Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Keeping Traditions

In a small attempt to fulfill my duties at good, or at least half way decent, mother I upheld two of our family traditions last week.  The first, which brings me equal parts joy and sadness, was delivering a pumpkin to Papa Neyer's grave.  Addie and I started to bring him a pumpkin on his birthday a year
after his passing.  The first pumpkin we delivered was painted purple with a sloppy two-year-old's hands.  This year's was a melted crayon project that involved all of us - but I somehow ended up crouched in the driveway with the hairdryer making the wax drip down the pumpkin.
Nonetheless, the three of us made our pilgrimage to see Papa and deliver his pumpkin.   We sat with him and told him how much we missed and loved him.   Addison told him about second grade and soccer and Girls Scouts.  Brenna babbled about music class and going to the YMCA.  We sang happy birthday and blew kisses.  I shed a tear or two as I always do.
This year our visit seemed a little more bittersweet, as it would have been Bob's 60th birthday.  He still had so much living and loving left to do and without a doubt he is missed every single day.  I hate that we have to deliver this pumpkin, but I love that it has been become part of our Autumn traditions.

The other tradition that I have managed to maintain is a trip to the Brown Family Farmstand.  I am pretty sure we have been taking Addison down to Brown's since she was two. One of my favorite pictures is of Brenna as an eleven month old, brown eyes sparkling among the pumpkins. 
This year we went during the week, as Addison had Friday off school.  We took Gramma Kathy with us and met up with Greyson and Hilary.  We managed to play a little bit in the Tiny Town (a few preschool field trips made that aspect not so much fun).  We wandered through corn mazes, visited with farm animals and took a hay ride.  Several wonderful pumpkins were selected, there may have been a tantrum or two (argh!  dirty hands!  argh!  I don't want to smile!  argh! corn mazes are scary!){Argh!  Almost three year olds are ex.haus.ting!}.
My children still don't know much about fancy pumpkin farms, with cow trains and candy apples and pony rides.  But they love the ride to Brown's, especially now that we have found where to feed the whitetailed deer, and the Tiny Town, and the silly hay ride.  They love the barn maze, filled with hay and the simple wooden cut outs to stick their head through.  And truth be told, at the end of the day they loved their simple adventure...and I did too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

17 hours in the 'Burgh

I spent 17 hours in Pittsburgh this weekend, which let me just say, is not a long enough time to be anywhere.  But this road trip was worth the effort, as it was a chance to celebrate my babiest cousin and her lovely new marriage to Jon, and their gorgeous sidekick Jack.
We spent a few hours around a campfire, dining in a rustic barn, sipping cocktails out of mason jars.  Miss Addie had to miss the festivities due to school (she'll thank me when we spend a week in Disney next month) but Brenna Bear was in her glory.  Lemonade, pretzels, cupcakes, roasted marshmallows and my family who beyond doted on her.

As we drove home (well, technically my Mom drove and I enjoyed being a passenger) my Mom and I chatted about how lucky we are to have the extended family we have.  I think we may be an anomaly, we genuinely like each other.  We like to laugh together and be together and toast each other.  Knowing I had a bit of a road trip ahead
of me, I called it quits after the first round of Fireball was ordered last night, but it was a hard decision to make.  As fun as the day was, we were missing a fair amount of our crew...and can't wait until we are all together to continue toasting.

And here's to Jill and Jon (and Jack) who got most of us together...at least for a little while.
Also, I got to wear cowboy boots, so that was awesome.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Run Like a Girl

So, no joke, I'm getting old.
As I write this it is raining out, Addie is at school and Brenna and I are snuggled up in my bed.  She is chugging milk and watching Halloween Curious George; I'm sipping coffee and thoroughly enjoying the warmth of a heating pad against my right hamstring.  Because, as I said, I am getting old.

I'm getting old, but if truth be told I'm a little bit awesome, too (or so I'd like to think).  Last January we spent a weekend in Wheeling, West Virginia for a mini Flaherty Family reunion.  Anytime this part of my family gets together there is bound to be insane amounts of laughter, a fair amount of alcohol consumed, and usually a story or two.  One night after a sip or two of wine my cousin, Liz, asked if I'd do a half marathon with her.  I, of course, said yes.  A wine fueled yes.  Which brings us to the current situation with the lovely heating pad.

