Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Safety First

You never know what danger might be encountered while coloring. Best to be prepared. Also? This newly minted five year old brings so much joy to our family. It is impossible not to adore him.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Livin' la Vida Loca

For months I have wanted to sit down before a blank computer screen and fill it up with words about the changes we've been walking through as a family. I wanted to take the hurricane that had rolled in and enveloped our life and write about it until my words forced it into tranquility. In the past twelve months we have lived in three houses in two different states and grown into a family of seven, and it has been impossible to wrangle my thoughts into meaningful sentences. Greg and I are stalwart people, pragmatic and predictable. You know those people who move around like lighthearted gypsies, changing jobs and houses so prolifically that you cut them from your Christmas list out of sheer frustration? We are not them. We favor stability. We pick one thing and stick with it, rooted in the belief that good choices, given time, will bear fruit. So what happened? It's taken me time and silence to uncover the simple truth: God had other plans for us.

I remember when a good friend told me that she just wanted to hold everything dear to her in an open hand, stretched out as an offering to God. That sounds hard, I thought. I like things to fit neatly into a box that I have time to wrap and ribbon, nice and neat. I looked at people whose lives seemed unmoored and I judged them, assuming it was the result of poor decision making or lack of vision. What I understand now is that in order for God to accomplish certain things in Greg and me, He had to drop us into a hurricane. I've learned that sometimes He opens the door and we walk through it. Sometimes, metaphorically speaking, of course, He puts His foot on our back and gives us an almighty shove into the place we're unwilling to walk ourselves. He loves us too much to let us stay in a place spiritually that is simply not enough for us anymore.

So we moved away. We lived in a new place for a while. It was hard, and it was good. We grew closer to God and to each other. We learned what we were willing to settle for and what we would not compromise on. We sharpened our vision for what we wanted for our family and took risks to get it.

I've missed this blog. I don't have much time these days, but I'd like to record as much as I can in this little space, and I realize that time is fleeting. My first nephew, the one who was born yesterday, just graduated from high school. I flew down to Georgia so I could watch him walk the aisle in his royal blue gown and matching cap, take his diploma and shake his principal's hand, grin triumphantly at the camera. The passage of time is bitter and sweet. Those of us who held him when he was brand new rejoice at the fine young man that he is, packing his boxes for college already, training his eyes on a future full of possibilities. But we mourn, too, for the cherubic little boy he was to us so recently, laughing through tears at the funny things he used to do and say. So I will take my pictures as often as I can and I will write my words here in the wee hours of the morning. I will do my best to keep recording the moments of the crazy life God is allowing me to live.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Country Livin'

First, a disclaimer: the house that we bought is not exactly in the country. But it is on 2 acres, and we do have a well, and I had to fill out some weird form about "rural postal service" when we moved in, so it's about as country as I'm ever going to get. 

At any rate, Greg was on a plane to Dallas and the kids and I were blissfully digging into some school work this morning when a plump, dazed, incredibly creepy raccoon ambled onto our deck. I shot out of my seat and ran over to the glass French doors that look out onto the deck with the kids gleefully at my heels. The thing saw me, turned, and proceeded to march (Do raccoons march? Yes. Yes they do.) right over to me. It got as close to the door as it could without going through it and glared at me. Terrified, I checked to make sure the door was locked. In case, you know, it was about to break in or something. Then I hustled the kids into the family room and we huddled at a different window where we didn't feel as threatened. It marched over to the window we were at and stood up on its haunches. I almost died. I called my dad, the first person I always call in these situations. My mom answered. "Put Dad on the phone!" I yelled. After I reported the distressing news of our rabid friend, he said calmly, "Why don't you call animal control?" 

Of course! Why didn't I think of that?

I googled. I dialed. A man answered, clearly annoyed that I was interrupting his morning coffee. "A rabid raccoon is on my deck!" I announced loudly. I'm pretty sure I heard him sigh. 
"What makes you think it's rabid?" he asked, as if we had all the time in the world. 
"Well, it's 11 am!" I retorted.
"So?" he said.
"Well, raccoons are NOCTURNAL," I said importantly.
"So?" he said.
"Well it's sitting on my deck glaring at me!" I yelled.
"Is it acting aggressively toward you?" he asked. 
"I said it was glaring, didn't I?"
"Maybe it's hungry," he suggested. 
"Well is that NORMAL?" I asked. "Because nothing about this situation seems normal to me."
This time I know he sighed. He didn't even try to hide it. 
"Mam, in warmer weather like we're havin' today, raccoons could come out during the daytime if they're hungry. It's not abnormal. But if you want, I'll send someone out," he said. 
"Yes, well, I think that's a good idea," I replied. 

Three hours later, after our creepy visitor had all the time in the world to glare at us through several more windows and finally wander, dazed and confused, back into the woods, the Game Commission guy arrived. 
I proceeded to show him several incriminating pictures I had taken of the raccoon that morning on my iphone. 
"SEE?" I asked triumphantly. "How creepy is THAT?" It may have been my imagination, but he seemed amused. "Let me take a look around, mam," he said politely. "It's probably not rabies, it's probably distemper. Either way, if we find him we'll have to dispatch him."
"Oh," I said. "And what does 'dispatch' mean, exactly?"
He laughed, even though I wasn't trying to be funny. Then he pointed to his gun and winked at me. Lovely.

He walked around my yard and shined a flashlight here and there as I nervously followed him from window to window. A few minutes later he was at the front door again. "Well mam, it seems he's gotten away," he reported. "If you see him again, definitely give us a call, but I wouldn't worry too much. If it's sick like I think it is, the coyotes or black bears around here will probably get him."

Oh, good. I feel so much better now.

