I really needed a drink

You guys, we went to Dallas in late September and it took us six hours to get there. SIX HOURS. When I told my friend, who recently moved to Doha, that I didn’t know how she made it 15 hours on a plane with her three children, she said the adults got alcohol and the kids got ice cream. Noted for next time.

We were there to celebrate my oldest niece’s birthday. I can’t believe she is now four.

Family Photo_Cousins2

 

Here they are in order of appearance: Cousins 1, 2, 3, and 4. Though don’t tell 4 she is number four – she will cut you. She and James are two peas in a pod, for sure.

We took the opportunity to take some family photos. We just did it on the street in front of my sister’s house. Alex tried to give me all sorts of heat about taking a family photo. I am so sorry I would like to have a photo of our family- I don’t care if your eyes are squinty in the sun or your smile is weird. Your kids will want to see what you looked like when you are young.

Family Photo_Wall

Plus, it is a well known fact the only photos I will pick  will have me looking good in them. So calm down and smile.

Family Photo_All_Color

I love this one so much. It is totally candid and such a perfect moment in time. This is our life. No one is looking perfectly right, but everyone is happy, loves each other and is doing the best they can.

This is a winner.

 

 

Past and Future Memories

If you are like me (and we know you are, you crazy things) you often think, what of the things we do with our kids will they really remember? Alex has a great memory, he claims to remember things from when he was three. I remember things…but I think it is because I have seen them in photos for so long.

But one thing I know that I remember are our family dinners. We would eat together every night after the last person got home. I don’t know how early they started (and like to give myself a grace period of thinking it was not until elementary at least) but they continued through high school and anytime we were home from college.

 Grandpa Harvey at the table

My sister wrote a kick-ass essay about those dinners, focusing on the family table where we sat. She is a much better writer than me and really should have her own blog. Since she doesn’t, I decided to steal her material for mine, which she expected. She is wonderful – enjoy!

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My parents’ round kitchen table was stained a yellowing color, one probably chosen initially for its conventional beauty but long past the prime of fashionable. A few blemishes marred the yellow stain, carefully mended with a wood filler that could never quite match that original hue. Heavy and obtuse, the table stood squarely to the left of the small, yet functional kitchen, remodeled over time, bit by bit at the hands of my mother. The table commanded the den area of my parents’ small, oddly-laid out home, and was the center of our life.

My dad’s 38th birthday

My mother loved to read parenting books to verify her expertise in raising two daughters. One such volume of wisdom imparted to her the importance of The Family Dinner. Nightly, we were to sit at that round table and share a meal together.

The rules:

  • All must be present to eat
  • You must ask to be excused
  • No singing 
  • You must wear a shirt

We always giggled at the last one, a worn out rule from my mother’s childhood, a much maligned middle sister in a family of three boys with a baby sister ten years her junior officially taking away her “only girl” status. Those brothers of her youth always had to be reminded to dress for dinner, but in our household with two girls and a quiet Dad, that was never an issue.

For as long as I remember, family dinners were sacred. To miss a family dinner required a special request and allowance, best made while practicing your most formal persuasive voice. Whining and begging would not be tolerated in our house; however, a carefully phrased request was appreciated and accepted. To bring a friend to family dinner also required a formal request, though these were always allowed as more people at family dinners were readily welcomed.

As a child, I remember the milk pouring across that yellow stain as I tipped the glass clumsily again. I remember waiting for hours, my stomach grumbling, for my sister to get home from dance class at nine pm. Then when I also joined that dance class, everyone was waiting on me. Whenever everyone arrived home from work and activities, we all sat around that table, the 4 of us, my mom, my dad, my sister Kinsey, and me, nightly. My family isn’t one of those “lovey-dovey” types as my mom would say, but family dinners forced us to sit down and remember that we love each other. No matter what was going on in the family, happy, sad, angry, indifferent, we gathered to eat and reflect. Even when we started the meal with a teenagerly grouch, eventually something about our day came out.

I learned to tell stories at those family dinners. My mother, the best story teller of them all, would laugh heartily as she shared a story about her day teaching college students. My sister, animated and sarcastic, would share stories of her high school teachers and their quirky personalities. I often wonder if any of my students sit around dinner tables and laugh about my classroom. My father, the quiet only child, married into a loud boisterous family, who had two girls, would listen carefully and wisely. He never said much, still doesn’t, but when he speaks, everyone listens.

The yellow kitchen table stood sturdy and strong, and watched my sister and I grow up, move on to college and our adult lives. The table housed our art projects, then our drill team sequins, and finally our yearbooks and wedding gowns. My grandmother sat at the table not long before she died and helped us stuff my sister’s wedding invitations. Additional blemishes came, glitter was firmly wedged in all the nooks and crannies, but the table stood strong like a wise old priest keeping shared secrets firmly to itself.

