LATELY : : MARCH 2018

March, the month of my husband’s birth – and his Momma’s! That in itself is enough to celebrate, but considering we didn’t celebrate either birth, I’ll try and stretch this a bit further…

The girls and I spent the first day of March with my longtime friend and meeting that gorgeous fellow above, Julian. We managed to make it home just in time to see Zack, on his THIRTIETH! birthday, moments before he went to bed. He worked the entire day. The school always schedule fall sign-up night on his birthday and every year we heave a heavy sigh of disappointment.

We are able to watch our cousin once again, and we are having such a great time with him! I’m sure he is glad to have girls fussing over him all day.

The prince in a prime napping position.

^ Can you spot the baby bum? How ’bout Mae’s foot?

Last month Zack and I started to completely reconfigure the layout of our house. We still have a slew of small cosmetic things to do to the front area here, but we’re thrilled with the amount of space we have to move around. The wall that creates a hallway has become the kids’ favorite part of this whole deal. They just run around and around and around.

I thought maybe school would be difficult with a baby in the mix, but so far he just joins in, plays alone or with the dog, and we wait until he is asleep to tackle the bigger lessons and projects. We also continue lessons / reading in the evenings occasionally.

Buckey will not let Rae do yoga. She’s all for not doing it, no force needed, Buck.

After a late night of grocery shopping, in a town pretty far away, we enjoyed time at one of our favorite restaurants.

They still share a drink, and usually a meal. (Zack and I share a drink everywhere we go, too.) As you’ll notice in that last photo, they never seem to want a drink until their sister grabs the cup. Oi

Mae had a cold for two weeks – and then some. Day one of it, she mentions, “I want to just rest for a minute.” Thirty seconds later she was snoring to high heaven, covered in drool and sweat, well on her way to a three-hour nap.

Watching a movie, waiting for school to get out so they can go into Daddy’s classroom.

I could watch them all day long (and night) as they do the most mundane things. Ugh, They’re so great. Seriously, I could stare at her watching television for the entire 90-minute feature and not become bored. I hated when I would notice my mom staring at me. Still, to this day I dislike people looking at me – even Zack! (and he stares at me a lot) But I’m going to stare at them and even be in awe of the pre-teen eye rolls that will surely roll in my direction.

On days when the weather was nice, the hens got plenty of attention. G can’t seem to get enough of them. He now looks forward to collecting the eggs and feeding them scraps through the wire each afternoon before his nap.

(Also! Check out that green grass!!!)

A fair-skinned girl and her black-furred dog, both avoiding the sun’s rays.

The wagon has racked up some miles this month! Mae insists on being the one to lug the baby around. No complaints here.

Also, Rae up there, on a mission to collect as many bird feathers as possible. So far, they’ve all been dirty old chicken feathers. Shes so proud. She tucks them under the wiper blades on our vehicles as a treat for Zack and I to ohh and ahh over later.

^ Collecting more feathers ^

Mae is determined to become skilled at climbing trees. The only problem is, this is our only climbing tree. So many trees in our yard, and only ONE worth climbing.

We read most of our books outside this month!

We began with Leprechaun in Late Winter, which we read last year in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. We read it in one sitting under these trees. Those Magic Tree House books are a quick read!

Followed that book with John Steinbeck’s, The Red Pony.

We read The Littles – the first in the series. It was another short chapter book, Mae was able to read this at a swift pace.

She also read Frog and Toad Are Friends this month.

(She reads non-chapter books every week, but that would make for an even longer list.)

We tackled a couple audiobooks – Little House on the Prairie (Really enjoyed this version!) over the course of a week in the car and The Hobbit in one day while cleaning the house.

Mae began a big project on Royals, Knights, and castles. Basically, castle life, but it has also come to include the middle ages. We began all of the above books this month. We’ll continue this through April as well (maybe longer?). Its been a lot of fun!

