Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interrupting our regularly scheduled post to introduce the newest member of the clan!

The past several days have been filled with a lovely flurry of unexpected activity as we've prepared to welcome the newest member of our clan.  Okay, so IronMan's sister did the most to prepare considering that she was the one giving birth - I pretty much just obsessively stuck to my phone for text, email, and call updates.  I also exercised admirable self-control and DIDN'T drive over to sit outside the labor and delivery wing waiting for this little one's arrival.  Lucky me has been by twice to visit with my wonderful sister-in-law and the little girl that she has blessed us all with.  What an absolute gift to snuggle this little bundle of newborn wonder!

Introducing my newest niece (well, her sweet little toes, anyway)...


We'll return to our regularly scheduled posts about our adventures of the past week tomorrow.  Happy, happy Thursday, friends!

"Where did you come from, baby dear?
Out of the Everywhere and into here."
~George MacDonald from At the Back of the North Wind

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It is official - RunningMan is now an IronMan!

Back in March when I introduced the cast of characters that is my family, I shared that my husband was training for his first IronMan triathlon.  For those of you who may not be familiar with this type of race, it is comprised of a 2.4 mile open water swim, followed immediately by a 112 mile bike ride, and finished by a 26.2 mile run.  In other words, this event is no small thing.  I am very proud to share that after a full year of training, and nearly 12 straight hours of swimming, biking, and running this past weekend, my Running Man is now an IronMan.  I'll be back with more about our family's adventure later in the week, but in the meantime I'll post this photo taken just after his big finish.

Introducing IronMan (formerly known as Running Man) and his support crew.

Way to go, Babe...we're so proud of you!

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the vest, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."  ~Theodore Roosevelt

Friday, July 22, 2011

This Moment - Labyrinth kids

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by SouleMama.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you feel so inspired, please share your moment here, too!

Happy Friday, friends!

"Returning to a more tender, heart-inspired place is one of the wisest, most pragmatic, sacred ways we can walk in the world."  ~Sharon Salzberg

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ritual Roundup - Keeping kids in touch with extended family

Hmmm...I started this post last Tuesday, but clearly I haven't managed to do much - okay, any - posting over the course of the past week.  This post has been rattling around in my mind, because the topic itself has been on my mind (especially since our most recent family reunion), and I'm excited to finally get it written.  I'm also hoping that those who stop by this space will share their own ideas and experiences on today's topic.

As I mentioned in this post, I am a big believer in establishing and nurturing family rituals both for big events and for everyday moments.  Not only do rituals and traditions offer a sense of fun, home, and continuity, but I think that they also offer opportunities for connection.  In the case of extended family members living in other towns and states, I would like to find a way to establish some rituals or semi-regular activities to help keep us all connected (especially for my children and their cousins).

The May 2007 issue of Family Fun magazine had these ideas to offer:

* Create a perennial birthday calendar.  Keep a list - organized by month - of family member birthdays decorated with family photos and craft materials from around the house.

* Host an annual Christmas ornament exchange.  Each cousin/family member is randomly assigned the name of another cousin/family member for whom they will make or purchase a holiday ornament.

And my personal favorite:

* Start a linking letter.  Create and circulate a newsletter supplemented with photos, mementos, and holiday treats.  One family sends this "care package" to the next, which adds its own materials and pops it back in the mail to the next branch of the extended family.  When the package makes it back to the original family, they simply remove their old news and photos, add updates, and send the whole thing on its way again.

The ideas presented in this article, and what has been on the forefront of my mind, have been focused on children.  Of course, I'd love to hear any ideas that others have about special ways of staying connected as adults with siblings, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, etcetera.  Between Running Man and I we have three siblings and only one of them lives in the same area.  We have some fun little ways of staying connected and, oddly enough, they all seem to involve some item of questionable value.  Take this clown, for example.  Creepy, don't you think?  I'll share more on this little guy, his history, and his adventures another time.

We found our favorite scary clown wrapped up like corn-on-the-cob in our grill...about 7 months after it had been placed there.

So I ask, what do you do in your family to nurture fun and connection with family members who don't live in the same area?

Happy Tuesday, friends!

"A cousin is a ready-made friend for life."  ~Anonymous

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thrift Share Monday - Lego love

I haven't done much thrifting these past several weeks, but on the way to our family reunion over the Independence Day holiday we happened to drive past a yard sale with a lot of toys so we hooked a U-turn and went back to see if they were selling any Legos.  I didn't see any out with the masses of other toys, but I asked the gentleman running the sale if he had any and he proceeded to pull two big bags out of the back of his truck.  As I mentioned in this post, ours is a family of Lego fans - Running Man and E2B especially - and the vast majority of Lego bricks that we own have been thrifted.  Although this often means purchasing incomplete sets or sets without building directions, the beauty of Lego is that you can easily find instructions for any set packed back to 2002 online.  Also, with enough random bricks and partial sets, it is fairly easy to find most missing pieces that you might need.

