Friday, August 31, 2007

Revisiting the Closet

Matilda asked yesterday if I would mind talking a little about how my closet is organized and what I store in there. Now here's the part where I'm wishing I had some wonderfully logical answer, an illustration of space management at it's finest. Unfortunately, all I've got is the truth! But for what it's worth, I would be happy to share it here.

First, some basics. Our master bedroom closet is by far the biggest in our house, measuring 6 feet wide, 6 1/2 feet deep, and 8 feet high, from floor to ceiling. As we have no attic or basement, our closet as become our default "clean" storage space. By this I mean that, while we don't mind storing many items out in our shed or garage, there are some things that we just don't want subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations, dust, and bugs.

So now, the tour:

On our immediate left as we step into the closet is a large, sturdy book case (which, at one time, actually held books!), but which is now used for organizational purposes only. The bottom two shelves hold our shoes, one shelf each for me and Darren. The next two shelves up hold odd items that really have no other "home" at this point: our big, fluffy down comforter, assorted throw pillows that the kids love but which don't match their new bedding (now they're just brought out for snuggling), and a decorative shelf that I took down from Dylan's room when we redecorated. (I really love it but haven't yet decided on a suitable new spot for it.) Let's see: the next shelf holds my many Christmas throws and pillows; there was just no way they were going to fit with the rest of our abundant Christmas decorations, so here they are. I don't mind! The very top shelf (which is not shown in this picture--sorry!) holds a large plastic storage container of baby mementos, things from the birth and newborn period of each of our children. We also keep our video camera here. (Now if only I could remember to use it once in a while!)

Moving on: the small four drawer chest beside the bookshelf holds more mementos; each child has their own drawer in which we store birthday cards, baby albums, tokens from special trips, etc. The top drawer is shared by me and Darren for the same types of things.

Across from the small chest of drawers is our file cabinet; since we don't have a designated home office space, important paperwork is stored here (and in a large box on top of the big bookcase). This is one area where I reallllly see room for improvement. I am so bad at managing paperwork...if anyone reading has any great suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

On the same wall, across from the "big" bookcase, is another...bookcase! We can never have too many! This one actually does hold books; they're ones that we like to be able to access easily but don't really want to have out on display with the rest of our "nice" books. Here we have Darren's stamp collection albums, old volumes of Scott Catalogue, and miscellaneous history books. We also have my collection of Calvin & Hobbs and For Better or For Worse comic books, more than a few Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and the remains of my nursing school textbooks, along with a few I've acquired through specialized courses at the hospital. Oh, we also have our old high school yearbooks out on this shelf. Our kids think it's hilarious to see how funny looking Mommy and Daddy used to be!

Now, my favorite part! Darren's clothes hang along the back wall, and stored above them is everything from our wedding: my gown, which was professionally cleaned and boxed following the ceremony, and two large storage containers holding things such as our guest book, sample napkins, extra invitations, and the candles we used to light our unity candle (which is actually displayed in our bedroom). Above my hanging clothes (on the right hand side as you walk in) are the fabric infant items I hope to one day use again: a quilted, portable bed that all three of my kids used, a sling, a Boppy, an over sized diaper bag, and a couple of play mats.

And I think that pretty much concludes the tour! I know it's not perfect, but it's what works for us right now. That's not to say, however, that things won't change again a few months down the road! It seems I'm always devising new ways to better organize, but it's a constant work in progress.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bedtime Baby

I have no clever little story to go along with this picture, but I absolutely love it. My kids have been playing with this silly little Care Bear nightcap all day long, and when Meghan grabbed it and stuck it on her head a little while ago, I was lucky enough to have the camera nearby. Isn't she a doll? :)

OH, my aching back!

And arms...and neck...and shoulders...

I have this habit, you see, of taking what, to any other sane person, would be a simple, ordinary task and escalating it into an all day, labor intensive project of astronomical proportions.

My closet, for instance.

Could I just open the doors and rationally organize each item? Oh, no.