Rae went to town with some Sir Knight flannel graph business while we read those books aloud. Using it all at once seemed the best way to go.

The girls studied some composers again this month. Here are some Beethoven and George Bush Sr. Hector Berlioz paintings.

We also studied France for a hot minute. We’ll make a flag for France, too…when we get around to it. We are planning a French-themed meal (cliche items only!) for a supper one night soon.

Last year, in preparation for St. Pat’s we studied Ireland, the holiday, and everything related to the two for three months. This year, Penelope wore green. That’s it. We celebrated the following Monday with food and a movie. More of that back here.

While at a restaurant Mae crawled under the table and sat this next to me. I’m still baffled as to how she managed to sneak a card in and write this without me noticing. Her bun is  r e a l high and my hair is accurately thin. Her cards make me so happy!!

One of the girls’ best friends, Violet, turned three! We celebrated at a bowling alley – it was their first time bowling and they had so much fun!

Bathroom silliness…

The girls were in a play? skit? program? for Palm Sunday. This is all the proof I have of that.

Just a pretty girl I want to remember…

The girls and I snuck away for a couple days during spring break, since Zack had to work – on his spring break, mind you. We spent an afternoon exploring the Science Center. On our way to my mother-in-law’s, we spontaneously stopped in to watch A Wrinkle in Time! It felt so good to do something fun and unplanned with my girls.

Zack’s mom took off the following day so she could spend it with us. We stole my niece (who wasn’t on spring break) away for the tail end of our outings!

In celebration of Good Friday, Zack read them the story of the last supper and we enjoyed fish with ‘Jesus bread,’ and grape juice – per Mae’s request.

We’ll finish up the month with the rest of the crucifixion and resurrection scripture readings and garage cleaning. – Happy Easter!

SAINT PATRICK’S DAY 2018

I don’t find most holidays fun. My parents didn’t celebrate anything – except Christmas when we were little – and elementary school doing the repeated bare minimum really burnt me out over the years.

Since having kids – and in particular, a kid who goes hog wild for even the slightest whisper of Boxing Day – I’ve really stretched out my tolerance and dug deep to make every holiday magical, no matter how minor. Except for Boxing Day. We’re not even a little Canadian…

Last year we studied up on every holiday for weeks. In the case of St. Patrick’s Day, we studied it for E L E V E N weeks. It was my favorite study of the year!

This year, well…Mae wore the same too-small green dress two days in a row (so she was sure not to forget to wear green when the actual day arrived.), and she chose [above] spinach noodles and breadsticks for a holiday-related meal – which we ate nearly a week before the holiday. We didn’t even scribble a measly clover.

On the actual holiday, we were supposed to go to a Rogers’ reunion, but it was canceled. We spent the day in St. Charles (and St. Louis) anyway. Zack bought some stained glass for his classes at work while the girls and I walked the cobblestone streets listening to quartets belt out Irish folk songs, took note of each building (they’re so cool!) and took in the smells of cabbage and beer flowing from the many bars that call this particular street home.

It was freezing, so we didn’t bother walking the extra steps over to the riverfront (which is just behind them in the photos above.)

When Zack was done, we drove into the city to browse IKEA. We snagged some dollar hotdogs and the girls sat on every stationary item in the store.

We celebrated St. Pat’s the following Monday.

Zack and I tried corn beef for the first time and served it alongside smashed potatoes and homemade bread. And, I have to ask – why isn’t all beef ‘corned’???? – It was SO GOOD!!

We watched Secret of Kells while we ate. It was such a nice calm comforting evening. Worth the wait.

LATELY : : FEBRUARY 2018

February. Does anyone look forward to it? I tried to, but much like most, I kept a steady mental countdown to March – and somehow the final day snuck up on me!

We’re ready for spring – and most importantly the anniversary of Zack’s birth!! We won’t even see him on his birthday (his 30th!), but boy! are we glad he was born!! BUT SEE! I’ve already begun talking about March without even recapping February. Sorry, February…

So much will be left out of this post, but here are some of the moments I bothered to photograph – ha!

