Category Archives: Family

Suffolk Drive-bys

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I drove by 7740 Suffolk Avenue today.  I did another quick drive-by just like I’ve done countless times before since moving back to town.  The house is tall and skinny, like a shotgun ranch flipped on its side.  From the street, the house is mostly obscured by the four 50-foot pine trees that tower at its roofline and encompass the entire front yard. It’s quite unusual landscaping for the quaint suburb of Shrewsbury, Missouri. Most front yards in the neighborhood host a stately and elegant oak or a maple that filters just the right amount of sunlight towards the front window panes.  These pine trees, however, cast gigantic shadows and create a fortress capable of locking secrets deep within.  The four grandfather pines create a sky top canopy that bars a suburban lawn from taking hold.  The ground beneath is a rustic display of brown earth, scattered pinecones, and cozy mounds of mahogany pine needles.  Not all life can flourish here.  The trees stand guard, obstinate in the face of well-mannered boxwoods and neatly mulched rows of hostas.  They seem to whisper, “We will not conform.”

This front yard forest floor was a magical playground to me as a child.  I would spend hours with my bare hands in the earth, digging trenches beside the deep tree roots.  When my fingers tired, I would sneak a large soup spoon from the silverware drawer to assist my construction.  I scooped out smooth curves of dirt that when paired with the sturdy framework of exposed ground roots created the most enchanted crevice chairs.  I would sit in these concave bowls of earth and exhale the satisfied sigh of a master architect, sometimes reclining with a book whose pages would become gummed by my sap-slicked fingertips.

One summer, the front yard forest became the headquarters for the “bee hospital” that I created with my friend Rachel.  First we captured “sick” bees, who generally suffered from the trauma of being captured with sticks and jars.  We roughly scooped them off the clover and dandelion flowers that covered the small strip of lawn that ran between the house and the pine grove. Then we mixed magical potions from pine sap and dirt that we would paint on the bees with a popsicle stick. Oh to feel important and useful and innovative.

My drive-by today provided just a quick glimpse, like all the other passes before.  Our house sits at the corner of a busy street that does not provide pavement for parking or space for slow cruising and gawking. At any moment, a car could turn sharply from the busy street, a continuous threat to any idling pedestrian or vehicle.  I slow my driving speed just enough to steal a few quick sideways glances, before nervously turning back to the frenzied cross-street ahead. How strange to now perceive this place through such a fast and fractured lens, this place I once knew so intimately.  During most of my blurred glances, I look for the basketball hoop that sits at the end of my driveway.  It was a gift from my dad that sat awkwardly propped under the low branches of our Christmas tree. I spotted it from the landing of our staircase as I came down on Christmas morning.  My dad installed it himself, digging a hole in our backyard against the fence and pouring a large haphazard block of concrete at the base to ensure the structure could withstand play for generations to come.  I wish I could go play a round of P-I-G with my boys there.

However during my drive-by today, my eyes were drawn to new objects instead of old.  In my first stolen glance, a chicken strolled across the strip of grass, heading for the front yard forest playgrove. It was definitely an anachronistic sight, despite the rising popularity of backyard chickens in our suburban culture.  “Was there a coop in our backyard?” I wondered, imagining how my child-self would have been tickled by such a pet.  My eyes darted back to the road again and I slowed to a stop at the stop sign.  I looked back at the house one more time before making a right turn off the street.  My eyes locked on a pink bicycle at the bottom of the porch stairs.  “Is it a Huffy?” I mused, remembering my own childhood bicycle parked at the end of the driveway.  As I left Suffolk Avenue, I imagined the little girl that lived there now and wondered if she constructed pine root furniture too.  Does she keep a secret hideout under the front porch stairs?  Does she shoot hoops with her dad on summer nights?  Does she too thank the tall pines for shuttering her family, whose struggles don’t fit the suburban mold?

As my mini-van slowly picked up speed, I sit with the pleasant pain of the nostalgia.  Like eating a jalapeño or getting a deep tissue massage, I feel the zest of a live once lived, the comfort of a home, with a residual bite and sting and bruising that never heals.  There are errands to run and more life to live, running just parallel to this corner of the world where I spent my formative years. I now live just six blocks away from this childhood address, but these memories feel like they were formed lifetimes ago.