For me, the process is something a little more like this:

Slide open closet doors. See the astonishing amount of electronic equipment occupying the floor, (not to mention all the other things lying haphazardly about), and feel slightly overwhelmed. Take a break to remotivate yourself with kind comments left on your blog in response to your craziness. Brave another peek into the abysmal mess you call a closet. Determine that action really must be taken. Today. (Especially seeing as how you've now publicly announced your intentions.) Think to yourself, "Well, you know, Hubby and I have been talking about setting up that old computer in the schoolroom for the kids; I bet it wouldn't be that difficult to figure it out on my own...."

You can see how easily I get myself into trouble.

But really, as exhausting as it all was, I am actually quite pleased with how much I was able to accomplish yesterday. I made the kids chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. I talked to my mom for over an hour on the phone. I ran the dishwasher, twice. I managed to get a load of towels done. And that closet.

I know I had put it off for so long because I just didn't know where to put everything. Once I started, though, I was surprised at how easily it all just seemed to fall into place, particularly the big things. I was able to make room in the school room closet for the large plastic box of math manipulatives. I relocated both of Darren's guitars to the corner of our bedroom, behind the recliner, and plugged in the amplifier between the recliner and sofa. (Why didn't I do this ages ago? It makes so much more sense to have them out and easily accessible!) I lugged the big old TV out to the garage to set with all the other furniture that we're not quite sure what to do with, and made room on the bookshelves for the box of books we brought home from Albuquerque a few weeks ago. But there was still that computer.

First I tried setting it all up on the school room table, but I just hated that it took up so much (okay, all) of our workspace. So then I started brainstorming what else I might be able to use, and remembered the old beat up desk we had stored out in our shed. It's one that's been in Darren's family for who knows how long, and which was covered in a coat (or two, or three) of dark green paint when we first met. (That desk was the first project Darren and I ever worked on together, stripping layers and layers of paint from it on my parents driveway, beneath the shade of our big old mulberry tree.) Once I thought about it, I was determined to have it in our school room, so I hauled it in from the shed, cleaned it up, and tried multiple reconfigurations of the room until I finally settled on an arrangement that I think will work for now. And, much to the delight of three incredulous kids, I was able to successfully get the computer set up! We have two School Zone disks (Alphabet & Numbers 1-100 and Colors, Shapes, & More) that Dylan and Caitlyn took turns playing yesterday, and Dylan was so excited to be able to type stories on his very own computer! This is one of his favorite things to do. He is so creative, and writes on such diverse subjects. Yesterday's story was about Pooh bear. I thought it was so sweet that I just had to share a picture! (But I never realized how difficult it is to photograph a computer screen!)

While they were busy playing, I finished the rest of the closet, throwing away an embarrassing amount of trash (including an entire container of expired medications, which had been stored way up high on the top of the bookshelf), and straightening the rest of the remaining contents. The best part for me was the realization that, now that I can actually walk into my closet to hang up clothes, I actually want to do more laundry! Imagine that!

Darren had seen my blog post earlier in the day and feared the worst when he walked into the house late yesterday afternoon. He knows how my projects invariably end with a bigger mess than when I began! He couldn't believe that everything was actually put back into it's place and that the rest of the house was picked up, too! Once we gave him the grand tour of our new and improved rooms, I was able to start dinner while he played with the kids. Happily, nobody had naps yesterday, so they were all asleep before 8:00! Not suprisingly, it wasn't much longer before I, too, was crawling into bed! Oh, the sleep. It felt so, so good!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

THIS is our bedroom closet:

Oh, the shame! I am so embarrassed by the chaotic disaster I've allowed it to become. So why, you ask, am I posting a picture of it here? For the accountability factor. I keep meaning to tackle the beast but have now procrastinated for so long that I fear I may never be able to tame it!

This is today's mission. If you need me, you know where I'll be.

(But...if I'm not seen or heard from again before nightfall, would you please send a search party after me? I'm afraid I may lose myself in the frightful mess!)

