Birthday at the Farm

Jude’s birthday is still a few days away, but we managed to snag an October Sunday afternoon at a local farm, so we celebrated a little early. The weather has been up and down and often rainy lately, so I worried a little. But Georgia fall delivered in all its splendor, and it was perfect.

IMG_0884

Jude enjoyed the day with cousins and friends, plus lots of wide open spaces and fall fun.

IMG_0892

a corn pit!

The kids got to enjoy a “corn pit” which was basically a sandbox with dried corn instead of sand. There were also a few bounce houses, playgrounds, and a small petting zoo. It made for such a memorable day. (Make the trip to Warbington Farms if you are in metro Atlanta. They are great!)

IMG_0878

IMG_0885

The highlight was a tractor ride where the driver had Jude stand up for a birthday serenade and took us on a scenic drive around the farm, stopping to call for and feed the cows.

tractor birthday song.

Untitled

mooooooooo.

Untitled

Untitled

We followed that up with some birthday cake under the tent and a little more playtime.

IMG_0929

making a wish!!

sneaky fingers

Untitled

It was a perfect fall day to celebrate Jude’s fifth birthday. Five! I can hardly believe it. His actual birthday is another nine days away, so I’m sure the celebrations will continue this month. There’s so much to celebrate this season anyway. Apples, cooler mornings, pumpkin carving, local fairs, and Halloween dress-up around the corner. I am grateful for all of it – and for the people I get to share it with.

family portrait

Happy October, friends! Thanks for reading.

Fourth of July Fun

We had such a great holiday.

IMG_0787

There are many years when Georgia is simply too hot to get much enjoyment out of celebrating Independence Day. But this year the high hardly reached 80, and the evenings have been cool and comfortable. We celebrated at the local fairgrounds with A LOT of other people. Our town had food, fireworks, and live music on the evening of the third, and it was a great kick-off to a long weekend.

IMG_0778

Untitled

The kids snacked on ice cream, and Jude was excited to get a plastic lightsaber from one of the vendors there. Norah was not so sure about fireworks, but there were no terrified tears which I call a success at the age of two.

Untitled

Untitled

We followed up the next night with some backyard ribs. (We are LOVING our Big Green Egg this summer!) Add on a few sparklers, some good friends who joined us for dinner, and a neighborhood fireworks show, and it was a perfect holiday.

IMG_0797

Every holiday in this neighborhood turns into a block party, and I love it.  Parents had lawn chairs set up in front yards, plates of homemade cookies were passed around, and introductions were made while kids screamed and played.  This is the perfect holiday for celebrating freedom and a sense of real community, and we definitely felt that this year.  I am so happy to be in a place with loads of other young families, and shared holidays remind me what a gift it is for my kids to grow up here.  I feel so lucky we landed in this place.

 

Happy Independence Day!  I hope you are enjoying your long weekend with some summer fun.

Easter Weekend

We had a cancelled neighborhood party on Saturday which was a little disappointing.  But the weather improved on Sunday, and our little neighborhood shindig was rescheduled for next weekend, so in the end, I guess we just get to stretch it out over two weeks.  It was a fun holiday, and I love this time of year.

 

IMG_0514

IMG_0515

haha.  Norah's face! SMILE.

IMG_0542

IMG_0580

I hope the holiday brought great things for you and your family!

Egg Hunting

I feel so lucky my kids’ school is my own place of work.

 

IMG_0467

I’ve been able to stop by for a birthday celebration, reading to a class, or within seconds if someone is sick.  Never for a second do I take this set-up for granted.  It has made this year a pretty easy transition, all things considered.

IMG_0473

 

Yesterday was their annual Easter Egg Hunt, and it was such a treat to watch.  Georgia weather has been weirdly cold this week, but the sun showed up for Wednesday afternoon. (Plus I got to dress Norah in a hand-knit!)

IMG_0468

IMG_0472

IMG_0476

IMG_0478

 

This weekend is busy with another egg hunt and spring block party in the neighborhood and two family celebrations. So much happening this time of year.  We seem to race from one event to another – reunions, Easter, end of the school year, Norah’s birthday.  All with summer around the bend.

Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole

Christmas morning is pretty sacred around here.  We feel lucky to have both sides of family living close to us, and the holidays can be busy with lots of time with extended family.  So we stay put on Christmas morning until about 3:00 in the afternoon when we head over to my in-laws.  I want to make the most of that time and play with the kids rather than staying in the kitchen the whole time.

For the past few years, my Christmas breakfast menu has been these cranberry-orange scones I bake a day or two before, my favorite breakfast casserole, and mimosas.  It’s a meal that is simple, but it feels special despite the fact that I prepare all of it the day before.

This breakfast casserole is my absolute favorite.  The bread gives it some structure and crunch, so it doesn’t feel like eating a plate of scrambled eggs.  It’s from an old church cookbook my grandmother gave me.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Casserole

6 slices of toast, cubed

1 lb of sausage (I’ve used pork and chicken), browned and drained

1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups milk

4 eggs

crushed cornflakes (optional)

Brown sausage and drain well.  Layer sausage, bread cubes, and grated cheese until it is all used.  (I manage 2 layers in a 8×11 pan.) Beat eggs with milk and some salt and pepper.  Pour over other ingredients, cover, and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, bake it for 45 minutes at 350.  When you’ve got about 15 minutes left, feel free to add a few crushed cornflakes (or extra cheese!) on the top if you have them.