Prom, 1996

A few years ago, the family dinner table found itself being replaced for a smaller table more sensible for a couple of empty nesters. And while I still visit that small house that sits quietly back from Woodland street, just a block from a now bustling Loop 288, the yellowing table is gone. Even without its stolid presence, we still find ourselves, now with husbands and children in tow, sitting around the smaller and unblemished kitchen table to share stories and laugh together. And on those most special of nights when children are fast asleep and husbands left to their own devices, we might end up with just the four of us again, sitting around the table, laughing and teasing each other, and sharing stories of our lives.

In my own kitchen, a small rectangular table sits quietly in the breakfast nook. I so proudly purchased the table for a very reasonable amount, like the responsible new teacher I was. I brought it home in a huge box far too large for my small frame to handle. Painstakingly, I put it together following every instruction carefully. In my head, I dreamed of one day my own family sitting around this wood table, not quite as sturdy as the one I remembered, but still a solid place to house my dreams. The years passed, and I uncertainly moved that small table from apartment to apartment never sure where it would end up. Finally, I secured its spot snugly in my first home purchased with my husband, and now sit my own two cherub faced girls at that table. They are firmly strapped into booster seats, but I smile at the future. Sticky with juice and leftover dinners, I relish the day when I will sit with my girls and their quiet dad, just the four of us at that table telling stories of our days.

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Isn’t she amazing? I mean, I know I am biased, but she is just the best. I hope my boys have as many fond memories of each other growing up as I do of my sister. 

Four under four

The weekend of James’ birthday, my sister and her family came to town. The plan was for them to stay for James’ party, which was on Sunday afternoon. However, all hell broke loose in the afternoon so they had to get out of Houston and back home to Dallas in a hurry. I am pretty sure us deciding to go to the Aquarium the morning of the birthday had something to do with it.

Here are my nieces, Vivian on the left and Charlotte (you can call her Chuck, I do) on the right.

 I don’t know if you can clearly see how skinny Vivi is. She is like James, really needs to eat some more.

Don’t they look precious in their fireworks shirts? Lauren was skeptical that Chuck would wear her shorts that matched Vivi’s since she is very into dresses. However, she caved under the pressure of “Auntie made this shirt for you!” which I appreciated.

So the morning of the 7th, still in their fireworks shirts, we loaded up and headed to the Aquarium to ride the train, the Ferris wheel and see the fish.

Chuck was highly skeptical of the Ferris wheel. With good reason.

These pictures clearly make it look like Dewayne and Lauren were riding the Ferris wheel alone. In truth, both girls were clinging to them for dear life.

Our boys knew they were in an open air death machine and just went with it. I call it “independence”.

The girls loved the aquarium and Dewayne bought everyone a stuffed sting ray after visiting the sting ray pool. Only Charlotte, Dewayne and Alex actually touched a sting ray.

 I love this photo. Uncle Alex holding Chuck’s hand and her pink sting ray.

Even if we are only together for 24 hours I love to spend time with the Bailey’s. It is always a hot mess of someone sleeping, someone crying, someone eating and someone yelling. But the kids love their cousins and it makes me wish we lived closer. Though once we get these children out of diapers and they stop being so terrible, we can take road trips more often. A definite benefit of my new flexible schedule.

A delight

We had a family wedding this weekend where one of my baby cousins got married. I find it unacceptable that any of my baby cousins get married. Luckily I have five more that are not locked down so we will not be having any more weddings that make me feel ancient anytime soon. Because it is all about me.

My family was so sweet about this blog, all saying they read it (Hi Turner!) and that I am super funny. Well, maybe I just inferred that last part.

However, my Aunt Roxan said that I might want to start posting some nice things about James, and soon. She is concerned that he not grow up to think he was evil and that I didn’t like him. Which could not be further from the truth.

James is my baby and I love him so, so very much. Even when he is not impressed. Even when he is screaming at me for a snack. I cave to that face and those eyelashes. I am certain my lack of making him mind is cause for much of his unimpressed status. The other day he screamed “NO” in my face and I busted out laughing. And I don’t even care (yet).

I want to be with him all of the time. I want to stare and him and kiss him and make him say “Mama’s baby” when I ask, “who is James?” I want him grab my face and open mouth kiss me the once a day he will. I want him to bring me books to read and sit in my lap. I want to watch him run to go outside or yell for Norman.

So the other day they boy’s school got out at lunch time. Alex went to get Zach (for some reason I can’t remember) and I went to get my baby. I decided to brave eating out and am so glad I did. He was delightful.

There was no screaming. There was no crying. He ate his entire grilled cheese and drank his juice like an impressed child.

Of course the huge cookie that the manager gave him did not hurt either. Or the fact that I let him stand up on the booth seat the entire time.

