Thursday, September 30, 2010

These Days

Some days are considered colossal failures, even before my feet hit the floor. This is usually after a night (or 3) of little or broken sleep caused by 1 or 2 cats and/or 1 or more of 3 kids awake, multiple times in the night. Mama is usually very grumpy but Mama does not get a day off and life must go on.

Sometimes it means taking all 3 of the monkeys to the grocery store and playing musical seats in the blue car cart while trying to keep Helena (the Schmoog) from breaking more than one jar of olives off the shelves.
Sometimes it means "mowing with a weed whacker - again - because the mower is still on the fritz. (maybe I should invest in a razor, ha!)

Thankfully these moments are peppered with sweetness. (Fred the cat, you are so lucky that they love you so much because if you pee on my bed 1 more time I swear you will be a street cat!)
I finally have a kid that likes to eat, just like her mama!

Don't let the cuteness fool you. This was soon followed by a wrestling match for that stolen toothbrush. I moonlight as a referee you know.

Say "cheese!"

(more of these will follow soon) Sophie & Daddy + popcorn @ Villanova vs. Penn football game = happiness!

She slept with pig tails and woke up like this. They kind of look like horns and that is fitting at times.

More often than not the kitchen floor looks like this after every meal. No. Really. I enjoy sweeping 3 times a day! I live to clean up after you people!

Then there are moments of blissful sleep like this with Alexander and his night light and puppy.
Why is the picture rotated left? Well, because blogger keeps loading it this way no matter what I do to fix it, which fits right in with this crap day.

Then, just when I'm feeling about as grumpy as I can I am reminded that we are indeed blessed and my trivial little grievances do not compare to what others I know are battling each day. As I fight back tears of frustration my 1 year old says (I swear it is true) "Mommy, Mommy I love you!" or "I'm so mad!" (either one makes me smile).

Sophie runs into my arms with the best hug ever given and pats my back saying "awww, ni(ce)."

Alexander writes his name, the numbers 1-10 and his address without 5,000 prompts during homework time.

So, I find myself regrouping and I need to. I'm about to attempt bath night (without Mark) which has lately led to a code brown every.single.time!

Wish me luck. I need to have them in bed by 9 EST for Grey's Anatomy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pirate Day

Every year on September 19th is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This year Alexander and I left the girls at home with Mark and headed to a pirate party at Independence Seaport Museum. It was an afternoon filled with pirates (actors), music, crafts, parrots from the zoo and a real pirate ship on the Delaware River. I'll never forget it and I don't think Alexander will either.

I am a grown woman who loves to dress up in costume and play a scurvy pirate and I don't care who knows it. I spent weeks getting our costumes in order, mostly from clothes we already had (my yogo capris, club shirt, earrings, Alexander's sweat pants, t-shirt, pirate hat. Our red satin sash and head scarves were scraps from the girls' blankets I made). I even found my treasure chest that I've had since I was Alexander's age. I dug a hole in the yard and filled it with booty, until it was overflowing with gold necklaces and doubloons.

I was positively giddy when the day finally arrived. I'm sure I was more excited than Alexander and Mark kept shaking his head at me (with a smile). Only once did he dare remind me that real pirates from the old days of tall ships and of today are dreadful people that do terrible things. They are terrorists and he can't understand why they are glorified. Ya, I know. So, let's move on, ok?

Exhibit A: photo taken at the Science Center in St. Louis to use in his class when they cover modern pirates

I had re-read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and watched the movies by Disney to get into the spirit of the day. The 1950s movie can be found on youtube. The Muppet version was On Demand on cable for free, just by coincidence though you can get it on youtube as well. Of course, that's movie piracy, but I digress.

" I saw, besides, many old sailors, with rings in their ears, and whiskers curled in ringlets, and tarry pig tails, and their swaggering, clumsy sea-walk; if I had seen as many kings or archbishops I could not have been more delighted." (Treasure Island, pg. 54)

We packed a sack lunch and headed into the city to Penn's Landing. Just before leaving Alexander started yelling something about seeing a pirate ship in the clouds above our house. Sure enough a cluster of clouds had formed in the shape of a ship, masts and all. (see slideshow for pics). Another favorite part of the day was seeing many young girls (not just boys) dressed in costume. They had fabulous costumes, complete with boots and makeup of infected gashes on their cheeks. Awesome.