Liz and I followed through on our plans and on Saturday we ran the Run Like a Girl Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio.   If truth be told, Liz owned the race and I ran what I think is my best long distance run to date.  She trained like a pro, not missing any days, cross training and undoubtedly eating incredibly well.  I trained.  Sometimes I fudged my distances, occasionally I slipped in some cross training, and while my diet was probably healthier than it once was, it was not stellar.   So the fact that Liz kicked my rear is of no surprise and absolutely well earned by her.  That being said, I am damn proud of my aching 37 year old body.

I didn't stop to walk once (one visit to the portapotty did occur.... again because I'm getting old).  I chose other runners to beat and picked them off.  I didn't vomit or fall over crossing g the finish line - SUCCESS!  I did, however, in the last tenth of a mile pull my hamstring, and oh wow, that hurts.  So I am gimpy and limping, popping Aleve like candy corn, and hanging out on a heating pad.  But I finished a half marathon.  Finished. A. Half. Marathon.

Friends, I don't mean to brag, but I am still feeling like a badass.  I had in the back of my head that if I finished in 2 hours and 30 minutes I'd be happy.  In the way back of head I was hoping to have a helluva run and finish in 2 hours and 15 minutes.   As I crossed the finish line the clock said 2:27 and I was happy.  And then the official results were published - my official time was 2:13.  Two hours and thirteen minutes people!!!  I beat my super secret goal - and I did it without wanting to die. My hamstring suffered but my ego hasn't - I.Am.Proud.

Let me say this as well - my cousin Liz is amazeballs. Seriously, she rocks. She had never run a thing before.  She was not a runner.  Not a runner and she finished in 2:05.  Whaaat?!  Amazing.  Also, without her dedication to training I would have never followed through.  I would have found an excuse to give up and sit on my couch.  I do love my couch.  But she kept training and running and getting blisters, so I kept dragging myself out there.

The rain and wind and hail made this half marathon a bit of a challenge - but the cheering section of my wonderful family made it so much better.  Big smiles, lots of cheers, high fives and hugs are pretty motivating.  As was the bottle of wine each finisher got.  And maybe the several bottles of champagne that we celebrated with, champagne hydrates like water, right?  Yesterday, Brenna said to me while were cuddling Mama, you and Liz run so,so,so fast.  And that's when I decided I need to keep it up. 

So I'm going to take it easy for another day or so and then I'm going to get going.  Get back to the gym, to the treadmill, to Pilates, to the weight room.  If I can tackle a half marathon, maybe I am capable of a bit more than I give myself credit.  Just maybe.  And if they see me up and moving and taking care of me and setting goals then maybe those amazing kids of mine will one day do the same.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Thankful Thursdays

This Thursday I am thankful for:

  • Practically having a full night of sleep last night.  I was up later than I intended watching Blacklist (side note:  I must stop binge watching Netflix shows.  I must.) but I was not awoken at any time in the middle of the night by Miss B.  For about the last five weeks Brenna has struggled with not only going to bed at bedtime, but with staying in bed throughout the night.  She hears every car on the street, plane in the sky and creak in the house when it's bedtime and is compelled to get up and investigate and wake mom up to aid in the investigation.  Over the weekend she was up every 2.5 - 3 hours, it was like having a newborn all over again and my brain just about exploded.  Luckily, last night she stayed snug in bed until 6:25 this morning - I feel like I could run a marathon today.

  • Time spent with my amazing Aunt Janet.  She was in town for just under a week, and it felt far too short.  When my mother updated Facebook about her visit a friend commented that Aunt Janet "leaves a sweet, soft footprint everywhere she goes, with multicolored sparkles from heel to toes", which is exactly true.  Our week was full of adventures, laughter, cooking  and joy.  The girls were spoiled with attention and mom and I were showered in comfort.

  • Getting myself moving again, I am scheduled to run the Girls on the Run Half Marathon this Saturday in Columbus.  This is one of those things that I agreed to do with my cousin Elizabeth back in January after a few too many glasses of wine. There have been definite moments that I have regretted that decision - when my knees have been on fire, hips throbbing and back killing - but overall I am thankful I signed on.  Refocusing on running has given me a new appreciation for what I am capable of accomplishing.  I haven't run like this since before Addison was born. I forgot what a high of good run felt like.  In fact this time last year I could barely eke out an 11 minute single mile and two weekends ago I ran over 10 miles at a pace that wasn't totally embarrassing.  I also forgot how head clearing running can be - I am able to reflect on or plan my days, rehearse difficult conversations, or just get lost in the scenery and the music.  Simply put, I am thankful for finding time to run again, even if it hurts a little.  Okay, a lot.

