I am home with four kids - two girls, two boys - ages 14, 6, 5 and 3 (and when I started this blog, just a little over two years ago, I had an infant, a 2yr old, 3yr old and 12yr old - feels like a lifetime ago, but it wasn't ;-). Until about four or five years ago, I worked in marketing. I have been and done many things - dancer, magazine "multi-tasker", advertising copywriter, gymnastics coach, resort town waitress, grad student, etc. Now my areas of expertise are different and diverse. I am savvy, efficient, patient and earthy (like it or not). I am a better cook, an Ok herb gardener, an impressive artist to my kids, an active and prolific photographer, a childrens' clothing stylist (in my head), a manager of all things "household" and a news enthusiast (from politics to celebrity). I am more cynical though less of a worrier / hypochondriac than I used to be. I am increasingly proud of what I do with kids, family and home, but I do still present myself as a "freelance writer".
It always sneaks up on me. I mean - it does and it doesn't. I am prepped for weeks - decorations, candy, mugs and seasonal clothing - mulled cider, butternut squash soup, outdoor "campfires", autumn dinner parties.... I dig Halloween, and I looooove autumn, in general. I am sad when it's over. I think THAT'S what sneaks up on me. It becomes gray and November-ish outside - the rush is on for Christmas gifts - school gets chaotic ... oh - I don't need to tell you - we'll all experience it tomorrow (sorry for the drag-down ;-).
So - last night was sleepless - late night texts from the dance attendee - boys who wanted to stay up late and watch Halloween specials then spent the night waking and calling for us - and.... one over-tired "just turned three year old" who would NOT go to sleep - insisted on being in "prince-ness" costume for hours. I accidentally napped mid-evening watching a bit of a boring movie, then..... in typical insomniac form, was up all night.
Strange night - Devil's Night, so.... as it should be, I suppose. Sirens in the wee hours, clear audible voices just outside the door very, very late - I even checked my phone for one last text from Olivia who was sleeping over at a friend's, and... literally, seconds later, she texted me (my fellow late night girl - I love serendipity, as you know - just odd to feel so in sync with the surroundings on such an odd, mystical night ;-).
So - today we'll trick or treat (oh - and hubby has decided to paint the bedroom today - wonder how THAT will go - I'm predicting another sleepless night for me) - we'll make s'mores in our firepit again - we'll light jack - o - lanterns and start the fog machine. It will be cold, but it will be fun.
I've decided that I'm going to take a few weeks to rethink, re-evaluate, redesign and re-conceptualize my blog. I am going to focus on kids, holidays and my grand but ordinary day to day. I will also immerse myself in my old photos - take my classes at the Apple store - make my films, slide shows and explore other projects. I will also get my messy, messy, half-painted, half-decorated, semi-comfortable / semi-chaotic house in order. This is a lot. I'll miss you all :-).
Photo: I knew this was coming, having been forewarned by a mother who knew her sons were heading out with toilet paper and silly string last night - friends of my "teen" (said with some snark but quite a bit of levity in my voice ;-). I like it, having done some TP'ing in my day :-). Anyway.... it's just a wee bit.... All good.
Listening to Bloodbuzz, Ohio by the National right now (which makes me proud of my "home state"), drinking for the last day out of my witch mug (and with that, also wearing my black pumpkin socks for the last time this year - NOT as big a deal as the mug ;-) and... reading this little tidbit on the new show "The Walking Dead", which airs tonight (and, for all you zombie purists, we should be proud this guy, the special effects person on this project, is from Pittsburgh - he KNOWS those suckers shouldn't be running - zombies are dead and rotting - they move slooooow ;-). And.... think it is super cool the Steelers are in New Orleans on Halloween (when I return someday, I may tell you all about my voodoo doll - the passion goddess, who I will NEVER throw away - cuz.... well.... I think she's real :-0). So ... I leave you in a good spooky "space" right now. Take care.
