March Inn

Why"March Inn?" March Inn was the name of that magic place where I spent my summers growing up. I have alluded to this place before, and I probably will again. March Inn is no longer standing. The waters of Katrina rendered it unlivable so my children will never know that "March Inn." That makes me sad. In fact it brings me to tears whenever I think about it. I want my children to have their own "March Inn," and I want to capture our lives as they are growing and changing. I invite you to "march inn" to our lives. My hope is that you will catch glimpses of the real world. You will see our creations. You will see our chaos. You will see our affection. You will also see our frustrations, fears, and disappointments. Enjoy your march!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Beginning

Yesterday marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life ~ in our life.  I've dubbed it the beginning of forever, but that is a story for later.  This little one went to school for the first time.  With each of my children they have started preschool/mother's day out when they were one.  They have gone one day for each of their years.  Therefore, Betsy will be in school on Wednesdays this year. Why Wednesday?  Oh I don't know.  It's hump day.  It's a good mid-week activity.  Really it is because I have several meetings that happen on Wednesday.  I've never been a regular attendee at any of them because for the past seven years I've had a child on my hip.  
Betsy did great!  We dropped Walker off in his classroom, and she wanted to stay in there. 
She even tried to climb into the chair next to him, but she was easily persuaded to leave him.  As we walked down the hall to her room she grabbed her arm and turned her head the way she does when she isn't happy or is unsure of a situation.  Her little lips poked out and her face got red as if she was going to cry.  Instead she just kept walking.  She walked right into her class turned to give me a hug and kept going.  No tears!  No fussing!  No resistance!  Wow!  I'm not sure if any of my children have ever done that.
I love that these two are together just like I love that my big two are together at Crestline.  After a rough summer with Walker, he has been delightful since big school started.  Maybe he just needed a bit more attention or maybe I needed to remember he is only 3.  We've talked a lot about his being the big brother to Betsy.  He is certainly rising to the occasion. 
Tuesday was his first day.  He too did great.  Of all of my children, Walker has been the most resistant to going to school.  He has always given me the most tears at drop-off.  Not this year.  He walked into the classroom, hung his backpack on his chair and his raincoat on a hook and started to work.  But then the sweet boy got up to give Betsy and me one last hug. 
It looks like it could be a good year for everyone!
So, you ask what did you do with that four hours?  Well, I came home intending to clean out Betsy's closet and get my Bargain Carousel stuff together, and I did for about an hour.  But then I cleaned myself up and went downtown for a lunch date with my wonderful husband.  We went to a place I have wanted to try but have never had a good opportunity.  What a treat!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Week One

What a week!  As a teacher I remember the first week of school being exhausting.  In fact, that memory is so vivid I try to remember to take dinner to our good teacher friend on the first night of school each year.  I want her to be able to come home and be with her three children who have grown accustomed to a summer routine and not have to think about what's for supper.

Until this year I'm not sure if I realized how exhausting the first week of school is for a mama.  Maybe it is because I now have four children.  Maybe it's because I have two at the elementary school, and this week they got out an hour apart.  Maybe it's because...well who cares why let's just say we all feel like this:
It has been a fantastic week.  Stephen loves kindergarten and the ladies. 
Mary Frances isn't sure about second grade.  But I hope she will like it.  Time will tell.

And I've loved having just my babies. 
I think one in particular has loved having a bit more undivided attention. 
However, he is delighted when 2:00 arrives and he has his brother meets us on the playground until his sister gets out at 3:00.  They are glad to have each other again. 
My babies and I have had fun together.  We've done things I used to do a lot ~ when I had only two children.   The fact is it is just easier to transport two children because they fit in the double stroller and I have two hands ~ one for each of theirs.  Also, my lap fits two better than more.  That means that we've done things that these little ones haven't done too often.  We've gone on pajama walks and stopped to watch the excavator add dirt to a giant pile.  We're not as hurried, and it isn't as hectic around here.  Yes my kitchen and laundry room continue to be a full time job, but I've tried not to let it get to me.  I've been intentional about spending time with Walker and Betsy.  I finally got some pictures taken of them. 
Betsy got her first pair of tennis shoes. 
We've even done some new things - things I haven't done before.  We went to the new children's section of the art museum and went hiking at the Botanical Gardens. 