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I really love the sweet, baby faced version, but I don't know...that tough guy is pretty impressive, too! Mostly I'm just amazed that Dylan has the ability to illustrate his favorite super hero with such contrasting depictions!

Such a beautiful day

We enjoyed such a fun family day yesterday that I'd like to share it here. Nothing out of the ordinary, just simply and wonderfully us! The kids and I have been enthralled lately with Darren's tales of the magnificent wildlife he's been seeing out at the museum, so, since it was his day off, he treated us to our own little tour and it was so amazing! Thankfully, no snakes or scary looking spiders seemed to be in attendance today, and Darren was a little disappointed at the diminished variety of butterflies present, but for me, just seeing the astounding quantity of beautiful Queens flitting about one particular tree made the trip worth our time!

In addition to these, there were a number of gorgeous Palmer's Metalmarks, which I had not previously seen in nature.

But since it was pretty hot and dusty and we were all getting rather hungry, we abandoned the butterflies after a while in favor of lunch. The kind ladies in the museum giftshop informed us that the bowling alley would be the place to find an array of kid-pleasing options, so off we went! And the food, oh my. I didn't feel one bit guilty devouring my big, juicy, mushroom swiss burger and crispy onion rings! They were delicious. If the butterflies hadn't been enough to convince me of the worthwhileness of our trip, lunch would have certainly done the job! The kids had mini corn dogs and french fries, and we discovered that Dylan is a natural at pinball! I had no idea my baby boy held that skill (but I know that he certainly didn't inherit it from his Nonny!)

We drove around more of the Missile Range after lunch, and the kids and I were delighted to have an up-close look at the baby pigeon Darren discovered a few days ago. Too cute!

When we finally headed back into town, it was with one very exciting destination in mind. Caitlyn has been saying for months that she wants to be a ballerina dancer when she grows up, and she is just so cute in her determination! (And spending time recently with my cousin and her dancing daughters served to strengthen her resolve!) So after discussing it for a while, Darren and I made the decision to enroll her in a pre-ballet/tap dance class at a wonderful local gym, where we also decided to enroll Dylan in Kindergarten gymnastics. When we told them we were going there to register yesterday, they were both so excited! I, myself, am just beyond thrilled. I know they are going to have so much fun!!!

Once we completed the registration process, we went out shopping for the appropriate attire, and this in itself was so strangely bittersweet! I found myself standing there selecting leotards and tights for my sweet little princess, wondering how in the world it's possible that she's actually old enough for this! I know she is, but it's just so hard to believe. While we were out we also selected some comfy new gym shorts and t-shirts for Dylan...and of course, as soon as we got home, I made them try them on! Dylan looked sooo cute in his new clothes, and Caitlyn was absolutely gorgeous. Who knew that a few flimsy bits of fabric adorning her baby girl could reduce a mother to tears?

We spent the rest of the day just relaxing, playing in the yard, and working a bit in the garden. After getting Dylan and Caitlyn to bed with relative ease, Darren and I had the wonderful opportunity of spending some time alone with Meghan, who, for some reason, just would not go to sleep! She is such a funny little girl, and when she has us all to herself, her personality really shines! Darren and I were laughing so hard at her silly antics (which I know did not help the matter of trying to get her to sleep, but really, we just couldn't help it!) She is just so hilarious. In some ways she reminds us a lot of Dylan at that age, which, for some reason, makes me so incredibly happy. Watching her last night was like catching a fleeting glimpse of the Dylan of yesteryear, and I was glad for the brief moment of clarity. It seems like just yesterday he was that small, and yet, I can't imagine Meghan ever being as big as Dylan is now! It really reminded me to just savor each little moment now, because we'll never get them back. My babies are growing up! And I'm so happy to be there right along with them, enjoying ordinary days which are so extraordinarily blessed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Dylan and Caitlyn are almost always awake before Meghan, who continues sleeping peacefully in my bed long after they're up and playing. But the moment she's awake, no matter what they're doing, they stop and pile into bed with her for hugs and kisses. She just eats it up, too, loving every bit of their precious affection. Watching them makes my heart ache with a fullness of maternal love and pride, and it occurred to me this morning that it would be priceless to have some photos of their morning snuggle time. Here is just a small sample of what I am blessed to enjoy every single morning. It is, undoubtedly, the best way to start my day!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Regarding the new look