Ok - so Olivia was mortified that all her little bros and sis were in full Halloween costume just before her date was about to show up..... Anyway - I got a good photo :-).
Tonight was great - beautiful kids - beautiful outfits - HUGE limo - pretty fall foliage in the background - lots of laughter .... They will have SUCH a good time. I'm told they will do photos on Mt. Washington - have dinner - have an after party at a friend's house (and I know I'll get texts all night long AND I'm also sure that plans will change and then some.... all part of the "magic" ;-).
Photos: PBT studio - Mommy and Lil and other class attendees (and Miss Kayla) do battement tendu, first position and other fun stuff. It was dress-up day so all seriousness and black and pink proper leotards and tights aside, they were all in tutus and / or princess gear.
Lovely, chilly day. Trees bare and / or rusty colored - should be a spooky Halloween. Speaking of spooky.... I LOVE a good, true ghost story. Read here for shivers.
Relying on quick snippets and photos here, cuz.... I am still on a "break" (some things just can't go undocumented, however ;-). Reports on how that (the break, the organization, etc.) is going later ....
Are you ready? I am. Costumes? Check. Pumpkins carved? Check. Candy purchased? Well... almost ready.
Today? "The smiley cookie place" (yes, Eat n Park - don't knock it - good milkshakes, breakfasts and diner - ish entrees - local organic produce at salad bar - very reasonably priced and "just fine" kids menu - besides.... my kids looooooove it - aside from picky Olivia but poor freshman had school today - albeit in my super cool, aforementioned "Dance Caravan '83" t-shirt) - Home Depot for bedroom paint (get ready for more chaos) and.... pumpkin carving (Olivia getting her pre-homecoming - yes, another one - nails done, so.... we saved her one for old time's sake :-).
Happy weekend. I am still, basically, on break ;-).
Yeah - you heard me right - 1983. I just had to post this in the midst of my chaos.....
Olivia, looking for a retro "80's workout girl" look for Halloween at school tomorrow, prompted me to search through a box of old dance and other school stuff from my childhood (given to me by my mother when she moved). Out popped an old pink ballet sweater, scary ripped and torn black leg warmers, all sorts of Capezio leotards.... and this shirt (pictured). Yeah - that's right - I attended Dance Caravan 1983 and took class from Joel Hall and Frank Hatchett (jazz hands, everybody!) and Fred Knecht (the girl in the back needs her tutu trimmed a bit) and David Howard and..... um who else?!?! Anyone? Anyone? One of you, my loyal ex-dancer friends / readers HAS to remember!
Anyway - here's to hoping that Olivia isn't reprimanded for wearing a cut to fit belly shirt in school tomorrow (those racy 9th graders ;-) - puh-leeeeez).
Every morning this week has been full of beautiful, bright, multi-colored autumn light. Damp leaves, bright skies, gorgeous colors on all the trees. As my kids go off to school each day, I have been trying to step outside, take a breath, soak in the color, the smells and that light - that unusual, glowing light. And.... as I stand on my deck with coffee, in my front yard ankle deep in fallen leaves, I try to calm myself, slow a bit and think on my lovelies and their enthusiasm as we read Halloween books, their appreciation (my teen digs this) when I announce that we can, indeed, do Chick Fil-A for dinner :-), their sweet, sweaty little hands as they try to rub my neck (mommy has been lifting and moving and organizing lately ;-) or the look on their faces as they "help" me around the house or outside. I do love them - everything about them - the rough, the easy - all of it. Helps to remind myself of all the good for even just a few minutes each busy day.
So.... it's my favorite time of year AND I am back to being multi-media girl again (film and video and photos and slide shows and journaling and.....) plus my freelance editing / writing project may officially kick off today, so.... again - forgive me IF I do not post for a while (though I might - never know when the feeling may hit me) OR if I post haphazardly like I did today :-).
I'm not back... just offering a quick fyi to you locals...
