Friday, May 31, 2013

And... Graham Wearing Mascara


It's a good look for him, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sticky Smiles


Matthew found this food craft in a Turtle magazine and asked if we could do it. I was already in the kitchen, trying to figure out what to make for Sunday lunch. (We usually have PB&J on gluten free bread or rice cakes, but I was out of both.) So I said, "Sure!" And we did. It was a little tough for the kids to spread the peanut butter on the apple slices, but once we got that done, I heard no further complaints.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

And you thought Spider-MAN was amazing...

How about the fantastic, the stupendous, tap-dancing Spider-Girl???


(Esme's taken to wearing the good ol' Spider-Man costume. Much to Matthew's delight.)

The [Fluorescent] Glow

Last night we had one of those quietly breathtaking sunsets. I had the perfect view from our second story kitchen window and decided to take a few quick snapshots as I worked through the dishes.


Of course, consumate photographer that I am, I didn't notice that our elegant kitchen light was reflected in the window through which I was looking.

Oh, well. I might miss the photo op, but I can't bungle the glory of the real thing.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Nailed" It

You'll roll your eyes at my title, but... watch this video. And laugh. Because it's so true. And sooo funny.

Nalle Fam Spring Celebration Weekend

Here's another catch-up post from last month.

Jacque and Asher came up to Mom and Dad's for a long weekend early in April, and we had lots of great time together. On Friday, of course, we had to dye eggs for our Spring Celebration egg hunt...


Here's the Ari-boy, who might be taller than Meg, and who lost his fourth tooth the moment we walked in the door that day.

And here's the cutest five-and-a-half year old I know:


Jacqua and her brown-eyed tintype, Aylenne:


Beautiful girlies!


Eggs finished, we went outside and enjoyed Nana's front yard.


Don't they look quite like cousins?



Does she have a great smile, or what?

The next morning, we went to the National Arboretum and had a picnic brunch. Something about a picnic at breakfast time (as opposed to the typical lunch) struck me as insanely romantic. (Romantic as in Romanticism, not romantic like smoochin-your-fella-in-candle-light romantic.) We found a spot in this gigantic green meadow and spread our blankets. Spectacular clouds billowed their way across the wide open sky and bathed us alternately in sun and shade. We ate fruit and baked eggs and muffins, and the kids ran around and explored a nearby garden. It was... you know, mildly pleasurable.

Okay, okay, it was to die for.

I didn't get many pictures, but this was our view of the National Capitol Columns. Kind of dramatic, no? See where I was with the Romance thing?

This is my babe and our littlest love...

...and this is a blurry close-up of the littlest love.

After our idyllic meal we took a short walk, and then our party broke up. Dad, Dave and Asher took Ari and Matthew off to see a Nats/Braves game (the Braves are Asher's fave, and the Nats are, obviously, our home team). Mom, Jacque, Lena and I took the little girls and the babies home for naps, playtime, and girl talk. Later that day we had our egg hunt (during which time I was busy giving clues and took no pictures). And the next morning my kids decided they were so exhausted from so much cousin fun that they would all have to have colds, and we missed church, which broke Aylenne's heart because she expected Esme to be in her class and instead she was all alone in a sea of strange three-year-old faces, and I felt terrible, and this is now the world's longest sentence, so I'll stop.

But other than that, it was a lovely, lovely weekend with definitely cherish-able memories. And this is my way of cherishing them. Thanks, Don Nalle famerlees! Love you all so much!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mothers' Day Gifts

(Warning: lengthy, meandering recap ahead.)

The first gift was that we made it to church on Sunday, Mothers' Day 2013. This is not something I take for granted! Three of our kids recently had colds that lingered for almost two weeks and kept us away from church the previous week, and I debated about whether or not to come this Sunday as well. But we got up that morning and found everyone's nose clean, so we dressed up, loaded up and showed up. And anyone who has ever done the solo-parenting-on-Sundays routine knows what a triumph that can be in and of itself!

Secondly, Graham gave me a wonderful Mothers' Day present when we got home from church that afternoon. That is, he took a nap that was long enough to allow me to get a nap as well! This is quite unusual, and I didn't expect it. But I sure did enjoy it.

Thirdly, Dave got home from church around 3:15 pm. That is reeeeally good, as lately it's been more like 6:00 pm. He comes home pretty trashed after working the long weekend, and he really needs a chance to rest before dinner. This way has still some life in him after the kids go to bed, and I get to hang out with him a little. So he made it home nice and early, took a nap with me, and, we were both awake and reenergized before dinnertime rolled around.