  • The people who push me out the door to run.  My mother, who has eagerly and willingly watched Brenna for midweek runs and who consistently tells me how good I look after a trying run.  She also, with ease, detects a  foul mood and suggests I go pound it out on the pavement.  And, of course, Andy, who not only has pushed me out the door and covered some early weekend mornings with the little ladies, but understands exactly how to get inside my competitive head to push me to go further faster.  Without either of them I would have never made it past a five mile run.

  • The sounds of my children being together.  Ninety percent of the time they play together lovingly with laughter and imagination and excitement.  They play school, dance recital, princess castle and house.  They color and paint and swing and slide and explore.  They're mommies to their dolls, supermodels at the fashion show, center stage ballerinas, rock stars, doctors and artists.  The other ten percent of the time they annoy each other and get under each others' skin and push each others' buttons like crazy.  But at the end of the day, they give each other a hug and a kiss and say I love you and they mean it.  I'll be thankful for that for as long as a it lasts.

Monday, September 29, 2014

It is what it is

We're still here, really we are.

Maybe the fact that I have not sat down to write since June is an indication as to what our summer was like here in Neyer land.  I think I spent more time in my car driving than I did sitting in my back yard enjoying my garden. 

We traveled to Surf Side Beach, SC for a wonderful week with the Flaherty clan.  We trekked to Oak Island, NC a few weeks later for a week of beach and hurricane adventures.  A few weeks after that we packed up the car and headed east for Massachusetts for my brothers wedding.    Sprinkled through out the summer were weekend trips to Akron, Carmel and Chicago.  We had guests for a week, a garage sale that purged our house of one percent of clutter and an unexpected and scary week long trip back to Chicago.

Addie went to camp, Brenna moved into a big girl bed, Andy and I lost out on a lot of sleep.  Soccer started, school started, music class started, dance started.   I've been training for a half marathon, Andy's been hitting the gym; hummus has replaced pepperoni as a our go-to snack.

Floors have been mopped, lawns mowed, landscaping attended to.  Addie has lost baby teeth and permanent teeth are beginning to crowd her mouth.  Brenna has figured out how to jump and hop. 

Life has just kept happening and happening and happening and somehow I have gotten lost in the chaos.  I find myself exhausted in the mornings, exhausted in the evening and a whirling dervish in the hours in between.    I find myself incredibly short on patience and perspective. 

By neglecting this space, however, I feel like I am neglecting my voice a bit.  I am neglecting the kids and their stories.  At one point I spent far too much time on the computer updating the blog, Facebook, Instagram and far too little time playing.  Now I feel as though I spend far too much time spinning my wheels - cleaning off the same counter six times a day, folding the same clothes, turning off light switches again and again and again and never finding time to document the ride.

So in an attempt to save my sanity I will work on finding my voice again.  Seeing the humor in motherhood. Sharing the burden and journey so that I am reminded I am in this with lots of other people - for which I am eternally grateful.

Friday, June 6, 2014

First Grade....

In five hours Addie will get off the bus for the last time this year.   First grade will be history.  And I find myself unexpectedly teary.  If I am this emotional about first grade ending, how will I ever survive high school graduation?
This year has been phenomenal for Addison.  In the words of her teacher, whom I adore, Addison has truly blossomed. 
Without a doubt she started the year excited, but anxious.  She didn't go to St. James in Kindergarten, and was one of only nine new kids in the three first grade classes.  She needn't worry; within days I was being told stories of Lily and Riley and Alyson and Melanie.  I heard about Noah and Charlie and Jack and Joseph.  Every day I was told about their routine; about morning work and journaling and computer class and whatever other wonderful thing happened.
At our first teacher conference, Andy and I were told what a conscientious student Addison was becoming, almost to a fault, as her teacher said Addie was her own worse critic.  At the start of school Addison struggle a bit with reading, particularly her fluency. Now books are a huge part of her day, we give her a  few minutes at bedtime to just read to herself, more nights than not, I take her book out of her sleeping hands as I head to bed.  Just the other day Andy came inside from the patio and declared Addison was obviously my child - she was curled up in one of our Adirondack chairs reading a book of fairy tales silently to herself.
The worst spelling grade she got this year was a ninety percent - and you would have thought we told her the world was ending.  She has maintained solid As in all subjects, including that Spanish class that she hates so much. 
Addison's writing has also improved by miles.  She loves to write and illustrate stories and works very hard to spell everything correctly.  I find scraps of paper daily with notes to Andy, Brenna or me, sometimes telling us she loves us, sometimes a poem or short story.  I love her imprecise, yet perfect, first grade scrawl.
She worked very hard this year on several written projects for school.  She wrote about Saint Joseph, President John Adams and the Red Panda.  With each project she worked hard to find out about her subject and took enormous pride in illustrating her report - those too, were marked Outstanding by her teacher.