Worth a read... some attempted lurings of kids at bus stops, etc. in the city and 'burbs. Police are taking it seriously enough to meet on it. Scary - particularly with Halloween on the way and kids running around at night.
Photo: Olivia's end of season field hockey party last night (which I DID attend to repay the injustice of not being able to chaperone the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre trip with her class on Friday).... Lil hangs with the girls (and Milo ran around the room while Daddy chased him, unfortunately, not before he disrupted the entire presentation - Enzo ate pizza and said he was tired - oh well, at least no one was screaming at me for picking the wrong jacket for them to wear or for putting the straw in the vanilla milk before I handed it to them and other SUCH horrible mommy mistakes, right? ALL I usually hear lately is screaming, fighting, hitting, toys being thrown, me being told I am a "bad mommy" - frustrating, so..... it was very nice to just have to sit and / or chase and / or keep chairs from toppling and / or make them eat what they took from the buffet, without benefit of plate, washed hands or silverware - ALL without risking life and limb or having to lose my voice trying to shout over the raised voices and cracking bones that I experience at home - and I have had a recent bloody nose and chin bruise trying to bust up a couple scuffles - not to mention the lingering cough and sore throat that is either aggravated by or prolonged by the constant reprimanding. Who knew kids could be this scary at times? Oh well - it is Halloween, right?).
So ... we celebrated Lilliana's third birthday on Saturday with a big costume party blow-out bash. The kids played in the fallen leaves, climbed the "tree house", smashed a candy-filled pinata to pieces (thanks to Enzo for that :-), ran around for a scavenger hunt and made s'mores by the firepit while the adults chatted, drank mulled cider and ate chili. Lilliana enjoyed attention from older girls (at one point, all these pink tulle-clad little girls were in my Nanna's room where she was just soooo happy), and she ran about and played like a "big girl". Earlier in the day, we had her open a bunch of flowery-wrapped presents and blow out the candles on a buttery, chocolate-iced cake. A great day.
I have so much to say about my little girl - too much to put here right now. I will say, though, I do love watching all my kids go through these wonderful stages. Currently, Lilliana is in her "terrible twos / threes" tantrum stage, but.... there are also such nice things about this stage. For one, she is a "lollygagger" (just like her Mommy was). I remember my Mom and Dad often telling me not to "lollygag" - a term I've taken to mean "wandering, daydreaming, stopping too often to smell the flowers" :-). And this TRULY describes my cupcake completely! Many memories come to mind of her wandering slowly down the walk outside her brothers' school, picking treasures like berries and dandelions (which we, of course, keep and store in our van to show Daddy and Olivia), waving to "goggies" (doggies) or smiling coyly at me as she swings her arms and walks at a snail's pace wherever we might be going - the playground, the school..... I will remember these walks forever. I will see her forever in my mind, walking towards me - her little pie face lit up with that craggy smile - her tiny little body and baggy pants - her wild dark hair. Love it.
I am full of memories today, and... full of apologies as well.... for not writing in a couple of days. I have, however, been to the Apple Store, updating my iPhoto - organizing old, total "walk down memory lane" photos and getting organized. A good thing, but... something that will keep me from my blog for a little bit. So... I'll see you in a few days, and... I leave you with this bit of advice (grain of salt - remember, I am nostalgic today ;-).... Call, write, email, visit, get together with old and new friends when you can. I had two friends from my past in town this weekend - one was someone I worked with at an Internet company almost ten years ago (though, L - did we have trouble describing where we worked last night or what? Back in the day of "Internet incubators" ;-); we talked about how so many moves, kids, etc. later, it still felt like we had just seen each other yesterday. The other was a college friend who now works as a comedian in NYC, but... we missed each other (I didn't get his messages until late and got tied up at home with family stuff and sick-ish kids - hubby disappointed because he heard he was hilarious - and I guess I can vouch for that :-). Anyway.... nice to at least hear from and / or reconnect with people (thanks, S, btw, for the email rants :-).