Really sellin’ this one.

We began the month by spending an afternoon at the river on a particularly calm, very cold day. It’s usually very very windy where we live. Have to jump while the air is still. The rest of February rotated between very warm and very very cold days. I believe all four seasons were experienced.

Slow meals to go with slow school days.

It was still too dry in the house, in my opinion, for playing with clay. The girls disagreed (or don’t mind dry hands?), so they made that their handwork during our reading time. In the evening, Mae crocheted while her and I read separate chapter books that would not interest Rae.

Mountain Born is about a boy, Peter, who raises a lamb. Living the dream…

We began February reading Swiss Family Robinson, and I think it’s our favorite book to date. So much imagination sparked and such great conversation came out of it. The girls still mention it randomly. We actually completed three chapter books just in the first seven days – not a typical feat.

We began The Green Ember (the first in a book series), but the timing wasn’t right for such a long book. We kept getting distracted, so I read it alone in my free time. I’m starting the second book tonight! We may begin it again this summer, but for now, I’ll just [highly] recommend it for those around 5th grade and older.

I also read The Cutting Season – not a junior fiction novel! What?!?- The librarian recommended it and snuck it into our stack of American girl novels and various children’s books. I completed all 384 pages in one day, only stopping to cook meals! It was so good.

B became very attached to me. He was always underfoot…actually, he was typically lying directly on my feet. I like him the least, but even now as I type this, he is lying on my feet. Sweet boy. I’ll enjoy his much more when he is too old and fat to mess with my things.

Rae caught a cold – most likely brought on by my stellar parenting the day I took them to the ‘icy river.” So, while Mae was at crochet lessons, Rae ditched preschool and helped me buy a new shower faucet – and fixins.

On our way out we wandered through the plants (We can’t help ourselves!). Rae asked if she could buy Daddy a plant for his classroom. Well, after this experience, I couldn’t say no now could I?

Later, while replacing the faucet, we discovered the plumbing had been installed by a child. Not the best news.

My space-admiring daughter was so giddy watching the Falcon Heavy launch and landing! We also researched the purpose of building something like the Falcon Heavy and related topics. I’m sure we’ll dig into this more another time, but it was a good start.

^ Pastel drawings and more science by way of Khan Academy lectures while waiting for lunch to get out of the oven.

I took the camera out to capture our ladies (who are all laying now!). The one just above realized I had no food and moved on with her very busy life…

Noticed George on my way back to the house. It’s hard to photograph our pets in a way they don’t look like shadows. Looks mighty regal, doesn’t he?

Mae invented a faster way to transport ice cream from your hands to your face (no spoon required!). Zack is alllll about this. Her favorite right now is ice cream made with coconut milk and caramel.

Over the course of the month, she came up with ideas for around one billion inventions. She never stops dreaming. We watched Tomorrowland this month as well. She had a lot in common with the main character and adored the concept of dreamers. She still stops me at random when she notices a dreamer (someone who invents, studies, finds or creates beauty, etc.). I plan on ordering them their very own Tomorrowland pins soon.

^ One of those warm days I spoke of ^

Good golly, that face. We drove with the windows down a lot this month, so the wind could flirt with our bare arms.

While waiting for Rae’s class to dismiss, Mae and I had a straw fight. First one to unwrap the other’s straw with sheer force won – loser had their nose picked by the winner with the winning straw. Thought for sure she would win. She put up quite the fight.

My older brother came for a long weekend! You can read about that here.

Less importantly, that very same weekend, the girls got to see Peter Rabbit.

Some valentine highlights.

Shenanigans.

One morning while cooking breakfast for Rae and I, Mae said, “Mom, can you get two plates?” Then proceeded to whisper under her breath, “These eggs have a destiny…” I love everything about this girl!!