So where are all the pictures you ask? I had learned about a free printed 5 x 7 photo book HERE and decided that it would make a great Christmas present for Alexander. shhh, no telling! I put the book together and the coupon worked (just pay $2.11 for shipping & tax, good through 10/31). Here's a link to our pirate book on-line. Seriously, you should check it out. I can't wait to get the printed version! *It looks like you have to sign up for a free snapfish account to view it. Here's a slideshow for those who don't want to create an account.

embedded video below. If you don't see it, click refresh or click HERE.

A short video is below. On board of the pirate ship the Gazela, Alexander got to ring the bell. The pirate said "ring it twice, but if you ring it three times you have to buy dinner!" What a great day. I can't wait for next year.

embedded video below. If you don't see it, hit refresh or click HERE
a dram o'rum for the Mum after a long and wonderful day

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pea Soup

We awoke this morning to a thick blanket of fog. Before changing out of my pajamas, I waited only long enough for my pot of coffee to brew. Then I slipped out the back door, steaming mug in hand. I had a feeling that I needed to see the train bridge near our house in this pea soup.

I love the way that fog transforms the landscape in the same way that the dim light at twilight morphs ordinary objects into mysterious shapes. Blurry edged shapes can cause your mind to play tricks on you and it just feels, I don't know, mystical or ethereal.

(tipsy sign & pole on our street)

(train tracks a few blocks away)

Just as I got to the bridge the battery in the camera died. Uggh!

I missed some terrific shots on the walk home. When it is this humid, everything has a layer of moisture. This changes the colors in the same way that sea shells look different, (prettier, I think) while still wet. As we have not yet had a cold snap, there are plenty of summer flowers around. The vivid purples and pinks really popped against this back drop. Oh well. I'm sure I'll get another shot.

*pirate day and first day of kindergarten posts are coming soon, I promise!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

EKS Day Acts of Unity

My last post was about the first annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day which is taking place this Saturday, September 25th. “Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day” (EKS Day) will promote a global call for people to commit acts of inclusion, acceptance and unity for individuals with intellectual disabilities (EKS ACTS). Since then I have been asked to help spread the word about this fantastic day by tagging 5 friends and I am more than happy to help.

“I pledge to spread her message of hope, inclusion, and acceptance through my blog, facebook, and twitter on EKS Day, and I tag my 5 friends Cathy, RK, Amy, Becca, and Gillian and challenge you to re-post this on your blog and tell us what you pledge to do on EKS Day.”

Anyone can participate with an Act of Unity. You don't need to attend or host a big event. Your Act of Unity can be as simple as:
  • emailing, texting, and using your social media outlets to spread the word about the day.
  • Change your profile picture to a photo of Eunice (many images in that link to chose from), and
  • use one of her iconic quotes as your status update (see below for a few examples). Click HERE to hear audio files of Eunice speaking.
  • On twitter post: RT: I pledge to honor @SpecialOlympics by performing an Act of Unity on RT to sign.
  • Be sure to post your Act of Unity HERE.

"You are the stars and the world is watching you. By your presence you send a message to every village, every city, every nation. A message of hope. A message of victory. The right to play on any playing field? You have earned it. The right to study in any school? You have earned it. The right to hold a job? You have earned it. The right to be anyone's neighbor? You have earned it."

"Every person, regardless of whatever different abilities they may have, can contribute, can be a source of joy, can beam with pride and love."

"Special Olympics athletes are spokespersons for freedom itself - they ask for the freedom to live, the freedom to belong, the freedom to contribute, the freedom to have a chance. And, of all the values that unite and inspire us to seek a better world, no value holds a higher place than the value of freedom."

"Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt."

"As we hope for the best in them, hope is reborn in us."

"The days of separation and segregation are over."
~Eunice Kennedy Shriver

Friday, September 17, 2010

September 25th Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day

The 1st annual Eunice Kennedy Shriver day is almost here! Click HERE for more information. If this isn't inspiration, I don't know what is. Mrs. Shriver surely has a special place in Heaven. She was such an amazing woman and a personal hero of mine as is her family who continue to carry her torch.


click HERE to see it full sized

Tribute Video (tissue alert)

Click HERE to see it full sized

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day in Pennsylvania
The state of Pennsylvania, under the leadership of Governor Edward G. Rendell, will recognize and honor the life-long contributions of Eunice Kennedy Shriver by permanently hanging her image on the walls of the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, PA. In addition to celebrating her life, the event will recognize the 40th Anniversary of the Special Olympics Pennsylvania under a theme of “40 Years of Transforming Lives,” demonstrating the impact it has had as part of the movement in continuing the legacy of its late founder.