So - the boys went to movie night at their school and watched dragons all night - and... our teen went shopping with friends (and probably to Starbucks, etc.), so... we had our Lil to ourselves - on her last night as a two year old. Tomorrow she is three, and she will open "prince-ness" gifts and blow out candles and have fun at a suppertime costume party complete with a camp fire, s'mores, a scavenger hunt and a pinata. We will miss the "babyness" of our sweet Lil as she grows up, but... we'll cherish every moment with our ever- curious, beautiful, feisty three year old Lil. Tonight - she got ice cream with sprinkles BEFORE dinner (chocolate) - and got to walk the neighborhood with Mommy and Daddy (she loves to window shop :-) - then ooohed and ahhhed over desserts at Aladdin's where Daddy did a magic trick for her, and Mommy played a funny "tissing" (kissing) game with her. Looking forward to tomorrow :-).
A couple of weeks ago, we were winding down after school with a snack and a movie(Enzo, for some reason, had chosen Julie and Julia - he likes cooking shows :-). As we were watching Julie (Amy Adams) pan toast some luscious looking buttery bread and chop and mix some fresh looking tomatoes and herbs in the movie, Enzo decided he wanted to make that bruschetta - that "bread and potatoes", as he said. Of course, that meant Milo and Lil were on board, and... even Olivia had once mentioned that the food in that segment looked good to her - though she wanted to try a recipe with peppers; therefore, I decided to do both.
I, of course, did all the chopping (peppers, tomatoes, onions), but... I had my little ones pick and tear basil for me - I had them pour our oil, vinegar and herb mixture over the top (we were improvising) of the veggies - I had them mix. Then ..... we all ate, and it was yummy (Olivia was served a special platter while doing homework in her room). Such a good afternoon.
Anyone have a good day lately? A project they did with the kiddos?
So we tried out the new firepit last night - made burgers - did a few marshmallows for good measure (this will be the s'more station for our Halloween party / Lilliana's 3rd b-day party on Sat). The boys are always so proud to be involved and helping - campfires and burgers also get the teen on board with family fun (and she even helped with dishes - so what if some dirty dishes got loaded back into the dishwasher with clean dishes - the effort was there) - and Lil? Well... she's just always happy to be along for the ride regardless.
We are in recovery mode here. Milo was home early from school yesterday with a fever relapse so Lil and I missed lunch with Daddy and poor Milo just wanted to sleep. Enzo has been coughing and seems to have developed another really snotty, runny nose, so he was weepy and whiny this morning. Olivia is crazed busy - working on a Social Studies project (she'll take the PAT bus home today - attended a borough council meeting the other night) - wrapping up field hockey - and dealing with student council (another meeting last night) - PLUS another Homecoming Dance (Central Catholic's). And Lilliana... poor Lil has missed a few morning outs and ballet classes due to her illness AND everybody else's, BUT she did sleep soundly last night (so soundly that we have wet sheets today - a little pull-up mishap). Hubby and I missed the New Pornographers Tuesday night because of "parent duty" and have YET to get to a movie just the two of us (and I missed a PTG meeting last night - am having trouble scheduling a meeting with my new freelance client, etc.). Just glad we are, like I said, on the road to recovery.
I took Lilliana to get her picture taken today. She has grown so much in a year and a half that the girl who photographs her on special occasions for us actually teared up a little. And.... as I look at the photos myself from today's session, I have to admit - she does look like a little girl. She still needs a sippy cup like a wee one - she still waves to people like a baby - she's toddler-like in that she can still be unstable on stairs, may not know her birthday or how old she is - and... that baby talk - that sweet babble that means she is still my baby Lil. But she does look older. I photographed her myself on the porch stairs when we got home, and... in this beautiful fall sunlight - her dark hair blowing in the breeze - her face more defined now, not as chubby as the baby face, chin more defined, eyes that know where they want to look and when, a telltale sign that she's developing her own way, her own mind - she does look like a little girl ready to take on the world. Geez .... just days from her third birthday, and I'm only just now noticing all this.