First grade had its rougher days too.  Turns out girl drama starts early and often occurs at recess or the lunch table.  Who you sit with or play with or talk to can really influence your day - or so I learned.  I am biased, of course, but it seemed that Addie wasn't often the drama creator, but nonetheless was easily sucked into the drama of her six and seven year old friends. 
I know of only three times that Addie had a truly bad day at school.  One was in the first few months, when one of the little boys in another first grade class punched her in the stomach as they were on their way to the bus.  She had been complaining that he was bothering her and wasn't until then that I realized how serious it was.  Her teacher took care of it as soon as I reached out to her and, luckily,  I never heard his name mentioned again.  Her second tough day was when she was fired from being class messenger.  Addie had separated from her partner while running school errands and her teacher, who was strict but fair, took the job away.  Addison cried for a day or two; but it was a wonderful lesson learned on listening to directions.    Finally, just in the last weeks of school Miss Thang started to become very forgetful on bringing home all her homework assignments - after her second or third time forgetting an assignment she lost five minutes of recess time and had to "stand on the line".  When I asked her how that felt, she said it felt like much longer than five minutes.  A shining star moment though - Addison never had to move desks and ended the year in the exact same spot she started in, meaning she never got reprimanded for her behavior in the classroom. 

In this year, she has grown in so many immeasurable ways.  She is compassionate and patient.  She is generous and intuitive.  She is deeply creative and very spiritual.   She has grown in noticeable ways too - she's gone up one and a half shoe sizes.  We had to get onto my lap, but she scarcely fits. 

Two nights ago, as  I tucked her in, she told me, with a few tears, that she was really sad that school was ending.  She was going to miss her teacher and the learning that she does each day.  I assured that second grade would be just as wonderful and she looked at me with those eyes that know so much and said I just don't see how, Mama.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

In two months time

 It may have all started with my new iPad Mini.  Or maybe with my attempt to work out consistently.  Or perhaps it was that my baby started to talk and then never.stopped.never.  Truly, I don't know, I don't have a specific answer why this glimpse into my life got put to the side, but it did.  I keep saying I am going to make time,  find time, but rarely do I.   It's been two months since I've powered up this page to write.  Two months.  In the words of the great Vizzini "inconceivable".

So here's recap of the past two months, more or less. 

Brenna is a busy little bee.  She loves the playground, the zoo, going to the YMCA and exercise class with me.  She likes to explore our backyard, the new garden and our neighborhood.  She, like her big sister, is a chatterbox.  She never.stops.talking.  Okay, she does take a break to sleep, after she rambles to herself until she passes out.   She also pauses to laugh, something she absolutely loves to do.  And she is forced to stop talking when she is screaming about a perceived injustice, which sadly happens several times a day.  Such injustice could be her toast cut in strips instead of squares, or having to wear her polka dot shoes instead of her red slip- ons.  So, you know, the really important stuff.

Miss B.  has always been a bit more cautious than her sister.  She is just as brave as Addie, but she really assesses her situation before acting.  She can now go up and down stairs unassisted, albeit slowly (goodbye baby gates forever). We have officially retired the baby swing and Brenna often complains that she wants to go on Addie's big swing (she is fine with her big girl swing that is lower to the ground, unless Addie is present.   In that case, she must have the higher swing).  Slides are her  thing though.  She loves to slide and begs to try every slide we pass.  And, like any good two-and-a-half year old, she loves, loves, loves bubbles.  We spend a lot of time, every day, blowing bubbles...kind of like another little girl I knew.