After enjoying our old one for nearly seven years (by which point it had become practically obsolete), Darren and I recently purchased a new desktop computer. When we purchased our last one it was with the intention of writing papers for school and using the internet for e-mail and basic searches. It served its purpose well, but had grown quite weary and slow from the work we subjected it to over the years (and most especially in recent months.) So when we were customizing our order for this new computer, we upgraded nearly every available option. We've got our cable run through it now so we can watch (or record) live TV or DVDs, we've got a much better sound system, tons more memory, FAVORITE!...Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0! I have been having so much fun with this program, playing with it just to explore it's many wonderful features, and what better project to try my hand at than a new blog banner? :)

Really, I put quite a bit of thought into this new banner, and the final product is my sort of "tribute", if you will, to the end of summer. It seems to perfectly capture everything we've so enjoyed these past few months. I just love the main photo, a candid I took a few weeks ago while Darren was tending our herb garden. I love that he is in it, and I love the beauty of the herbs themselves, the fullness of the plants, the rich palette of colors and textures. The butterflies are actually from a picture I took last month, which I extracted and resized and rotated to complement the garden photo. Setting them both against a "sky" background seemed to really tie the images together, and I love it. (I also love the way the purple lettering matches the purple in the Sage!)

Of course, once I designed it, I just had to use it! And if I was going to change my banner, didn't it just make sense to change the entire template? I'm really happy with the unique and personal touch it adds to this blog, and it makes me happy when I see it. I'm sure I'll change it again in the fall...I'm thinking apples and pumpkins! Who knows. We'll see. For now I'll just enjoy the new look!

When you are five years old...

and you love to draw...

any surface, apparently, is suitable for ink.

Even if it happens to be your leg.


We will be starting our very first school year in just two short weeks, and I'm still really struggling with trying to find a schedule that will work well for us. My biggest obstacle is realizing that no matter how perfectly I may plan our days, life is bound, at some point, to get in the way. However, I would like to establish at least a rhythm that is comfortable and easy to follow, so much so that it becomes second nature to all of us as we progress through the year. One thing that really struck me yesterday is that I've been so focused all this time on the thought that "school" needs to take place in the mornings...meaning, that all of our sit down work should be accomplished before noon. That was very overwhelming to think about, because all of my kids wake up so energized every morning and just don't stop. But I seem to have forgotten that one aspect of homeschooling that really appealed to me in the beginning was the fact that we can tailor our time frame to what works for us.

So yesterday, deviating from the schedule I've been battling for weeks, I decided to try something different. And guess what? It worked out beautifully. After completing our morning chores, I made the unprecedented decision to allow the kids free time playing outside, while I got some work done in the yard. Usually I like to keep them indoors until afternoon, because they get (as children are known to do), so filthy. But the morning was just so gorgeous, it seemed a real shame to waste a single second being cooped up inside. Oh, it was wonderful! Given free reign with the garden hose, they made a mud lake in which they delighted in rolling around, established routes and duties for their Tonka tractors, gave all of their ride-on toys a good "car wash", played on the swing set, adopted a family of earth worms... and I trimmed up the garden, pulled some weeds, took some photographs, and just really focused on enjoying my time with them out in the yard. After an hour or two, I rounded them up, stripped them down, and stuck them in the bathtub, restoring them to their lovely lavender scented, freshly scrubbed pink selves. By then it was time for lunch, which my usually picky eaters devoured in record time, and after which Meghan immediately fell asleep for a nice, long, afternoon nap. It all just felt so nice.