It’s delicious and super easy.  A holiday tradition around here.

IMG_0375

I hope to be back in a few days to collect my thoughts on 2013.  Happy end of the year to you and yours!

Merry Christmas!

I ended the day yesterday with a few quiet moments as Norah slept and Jude and Scott were somehow still building with Legos.  (At 10:26 pm!)  I had time to take a look at photos from the camera while deliberately ignoring the heaps of toys and mess all over the house. There were very few still and quiet moments this year with two kids at these ages.  I find myself wanting to record a few details about this Christmas before I forget and life speeds to another season.

Christmas Eve had us at my grandparents’ home.  I have spent every single Christmas Eve of my life there, not even missing one.  The same house, the same faces and voices – rooms full of loud cousins and noisy siblings.  Norah and Jude fed off the excitement the same way I did as a child, and watching them brought back so many of my own memories.

Try as we might to get children to understand the meaning of the season, it is PRESENTS PRESENTS PRESENTS at these ages, and I am totally okay with it. What better way to learn to understand love and generosity than to first understand what a joy it is to receive and give? They were so enthused about each and every package this year.

IMG_0267

IMG_0287

IMG_0305

I watched them with their cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Family ties feel so much stronger during the holidays somehow, don’t they?

IMG_0326

By the time we got home Christmas Eve, it was something like 9:30. Add getting the kids in bed and the car unloaded, and I felt depleted. But the second you start getting ready to play Santa, you get a burst of energy because really and truly, there are not many things about parenthood that are as fun as Christmas morning. That unadulterated joy and genuine excitement when two pajama-clad kids walk down the stairs? Priceless.

IMG_0347

IMG_0353

IMG_0361

I found an awesome play teepee on Land of Nod, and Norah’s toys were mostly baby dolls this year with a stroller and a cradle, while Jude got Lego sets and Transformers which have only allowed him to come downstairs for a moment to grab lunch. He LOVES building sets and such. It astounds me. For a moment, I think I got a glimpse of what Christmas morning will feel like in another five years when they rip into presents and stay busy all day while I crack open a book for some leisure time (what is that!?) This year had me burping and feeding baby dolls until Norah’s nap time though. I’m okay with the attention she needs seeing how fast Jude has grown and how independent he has become this year.

IMG_0385

After naptime, we headed over to my in-laws for round three. Lots of craziness with four under five, but they loved it.

IMG_0391

IMG_0395

It’s such an intense season of parenting we’re in right now. But I know for certain that God sees it best to reward your extra efforts with such big doses of magic. Am I sleep-deprived and exhausted and rarely organized? Yes. But these years of believing in magic without question and being so impressed with even the tiniest toys and gifts? I know they are short, and while my holidays will be far more relaxed one day soon enough, I get to see Christmas through the eyes of these two right now, and it really is a pretty magical sight.

Happy Christmas to you and yours, and I wish you the best in the last days of 2013. The end of the year always has me a little reflective and, honestly, a little sad. Life is sweet, and each year is precious. Make the most of this one. Happy Holidays, friends! Praying for peace on Earth and in the hearts of all of us.

officially holiday’ing!

On Friday, I graded my last exam as I  hurriedly inhaled a sandwich at my desk.  As I began my position in August, it felt like SO MUCH  desk time and many office hours compared to my previous teaching days in a high school setting.  I thought I’d always be caught-up and that grading would never feel like a push.  It hasn’t turned out that way entirely though.  Between Writing Center tasks and other odds and ends that come up, it still feels like a push to get all the grading done at the end of the semester.  And when that last one was finished?  Such a feeling of relief.  I am staring at four full weeks of a break, and I’m excited to slow down and do a little bit of nothing and keep whatever pace we feel up to.  As always, I can’t help but keep a list of goals in my head and consider all the things that need attention right now – specifically house projects that never happened after the move.  But really, they are not essential and whatever gets done will be.  Whatever doesn’t, doesn’t.  I’m just ready to relax and enjoy the last bit of the year with my little family.

We had a great Thanksgiving, and Jude helped – truly helped – with a few kitchen tasks as I prepared a ton of food for family.  He has always loved helping in the kitchen, but recently it really is a true help unlike the “help” a toddler can give.  I’ll give him a bowl and a spoon and he can stir something while I move on to another dish.  Or the other night we made muffins for his teachers, and he actually portioned out all the muffin liners and the batter on his own.  It’s so fun to watch, and he is ridiculously proud when he makes something.  I love his interest in food and his genuine desire to help.

Untitled

We also saw a great production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with some friends at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta last weekend. It was awesome, and I definitely suggest it to anyone with kids in Atlanta.  Norah was squirmy as expected, but Jude loved it.  I know next year she’ll follow it more closely, and I’d love to make it an annual tradition.  We got to follow the production with a workshop making puppets.  This snow monster has been played with constantly since, and Jude even wrote “puppets” on his Santa list earlier this week.

Untitled

Untitled

Other than that, the last week has been mostly full of Elf on a Shelf shenanigans (so fun this year!) and time spent at home.

Untitled

I’m looking forward to more of that in the days and weeks to come. Cookie baking, present wrapping, Santa planning, and reflecting on the year that’s passed. There’s so much to enjoy in the Advent season – especially with kids these ages. Magic is so real to them, and it’s a joy to watch.