A new post about EKS Day was just added on my blog HERE. Do you have an Act of Unity planned for next Saturday?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Mark had a brilliant idea. He does not teach on Tuesdays, Sophie doesn't have preschool, and Alexander's kindergarten orientation wasn't until Wednesday, so he thought it might be fun to head to the shore AFTER the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Mark picked a beach which was further away than our beloved Ocean City, but still under 2 hours drive away. We packed a lunch, dinner, and a 2nd pair of clothes and headed off to uncharted waters by mid morning. The girls got a few winks on the drive and when things started to turn ugly, Toy Story 2 on portable DVD (what on Earth did we do without these?) saved the day.
When we arrived I began to feel like Annie when Daddy Warbucks bought out Radio City Music Hall for a movie just for her. Seriously. The beach and boardwalk were empty. I mean EM.P.TY! However, all of the stores on the boardwalk hocking their wares were still open and happy to have customers. The food vendors, bathrooms, information center, all still open - and it felt like they were there just for us!

The only drawback was that the shore was pretty far from the boardwalk, far enough to offer "taxi services" at $2/person. Despite a broken and infected toe (his foot didn't clear a baby gate, ouch!) and a boat load of stuff, Mark hauled the 2 girls in the MCU (mobile command unit double stroller) to our spot.

Our time on the beach was healing in a way that I'm still not sure I can fully comprehend. It was just us and a lone life guard who gave me a sense of safety while trying to keep an eye on three active small children near a massive body of water. No computers, no cell phones. Just our family, together. The wind was constant and fierce but calming, which in combination with the crashing surf offered a white noise that softened the edges of any bickering.

Quickly we each began to play a role in this family drama.

Mark: Body Surfer. It was an incoming tide. The waves meant business and hit him at about a 45 degree angle, dragging him down the shore. He scarcely had a moment to wipe his eyes when the next wave broke over him, and he loved it. He took it on as a challenge and doctor's orders to soak that busted toe in salty water.

Alexander: Builder. My son will grow up to create as a career, mark my words. Whether it be structures or ships or something else, this kid loves to design and build. He is so curious as to how the water effects the sand and spent hours digging, scooping, shaping.

Sophie: Daredevil. This girl acts as if she were born on the shore. Unlike the last two times when went to the beach and she warmed up to the water in her own time, she took to it immediately and devised her own game of "Tag, You're It!" Pig tails flying in the wind she would race, FEARLESS, into the water. Thank goodness it was really shallow for quite a while. She chased her friend the sea only to turn and run SQUEALING back to shore as the waves washed in. This endless game of tag brought her hours of joy and I swear the sound of her laughter could soften the hardest of hearts.

Helena: Explorer. Its hard to talk about the Schmoog (her nickname and frankly what we most often call her) without talking about my role as well. Helena is wary of the sea like a frienemy that has done her wrong one to many times. She is curious but none too impressed when a particularly vicious wave knocks her down. She was most happy with Mama.

Mama: Beachcomber. Yes, I did go into the water, albeit briefly. The water was churning so hard that I couldn't see at all beneath the surface. Remember NO ONE else was out there. So, I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm pee-in-my-pants afraid of sharks in a way that many land lubbers who have seen Jaws and were raised inland tend to be. I've long feared that I would be shark bait should I dare to venture into the ocean. Now, the past two times we've been to the shore, I spent a good deal of time body surfing. However, I had a ton of people around me. On this trip I was the ONLY one in the water and I didn't like my odds (stop laughing). So instead Helena and I took many trips up and down our beach in search of treasure.

My dream was to find just one piece of pure sea glass, though I knew my chances were slim. Any beachcomber will tell you that the search is just as exciting as the find. My girl was a perfect companion as we explored, heads down, searching for buried treasure. She quickly caught on and began plucking pieces of shells from the sand while exclaiming her joy at her find. Together we amassed quite a collection of shells, bits of sand dollars, beautiful pebbles rounded the same way as beach glass into smooth surfaces of amber, jade, snowy white, charcoal, and a piece of something black and sparkly that was once either wood or coal.

I swear I did find treasure. Shimmering just beneath the surface at water's edge I recognized a coin and for a second I let my imagination believe it could be a doubloon or pieces of eight. Some might say it was just a quarter, but to me, it was my first buried treasure. However, my favorite find is a small, nickel sized, rusty piece of metal that Alexander found, for he swears it is from a sunken ship, and I believe him.

