquisition of “Why? Why? Why?” But for now, it is just pure nonsensical gibberish sound effects–all day long. Imagine the meal time chorus of “Wee-Ooh, Wee-Ooh, Wee-Ooh, Wee-Ooh” peppered by intermittent giggles, increasing in volume between bites of food. Is there a fire engine rolling through my dining room? No–just random sound effects du jour. This is especially frustrating, because Everett can finally talk–pretty well–in full sentences… yet he chooses to just make obnoxious toddler calls into the wild. There was a time not too long ago when I thought that everything that came out of my little two-year old new talker’s mouth was just adorable. I feel guilty cringing at the grating garishness now as I attempt polite redirections such as, “You are hurting my ears. We don’t scream at dinnertime. Please talk to us using your words.” I’ve found myself actually fearing that Everett’s nonsensical babbling will confuse Louie’s speech development!

Nap Strike
After an early wake-up and a busy morning of active play, my boy is exhausted come 1:00 p.m. You can see it in his eyes. Since the beginning of his existence, the afternoon siesta has been a mainstay in our world. I still put him in his bed, but the stubborn boy will just not let himself succumb to slumber. The sound effects continue to resound as he rolls around his bed, weaves his sheet in and out of the bed rail slats, does headstands on his mattress, takes off his clothing, puts his clothing back on, sings a song, does a jig, makes animal noises, scratches the paint off his bed frame, makes a fort with his comforter, puts his socks on his hands, talks to his dinosaur pillowcase, flutterkicks his feet, claps his hands, tickles his own belly and giggles away. It’s quite impressive the way he can happily entertain himself for two hours without any toys on an area the size of a yoga mat, and I suppose I should be happy about that fact. However, I know that if he would just allow himself to be STILL for even 5 minutes, he would fall asleep. I would surrender to the notion that he might be outgrowing his need for a nap if only that were true. But he is miserable from the hours of 3:00 p.m. until 6:30 when he must go to bed or risk fatigue-induced insanity (for himself and his mother).

Picking a Fight
I thought you had to be more rational to have the craftiness and cunning to actually initiate a conflict….but perhaps it is the irrationality of 2-3 year olds that actually deserves credit for this move. If the mood strikes, Everett will go out of his way to pick a fight with me. It is usually masked as an inability to make a simple decision. Milk or water? Car or doggy pajamas? Green cup or blue cup? I know I am in trouble when the indecision erupts. “I want cereal.” (Ok, here are some Cheerios.) “No, no cereal. No cereal. Can you take it to kitchen? No cereal!” (I take the cereal away.) “My cereal! I want cereal!” For a while, I wondered if I should have sympathy for these existential crises. Is it difficult for a little person to handle the freedom that comes with having choice? Perhaps. But after a while, I think it also just became a way to pick a fight. There must be crazy mixed-up torrents of toddler emotions that need to be released…and maybe a conflict is the only way to express them? I knew this was the case during a nap battle one day. Everett’s latest stall tactic has been to whine for the door to his room to “stay open” when he gets in his bed. Ok, fine. No problem. Door is open. But that simple appeasement was not what he was hoping for apparently, because within minutes he actually got out of his bed to close his own bedroom door just so that he could climb back in and wail for me to “leave the door open!” Crazy, right? Certifiable. He should just be saying, “But mama–I just want to fight!”

So there’s my top three thorns on my beautiful budding rose. Of course I have a far greater store of sweet, endearing gestures and heroic toddler stunts that make me smile…but I felt like releasing a little frustration today and being well, real. Motherhood is beautiful and gratifying and amazing…and mind-boggling. So, I’m just hanging out in the scrambled brain camp today–drinking too much coffee on a cold snowy day and dreaming of summer sunshine and an open field where a 3-year old boy is running and running off energy.IMG_4920

Snippets & Quips- January 25th, 2013

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State of the Union: Winter has been kind to us.  Ben has had a stretch of lighter rotations, we have all stayed healthy (vigorous knocking on wood right now), and the temperatures have been relatively mild.  I am nearly into the third trimester of my pregnancy and feeling great.  All in all, life is marvelous in the Morrison household.