I lived at 7740 Suffolk for a dozen years before I went away to college.  My parents suffered a house fire there five years later, quickly followed by a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, quickly followed by depression, disease, and their own early departures from this world.  I lived hundreds of miles away when they left this house and never said any sentimental goodbyes.

The tall skinny house flanked by the tall pines still stands strong.  The gray speckled siding has been replaced with a pale yellow vinyl.  There are updates and elements of growth and maturity, but the skeletal framework remains the same, standing tall and strong.  It is loyal and stands waiting for me to steal more roadside glances.

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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.

The 12 Bugs of Christmas

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IMG_4809On the first day of Christmas, the germ lords gave to Lou-
A temperature of one-hundred and two.

On the second day of Christmas, the germ lords brought more tears-
For Louie, it’s a virus with two infected ears.

On the third day of Christmas, the germ lords brought to Lou’s big bro-
A fever and lots and lots of snot to blow.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the germ lords brought to me-
A sinus infection and attack of allergy…

On the fifth day of Christmas, the germ lords brought to Louie:
Vomiting and diapers that were gooey.

On the sixth day of Christmas, you can guess what would ensue-
Everett got the stomach bug too.

On the seventh day of Christmas, we enjoyed two full days of healthy boys-
We were so relieved to breathe in the seasonal joy.

But alas on the eighth day of Christmas, the germ lords started their old tricks:
Everett spikes a temp of 106.

On the ninth day of Christmas, we see the doctor yet again:
Influenza has struck the biggest of my little men.

On the tenth day of Christmas, Everett is coughing like mad
And it’s another ear infection for my little lad.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the germ lords spread the flu:
This time it’s fever, cough, and snot for my little Lou.

And on the twelfth day of Christmas, the germ lords finished their Tsunami-
With a sinus infection/flu combo for Mommy.

A little parody instead of a rant or “woe is me” entry. We’ve been hit hard this month. One of us had literally been under the weather every day since Thanksgiving. We are cooped up, but still trying to smile and enjoy the splendor of the season. I am just hoping for a healthy family as we hit the road on Friday and celebrate Christmas. While we have endured our share of the “germ lords,” I still see how fortunate we are this season. This is small potatoes. But nevertheless, I’m kind of urging spring to come!

Swell Season

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Ahh November, we meet again.  This is my swell season.  My heart, my memory, my longing for all the “what could have beens” swell and seep out my soul as the last leaves leap and the Butterballs are thawed.

Tomorrow marks the 10-year anniversary of my mom’s death.  It is preceded by her birthday on the 21st (she would have been 58 this year) and then followed by the 6-year anniversary of my dad’s death on the 28th.  Thanksgiving always falls somewhere in between these grief posts, scrambling my gratitude with heavy nostalgia.

It’s strange how a largely artificial marker like a unit of time can both cement an absence and yield a renewed sentimentality.  The decade is a big one.  It’s a long enough passage of life to develop its own identity.  One needs only to mention “the 50s” to conjure up images of poodle skirts, sock hops, and black and white television.  Yet how is it defined when it is a passage of death?

“10 years” feels monumental when I say it out loud, but I’m struggling to connect this crisp, rounded unit of my mom’s absence with the fluid and amorphous emotions that characterize my remembrances.  Her early death was tragic as were many aspects of her life.  My reflections on our relationship are not easy to classify; we were inexplicably close yet terminally divided and distanced by the circumstances.  Recalling memories of the time we spent together is like mining for gems–after brushing away the debris and dissolving all the dirt, there are many solid stones that are absolutely precious.

So to commemorate this noteworthy, even, rounded chunk of time, I have jotted a down a random and arguably chaotic list of images, instances, and quirks that characterize my mom and make me smile. It is not a polished eulogy or “anniversary grade” tribute, but it melds with the complexities and contradictions of my swell season.

Dear mom,

After 10 years I remember…

That you called my blue and white plaid comforter a “checkerboard farm” when you tucked me in each night; your silliness still rings in my own interaction with my sons. 

That you once offered me a “licorice peace treaty,” after we fought, arriving at my bedroom door with a single shoestring of red candy and a hopeful smile.