I may be a girl from Iowa, but I'm drawn to the sea in a way that I can't rightly describe. Our family adventures fill my soul and I wonder if my kids will ever know just how lucky they are. Here are a few panoramas to show how empty the place really was. Then, click on the smilebox for more pictures and videos. Tips for viewing this smilebox: Click play to view the smilebox which will open in a separate window. It can be viewed smaller or full screen, with or without audio. Click individual photos to enlarge and click again to minimize. Some are videos which can be played by clicking on them. Click again to stop video. Enjoy our day at the beach!

enlarge by clicking the pictures

Click to play this Smilebox scrapbook
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This free scrapbook design customized with Smilebox

*you might also like Beach Baby, about our first trip to the Shore.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blog Business Cards

I am so excited! A few days ago I learned of a deal at for 100 business cards and shipping for FREE (now expired, but I did post it on fb). In the past I had toyed with the idea of getting business cards made about this blog, but I never took it seriously and I wasn't interested in spending money on it. But FREE? Music to my ears!!!

I am in a strange new land (since our family relocated from the midwest to Philly this summer) and have been blessed to meet many new friends. A good way to introduce myself (although after all this time I'm still hesitant to say I'm a blogger and even more hesitant to post on fb, not quite sure why) is to tell new friends about our blog. They can learn pretty much all they need to know by visiting here.

Without spending too much time on it, I came up with a bit of an unconventional design where the front of the card to looks like current blog header. I was a bit worried that the details in the pictures would be lost on the small card. The back of the card was taken from a photo I took recently. I thought for sure through the printing process I would lose the drop of water on the flower, the rain in the puddles, and the kids would look like blurry blobs, but free is free. Plus, now I have an excuse to use my awesome business card holder (pictured below) from a million years ago.

I received my cards today and they are rocking my world. The printing is amazing with no detail lost, seriously! So now I can carry a few with me to give out as we meet new and interesting people and to think, it was all free! Yipee!! Thanks for the tip friend (RK).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Preschool Blues Part III, Unhappy Mama Bear

We have greatly appreciated the support from you all during Sophie's first week of preschool. We feel the love! She has had some good experiences and I'm not ready to change schools due to the problems we have had. I am a mother first but I am also an Advocate with a capital A, a job I take seriously. I need to make this right for Sophie's benefit and for all of the other kids at her school. I sent the email reply (below) to Sophie's preschool today after I had been emailed by Sophie's lead teacher who apologized that her bulging diaper (pee & dried poop!) had gone unnoticed yesterday. This mama don't play that. grr!

I will continue to document my concerns and reach out to the school until things are right. At this time I am working directly with her teacher and do not feel an IEP meeting needs to be called. Other ideas from our savvy friends would be welcomed. Rather than explain what happened I am posting my email response below (shrunk to save space). Click the 3 images to enlarge. Names of the teachers have been removed for privacy.



UPDATE: I received an email response from her teacher this afternoon and they address every.single.last concern. We may need to tweak some of the plans to get them just right, but overall I am pleased. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Preschool Blues II, A New Day

First of all, I want to thank all of you who reached out to offer your support when we had a no good, very bad 1st day of preschool. Family, friends, and perfect strangers left notes of encouragement on the blog, fb, and texts showing that they are standing with us. I can't express how much I really appreciate that. Friends who have been here with their children (with and without a disability) reminded me how this is truly a shared experience and that letting go is hard but we all survive and are better for it. I've received messages from people who are wondering how it went today. People who care about our little preschooler and who have been waiting patiently for an update.

Yesterday I had a good conversation with her lead teacher and we came up with a plan. I learned that she really did have a good day up until they went outside and she overheated. As our high temp is 98 degrees today and they would not be going outside, we didn't have to implement Plan B, C, D, or E.

I didn't stay for more than a few minutes when I dropped her off. She was happy to be there and I was happy to slip out the door unseen. As planned, I arrived early (just 15 minutes) and peeked through the door to the gross motor play room where her class was playing. What I found was a happy, active girl who was having the time of her life. Her brother, sister, and I waited in the hall for class to end. She caught me lifting Alexander up so he could see through the window, so we went in to say hi.

There were tears when we left but they were because she didn't want to leave. Sophie is going to rock this school!