I am thankful… for good health, lots of baby boy kicks and flutters, an ever-adorable toddler, and a husband who comes home from work happy to let Everett use him as a human jungle gym.

On my mind/I am learning… that my itch to go back to teaching runs in about 3-month cycles.  I just finished reading “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Human Power of Character” by Paul Tough for my mama book club.  Fantastic read for all educators and parents…and it really got me thinking about where I’d like to center my focus when I return to teaching.  Teaching life and character skills through self-expression and great literature…it just fits.  I actually found myself searching the job opportunities board on the Teach For America forum as I read the book…then quickly reminded myself that I am giving birth in just three months and better put off updating my resume for a while longer. 🙂

I wonder… how Ev’s little brother is going to rock our world!  How different will he be from Everett?  Will he escape the milk protein allergy and allow me to breastfeed?  How will Everett react?  Lots of exciting wondering and anticipation as April gets closer!

On my heart: I am currently baking several dozen of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies and a pot of my dad’s beef vegetable soup is simmering on the stove.  The kitchen smells are lacing my heart with nostalgia and sentimentality.  I have not been very good at keeping up this blog, but I have been doing some other writing lately.  I’ve started writing some memoir-ish vignettes, mostly centered on my parents’ struggles leading to their early deaths.  I haven’t shared them with anyone yet…still working up the courage.  How I wish I could channel Jeannette Walls‘ amazing tone of candor graced with optimism as I write down my own stories.  I think they are worth telling, but I fear to an outside reader that they might just be depressing.

Weekly Reader: Our next book club read is “Mind in the Making” by Ellen Galinsky.  I’m not very far into it, but so far it is really similar to many of the other books we’ve read.  I suppose I might be burning out a bit on child psychology and brain research.  However, I have been reading more books for pure fun lately.  Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior” and “This is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz have been two of my recent favorites. Kingsolver impresses with her knowledge of biology and understanding of human nature. This novel explores the issue of our ignorance of environmental issues like global warming and charms with a strong female protagonist searching for her sense of self. Diaz’s new books was a good quick read. I loved revisiting Yunior, the narrator from Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” This was a book of vignettes about the wonders and heartache of growing up in poverty and violence and dappling in the complexities of love.

What’s Cooking:  We made homemade naan last week.  It was delicious!  I have a fear of baking…especially baking bread.  But the naan turned out to be a perfect concoction of warm, chewy, salty, tangy deliciousness that paired perfectly with our chickpea curry.  I may just be inspired to get my hands floured up more often!

“Ev”Capades:  After 22 months, I am happy to report that Everett is FINALLY discriminately calling me “Mama!”  He is starting to chatter more and more everyday and “mama” is one of his new favorite jabbers.  He is starting to parrot us more and attempts lots of words when we ask him to say them.  I am hoping we are on the verge of that “language explosion” I hear so much about.  In other news, Everett pretty consistently goes pee-pee on his little potty when I take off his diaper and sit him there.  We are by no means in full potty-training mode and don’t plan to be any time in the very distant future, but the fact that he loves sitting on his potty and will go on demand are good steps in the right direction, I think.  While we don’t think Ev really has a clue how much his little world will change when his baby brother arrives, he loves to wave, pat, and kiss my ever-growing belly and will point there when asked where his baby brother is.  Basically, we just continue to adore our little man who is becoming more spirited and silly everyday.

Happy Highlights: Ben’s mom came to visit over MLK weekend and we had a wonderful time.  Ben had all three days off, we went and tried several new eateries in Nashville, and Peggy and I even went out on a “girls date” to see jazz music on Saturday night.  A truly great weekend with my family.

Looking Ahead: Ben has a week of vacation next month and we are headed to Savannah!  We have rented a little condo in the historic district for the week and are really excited to explore a new city.  Also, we’ve been keeping an eye on the weather trends there the past month or so…and the high temps have been consistently in the 70’s!  Hoping for a little pre-Spring fling basking in the Georgia sunshine.  I also can’t wait to get Everett back on the beach…he loved it last spring and I’m sure will be even more enchanted now.

And here’s just a few pics that capture the fun we’ve been having around here…

Ev with his buds Benji and Charlie in front of our Christmas tree on New Year's Eve this year.