That you used to tap my nose playfully and say “Binkie”.  I’m not sure where this odd tradition came from, but I always cherished this expression of affection even when I was a teenager.

Our special dates when dad was out of town.  We would go out to dinner, go shopping, buy penny candy at Ben Franklin, and I would sleep in your bed. 

Our adventures in Hawaii on our family vacations.  While dad worked, we would have breakfast at The Sheraton, buy tanning oil and souvenirs at the ABC store (who even heard of sunscreen then?!), and bargain with the vendors at the open air market you named “Ticky Tacky Town.” 

Watching “Bozo the Clown” with you before I walked to the bus stop on school mornings.  You would stand up and dramatically wave your arms and bellow “It’s Time for the Grand Prize Game,” which signaled that the show was over and it was time to head to school. 

The Pillsbury canister cinnamon rolls you would make for breakfast.  You would leave the icing off for me, since I didn’t like it and we would always call our neighbor friend Molly over to help us finish off the goods before heading to school. 

The lunches you packed for me everyday from Kindergarten through early high school.  There was no PBJ in my sacks.  I had gourmet leftovers of cut-up steak, soup in a thermos, or red pistachios wrapped in a neat foil pack.  My lunches were the envy of my classmates (and sometimes the source of odd glares.)

Your candy obsession: Red Vines licorice, green Chiclets, Skor bars, and Slo-Pokes. Isn’t it funny that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth?  

Our games of Boggle and backgammon on the living room floor.  You would never let me win and I appreciate that now.

Cooking what you and I deemed “The dreaded pork chops” for dinner because it was dad’s favorite meal.  I don’t think we really minded them all that much, but we had fun exaggerating our pretended distaste. 

Your concentrated look as you worked on a Crossword puzzle.  You never met one that you couldn’t master… I still can hardly put a dent in the NY Times puzzles even though I try in your honor.  One time you called something a “terrapin fork” and swore it was a term you learned from a Crossword. 

The Classic Rock hits you would loudly sing when my friends were in the car.  “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” “Hotel California,” and anything by Rod Stewart. 

The care packages you would send to me and all my high school friends when we left for college.  You mailed boxes all over the nation that year to make sure that we all remembered that we had a fan rooting us on from home.  In one of those packages, you included a board book called “I Love You As Much.”  I saved that book and now I read it to Everett and Louie.  The last line: “Said the mother to her baby as the stars shine above, I love you as much as a mother can love.” 

Despite all the ups and downs, twists and tragedies that riddled our time together, I ALWAYS felt loved.  It is this feeling I hold on to most after ten years.

Me and Mom- I am probably about 14 here. Unfortunately, it's one of the most recent good photographs of the two of us that I have. She looks youthful and healthy and well--like I want to remember her.

Me and Mom- I am probably about 14 here. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most recent good photographs of the two of us that I have. She looks youthful and healthy and well–like I want to remember her.

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?

Happy Halloween!

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We were lucky enough to celebrate Halloween for about 4 days in a row down here. We had a Halloween party with our mom’s group on Saturday, our Fall Fest neighborhood street party on Sunday, trick-or-treating and Halloween story time at the library on Tuesday, and then of course–hanging with the neighbors and greeting trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Whew… lots of opportunities to don homemade costume #2 though!

As you can see, Everett was Oscar the Grouch this year… not because he knows any of the Sesame Street characters, but because he has an infatuation with TRASH! It was one of his first words and one of his favorite past times is picking up specks of litter in local parks and making a beeline for the nearest trash can while shouting “TRASH!” excitedly. So needless to say, Ev was happy to walk around in a trash can this past week.

Trick-or-treating was crazy and fun as usual on Park Avenue.  Our neighbors tallied 821 trick-or-treaters this year…an all-time record!  They come in droves and swarms for the sugar and over-the-top spooky decorations that flood our block.  So much fun!

The only dark cloud in our festivities was Everett getting sick. He came down with a cough over the weekend that turned into a full blown virus and ear infection by Sunday. You can see that he was a sad little sack in our family costume shot. He was better within a couple days though, and now we are hitting the road for a week in St. Louis to visit with family and friends.

I can’t hardly believe that it is already November!

The Muppet Family… sadly, you can tell that Ev is not quite feeling up to snuff. Poor little guy.

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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.