It was clear when I was first looking at the Legos - which the seller dumped into a box for me to get a better look at - that there was at least one set of Star Wars Legos in the mix (it turns out that there are significant portions of three sets) along with some plates and pieces from an Indiana Jones set.  The seller offered the lot for $25.  I gladly paid the asking price and loaded them into our vehicle.  In the week and a half since then, E2B has been feverishly building every chance that he's had.  That, my friends, is $25 well spent!

I'm linking up to Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday.

Happy thrifting, friends!

"There are all sorts of things embodied in the LEGO brick - geometry and mathematics and truth and proportion and shape and colour...It is a faintly spiritual activity that everybody connects with."  ~James May

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekending: Mountain Love

We spent a laid back weekend exploring in the mountains, playing in parks, and splashing about in the hotel swimming pool.  It was the perfect summer getaway and, despite the fact that we were only gone for about 30 hours, it was quite relaxing.  Add to that that dinner out with old friends and an impromptu visit with family...I tell you, it was just about perfect!

"The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness."  ~John Muir

Friday, July 8, 2011

This Moment - Happiness is catching a butterfly...or six

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by SouleMama.  A single photo (or two, or three!) - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Update: Based upon some of this morning's comments I thought that I would provide some more information about the butterfly pavilion.  It is from this Insect Lore kit and we raised painted lady butterflies in it about three years ago.  We kept the pavillion and filled it this week with butterflies caught using a bug net on the coneflowers by our front porch.  It turns out that this was the gift that just keeps on giving!  Of course, we let the butterflies go at the end of the day.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
~Irish Blessing

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Geeking out Harry Potter style (no kids allowed!)

I have been a huge fan of JK Rowling's Harry Potter series since reading the first book more than a decade ago after my mother-in-law, who was then teaching fifth grade, recommended it.  I eagerly read each new book as they were published and once even attended a midnight release party.  Running Man also enjoyed the books and he mostly listened to them as books on tape/CD while traveling or, on one memorable trip from Virginia to upstate New York and back with an infant E2B in the backseat, with me reading aloud.  Running Man and I have also gone to see each of the movies in the theater.

More recently E2B and I have been working our way through the first three books as read alouds at bedtime and I honestly don't know who has been enjoying that experience or him.  E2B went back and re-read the first two books after we finished them and even read the third book on his own despite the fact that we're only about halfway through it together.  It thrills me that he still wants me to continue reading it to him despite already knowing what is coming.  We will stop after the third book for a few years because I feel that the themes and action become too mature for him after that point.  (Does anyone out there have any suggestions for what to read with a soon-to-be eight year old who loves the world of Harry Potter?)  After finishing each of the first two books, we also watched the movies together...yes, I'm one of those parents who insists that my kids read the book before seeing the movie.  I find it magical (pun intended) that a whole generation of children has grown up with these books and that stories abound about kids who don't normally read for pleasure quite simply devouring Harry's adventures.

But enough about kids and Harry Potter...what about us adults?  Several of my neighbors are also big HP fans and with the release of the final movie - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 - coming up next week, we decided to hold our own viewing party of the previous movie (HP and the Deathly Hallows part 1).  It was ridiculously difficult to find a night that would work for everyone between vacation schedules, our partners' travel schedules, children's activities, our own commitments, etcetera - such is the life of the mothers of young children, right?  As a result we ended up on a weeknight with a smaller crew than we initially anticipated, but the level of fun - and Harry Potter love geekiness - remained high.  Interestingly, but I suppose not surprisingly, each of us had at least one child who struggled to understand why mom was going to watch Harry Potter and they were not invited.

But onto the big night.  What would a movie viewing be without some refreshments?  First up, some yummy golden snitches.  The inspiration for these fun treats was snazzify over on Squidoo - check out the amazing candy and baked goods she made for her Harry Potter event (if mine had been a party for kids, I would have made that dragon snot punch, for sure).

As an added benefit to making these snitches, they made great treats to take home to everyone's children (my kids were also very excited to help make them).

Next up - and certainly quicker to serve up than the golden snitches - were Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.  I opted for regular ol' jelly beans because, really, who wants to worry about biting into something flavored like ear wax, vomit, or dragon bogies?  I leave that to younger fans!