Ev with his buds Benji and Charlie in front of our Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve this year.

My dear friend Katie and I sporting our bellies on New Year's Eve.

My dear friend Katie and I sporting our bellies on New Year’s Eve.

We went to a "Wacky Wednesday" playgroup last week.  Pretty wacky duds, huh?

We went to a “Wacky Wednesday” playgroup last week. Pretty wacky duds, huh?

Snippets & Quips-October 27th

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Bringing back the Snips & Quippets…

State of the Union: It’s October 27th and fall weather is FINALLY here.  After several weeks of highs in the 80s, we finally had a cold snap that matches the amber leaves that crunch under our feet.  Though Ben just started a busier rotation this week and has begun picking up moonlighting shifts on his days off, most of October included shorter work days and weekends spent together.  It’s hard to believe that November is knocking and that the holiday cascade will soon be upon us.

I am thankful… for the Bongo Java vendor that gave me a free cup of coffee at the farmer’s market this morning.  Their credit card reader was on the fritz and I showed up with no cash and a bundled toddler on this dreary cool morning just dreaming about the warmth and caffeine that would soon be streaming through my veins.  She must have seen the desperation in my eyes…or perhaps it was my cute kid that won her over (more likely).  Must remember to bring extra cash for a large tip next week.

On my mind/I am learning… that I am addicted to my iPhone.  The first step is admitting and accepting, right?  Seriously, I check my e-mail, the weather, my calendar, and Facebook way too many times a day.  My excuse: it’s my window to the outside world while I’m spending most of my days hanging with a mostly nonverbal toddler–but I am disturbed by how often I reach for this techno-friend.  I don’t want to model such device dependence for my kids and quite frankly I am scared of how this addiction will pervade our culture when Everett is a teenager.  I just ordered a new book that I am psyched to read and have even gotten my mom’s club to take it on as our next book club read: Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.  Here’s hoping it is the 12-step program I am looking for.

I wonder… how the election will shake out.  Heading out on Monday morning for early voting. It will be Everett’s first trip to the polls!  Maybe I’ll let him color in the bubble. 🙂

On my heart: Missing my mom at Halloween.  She loved this holiday…always decorating like crazy and doting on the neighborhood kids in costume.  If only she could see Everett in his homemade Oscar the Grouch get-up.  While he has never seen Sesame Street, the kid adores trash so it only seemed fitting to let him run around inside a garbage can all day!

Weekly Reader: I just finished Simplicity Parenting for my book club.  I recommend it to all parents–great ideas for simplifying your lives in order to protect childhood and fuel warmth and connectedness in your family.  It has inspired me to declutter–discarding physical stuff and paring down our weekly schedule.  I saw the author speak last winter and finally got around to reading his book.  Great stuff.  I envision myself pulling out this manual again and again as we travel through each phase of raising our children.

What’s Cooking:  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies  Ben complained about the fact that they are more cake than cookie, but these were definitely a tasty fall treat!

“Ev”Capades:  While I am still waiting for the “language explosion” to occur, Ev has added a few more words to his vocabulary.  While he is still a man of few words, he likes to pick out challenging ones when he finally does let his little voice sing.  Why waste time on mundane toddler words like “mama” and “car” when you can say “jacket” and “cinnamon.”  All that sprinkling of cinnamon on yogurt and oatmeal each day has prompted a new favorite utterance.  Everett loves to “try” to jump– basically crouching down into a squat and standing up fast with a whole body convulsion without his feet ever leaving the ground (pretty cute).  He still waves and blows kisses to every person, car, animal, or moving object that we see…(the old ladies in the grocery store love him.)  And he absolutely adores being outdoors, especially if he is hiking in the crunchy leaves or pushing our neighbor’s toy lawnmower across our front yard again and again.  He is slightly obsessed with his belly (and with mine for that matter) and gets quite upset when he’s wearing a onesie and can’t check on the status of his belly button several times a day.  This passion is definitely a problem when he tries to reveal my tummy by lifting up my shirt in public places.