Our mornings, once the school bus has pulled away, are still spent snuggling watching Curious George and sometimes the Cat and The Hat.  Beyond those two shows, B isn't big into TV.  She likes Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First, but rarely sits to watch them.  She adores belting out Let it Go or Do you want to Build a Snowman but won't sit through the entire movie.  She is on the go, she is curious and inquisitive.  She thinks she can be sustained on snacks alone.
Brenna continues to be a total PITA when it comes to eating.   Some days, she eats virtually nothing.  If she had it her way she would exist entirely on fruit snacks, peanuts, milk and strawberries.  There are rare days that she eats whatever we put in front of her, we call those her eating days, but they are truly rare.  Most nights are the dinner table are a nightmare with us having to trick her into eating (don't you eat Cameron's pineapple!  That's not your chicken, don't you eat it!).  And while the eating thing is a pain, and a tad stressful being that she is just a wisp of a thing, we are rounding the corner on potty training.  Brenna is in undies all day except for nap times and bedtime.  She adores her Doc McStuffins and Elmo undies, and heartbroken if she lets a little pee
escape into them.  Two weeks ago she insisted that we no longer need her training potties and she pulled stools up the our regular toilets.  So far she has only fallen in once, and sadly I didn't have my camera handy!
Without a doubt, in the past two months Brenna has become quite a grown up girl, I can't say a big girl, as she has yet to register 25 pounds on the scale.  Such a peanut.

And then there is the endless Miss Addie E.  I call her Addie E. all the time, although a few weeks ago she turned those gigantic gray-green eyes toward me and said "Mamma, I really prefer to be called Addison."  Yep.  She really prefers that.  This past school year, and even these past two months, have really turned my baby into a kid.  A kid with opinions and ideas, a bit too much sass, and tons of energy and creativity.  In first grade Addie, er, Addison, has truly blossomed and bloomed.  She loves learning, and has, to my complete joy, fallen in love with reading.  We still read to her at night - sometimes picture books, sometimes chapter books.  Sometimes she does the listening, and sometimes she does the reading to us.  It's amazing.  In the last four weeks or so, since it is still light at bedtime, she reads a few more pages to herself after we've tucked her in.  Currently we are reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8.  We tried reading this a  year ago or so, but it was a bit beyond her, now it is right up her alley.  The other night she told me "Mom, just like Ramona has Silent Sustained Reading at school, so do I.  I love the part of the day when I can just read to myself."  My heart damn near burst.
It's not just reading that she's kicking butt at - it's school in general.  According to Addie she loves every single thing about school, except for Spanish because the teacher speaks in a different language and "how am I even supposed to understand her?".  In fact Addison told me a few months back that she wishes she could go to school all year long.  I resisted the urge to point at her and yell NERD...because, I totally felt the same way when I was younger.
She continues to be completely enthralled with all things Star Wars and is eagerly anticipating the release of the next episode - I don't think she realizes it doesn't come out until 2015.  She has informed that she "isn't really into" princesses anymore - well, unless those princesses are Elsa or Anna from Frozen.  If it's them, then she's totally still into princesses. 

Miss Thang has been doing dance all year and started soccer back up earlier this Spring.  I love that she continues to do both and love both.  This weekend is the big dance recital - don't worry, the Daddy Daughter dance will be back on stage!  Soccer is just starting to wind down, and Addison has already asked to be signed up for the Fall season.  The difference in her skill and understanding of the game this year compared to last is astounding.  She is a leader on her team, and while she hasn't scored any goals this season, she has blocked a few and assisted a few.

I don't know when I blinked and missed my chubby baby transform into a lithe and long little lady, but she has.  It's next to impossible for her to curl up on my lap, as she is not much shorter than me now.  We are constantly needing to buy new pants, as it seems as soon as we get them home they become floods on her.   Shorts are an absolute nightmare. 
I love her toothless smile and silly ways.  I hate homework time and trying to convince to keep her room tidy. I am not at all prepared for the preteen and teen drama, but I fear it may be just around the corner.

And then there is Andy and I.  We are just, as I often tell anyone who asks, living the dream.  We go to bed exhausted and wake up exhausted and in the middle of all that we make it happen.  Lawns are mowed, gardens are planted, car batteries are changed, cocktails on the patio are enjoyed.  We are both trying to be healthier, to hit the gym consistently, to eat slightly better, to guarantee that our little ladies get decades and decades more of our wisdom.
In April the two of us escaped to Napa and Sonoma for a  long weekend of sleeping, sipping wine and a small bit of silence.  Our summer is about to explode into trips to the beach, summer camps and busy weekends.   Andy is trying to get a few rounds of golf under his belt, I am trying to log a few more miles on to my sneakers, and we are both attempting not to miss all the little miracles and moments that happen each day.