I do not care. He is my baby and can do whatever he wants.

And PS he is getting better, which is totally going to ruin my material. He gives me a LOT of material as you all know.

For a great teacher

Last year when I was room mom in Zach’s class I was determined to kill it on Teacher Appreciation week. My mother always told me my standards are too high and perhaps I could just do my best vs THE best. Not when crafting is concerned, Momma.

So I made this sign for the door of the room. My sister happened to be in town the weekend before it was due and had the pleasure of cutting out all the bees. I technically only needed 20…but sort of forgot to tell her until she had cut out 42. Whoops.
Luckily (before she came after me with the scissors) I figured out how to use all the extra bees to spell out the word, “bee”.
You all know I was sooooo proud of myself.
The 20 bees were for the Honeybees in the class. I had all the parents send me a photo of their child which I then cut out and glued to a bee. I am still giddy over the cuteness of this project.
My sister was less than impressed with this whole procedure. She rolled her eyes at me and thought I was absolutely ridiculous for doing this and thought my plan of cutting the poster board in the shape of a beehive was over the top. Turns out my crafting does have limits and that end part looked like a melted ice cream cone. But I loved how the poster turned out.
Cut to this year when Lauren is room mom and what does she do?? Have my brother in law cut out 11 bunnies and corresponding children’s faces. That is right; my crazy crafting is officially rubbing off on people. You have been warned.
Last year I also put together a book for the teachers of all the things the children loved about them. I titled it “How do we love you Ms. Renee, let us count the ways” and had each parent send me five things. Yes, five things for both teachers. For 20 children. What the hell was I thinking??  It was a massive undertaking. I had to format all the sayings with a cute font, print them all, cut them down to size, hole punch them then print a cut cover. Even for me this had gone too far. I swore to never do that again.
Except that when Lauren needed an additional item for her week I knew what needed to be done. I suggested she only ask the parents for two things the children love about their teachers and print them out on a piece of paper.
Sigh.
If only I could have left it at that.
I insisted on recreating my undertaking for her teachers. Because they do deserve it and it was only 22 per teacher. Sounds easy compared to 100.  And it was. I also insisted that she take full credit for it as it was not about me. But here it is on my blog.
Poor baby sister, can’t have anything. Hopefully her teachers feel her sacrifice was worth it.

Articipe

One of my cousins is getting married. I remember when she was born and have watched her grow up, as I have done the same. She is the daughter of Aunt Vickie so you know she is special.

For one of her wedding showers the theme was “kitchen”. I was going to get her a handful of utensils that I love and gift cards to the restaurants around where she will live, which just happens to be in my neighborhood. She is young and does not cook (yet) and I really thought she could use that more than some plates or a chafing dish.

But my mom suggested I get her what I got my mom and sister for Christmas. For them I had one recipe from each of my grandmothers made into art via Articipe on Etsy. I picked my Jane’s ham and cheese casserole (that is my favorite thing she made) and my Granny’s chocolate chip cookies (my dad’s favorite thing). I then gave my mom and sister a framed copy of each with a picture of my sister, me and our Jane for Lauren and my Granny and baby Lauren for my mom. Scene. Stealer.

As if I would have it any other way.

So when my mom suggested that for Stephanie’s shower I create one for her, I knew it was the perfect gift. And it would obviously be the best gift at the shower. Win-win.

Erin with Articipe has a six month lag time for new orders so instead of doing another one of Granny’s recipes I just had the chocolate chip cookie one reprinted. My dad sent me some photos of a little Stephanie at Granny’s house and one of Granny in the kitchen. I think she will love it as much as we do!

The only issue? The night of the shower I had to sprint out of the house so James would not see me and forgot the gift. And once we are out of the house there is no going back in. Not a chance in hell.

So I still have the frame nicely wrapped at my house. She is getting married in three weeks so it might turn into her wedding gift if I can’t get it to her soon.

And I am keeping those utensils I got her. That was actually not my choice. The boys started using the spoonulas as swords and James was whisking Norman last time I saw the silicon whisk.

Happy Birthday James!

This is the pool we rented for James’ 1st birthday party.

This is James’ brother coming down the slide we rented for James’ first birthday party.

This is not James’ friend…

This is not James’ friend…

Nope

Close but no…

Aha! Lily will count as his friend though you can tell she is not pleased about it.

And here is the birthday boy with his Auntie Tami and his trademark stare.

FINALLY! One of James’ friends.

James, what are you doing? Stop trying to push Margaret Hull down! She is one of only 3 friends you have at your birthday party!

And Nora who is his only friend from school at his party. To be fair, she made the cut as she is the sister of one of Zach’s friends.

Poor second baby.