So here's the schedule I'm loosely devising in my mind. I think, ideally, it might look something like this:

5:00-6:30: Mommy/Daddy time (getting ready, having coffee and breakfast, starting morning chores, computer time).

6:30-8(ish): Breakfast with the kids, Bible story/morning prayers, getting ready, and finishing morning chores.

8(ish)-10:30: Outside playtime. I would really like to continue taking advantage of the cool, bright mornings that are so lovely this time of year. And there is so much exploring to be done outside, which was a component I relied heavily upon in planning our science lessons.

10:30-11:30: Bath time. (Yes. It takes me a really loooong time to bathe all three kids by myself. But that's okay. They love bath time. And actually, so do I.)

11:30-12:30: Lunch time, tidy-up time.

12:30-2:30: Meghan's nap time, and (finally!) lessons for the day. I'm thinking it might be easiest to use this quiet period for working with Dylan on more focused, one-on-one lessons, such as math, language arts, and science. (It would also be a good time for any planned art or craft projects!) Caitlyn has many quiet games and activities she can also enjoy during this time, such as workbooks, drawing, puzzles, lacing beads, alphabet cards, and blocks.

2:30-3:30: Tea time. My kids are always ready for a snack by this time, so I'd love to make it a habit to enjoy "tea" together with tasty treats and drinks and good read-alouds. I think it would be fun to enjoy seasonal books for this time, or perhaps it will be the time of day in which we enjoy our Little House on the Prairie books, or I may decide to make this our poetry time. Obviously, there are a number of lovely things we can enjoy here!

3:30-4:30: Free time for the kids, afternoon chores for me (laundry, tidying the house, simple dinner prep, and making myself pretty for Darren!)

Darren is usually home by 4:30, so after that it's free time! Dinner, playing with Daddy, bedtime routine, and evening chores (like Jennie, I take comfort in readying myself for the next day, as much as possible, on the night before.)

I may be deluding myself to think that things can actually flow as simply as this, but all the same, it makes me so happy to think about how potentially wonderful our days might be this fall. And, when I looked out through my back door this morning and saw this serene scene--small shoes left to dry on the picnic table after being hosed down yesterday, Darren's forgotten coffee cup resting beside them from this morning--framed by the branches of my beautiful roses, through which pure golden sunlight was heart, like my garden, was warmed by the glow.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

We're famous!

Well, not really...but look who was in the newspaper this morning!

The caption reads, "Darren ***** bends down Saturday at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park to let his 20-month-old daughter, Meghan, 'pollinate' a flower with a bee, albeit one attached to a wire. The father brought his children to the park to spend the day with butterfly-related activities during the annual Butterfly Flutterby."

As Margaret correctly guessed, I was sad to have missed out on all the fun, but I am so glad my kids got to have such a great time with their Daddy yesterday. (They really, really missed him while he was gone last week.) And they got the biggest kick out of seeing baby Meggie in the newspaper today!

(Oh, and class was great this afternoon; I passed!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Butterfly Boy" blowing bubbles

While I attended a required education course this morning at the hospital, Darren and the kids enjoyed a lovely time at a "Butterfly Flutterby" field day held at a nearby nature park. Upon my return home this afternoon, I learned that they made butterfly hats and puppets, played butterfly quiz games, planted butterfly-friendly flower seeds, and, best of all...received butterfly face paintings. We are all so happy to have Daddy back home! (Unfortunately, I will be spending most of tomorrow at the hospital again, for the conclusion of the two-day course. Prayers that I actually pass the final certification test would be greatly appreciated!)

Friday, August 17, 2007

100, minus 1

We are so frustrated right now.