Happy Highlights: October was full of lots of traveling and spending time with family and friends.  We went camping with the Montgomery’s and Ben’s parents one weekend and then returned to St. Louis to attend a friend’s wedding last weekend.  One of Ben’s childhood buddies tied the knot at a beautiful venue out in the country nestled in a valley hugged by striking autumn foliage.  This was the first wedding Ben and I got to attend together in about 4 years and he had a great time reuniting with his crew from high school.

Looking Ahead: Tomorrow we are hosting a big block party Fall Fest and Chili Cook-off on our street.  We are expecting about 50 adults and 45 kiddos for games, spooky snacks, chili tastings and trash-talking, and lots of rosy cheeks running in the brisk air.  Should be fun!  Stay tuned for pictures.

Hello Pseudo-Fall!

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I am finally digging out of the rubble of our September…it was a bit of a tornado with Ben in the CCU working long, long days, nights, and weeks–but we made it to the end and are now welcoming October with more family time and some glimmers of a new season.  While our daily temperature highs are still reaching into the 80’s, I am willing autumn by baking the season’s inaugural loaf of pumpkin bread and packing away sundresses and tank tops.

September began with travels to Chicago for my dear friend Deborah’s wedding.  It was my very first time spending a night away from Everett and while it was hard to say goodbye to that cutie as he waved eagerly and blew me kisses from Ben’s parents’ front porch, it was a good 48-hour getaway for me.  It felt both awkward and liberating to have freedom of bodily movement and freedom from schedule and routine.  There was an empty lightness to my gait without a toddler on my hip and I definitely looked at my watch way too often in anticipation of upcoming meals and nap times, but the chance to reconnect with Deborah and have a little “me time” was golden.

Yesterday, we celebrated Ben having the ENTIRE weekend off by going hiking at Montgomery Bell State Park, a gem of a state park about 45 minutes outside of Nashville.  The weather was sunny and a cool breeze was hinting at fall–a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning.  See my little hiker below!

October will be full but includes lots of quality family time.  We’re camping with Ben’s whole family next weekend at a park halfway between Nashville and St. Louis, heading to St. Louis for a weekend in later October for a friend’s wedding, and squeezing in lots of wonderful fall festivities the weekends in between.  Stay tuned for updates!

The rehearsal dinner at a charming Italian bistro in Chicago.

With the gorgeous bride!  Ignore my scary eyes…not sure why I look surprised and mannequin-like in all these shots from the wedding!

Check out the stunning detail on Deborah’s dress

Loving the great outdoors!

Could I be any luckier?

Picnic Pals!

Goofball.

Snippets & Quips- July 25th

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Snippets & Quips- July 25th

State of the Union:  Hot, hot, hot.  But we are gearing up for a trip to the Rocky Mountains where the lows will be in the mid-forties!  I am digging out the jackets and jeans and looking forward to crisp mountain air.  We will be camping in Rocky Mountain National Park with Ben’s parents and visiting our good friends Brian and Kelli in Denver.  I am very excited for our vacation minus the cross-country car trip with a BUSY toddler.

I am thankful… that we live closer to St. Louis AND that we live in a hip city that people want to visit!  July has brought us many visitors: Ben’s mom and her friend Jane from North Carolina followed by my good friend Lindsay.

I am learning….about Consigment Sales.  Whoa- they are a big deal here in Nashville.  Thanks to my friend, Jess–I was able to experience this explosion of bargain steals on all things kid and baby.  She brought me as her guest for the preview sale last night, so we got first dibs on the best finds.  I spent less than 50 bucks and walked out with an armload of goodies for Everett: an easel, books, a winter coat, rain jacket, leather hiking boots, and at least 10 other fall/winter outfits.  You should have seen this church gymnasium packed with every baby/toddler need (and want) imaginable.  There is no need to ever buy anything new for Everett again now that I know about these things. Pretty fun stuff… I just might be hooked. 🙂

The “new” easel… cost me five bucks!

I wonder… if Everett’s new big boy carseat will make our 18-hour excursion to Colorado any more tolerable.  After much research and debate, we finally purchased a convertible carseat, since his little infant seat was becoming a tight squeeze.  We checked out a half dozen new books from the library for him to “read” on the drive, I’ve got bags of snacks ready for emergencies, and I even borrowed a device that will clip Ben’s iPad on the back of the seat to play videos if we really need to call in all the troops–GASP!  I have not introduced Everett to the TV yet…but I just may need to cave for this trek.  We shall see.