We've hung out at home ~ read, had tea parties, built train tracks and had a play date.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Smile Evoking

Hope this makes you smile!
Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Funny Faces

The beginning of school wouldn't be complete without a special meal ~ a meal they get to choose.  This year Mary Frances and Stephen had to work out the menu together.  Nothing fancy ~ roasted asparagus, chicken nuggets*, and homemade mac 'n cheese.  I plated the food.  They rearranged.
But not the dessert.  I got to pick that as a surprise.  Recently, I treated myself to a new cookbook and I was itching to try the Chocolate Friands.  Mine were rushed and certainly not as pretty or enticing as the photographs I saw in the cookbook or online, but the were delectable to the palate.  To my surprise they were not overly sweet ~ possibly because I unintentionally used unsweetened chocolate for the cakes.  I corrected my error for the ganache and the outcome was suitable.  They were still decadently rich and sublimely moist yet small enough that you don't feel too guilty eating just one.
They were enjoyed by all and there were plenty of leftovers to share with others.
Before I forget, I want to let you know that they chicken nuggets came from my freezer to the table in about 15 minutes time!  Now I need to restock the freezer.

Next up, what will he choose for his meal ~ fruit and bread hardly counts as a meal unless maybe you live in France.  And Betsy, who knows ~ maybe cheese.  We'll cross that bridge next week.

What about you ~ do you cook special meals before your children start school?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crestline Here I Come

Here it is the end of summer and the first day of school.  The beginning of school is always a bittersweet time for me.  I'll miss the unscheduled time that I have with my children over the last three months.  During the summer we are still early risers, but there is no real rush to be anywhere.  9:15 swim practice is not an issue for us.  We have had time together.  Time to read, play, and create.  Time to cook, garden, and dream.  But the reality is it's time to return to a school routine.  We've had a great summer, but we could use a bit of a break from each other.  We've had a lot of togetherness and have made many fun memories.  The time has come to return to a more strict schedule and routine. We all need it!  

This year I have two heading out the door for a full day of school.  Again this is bittersweet ~ Stephen will do great in kindergarten, and I love that they will be together.  I have no doubt they will take care of each other and they will truly love being there together.  On Friday when we went to meet Stephen's teacher, they walked hand in hand throughout the school.  Watching my children hold hands is one of the greatest joys of my life.  Silly, I know, but it warms my heart and makes me smile.
This sweet boy is ready.  He has all the confidence he needs in a sweet and tender way.  He will hopefully be a joy for his teachers.  His class is full of precious sweet girls.  I don't know the boys.  I just pray there is one that can be his buddy. 
This young lady is slowly gaining confidence around less familiar grown-ups and will hopefully do well in 2nd grade.  Second grade!  That seems so old!  She's ready!  {P.S. Remember this ~ She was hoppin' mad that we made her wade through that grass to take the picture by the mailbox but I'm so glad we have it.  Look how much has changed in a year.}
My babies will miss having two big friends to constantly entertain them, but they will be glad to have a more attentive mom who can read Dear Zoo and Curious George to their hearts content.
This is just the beginning of multiple backpacks.  Here's to many more walks to and from school.  Oh to be a fly on a strap and know what they are saying.

Top locker no problem ~
Folder out ~
 Checked in and ready to go but not without a picture first ~
 Another top locker ~
 And I even got to snap a shot in the 2nd grade hall ~
As I carry my camera to school the first day of school, I always wonder when it becomes taboo.  I'm always glad when I see many other mamas in all areas of the school with their own recording devices.  Maybe I'll get a few additional years because Mary Frances is my oldest.  Unfortunately for her but fortunately for me, the year Betsy goes to kindergarten is the last year she will be in the elementary school.  Maybe I'll get that shot all the way through 6th grade.

Pretty amazing that I even get one year when all four of my children are at the same school.

Here's to many more pictures of the six of us prepared for the first day of school ~
One more picture for old times sake ~

In an effort of full disclosure this picture was staged.  It was taken today but we did not have any documentation of the way I got Mary Frances to and from school for the better part of a year.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Go Ahead, Admit It

Yes, I'm talking about kid-friendly food.  If you're being honest I bet you like those chicken fingers {tenders, strips, nuggets} as much as they do.  In our house we have never been big chicken finger people.  We rarely get fast food, and it is a very unusual occurrence for me to pick them up at the deli of a grocery store.  That doesn't mean it doesn't ever happen.  It just isn't often.  Maybe a handful of times in a year!  Nonetheless, my children are very attracted to the idea of chicken tenders, and we have had many birthday dinner requests for chicken fingers.  The funny thing is that the request is usually "mommy-made chicken nuggets."