An hour later, I received a text from my friends, all of whom found the day's emergency situation to be hilarious. "The new Laura," it gleefully announced:

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Music Through the Seasons

Last week we were privileged to go to a free concert given by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. It was titled "Music Through the Seasons" and the orchestra played compositions expressing the various emotions one might feel in each season. It was held in the incredibly beautiful Heinz Hall, which is a place that never gets old. My friend Sarah charmed her way into the balcony directly overlooking the orchestra, and of course we all shoved our way in behind her. Keepin' it classy. The kids were entranced with their bird's eye view of these talented musicians playing Vivaldi with gusto. We're beginning our annual six week study of famous composers and the orchestra in a few short weeks, and this was the perfect opportunity to once again ignite their enthusiasm for the gift of music. We finished the day cashing in our Book It coupons at Pizza Hut. As always, a wonderful day with a wonderful crew. So grateful for my people.

A few days after our trip, my sis texted me a picture of my sweet nephew James drawing the orchestra.
Oh, my heart.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Our Beautiful Ballerina

What happened to that shy little girl we used to know? What a beautiful and confident young lady she is becoming!

Our lovely Chloe danced the parts of Party Girl and Bon Bon in her dance school's production of The Nutcracker this past December. This is her first year in an exclusively classical ballet program, and we are so proud of our girl. It is excellent, challenging training, and she is turning into such a beautiful dancer. We can't wait to see what God has in store for her on the stage in the years to come!

Excitement backstage! Five minutes before the curtain went up.
Nana and her favorite ballerina.
The party girls and their wonderful teachers, Cynthia and Damian. They both are from Cuba and have danced professionally all over the world, including our very own Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. We are so grateful for their kind and excellent instruction!
Chloe and Genevieve. She has made such wonderful new friends this year.
Chloe and Isabelle.

Nana and Pop are proud of their girl!
Grammy never misses a performance. We love her so!
The fact that our beloved Aunt Cece could come because we all live in the same town again made this night extra sweet.
Flowers from two handsome brothers!

Chloe and David, The Nutcracker Prince.
Our wonderful family. What would we do without these people?!
The sweetest picture of the night. She will always be his little girl.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hello 2016!

We decided to try out a new tradition for NYE this year. We found ourselves craving rest by Christmastime. It had been a very busy December with kids' activities, unpacking, and attempting to get settled. The day after Christmas we hopped in the car and drove to Ohio to celebrate Smithmas with Greg's family. Greg and I envisioned how we might feel returning to our wrapping-paper strewn house with suitcases full of dirty laundry and decided to plan a low-key NYE. 

The kids have wanted to try hibachi for a really long time, and we thought this was the perfect occasion! It was so much fun! 

Here comes the fire!

We forgot to warn our four year old that this was all part of the performance, because we are parents of the year.


Safe on Daddy's lap.

Max tried his hand at catching the food the chef threw at him.

Greg has a knack for being really good at random things that no one cares about, and caught everything that flew by. He was the champion of our table, natch.

After hibachi we took our twelve pounds of leftovers ("Mom, I don't like soup with eggs floating in it.") and headed home for fondue and family game night. We've had a longstanding tradition of doing "Prayers and Praises" with our friends on NYE- praises for something in the year that's ending, and prayers for something in the coming year. Usually the adults gather around the table during this time while the kids destroy the house. But this year, since it was just us, we did them with the kids as we ate our fondue. It turned out to be a profoundly special time. The older kids had such sweet, thoughtful things to express. We wrote them all down and look forward to reading them next year as we reflect on all the ways we've seen God's hand in our lives in 2016.

Stuff dipped in chocolate gets high approval ratings from Charlie.

After I crushed the competition in Uno, Chloe and I snuggled up to catch up on some Food Network shows. Our fave.

This was us at 11:59 pm. We were five for six!

The first time we watched the ball drop as a family.
Happy New Year! Welcome 2016!

The Christmas Season, 2015

To say life has been full for our family the past few months would be the understatement of the year. Three days before Thanksgiving we closed on our beautiful forever house. We've moved enough times in the past three years to know for certain that we never want to do it again. When we found this house last Fall we jumped on it, despite the fact that we had planned on renting for a full year. It was the perfect house for us, and we love it. We spent the week of Thanksgiving making two trips a day with our cars loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies, and then finally got most of our belongings in in early December, thanks to the help of the world's most amazing friends and family. Since then, our focus has been on blissfully keeping our heads above the water line. The house is still a bit of a wreck and the kids and I only baked three kinds of Christmas cookies this year, but only words of gratitude are coming from my lips. I am just so grateful to be back in the city I love, settling in to a lovely new home surrounded by the people who make my life blessed.

Here are a few of the special moments I want to remember from this Christmas season...

Attending Pittsburgh Ballet Theater's Nutcracker performance with our besties - a yearly tradition!

Chloe and her three best friends:

Dapper cousins.

Our wonderful CC friends!

Love these girls so very much!

Handsome fellas.

Lovely ladies.

We went to a new neighbor's Cub Scout pancake breakfast and hung with Santa.

Santa visits & hot chocolate parties with the Lewandowski's and Bozeks...

Who needs nightstands when you're 31 weeks pregnant? Grateful for this healthy growing baby!

Christmas Eve with the cousins!

Christmas jammies at Aunt Cici's...

He knows Jesus is the whole reason for the season, but he is still a 3rd grade boy after all...

Shiny new bicycles to ride down the tree-lined streets in our new neighborhood!

All she wanted for Christmas was a book about ballet. I love her sweet spirit so much.

Our reptile and amphibian-loving boy received yet another encyclopedia to add to his growing collection.

Lots of joy this year! So much to look forward to and be grateful for.