On a particularly cold day, the girls and I wandered around the library and an antique store. They literally gasped when they saw that photo (newspaper clipping?) of Abe Lincoln. A lady peaked over the wall to make sure everyone was okay. Ha! They stared for quite a while.

One of quite a few trips to ‘The Diamond Store.”

We’re eager to plant things! Rae has to smell everything, always has. (That word, everything, is not used lightly.) She had to smell each stick to see if it smelled like the fruit in the photo. Sadly, they all smelled like sticks.

Mae drug me over to this situation. Left Daddy and Rae wondering where we ran off to. I wonder if she’ll always have an interest in pandas.

Rae’s penguin. I like this very much. Zack liked it too, so she drew one for him to take to his classroom.

Her interest in Star Wars is holding steady.

The girls spent so much time – sometimes entire days – outside.

Mae started her own compost, planted things, including this onion above that began sprouting in the pantry. They built things, cleaned up the yard and even ate quite a few lunches with dirt covered hands.

More selfies while waiting for Rae, ’cause who doesn’t absolutely love a selfie?? amiright?

BUT! matching gray eyes, hair out of her face and dirt under her nails. AND! we’re sittin’ reeeeeal close. Just how I like it.

Happy March, everyone!

JOSEPH

My older brother lives in Washington state with his lovely (and very pregnant) wife, Megahn, and their son, Solomon. While we see my younger brother, Benjamin, at least twice a year, we are only able to see Joseph once every few years. Simply due to distance.

After my Dad’s issues in December, they came up with a way for Joe to visit him (and us, too, of course) – and that day finally came this past Friday.

We arrived in St. Louis shortly before he did and met up with him for supper.

My girls didn’t remember him, but they immediately became very attached!

We have siblings who are twins, but my mom has always called us the twins. I’ve got a crooked nose and he has a beard, but we look very similar – we even share the same waist size! Ha!

The way she looks at him. Good gracious.

They live at an equal understanding of all things silly. It’s wonderful to witness these two together. My brothers really own up to their titles of Uncle.

We filled out Saturday morning with my nephews’ basketball games.

Rae showed Grandma her General Hux toy (and his “backpack”). She was very impressed.

Rae came down with some kind of stomach bug later that day. Poor thing. She plowed through the rest of the festivities well, though.

We’re not used to sunshine in February…

Sunday morning, we took the girls to see Peter Rabbit. That sign is pretty accurate – he was quite the rascal. The English humor had Zack and I rolling, while the girls adored everything about the animals, naturally.

Afterward, we took the girls out for lunch, where I cradled my seven year old as if she were a much younger, smaller child.

Don’t listen to that face, she loved it, I just know it.

Before heading home Sunday evening, we met up with Joe at Vovo’s house. They had all gone to church and lunch together earlier that day, while we played hooky at the theater with pukey-mic-puke-face.

He heads home tomorrow. Boy, do I wish I could sneak back into the city to see him off!

Thanks so much for traveling all this way, Joe. – and thanks, Megahn for making it happen!

FIELD TRIP : : LINCOLN MUSEUM

We got our first field trip of 2018 taken care of last week!

The girls spent quite a bit of time last fall learning about Abraham Lincoln. A subject they requested. We finally had some time to breathe and decided to fill that breath with a treck to Illinois.

My friend from high school, Ven, and her boys joined us. So grateful for the company and conversation!!

This girl, agh! She soaked every bit up. She was so happy to be in this place.

Zack and I brought her here when she was a year and a half old, or so. She obviously didn’t remember a thing, but it was so nice from my perspective seeing her observe everything this time around. Grasping the importance of his accomplishments.

With the exception of the logs she sat on, Rae looked at everything with her eyes not her hands! Such a hard task for a five-year-old.

^ Just look at her!! Inspecting every inch.

KILLS. ME.

Rae strolled through at a brisk pace…until she got here. She stared at Abe for a good long while, as I stared at her for a good long while.