(Oh, but yay! Daddy just got home! Never mind...we're happy again!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Joy in Today

We're on day four here of Darren being gone, and I, for one, am beginning to feel more than a little anxious for his return on Friday. The kids and I have been having a swell enough time--we've been to the mall, to the science museum, to Mass together for the first time ever without Daddy last Sunday, to visit my grandma on her birthday--and they are all being exceptionally well behaved and the very best company for poor little lonely me. But it just seems that when he's not here, everything I do is merely an act of passing time until he's home again. Household tasks usually undertaken with a cheerful heart are just meaningless motions when he's not here to participate. I brew coffee in the morning but there's no one here to share it. I get the kids to bed on time but the rest of the evening is much too quiet. I cook home made dinners but most of the food is put back into the fridge at the end of the meal. I miss him. And, for perhaps the first time since she moved away two months ago, I am acutely missing my mom. Late yesterday afternoon I was nearly overwhelmed by the strange realization that I could feel so "homesick" without even leaving my house.

But enough of that. I really am looking forward to enjoying a happy day with my kids. They just woke up a little bit ago, and I heard Dylan say to Caitlyn, "Guess what, Cait! Today is Mary's day!" So sweet! (Last night when I tucked them into bed, I talked with them a little about what a special day today was going to be.) I've printed out some coloring pages for them to work on this morning, and we'll be braving--I mean attending!--the noon Mass alone again today. (Twice in one week! I just might become an old pro at this!) Tonight for dessert we're treating ourselves to the Marian Sundaes featured in the "Feasts, Traditions...and Fun" section of the July/August issue of Faith & Family. (Vanilla ice cream for Mary's purity, blueberries for Mary's blue mantle of prayer that protects us, and whipped topping for the clouds of heaven into which Mary was assumed.) Dylan just came in and asked me if we could have a special "Mary-ish" breakfast, so I better go see what I can come up with!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Butterflies, again!

It would appear that, unbeknownst to me until a few days ago, our garden is hosting a second brood of Black Swallowtails! This just makes me so happy. There for a while, they seemed to have just disappeared. And being rather new to this wonderful world of butterflies, I feared that we had, without realizing it, seen the last of them back in June. I almost couldn't believe my eyes when, on Wednesday, I saw the familiar flash of black swoop gracefully past our bay window as I was setting the table for lunch. With camera in hand, I tiptoed outside and found, much to my delight, one beautiful adult Swallowtail lingering near our parsley, where I also discovered several tiny eggs and two caterpillars in varying stages of larval development. Yay! For the most part, these beautiful subjects were highly cooperative with my impromptu little photo shoot...but wouldn't you know, the best I could get of that gorgeous adult was of it flying right out of the picture? At any rate:

And now I'm totally rethinking how I want to go about the start of our school year. I was all set to begin with a unit on apples and pumpkins and seeds, which I still really want to do because of how nicely our planned activities for Labor Day weekend lend themselves to these topics, but now, with these butterflies...maybe I can do the apples and pumpkins and seeds and butterflies, all at once, while the season is right. Is that too much? I hope not. And I hope it's not too late to seriously be considering placing an order for this Kid's Backyard Bugs Kit. Or this Backyard Naturalist's Backpack Kit. Aren't these great?! And, oh!, you've just got to see these others. I think I want all of them. Not necessarily for this year, but they are definitely an incentive to continue homeschooling! (I would so love for my rock hound hubby to have the opportunity to enjoy this one with Dylan, for example.)

Completely off topic here, I do have one other sort of selfish request: Darren's going to be out of town for several days and I'd like to go rent a few good "chick flicks" to enjoy after the kids are in bed while he's gone. Of course, I also have multiple school planning calendars stacked on my bedroom dresser that are just begging for my attention, and several books I'd like to read, but sometimes, when Darren's gone, I like the sound of distraction to fill the too quiet house. So...any good recommendations?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

This is SO true.

You Belong in Fall

Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...
You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings
Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you

I love the scent of the crisp, cool air...

and pumpkins and mums and snapdragons and pansies...

and baking in the kitchen with my kids...

and celebrating their birthdays...

and joyfully anticipating holiday celebrations...

and fires in the fireplace...

and football...

and simmering stews...

and snuggling on the couch with blankets and a pile of books...

