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March 25, 2015

The Silver Lining of My Work Travel

I traveled for work last week, three days and four nights.  The longest I’d been away prior to that was one night (twice), both times within the last 8 or 9 months.

I was nervous to leave everyone.  I knew they’d ultimately fare fine, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy on anyone.  I could picture the girls (and maybe the husband!) getting tired and cranky by Day 3, breaking down into a puddle of tears.

I’m thankful to report that everyone seemed to do pretty well in my absence.  In fact, I think I’m the only one who cried.  It certainly wasn’t easy on anyone, and it’s something I hope I don’t often have to repeat, but I’m also glad to have this milestone under our belts.

As I look back on the week, there are three really sweet things that stand out to me…things I wouldn’t have experienced had I been in the same zip code all week.

1) I had a morning flight on Tuesday and I had to be at the office about an hour early.  Daddy took the girls to school (to early drop-off) so I wouldn’t have to manage that additional piece of run-around as I was working to get on the road.  They left a couple of minutes before I did, so I got to wave goodbye to them.  Since my vehicle is the only one that had carseats prior to kindergarten starting this fall, and since I always take the girls to school, this NEVER happens.  How sweet it was to kiss them in their carseats…to stand in the driveway while we waved madly at each other…to sign “I love you” to each other as they drove off.

2) It was only about a year ago that I talked to the girls on the phone for the first time.  When we weren’t together, they were either at preschool or I was out for a quick errand.  I remember very clearly talking with them on the way home from spending some time with my friend D in December ’13.  It struck me how grown-up they sounded on the other end of the line!

During this trip I talked to them quite a few times.  The highlights were hearing their excitement over the “leprechaun” who visited their class on Tuesday…and then hearing their signature, “Bye-I love you-bye!” at the end of every conversation.  Once they’re ready to get off the phone, they’re READY, but not without first saying “I love you”.

3) On Thursday morning I missed talking to the girls.  (I left a message at home for them to call me, thinking they were upstairs.  When I dialed J’s cell phone a few minutes later, he told me he’d just dropped them off.)  I felt TERRIBLE.  I decided to text A’s teacher and ask her to pass along a note to the girls.  Please tell them to have a great day, I love them, and I’ll talk to them tonight.”  [And it was then that I cried.]  I love the girls’ teachers, and I knew Mrs. S. would make sure they got the message.  Although it was still a rough start to my morning, it made my heart smile to know that she’d take special care of them that day.

I got home Friday night (after a crazy run-around in the airport, not knowing if I’d make my flight due to weather in the northeast), just in time for bedtime.  I read the girls, “Who’s Got My Purr”, where the kitten searches for her purr…finally, exhausted, she gives up and curls next to her mommy…only to find her purr right there.  “You hear it when you’re happy!” her mommy explains.


Purrr-fect.

March 18, 2015

Sisters Helping Each Other

Since they started school, our girls don't seem to be in lock-step with each other the way they've always been.

That's a topic for another (long and arduous) post, but my heart was so warmed to see two unprompted acts of togetherness this weekend.

On Sunday morning, the girls and I went for a bike ride.  (Meaning, they rode and I jogged along beside/behind/and sometimes in front.)  They've only ridden a handful of times in the past 6 months, and I can tell their stamina isn't what it was this summer.

As we turned around at the bottom of a street and prepared to head back home, Baby A was in the lead.  With some cheerleading from me, she made it up the small hill.  B was considerably behind us.  I told A to wait in a driveway, and I called to B, encouraging her to join us.  She got on her way...but stopped short, about halfway up the little hill.

"I'll come push you," I told her.  "No, I will!" my A volunteered.  She went galloping over to B and ran behind her up the hill.  Baby A had the biggest smile on her face, and B giggled all the way.  (And this mama was beaming.)

Sunday afternoon, we decided to treat ourselves to ice cream.  It was a GORGEOUS day...particularly considering we'd been playing in the SNOW not 10 days prior...and it felt great to be outside.

Baby B chose Chocolate Almond Coconut (just like Mommy), and A chose Oreo Cheesecake.  The girls hardly sat down before they were feeding each other bites.  "Do you want to try mine, Sissy?"  "Yes!  Then do you want to try mine?"

These little displays did my heart so much good!  (And I'm writing them down to refer to them when the going [inevitably?] gets tough between my two little angels.)

March 15, 2015

Big Kids in the Car

We don't have a DVD player in the car, and we don't intend to get one.  And outside of the little rattles that used to tie onto the girls' carseats, we don't allow toys in the car, either.

On trips of any distance, we keep ourselves entertained by singing and playing little "quiz" games.

We have a number of kiddie CDs we all enjoy, and I have a handful of "real" music CDs that are appropriate for the girls.  (We hadn't listened to the Beatles in a while, and I was scrolling through the CD changer when the girls and I went to Alabama a couple of weeks ago.  "THE BEATLES!!!" Baby A exclaimed.  "Let's listen to the Beatles!!!  That makes me think of going to Chicago!"  Hahaha!)