Above: an outhouse with THREE toilets. All at different heights! You know you’ve made it when…

We toured Lincoln’s home. It’s just down the road from the museum -and its free! His tomb is free also but it was raining and getting cold, so we skipped that.

His home still has some original things in it. Doors, a toilet, wallpaper in one of the rooms, and the banister. Oh, that beautiful banister.

Now, between Lincoln’s stories of loss and achievement, the slaves’ own stories and watching my girls experiencing it all, I got tear boulders lodged in my ducts quite a few times throughout the day – BUT none quite so large as the ones brought about by that generically crafted banister.

As we neared the portion of the home tour where it was time to head on upstairs, the guide mentioned that the banister was original to the home.

“It’s as close to shaking the hand of Abe Lincoln himself as you can get!” 

I could see Mae hold her breath. Her smile grew and her gaze made it over to mine. I knew what she was thinking. Boulders began to form.

As we rounded the corner into the foyer, her eyes grew. I made sure to walk behind her. She slowly raised her hand, making sure to never take her eyes off the banister. She slowly walked up the staircase. I knew she was imagining Abraham Lincoln walking up those very steps holding onto that very banister. She was in heaven. As a result, I was too.

Before heading to my mother-in-law’s for the night. We braved the great ice storm of 2018 (apparently it’s not too early in the year to proclaim such a thing), and enjoyed a “fancy meal” at McAllister’s together. Just me and my ‘gails’.

As we waited for our fancy food to arrive, we received several texts and calls from people making sure we were still alive. We were. As we made the five-minute journey to Shari’s we saw no ice and had the roads all to ourselves. Not a bad way to end the day!

– Mae (on the left) is holding her face like that for the photo. I held the phone up for a ridiculous length of time to see how long she’d hold it. She didn’t budge. Definitely, her Daddy’s girl…

“ENVENTURING”

Anytime they’re outside Mae calls it adventuring, or “enventuring.” Today we went enventuring.

The girls discovered it was warm again today (When will it get cold??). They packed their backpacks with notebooks, snacks, water bottles, and tupperware for “collecting nature,” then ran up to me and shouted, “Can we go to the park!?” Who could say no…

We lasted at the table just long enough to unpack everything they brought, ooh and ahh at the view, and eat one apple and one orange. Then, Momma got cold so we had to move along into the woods. My favorite part.

Ugh. That smile says it all, doesn’t it? She is at her best out of doors.

Really, who isn’t?

Rae yelled, “Poison Ivy!” at each green thing we passed. It’s not that warm here…

She also stole some moss from the State Park. Oops. It was a gift for me since moss is my favorite (and we didn’t get caught!), so, I’m gonna let it slide.

We didn’t’ find any antlers, cool rocks, bugs, or mushrooms, but as you can see, they didn’t seem to care.

Notice Rae’s backpack bum? We laughed pretty hard about that throughout our hike.

Contraband.

Hope its warm tomorrow so we can do this all over again. AND! since I’m apparently a whimp, I’ll bring a bigger coat so they can stay longer without having to hear Momma gripe.

THE COMPASSION EXPERIENCE

Zack and I have sponsored the same boy for 12 years now, through Compassion. I can’t say enough good things about them. Honestly, I can’t think of a bad thing to say.

Compassion has sent an “experience” around the country and thankfully ended up five minutes from my mother-in-law’s house (a couple hours from our home). I decided to take the girls there to give them a look into the lives of far less fortunate kids from around the world.

We often have discussions about what it is like for others in the world and how great we have it here in the states (even our poor and homeless), but this took it to a new level for them, which was the intention.

So, you wear headphones that are connected to an iPhone. There are narrations which guide you through each story – one room equals one part of their life’s story. They have a kids version with fewer sound effects and a toned down bit for gory situations. I’m glad we opted for that with the girls.

We learned about a girl (now a woman) from the Philippines, and a boy (now a man) from Kenya. The girls and I both agreed that the story of the girl, Kiwi, will stick with us.