I love, love, LOVE fall!

(h/t: Kristen)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


In about an hour, my kids and I are going to be meeting one of my friends from work and her kids at Peter Piper Pizza for lunch and playtime. Yay! Last week we took them all to the park, and had such a great time together. Dylan and Caitlyn are so excited to have some new little friends to play with! And it's so nice to sit and visit with my friend outside of work. I'm really, really looking forward to seeing them again in a little while.

After being pretty lazy for most of last week, I'm back into my (still fairly new) routine of getting up early (around 5:30 or so). Since Darren always leaves for work before 6:30, it's nice to have some quiet time with him in the mornings to sip our coffee together while watching the news or just talking about the day ahead. I'm even (usually) able to shower before he goes, spend some time reading a few blogs, and get started on my morning chores before any of the kids are even awake. It is so nice. I've noticed that I greet my kids--and the morning--much more cheerfully when I'm able to quietly ease into the day.

I bought a few calendars and blank planner pages last night while I was out shopping and I can't wait to start filling them in! The calendar we have in our kitchen is one we got from our church at the beginning of the year, and I love that it includes saint days and feast days as well as national holidays. This has been my starting point for filling in our own school calendar, and I've got some tabbed pocket dividers to use in my lesson planning binder that I plan to fill with printouts or other materials to use for special celebrations each month. I really like the Women for Faith and Family website because it offers so many wonderful ideas of how to celebrate our faith with children. (Here, for example, is what I will be printing out to use for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15th.) I also noticed that in a generic teacher's planner I picked up a while back there is a list of fun days for every month, such as the birthdays of Tomie dePaola (September 15), Steven Kellogg (October 26), and Robert Louis Stevenson (November 13). These are just a few of our favorite authors, and I think it will be so fun to plan special little "tea parties" for those days, complete with read-alouds from our collection of their works. I'm just really excited to see how things are coming together, and OH! We've finally set a date for our first day of school: September 4, following Labor Day weekend, which for us will include festivities centered around the things we'll be learning this year. I am so thrilled to finally have a date to be planning towards!

Quickly, now, because I'm running out of time: one small, final detail that brings me great joy... this image of Meghan, which captures the sweetness I see now each time I look into the rear-view mirror in our van. We only just turned her carseat around before leaving on our trip this past weekend, and I can't believe what a difference it makes. She is so happy, and seems now like such a big girl! It's time, in fact, for me to go buckle her into that big girl seat right now!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Catching up

Have you ever had sooo much you wanted to say that you didn't even know where to begin, so you just didn't, and then time just got away from you and pretty soon the moment had passed and next thing you know, you're left feeling slightly guilty and vaguely regretting that you didn't just say it already but to do so now would just seem irrelevant?

Yeah, that's sort of how I've been feeling about this entire blog lately.

It's not that I even have anything BIG to share, it's just all those little things that I used to be so good about recording here to ensure that months or years from now, I'd remember it ever happened at all. (Because, as we say in nursing, "If you didn't document it, you didn't do it." Now admittedly, in the case of my profession that's all about "CYA", but I think I can safely say that the same rule applies here because seriously, looking back through my archives there are times that I know I would have already forgotten had I not included them here in my personal family scrapbook of sorts.)

But anyway...all of this to say that lately, I have been highly--though quite unintentionally--neglectful of this poor little blog. I've got drafts saved of things I wanted to write about, even drafts of drafts, but somehow, in this crazy busy real world, I've encountered delightful distractions too numerous to count and have never gotten back to finishing those original posts. And that's not all...I know there have been posts I've read on other people's blogs that, had I not had a nursing toddler in my lap, I totally would have commented on, but then I forget, and to go back and do so later would just (to me) feel awkward. I'm so strange, I know. In fact I'm a little embarrassed to be admitting here in this very public forum just how anal-retentive I can actually be! But there you have it. Now you know. And I sincerely hope I haven't hurt any feelings by my seeming indifference or lack of interest.