In the way of "quiz" games, for the longest time, the girls loved to count the syllables in a word, or a phrase, or a sentence.  Now they're READING, so we look at signs, which is all sorts of fun.  And there's plenty of math to be done, too...calculating how many miles until a particular place, using the mile markers, for example.

Yesterday, as we drove to north Alabama (about 175 miles) to meet our family for a long lunch, we talked a lot about money.  "If you have $.75 and I give you two dimes and three pennies, how much do you have?"  It kept us all entertained for much of the trip.

While our singing has reached new heights, and our word- and math- games go to new levels as the girls get older, there are a couple new things in our in-car repertoire...and they make me all sorts of giddy.

As the girls and I drove home from Alabama a couple of weeks ago, I was in *real* need for some coffee.  We went through a Starbucks drive-thru, and the girls asked for hot chocolate.  I'm fine with them having the occasional hot chocolate now and again...but we've never done that in the car.

With all sorts of admonitions in place, I ordered a tall hot chocolate (not too hot), and asked that it be split between two cups.  How ADORABLE was it for me to look in my rearview mirror and see the girls sipping their Starbucks!!!

And this weekend, the girls asked if they could take a book to read in the car.  I told them they could take a paperback book (as a hardback scares me a little bit with its corners and potential to be a projectile).  How ADORABLE was it to see them READING in the backseat??!!!

(Pardon the blurriness of my iPhone picture!)

Even if I'm often in disbelief, I'm so proud of my baby girls and what BIG KIDS they're becoming!

March 6, 2015

Snow Days are Hard

Until this school year, snow days were all fun and games for the girls and me.  It meant Daddy was home from school, somewhat unexpectedly, and we got to hang out as a family of four on a random weekday.  If there was enough snow, we’d play…but at the very least we had a fun time inside (and Mommy got a break from standard SAHM duties…I may have even gotten a nap!).

We’ve had quite a few snow days over the past three weeks, and things are different these days with the girls in school themselves and Mommy working.  In total, counting today, the girls have missed 7 days of school.  I’ve worked from home for three of those days, and then managed to make it into the office the balance.  That’s the tough part…the not-just-fun-and-games part…and I don’t love the way it makes me feel.

We’ve had plenty of notice for both recent snow storms, and I was able to pack files home to work on.  Snow days are “vacation days” for Daddy and the girls, but for me, they’re work days.  Granted, I get to conduct that work in my pajamas, but I still have work to do.

The excruciating part is that I feel like I spend so little time at home with the girls, and I miss our unstructured time so, so much.  When I am home on the weekends, I try to make that time just about what we want to do.  That’s not always easy, or possible…there are groceries to buy and laundry to do and meals to cook…but I try to harken back, as much as we can, to the 5 ½ years we spent hanging out, doing our own thing.

On snow days, how I would love to be hanging out in my pajamas all day with the girls…doing crafts, reading books, playing games, setting up some crazy pretend scenario.  Instead, though, for a large part of the day, anyway, I am holed up in my office, trying to respect the privilege of working from home.  The girls are respectful, for the most part, but they keep asking, “When are you going to be done?”  “Mommy, can you please come play with us?”  “I thought you said we could play XYZ???”

Yesterday I got up early to get some work stuff done before the day started.  I worked until lunch, and then I worked during “quiet time”.  I did call it for the day (at least until after bedtime) around 2:30.  At that point, our *FUN* started for the snow day.

Baby A's static-crazy hair as she crawled out from the "tent" she made during quiet time.
And we did manage to have quite a bit of fun…the four of us had a fantastic time sledding and throwing snowballs!!!  The snow had a little more moisture to it, instead of the total powder we had two weeks ago, so it was great fun.  And after we were totally exhausted from playing outside, I made homemade hot chocolate when we came in.  And then the girls got a bubble bath.  They watched a little bit of TV with Daddy (while Mommy might have rested her eyes for a few minutes), and then it was time for supper and bed.

The tracks we made in the snow, taken at sunset (through the window).
Certainly the day was not a bust.  We had some great fun together, and I got most of my work done, too.  It’s just hard when I am trying so hard to separate Work Time from Family Time, 99% of the time, to have to combine the two on what feels like it should be a pure day of Family Fun Time.


I’m hoping my girls remember snow days as fun…and not as days they were begging Mommy to pay attention to them.

March 4, 2015

Love Notes

The girls have been into "love notes" for quite some time now.  My home office has a full garland of post-it notes adorning the full stretch of cabinets.  It's a lot to take in, but I love it.  :)

It's not uncommon for me to come home to the girls having made something for me...some kind of "love note"...notes that are getting more sophisticated as the months go by and the girls learn to spell more and more.

I couldn't help but delight in the note my B handed me as I walked in the door this evening.  She's had a thing for "flaps" lately, as in "lift the flap", and this is exhibited here.


Translation:

Name: _________________________
Email: _________________________

Do you know how much I love you

(Answers right here)

[flap]

And under the flap was written, "I love you!  From: B".

A moment in time...and I love it.