So today went well. My feisty, defiant Lil - my cuddle girl - my twirling dancer - my little one who asks us often for tea parties (Want some tea party?) and play time (Mommy / Daddy, will you play wis me?). Now to plan all the pink and princess-stuff that comes with her birthday each year ;-).
And I get this "advice" often. And it is always regarding my kids. Usually, I am struggling with a grocery bag, a screaming toddler and a preschooler who wants gum while I try to have one of these conversations - you know.... one of those, "I know" (but you don't, really - you are IN it - how could you possibly be getting sentimental or weepy over a period in your life that is currently kicking your ass? Yes - the two and / or three or four year old is cute, but... he / she also has a death grip on your hair and your thoughts are solely on how to get all the wild wee ones to the car without incident - NOT on how you should cherish this moment) - OR - "Yes - he's a feisty one. His brother is very different"(and as much as you WANT to hear advice on how kids are different and should be treated as such - and you REALLY do - I mean, I am not being snarky here - it DOES help to hear a "been there / done that" story from an older or more seasoned mother....again... it is the time - I NEED to hear it - I don't have TIME to hear it). Hard to connect - hard to gain PERSPECTIVE when you are in "survival mode" or constantly looking ahead - if I could just get through the dinner hour - if we could just get past the first few weeks of school.... Oh - you know what I mean; we all do it.
Yesterday, as I went about the after school errands with Enzo (as you know, I am trying to steal that elusive one on one time with him because he's the one who had to be a big brother when he was just a toddler and had to go to preschool so early just to get some "Enzo time" away from a wild younger brother, a busy grade schooler and the new baby) - after school pick up, coffee / hot chocolate (his call ;-), groceries, bank, etc. - I DID get the chance to talk a bit to a woman who admired Enzo's longish hair (to me, it looks short - he looks like a schoolboy now - not like my hippie preschooler) - and who admired what a good little helper he was (and I had just been freaking out that he was SIX - soooo old - so big) - and who told me, calmly and quietly this time (no wild toddler - no demanding preschooler) that THIS time in my life does not last long - this time with my sweet six year old is time to cherish because he is still so small - so trusting, dependent and ... yes.... little. We haven't lost time - we still have our Mommy and Enzo time - he still looks to me for everything - he is just beginning to branch out into friends and a proper schoolday and birthday parties and movies and a wee bit of independence. BUT he is still very much my little boy. Why, then, do I constantly try to psych myself out that too much time has passed - that I have let moments go unnoticed or, worse, that my little ones aren't little anymore?
I could worry myself to death with all my "OMG! Last year, Lil was only one - Milo three, Enzo JUST five and Olivia still in middle school; where HAS the time gone (because all that still sounds so young - JUST starting kindergarten - one barely old enough for preschool - another just a baby, really - and one definitely NOT in high school)?!?!" But the truth is.... it IS just one year later - we are still living, growing, learning and enjoying in the same space - the same timeframe - the same loving, crazy, cuddly life. So NOW the teen is officially in high school; I knew that was coming, AND I have been marveling for YEARS at how strong, focused, grownup and self-sufficient she and her friends are. This is truly nothing new - AT ALL. And.... Milo is totally a seasoned preschooler - no more baby there. Do I want the kicking, thrashing three year old who repeatedly kicked the preschool door until they let him out back? Not really. THIS is where we want to be - happy and settled - ready for new adventures. And Enzo is six now. He has wanted to be six for a year now (and, yes, I did get to say, with some relief, to parents last year - "OH NO - Enzo isn't EVEN close to six. Just five - insert smug / "my kids don't grow up" smile here). He told me yesterday that he likes everything about school. Everything. A far cry from my timid guy last year. And is this good? Yes, it is. And Lil - sweet Lil - will be three soon. She still babbles baby talk - she still wears toddler sized clothing and she is not old enough for dance classes on her own or a P3 program (and this IS official - she just doesn't make the cut off, which is fine with me). She is also getting taller, learning to play with others, beginning to pick out her own clothes (note sparkly, sparkly shoes from previous post) and finally understanding the benefits of her own one on one time with Mommy and / or Daddy or big sis, Olivia. All good? Yes. Definitely.