Thanksgiving in the Loo

This year was our every-other-year trip to St. Louis for Thanksgiving with Vince’s family. I am not going to go into the hassle/hell of travelling with a 2.5 year old and a 4 month old. If you have done it you know and if you have not please take my advice and DO NOT DO IT. Or at least schedule better flights than our heidous choices of an 8pm and 8am flight.
Here is James in IAH ready for his first flight. This was before I was bouncing him up and down the aisle and watching the person squeezed into the seat next to me play Angry Birds.
Once we were there the trip drastically improved! The Wall/Morris families are busy and kid filled, which is right up the alley of Alex and Zach. They also do a lot of eating and talking which makes James and I happy. The first night we arrived at the house to see this sign courtesy of the sweet Engel cousins. What a way to make a baby feel welcome (and his mamma). 

We stayed with another set of Alex’s cousins who had two darling twin girls who are 7 and a sweet boy basically the same age as Zach. The first morning we arrived I knew my big boy was a Wall through and through when the second he had woken up, Alex plopped him in the middle of those three (whom he had never met) and promptly left. Zach was happy as can be and didn’t notice or need us for the next 24 hours. That is not the way of my family.

Zach really attached himself to Hannah. She was so sweet to him and he just adored her. Luckily for her, her family left on Thanksgiving so she got a break – Zach however was detestated and still talks about why Megan and Hannah had to leave.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is always the Wall/Morris soccer game. It was breezy and chilly this year, which was a nice change from Houston for sure. James spent the game like this:

 Being pushed all around by his Ollie so he would not cry.

Zach really wanted to go out onto the field with the adults and big kids and finally got to play during halftime with the other little kids who don’t understand sharing the ball, what a goal is or why they can’t use their hands. His Auntie Tami and Uncle Dave were very patient with him.

We only go every other year and every other year I stress out about it for a good month, dread it as it gets closer, then thoroughly enjoy myself once I am there. All the cousins are so warm and gracious with their time, shops (Hi Beth!!) and homes. Plus there are no fewer than 5 children around at all times to spread out all that Zach talking and busyiness. Please, they are Walls – they are nothing but busy. And they all love my babies. And as my mother says; anyone who loves my babies I love. 

Too Soon

A few weekend’s back we traveled to Dallas for my niece’s first birthday party. In between a potty-training toddler and a nursing infant it took us almost 6 hours. Each way. It was totally worth it though as the party was fun and Charlotte is just the most precious little girl ever! I won her over quickly by a)sounding just like her mom and b) taking her to see the balloons any time she wanted. I know how to win favorite Auntie status.

On Sunday we took family photos for my dad to put in the Denton Benefit League Tabloid. What do you mean you have never heard of that? I don’t actually know what it is either, just that each year my dad buys ad space in it and it is THE paper insert that EVERYONE in Denton reads filled with photos of small business owners and their children/grandchildren. Ok well, I might have built that up a tad, but Lauren and I read it each year and see judge how our high school friends have changed. I am serious. My mother mails it to both of us.

I am currently trying to convince my dad to just use a picture of the kids or one of all of us because unfortunately I am giant after having James a few short months ago and I sort of blend in when it is 8 of us.

Littlest Penquin

Mr. and Mrs. David Wall (plus Zach)
We are back from the whirlwind wedding weekend of Dave and Tami! We roadtripped to College Station on Friday for the Bridesmaid luncheon and didn’t get home until lunch time on Sunday. It was a long, Wall-filled weekend. Let me tell you about it.
Friday night was the rehearsal at the church and it did not go well for Zachary. He did in fact sit down in the middle of the aisle and start to cry. Unfortunate. I scooped him up and we walked down together. I felt this was for sure not a good sign of things to come. My parents took him to the rehearsal dinner where my dad played photographer while my mom played nanny.
I am just going to stop here and say that I could not be more thankful that my parents drove to College Station to help me with Zach. Alex was in the wedding so he could not be of much help and I had to rely on my parents to do much (OK, all) of the heavy Zach lifting. They bathed him, fed him, comforted him and put him to bed the entire weekend. Alex and I would have had a much different weekend without them.
Back to the weekend – once the wedding day rolled around, Zach was tired from being up for the rehearsal dinner (where he put his little head down on the table) and was not in his best form. Again, thank heavens for my parents, it took all three of us to get him into his little tux and to the church.
Things did not get better once we got there. Though he did get to see his “Ami” and “Dav”. He especially liked his Ami’s dress. And she did look beautiful as always. I don’t know how my parents got Zach down the aisle but I believe a pocket full of cheese was required.
But he did it! He walked down holding his Grandpa Vince’s hand and looked like an angel. He even smiled for some pictures with the groomsmen and his Ami. Truthfully, he was as good as you could expect a 20 month old to be when he was up hours past his bedtime, eating food that was totally out of the norm for him and wearing a tuxedo.