The rooms were set up as authentically as possible (I think they did a great job!).

Of course, we didn’t experience the smells that come with poverty, floods, etc. or feel the deep fear children experience in these situations. We didn’t have rain pouring down on us through the sags of tarp roofs or holes in the tin roof. We didn’t feel the pit of starvation or feel hopeless about what our night or our tomorrow will be.

We did get to have deep meaningful, enlightening conversions on our long drive home, we do have fresh daily outlooks of the blessing we’ve been given each day, and we will remember those less fortunate in our prayers. It’s easy to get focused on only what is close to home when we pray. We don’t need a name or a face to pray for someone across the globe…or those in our own town we’ve never met who are living in crippling conditions.

So glad we didn’t back out, save the gas and spare ourselves the long hours on the road.

CHRISTMAS RECITAL 2017

Mae had her third ever recital this past Monday night. She has expressed a dream of being on stage from the time she was two. She has never once been nervous before a show. So grateful it has not only become a reality but that she is pretty dadgum terrific.

She makes our dirty ol’ porch look mighty classy, don’t she? Untied laces and all.

Seriously. These two. This will surely be, forever, one of my favorite photos.

We made our traditional trip to the neighbors to show off the incredible costume.

Of course, Rae was being a crumbum.

For all of Mae’s recitals, Rae has been a not so nice human being. A real so-and-so. Supportive right up until the moment she realizes she’ll have to sit still (and, God forbid, remain quiet!) for the next 45 minutes.

Thankfully, it didn’t bring Mae’s spirits down!

Another tradition – post-recital meal at Lee’s! She doesn’t like chicken (or any kind of meat), but she does like hot apples and honey on a warm roll!

So excited to see what she has for us next spring!!

DEAR MAE & RAE : CHRISTMAS EDITION

This month has been the greatest!! You are both now fully able (and willing) to enjoy all that comes with the Christmas season.

For your birthday’s this year, you both wanted to spend any money you received on each other. For Christmas, it seems you have plenty of thoughts on what you’d like for yourselves. However, you both did great choosing the perfect items to gift each other. So grateful I get to live right smack dab in the middle of your relationship. The nosy, opinionated third wheel.

You are both able to bake cookies from scratch. Mae even knows how to set the oven correctly. Rae, at this point, you don’t get to mix cookie dough – sorry, Babe. You tend to stick your hands in at every stage…even the slimy ones. BUT! you can help once the dough is fully mixed!

You each jump at the chance to take charge of our daily advent lesson. Thankfully taking turns between two isn’t so bad. Four sentences in and Rae has made her way to the piano and is playing Mary had a Little Lamb above Momma’s words. Never fails. Sitting still for minutes at a time is hard.

You both take full advantage of having so many occasions to ‘get fancy.’ Dresses, tights, skirts, clicky shoes, broaches (yes, you both totally adored broaches), nail polish, hair spray, cheek sparkles, ear muffs, and peacoats – BRING IT!

I have tried to mix up our Christmas music as much as possible – without wandering into current pop renditions – and so far, ya’ll aren’t even a “tweensy” bit sick of the merriment.  I need a break now and again – so thanks for smiling through the detours.

The two of you sang a duet at church for the Festival of Talents. A talent show where kids could show off the gifts the Lord has given them. Ya’ll sang Jingle Bells. The entire thing. It was so good! No one paused to remember words, cried, ran off stage or even developed rosy nervous cheeks like Momma surely would’ve. While you both have so many talents, I’m glad you chose this one. It got you, Rae, out of your comfort zone (singing out loud on stage in front of several people!) and allowed the two of you to grow and work together for the Lord.

We have gifts under the tree (yours for each other), and the stockings are full. Thanks for not peeking!

Right now, I’ve got to slap some lipstick on your face, Mae, as we’re nearly out the door for your Christmas Recital!