March 3, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

I had a fantastic birthday weekend last weekend!!!

Saturday morning was blissful.  We didn't have anywhere to be!  I made one of the girls' favorite breakfasts, French toast with homemade strawberry syrup, and then we hung out and played.  No agenda.  Yippee!!!

The girls were so excited to give me my birthday present.  Hubby told me they spied it weeks ago -- a Starbucks gift card (at the grocery store, I think) -- and insisted they get it for me.  Hee hee!!!  It was wrapped in a homemade card, made with so much love.  And to top it off, B, in particular, kept drawing pictures of Starbucks mugs all day.  Cracked me up!!!

We had an easy, slightly early lunch, and then I headed out for a MASSAGE.  That was blissful, in an entirely different way, of course.  :)  Before heading home, I stopped by Starbucks to treat myself to a coffee, and I picked up cake pops for the girls.  They were thrilled with the treat!

Given all the snow we *still* had on the ground, plus the 2-3" of rain we were getting, I hadn't thought much about going out for my birthday dinner.  Hubby suggested we give it a go, though.  That was a nice surprise in itself, not to have planned all day for something, but to feel the decision on a whim.


The girls were tickled to hear we were going out to 440, one of our favorite restaurants, but one we rarely visit.  Baby B wanted to wear a dress, and Baby A said, "Do I have to???"  HA!  Before we left for supper, the girls granted me a birthday favor...a picture with Mommy.  B can hardly stand the flash, so, after several eyes-closed shots, I told her to give Mommy a kiss.  I am pretty happy with the way this turned out.  LOVE.


The girls did such an amazing job at supper.  The restaurant isn't 5-star, but it's definitely the fanciest in town.  The girls sat like little ladies, with their napkins in their laps, and they drank from their stemmed water glasses.  They were tickled to order calamari for an appetizer.  I even convinced A to order, "We'd like to start with some calamari, please."  Hee hee!  The girls helped me with my salad, and then their shared the crab cake plate with pan-seared Brussels sprouts...right up their alley.


My dinner was delicious -- the first steak I've had in years, I think -- but it was equally such a pleasure to see my girls enjoying their experience.

On Sunday morning we went out to breakfast, ran a couple of quick grocery-related errands, and then came home to play in the SNOW one more time.  The rain the day before had packed the deep powder, and it was finally perfect for a snowman!


The girls worked really hard, helping [mostly Daddy] roll the big balls of snow, and then they packed on additional snow to make him nice and tight.  They were incredulous when I went inside to get "a real scarf!!!" for him.  HA!  I got a carrot for the nose, and prunes for the eyes.  They were all too giddy to pose with him.  Seriously!

We had a blast sledding -- our fastest times of this snowfall! -- on a different stretch of hill behind our house.  I wish I could bottle A's, "That was AWESOME!" at the bottom of her run, and B's infectious giggle as she wiped out and rolled, head over heels, a couple of times.  Even Daddy got in on the sledding action.  

And our new ski gloves (in addition to the girls' snow bibs and slow boots), which arrived just the day prior, were put to great use in allowing us to play and play and play.

The rest of Sunday was filled with warm stuff inside (including an only-semi-interrupted nap for Mommy!), and I made a delicious dinner of pork loin, mashed potatoes, white asparagus, and roasted mushrooms.  YUM!!!


This was truly a weekend for the memory books.  We had a great time in so many ways!  Happy Birthday to me, for sure!!!

February 21, 2015

The Hunt for Hearts

The past three years, the girls have had such a blast with their Advent calendars at Christmas.  I've been thinking for a while about doing something around Valentine's Day...but, to be honest, I'm usually pretty tuckered out come February from Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/the girls' birthday in January.

This year, I had an idea to count down just the week of Valentine's.  That seemed doable.  I made this cute little box for each of them (using a pill box from the dollar store), and they LOVED getting a small treat every day leading up to Valentine's Day.


The girls' treats were mostly small candies...a Hershey's Kiss one day, and a few M&M's another.  Mid-week, they got a "task" to make Valentine's puppy chow for their teachers, and they loved that!  And on Saturday, Valentine's Day, I decided to take another page from their Christmas Advent playbook.

The girls opened the final compartment to find a clue, leading them on a Heart Hunt!

(B dressed herself "for Valentine's Day" bright and early...down to her socks!!!)

Valentine, Valentine, here’s a hint…
Look for a clue inside your tent!
  
Valentine, Valentine, it’s you I love!
Look for a clue by Mommy’s tub!

Valentine, Valentine, if you please,
Look for a clue where we hang the keys!

Valentine, Valentine, take a look…
Find a clue among your books!

Valentine, Valentine, you don’t have to race,

Find your gift by the fireplace!

By the fireplace, the girls found their goodies...a new book (from the Mercer the Pig series), ones they could read themselves!  And they had a "voucher" I made with a pass to the movies.

I loved being able to incorporate a little bit of the girls' holiday fun into Valentine's Day.  It makes my heart dance to see their excitement!

LOVE!!!

 
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