But now, just a brief peek into the fun filled weekend we recently enjoyed. I have to say, Darren and I have mastered the technique, I think, of packing as much fun as we possibly can into every waking minute when we take these short little weekend trips. We arrived at our hotel late Friday night and went straight to bed after unpacking, but we had all of Saturday and most of Sunday in which to play and visit. After breakfast Saturday morning, we visited the Rio Grande Botanic Garden and PNM Butterfly Pavilion.

Both were amazing. Dylan and Caitlyn absolutely loved the Garden Model Railroad, situated along the lush and shaded pathway to the Butterfly Pavilion. And oh, those butterflies. So incredible! Darren and I could have, quite happily, stayed in there for hours. We both had our cameras out, field guides in hand, excitedly snapping pictures and just standing in awe of all the beautiful butterflies freely flying about within arms reach. Dylan thought that if he stood really, really still, he just might trick one into landing on him. See the flowers held in each outstretched hand? Too cute!
After playing for a while in the extraordinary Children's Fantasy Garden... ...we met up with my brother's family at the Albuquerque Aquarium, which we hadn't been to since Dylan was about two years old.
We all went out to lunch together, then to a great used bookstore I had read about online. Oh, my goodness. I felt like a kid in a candy store! Magic School Bus...Tomie dePaola...and an entire section devoted to homeschooling! We've now got another box of books to find homes for on our crowded bookshelves, but I know it can be done. (I'm actually looking forward to tackling that project today!)

Saturday afternoon was spent swimming in the hotel pool, which was so much fun. The water was perfect, and Dylan and Caitlyn were just so hilarious to watch. Both have become so confident in the water, and it really shows when they're splashing and swimming and doing silly tricks! Even Meghan had a great time, and the only way they could be persuaded to come out was the promise of seeing their cousins at my brother's house for a cookout!

That evening was truly lovely. Between my brother, my cousin, and myself, we have one 5 year old, three 3 year olds, and three 1 year olds. It was awesome! And with an inflatable pool, a sandbox, a swingset, a slide, and numerous riding toys, there was not a single dull moment!Add into the equation several favorite adult relatives, some phenomenal food, and the rumble of thunder in the distance, and the night just couldn't have been anything other than an absolutely joyful experience! (About the food: I mean, really. Just look at this beautiful fruit salad! Do you see why my mouth is still smiling at the memory of it?!)

After Mass and lunch on Sunday morning, there was one final destination to be reached before heading back home: Cliff's Amusement Park. Stepping through the gate was like stepping back through time! This was always, by far, my favorite place to go while visiting my cousins when I was growing up. I hadn't been there in years, and it was just as thrilling as I remembered it! Dylan would have braved every single ride, had we let him, but was equally content to stick with the kiddie rides. These he rode with unabashed pleasure, running from one to the next with pure enthusiasm and glee. Meghan, though still too little to ride with her brother, did very much enjoy watching him, bouncing up and down in the seat of her stroller and pointing and laughing the entire time.

Caitlyn, on the other hand, did not enjoy the rides. She cried and cried, refusing to try even one. (Which, considering how much fun she's had in the past at amusement parks and fairs, came as quite a surprise to Darren and I.) Thankfully, though, my cousin was entertaining her two girls at Water Monkeys' Adventure (a separate and enclosed area of water slides, games, and sprinklers) and, as soon as Caitlyn discovered the fun they were having, the tears ceased and she joined them with a grin that radiated undiluted joy.

We were sad when the time finally came to head back home, but I think we were all ready to get back to the familiar comforts of routine. I know that Darren was particularly excited to go back to work yesterday. Being an outdoor enthusiast, he has been enjoying the most incredible nature hikes during his lunch breaks lately, and comes home every evening with the memory card of his camera full of amazing photos he's able to take in the desert. I think it goes without saying that this is, decidedly, one of his favorite--and most unexpected!--benefits of his new job! Honestly, you just have to see it to believe it. What a lucky guy!