Over the years, I've tried and we've all liked several recipes, but this spring I found a new one in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.  It was the April edition, if you happen to have the magazine sitting around.

This recipe for baked chicken nuggets is a keeper in every one's opinion ~ definitely the favorite of all that I've tried.  I think the panko makes them extra crispy and because they are baked they don't have any greasy taste!  When I ask my children for suggestions for our menu Mary Frances often throws this one out.  One night last month, I was running short on time getting supper prepared, and she made them for me.  Seriously, she did everything except cut the chicken and put the pan in the oven.

I can't remember what I was doing in the kitchen, but I was right beside her every step of the way ~ talking her through what to do next.  She was so excited to have completed the task on her own, and it was fun for me to be in the kitchen with her.

I want to make these ahead of time and freeze them to see how they do reheated.  I think this would be awesome for a children's event where I either needed to make a whole lot or when I didn't want to be battering chicken all afternoon before guests arrive.  I always have a whole list of other things that need to be done because everyone appreciates clean potties when they visit your home.

Any tips on successfully accomplishing this?  The chicken ahead of time, not the potties.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Backtrack to the Birthday

That smile...As I've gone through a year of pictures and focused on those of Mary Frances, I was struck by that smile.  She flashes it often {thank goodness}.  I love seeing it yet as I sit here typing, I realize I take it for granted.
Mary Frances turned seven last Friday.  It is hard to believe I have a seven year old who will be starting 2nd grade in a week and a half.  She's not a baby anymore.
She is becoming such a delightful young lady.  {Yes I'm biased!}  Of course she has her moments but don't we all.  All in all she is good ~ a good big sister, a good student, a good friend, a good daughter.  She's hard on herself.  Go ahead laugh...I wonder where she got that trait?  She tries to do the right thing, and she is learning to think of others.  She can be shy and insecure, but she is learning to step out of her comfort zone.  She wants to please, but she is becoming her own person with her own interests, talents, and shortcomings.  She enjoys cooking.  She is creative.  She is responsible.  She is dedicated.  She enjoys being active and eating healthy foods.
We had her birthday party on Thursday ~ dinner and a movie.  We made homemade pizzas, and the girls watched The Wizard of Oz.  
 We had strawberry cupcakes.
Mary Frances has been asking for an American Girl Doll for over a year now. 
She finally received one from us.  Some might see this as giving in, but I see it as making a choice.  The timing was right.  I have a whole list of reasons why the timing was right.  Mainly, I don't want her to dislike her birthday {or Christmas for that matter} because she feels as if she never gets what she wants.  That doesn't mean she will always get everything she asks for, but I do want her to feel comfortable expressing her wants and needs to us.  Maybe this is a small step in keeping the lines of communication open for a lifetime.  And in reality she doesn't ask for much.  It goes without saying that she was thrilled and has hardly taken Kit out of her hands since Friday evening.  She has thanked me over and over again.  For us it was definitely the right decision.  The right time.
Happy Birthday sweet girl.  You are so special to us and to others.
Here is her birthday slide show if you have about fifteen minutes to spend watching pictures of my sweet seven year old.

Tomorrow I am going to try to remember that smile...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Picnic Among the Pines

The children and I are enjoying some lake living.

My mom was with us over the weekend, and I let her play photographer.
We celebrated a birthday.
 We went on a boat ride.
 We went tubing!  Yes, even Frank and I had the opportunity.

I snuck in a ski {and two long runs}! 
 More tubing!
Yesterday, we were left alone.  Daddy went home to go to work, and my mom went back to Mobile leaving it quiet here.  Maybe too quiet.  I needed some activity to our day.  We did what we do best ~ spent time in the kitchen. 
Banana Blueberry Bread from Food for Thought
We started our day with a breakfast picnic.  Mary Frances dubbed it a picnic among the pines. 
 An afternoon snack ~ strawberry/mango popsicles.

 An even later afternoon swim.

Here's to memory making to wind down our summer!