It's funny. On one hand, I would have to agree; time does go quickly. It does seem that the big snow last year JUST happened - I can remember CLEARLY leaving the house for my scheduled c-section with Lil (rainy, warm, dark), for example. On the other hand, it does feel a lifetime ago that Olivia was little or that my Dad was alive and well. Of course, it has only been a few years, and I know it is all in perspective. I mean, when I was 26, I thought I was old - When Lil was around 16 months old, a friend with an infant firmly told her older daughter that my Lil was NOT a baby but a little girl - yet now that her son is around the same age (older, really - closer to two), she calls him, "the baby". Perspective.
Don't let comments like, "They're so big! No more babies!" Or - "High school!" - audible gasp - "Won't be long until she's out of college!" upset you (and I know I'm not alone in this). Um.... no - they're not infants, but they're my babies, and.... it WILL be a long time before she's out of college (close to a decade if we're really counting years). I think we should all live in our moments - our good, our bad, our uncertain - and.... just roll with it all. Your life is your life. And that friend with the infant who wants to continually remind you that you have no little ones??... um - next year, she'll be in the same space - marveling at time and where it has gone - in just one year, she'll realize that. That seasoned mother who wants you to cherish that moment of stress in the grocery store? Listen to her. You don't have to celebrate the tantrum, but... quickly note, when you do make it to the car, that these days are yours - they are your life - it is what you do and what you will remember. It is good and bad - wonderful and trying.
Anyway ... good thing I did have my super special helper with me yesterday... because he likes to stock up on the comfort foods - the soups and treats, and... we need them today since Milo now has "the cough" (fever, hacking... not pretty.... and worries me a bit since he was admitted to the hospital for Croup - in severe respiratory distress last year at this time). Need to take my own advice and accept and cherish today for what it is - rain, coughs and all.
1. The luscious, yummy smell from the grill last night - rosemary, lemon, thyme.... so nice.
2. The fact that we all sat down to Sunday dinner together last night.
3. The deer - a young buck with emerging "Santa's reindeer-ish" antlers - that walked down our street today - right down the middle!!! - while the little ones were eating breakfast before school. Dim light - quiet street - just me and kiddies - came close to a magical moment (and I don't throw that word around that often) - they were thrilled (see bizarre - "was he really there? i mean, we live in a pretty urban neighborhood" - dim, ghostly photo on this page).
4. The beautiful leaves on the trees - the sunlight - the cool air .... fall is here :-).
6. My after school time with Enzo - getting hot chocolate, talking about the day - one on one "big boy time" (see photos of my shy guy on his way back from after school and / or mommy outings :-) - and ... on a similar note, see my "scary" - cue ghost noise - photo of Milo, my not so shy guy, on this page as well).
7. The fact that Olivia seems to really like her choice of high schools - thriving, happy.
8. My morning time with little ones (Noggin, closet organization and carrot sticks with Lil this am - funny photos including Milo pictured - even the mundane can be special if given the proper spin ;-).
9. The fact that someone like me, a total hypochondriac who can often spend days, weeks, months worrying, etc. over imaginary or minor health "issues", can actually find solace and comfort and a renewed sense of "enjoy this life / what I have is great" as my coughs, aches, kinks and "have you ever felt / seen / heard of anything like this?" symptoms subside.
10. Hubby's constant success at work as creative director for a marketing firm. No longer my world, I often feel jealous and left out, but... I need to celebrate all his awards, raises, promotions, etc.