Getting too big for his infant car seat… but he still loves to crawl in it when I bring it inside.

On my mind: What will it take for me to discipline myself enough to write regularly?  I can’t even make weekly blog updates happen!  I am so thankful that Ben is on my case constantly–sending me links for freelance essay requests, pushing me to read his little manual on writing that helped him crank out and publish research articles, and telling me to get my butt in gear and start drafting.  Ready…begin.

On my heart: Last week, we made a quick jaunt to St. Louis to attend my father-in-law’s retirement party.  He had worked at Boeing for 36 years and we are so happy that he is trading in his white collar for grandpa play clothes and taking a much needed break from the office grind.  His company gave him a lovely sendoff, the theme being Dave’s impressive ability to balance work and family life for all those years.  He is a true role model and I am so thankful to have such an amazing father figure in my life.  All of his kids and grandkids were able to be at the party…except for Baby Max–who was at Children’s Hospital with a benign case of viral Meningitis.  He is doing great now, but my heart was heavy for Annie and Joe as they spent long days and nights watching their fragile newborn be hooked up to IV’s.  Being a parent can make you feel so vulnerable sometimes.

Weekly Reader: Still reading “Cutting for Stone”– I am really liking it, but being only 150 pages in to a 667 page novel, I feel like I am still wading through the exposition.  Just starting to get a sense of characters and setting, though many details are still murky.  I’m hoping for more time to dig in during our vacation.  I bought a spelunking light that I can wear around my head for night-reading at the campsite.  Can I get any cooler?  🙂

What’s Cooking: I made Aunt Mary’s plum cake twice for a presentable breakfast for our visitors, Bobby Flay’s pork green chili (delicious!), and Ben whipped up a molten chocolate cake on a whim Sunday evening.  We used this delectable treat as a good excuse to finish off our port from the Mayo Winery–the last bottle standing from the stores we brought back from our honeymoon in Sonoma.  See pictures below– as always we are enjoying life bite by bite around here!

Aunt Mary’s Plum Coffee Cake

Ben’s molten chocolate cake…whipped up on a whim for no special occasion at all. Am I a lucky gal or what?

“Ev”Capades:  Our cutie is still obsessed with the “trash.”  His favorite word has turned into actions–he picks up specks of dirt off the floor, digs bottles out of the recycling, and tries to throw things like the remote control and his sippy cup into the trash can.  I finally bought him his own little trash can that he keeps in his room–a good storage place for shreds of toilet paper, books, and the occasional toy or teddy bear.  Another obsession is Otis’ leash, bed, and food bowls.  He pretty much spends his time inside the house coveting these items and getting Otis riled up as a result.  Who needs a playroom?  Everett loves to read–melting my heart as he climbs into my lap with various books he’s pulled off his shelf–asking me to read.  The favorites right now are “Go, Dog, Go” and “Freight Train.”  Please Everett, be a cuddly reader forever.

Happy Highlights: Not only did my friend Lindsay’s visit give us a great chance to catch up, but it also gave me an excuse to be a Nashville tourist.  We did the Honkytonk bars on Broadway and saw a great show at the Bluebird Cafe.  And Everett and I have had lots of fun with our mom’s group–we visited a fire station and have been to many library story times.  Also- Ben won a grant from Vanderbilt for this really cool medical education project he has been dreaming up for a couples years now.  It involves using iPads to stream educational seminars for residents while they are on night shifts when they miss traditional instructional opportunities.  He is becoming really interested in a medical education emphasis… just can’t contain the teaching bug around here!  I am so proud of him.

First booster seat…. noshing at Urban Grub with Peggy and Jane.

At the Nashville Sounds (minor league baseball) game with Lindsay and Ben’s co-workers.

Little Fireman.

Driving the fire engine.

Looking Ahead: So excited to spend some time with Brian, Kelli, Ali, and Emma in Denver and to camp in the mountains with Ben, Everett, and my in-laws Dave and Peggy.  Summer is flying by, but it has been so good to us.

Waking up from nap HAPPY!

Smooshing cheeks with Mommy

My best buddy.