I added some of my favorite British cheese to the menu and then whipped up some cold butterbeer.  There are a slew of butterbeer recipes available on the Internet and many of them are to be served warm.  Some are non-alcoholic and some are for adults only.  I chose this recipe because it was a) cold - perfect for a hot summer night and b) super easy to make.  I didn't want to make a large batch, but preferred to make one drink at a time so I adapted the recipe a very little bit.  I found that one can of cream soda mixed with 1/4 cup butterscotch schnapps was just right.  We worried that it might turn out to be too sweet, but it was surprisingly delicious and the sweetness was not overwhelming.

A quick, easy, and fun spread for celebrating some Harry Potter love.

I am getting ready to re-read the seventh, and last, book in the Harry Potter series before seeing the final movie.  This week's get together was a great way to get the proverbial party started in preparation for next weekend.  In the meantime, I'll ride the wave of my post-HP geek out and get reading.

"He couldn't know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: 'To Harry Potter - the boy who lived!'"  ~from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hello, my name is Brittany and I suffer from Proximity Prioritization Syndrome

I recently came across this video via OrgJunkie's post about finishing what you start.  As you know if you have read any of my posts on the subject, procrastination and I are frenemies.  When I saw this little tongue-in-cheek video about Age-Activated Attention Deficit Disorder, I recognized myself. This phenomenon of being busy but accomplishing little seems to be quite universal.

YouTube commenter Ihorseportrait had this wonderful observation to share:

"'s not AAADD, it's called Proximity Prioritization Syndrome: that which is closest to you gets your immediate attention.  It is a direct result of having children.  There is no cure.  It is a chronic condition that can be supported by diet, exercise and detailed list making.  Until the dog eats the list or your youngest uses it for toilet paper and you are back where you started."

Yes, yes - that's so completely and totally me!  So please join me, fellow Proximity Prioritization Syndrome sufferers, and let's show this thing who's boss.  Which would be us, in case there is any question.  Unless we've lost our lists, of course.

"Much of the stress that people feel doesn't come from having too much to do.  It comes from not finishing what they started."  ~David Allen

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Enjoying a family reunion country-style

This weekend we were away enjoying a biennial reunion with my father's family.  It was held just a few short hours away in the Blue Ridge Mountains and we enjoyed our unplugged time in the country to its fullest.  Here is a sampling of how we spent our days.

Some of our favorite time was spent exploring in this creek.

The kids would have spent all weekend splashing about if we could - my brother and I  spent countless hours in this creek when we were kids, too.

Checking out a crawdad found under a rock

E2B was all about catching these little fish

We spent time on dry land, too.

Berry picking with Pop Pop - we ran into some poison ivy (that's poison idy to Miss Intrepid), but - fingers crossed - I think we escaped unscathed.

Unfortunately wine berries (wild raspberries) are an invasive species across much of North America and Europe, but they sure are delicious!

Some downtime was required, for the kids and for this mama, and we enjoyed quiet moments in a variety of ways.

Making sun print bandanas
E2B always had his 200+ number connect-the-dots book on hand during meals...who knew it would be such a hit?
Princess Wonder had her own interpretation of the practice of putting a buttercup under someone's chin to determine if they like butter.  According to her, and this dandelion, I love peanut butter.

The lodge where we stayed is not only surrounded by hiking trails and mountain vistas, but also stables, a farm, and extensive apple orchards.  It is too early to pick apples, but this weekend was just right for enjoying the rest of what they have to offer.

E2B was very excited to have a chance to get on horseback and looks forward to turning eight at which point he can do so without being led (farm rule, not ours).

Princess Wonder thought that riding was pure joy! 
Miss Intrepid, to my surprise, did not want to ride - or even sit - on a pony, so we spent more time exploring the farm.  She was fascinated by the pigs.

Can you blame Miss Intrepid for her interest?  These are some big porkers! 
This beautiful longhorn (Misty Star) and her calf are being raised as part of a large herd on a nearby farm.

Of course, there was plenty of wildlife - large and small - to enjoy as well. Often it was just a matter of taking the time to look up or down and be open to the possibilities around us.

I don't know what this guy is, but he looks absolutely prehistoric. 
We saw more variety of moths just outside our room than I've ever seen congregating by the light outside my house.  This orange beauty was huge!

This moth provided a great lesson on camouflage as a defensive strategy.

"Okay, I'll stand here and look adorable while you admire me."

Yes, that is a bald eagle...what a treat to see this majestic bird on the side of the road, especially during the Independence Day holiday!

I hope that you enjoyed a weekend of both quiet and adventure wherever in the world you are as well.  Happy Tuesday, friends!

"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."  ~Jawaharlal Nehru

Friday, July 1, 2011

This Moment - All around the mulberry tree

{this moment} - A Friday ritual inspired by SouleMama.  A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

"To the great tree-loving fraternity we belong.  We love trees with universal and unfeigned love, and all things that do grow under them or around them - the whole leaf and root tribe."  ~Henry Ward Beecher