(Now, backing up, the thing is that Dave threw his back out on the Tuesday before Mothers' Day. He's had minor back discomfort for years, but this was the first crisis. He bent over to pick up a bath toy after his shower that morning, and--there it went. He could barely move for the rest of the day; he spent the whole day in bed under the tender ministrations of yours truly, and some of the next day too. Those two funky days threw our whole week slightly off-kilter. Dave didn't have the chance to do any Mothers' Day prep with the kids at all, so when he arrived home on Sunday, there were no cards or gifts or anything in store. [Which was no big deal.])

Since it was a perfectly gorgeous afternoon, and since we had no urgent celebratory plans, I asked if we could take a Mothers' Day family walk. Everyone enthusiastically agreed. As always, it took entirely too long to get out the door. Graham chose that moment to present me with a disgusting diaper that somehow filled up his overalls more than the diaper itself. Once I got that cleaned up we were at least 20 minutes later than we had planned to be, and we knew everyone would be hungry soon. But we bravely set out toward our neighborhood trail, enjoying the breeze and the flickering leaves and the golden late-day sun.

We had covered less than two blocks when Esme wiped out. I had noticed, just after I closed our front door, that she was wearing her Crocs, which are slightly too big for her and not supposed to be worn for outdoor play. But we were already running so much behind, I didn't want to stop and have her change. Needless to say, she tripped on the shoes and hit the side walk flat out. Dave and I were several yards behind her, but I thought I saw her head snap back as if her chin had hit the concrete. I ran up, cradled her in my arms, and sure enough--blood was filling her mouth. She sobbed, gasping and sputtering, and sprayed blood all over both of us. I got to my feet. Dave tried to take her from me, but I knew he was still trying to take it easy on his back, so I shrugged him off. I carried my wailing girl home as Dave followed with the stroller and the other kids, one of whom was also wailing for fear that Esme was seriously injured.

By God's grace, the cut in Esme's upper lip wasn't too deep, and the bleeding stopped fairly quickly. Of course, our walk was over, and I was disappointed about that. But then Dave took the two big kids to pick up Chipotle take-out (for my Moms' Day treat) and some ice cream (for our puffy-lipped child), and I put on some Pocoyo for Esme to watch while she sucked her ice pack. When Dave came back, we ate yummy burritos and tacos, then put the kids to bed. My final gift of the day was watching Lincoln with my honey, who picked it up when he was out getting food. We missed it when it was in theaters and have been waiting for our chance to rent it. It was well worth the wait. (And I finally stooped begrudging the Best Actor Oscar to Daniel Day Lewis, having wanted Hugh Jackman of Les Miserables to win it originally.)

On Monday, Dave took the kids out so they could choose gifts and make cards, and we had our little gift-opening party that afternoon. I received a beautiful blue summer scarf (Meg), a super nifty rotary cheese-grater for parmesan and such (Matthew), a lovely scented candle (Esme), and a new salad spinner (Graham/Daddy). (I specifically requested that last item. Our old one fell off the top of the refrigerator one or two times too many and was scarcely functional.)

Most of the week since then has been taken up with nursing Graham through a "mystery virus," as our pediatrician called it. His only serious symptoms were a fever that lasted the better part of four days, and an extremely lousy attitude. Of course, that's been enough to require that we lay low and cancel or postpone all daytime plans.

My kids have had plenty of fevers before, and at higher temperatures than Graham's highest of the week. But for some reason (could be that this week was also my monthly, hormonally-dictated emotional low), I was much more tempted to anxiety and fearful imaginings over this fever than I can ever remember being before. Last night at bedtime, Graham was finally fever-free, and he slept all the way through the night last night, unmedicated and untroubled. And yet I find that my anxiety lingers today; is he still more cranky than usual, or is it me? Is it teeth, or something else? Why has he been falling asleep in his high chair all of the sudden? He never used to do that.

When at last I settled down to seek refuge from my own thoughts in God's Word last night, I opened to Psalm 11 and read this:

In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
"Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord's throne is in heaven;
his eyelids eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

"The Lord is in his holy temple." Come what may, God still reigns over the world in holiness, in majesty, in power, in justice. When I can stay there--right there--then my heart is at peace. And at the end of a long and tiring week, knowing where to find peace is the gift I need most of all.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rose Hill Manor Field Trip, Pt. 2

After we finished our open-fire popcorn snack, we headed out the kitchen door and into the glorious sunshine. (This was one of the few early-April days we had here that were warm--actually, it was hot! Upper 80's, I think!) This was the view of the gardens, etc., from behind the kitchen--so pretty:


Friends in our group, strolling to our next location...


...which turned out to be this tiny log cabin!


The cabin isn't native to the property; they moved it there from somewhere else as they began transforming Rose Hill into a museum. I'll tell ya, the juxtaposition of the manor and the one-room cottage is quite striking, especially once you learn that the couple who owned the cabin had six children!




The fireplace/hearth area, the big bed, and the table. That was about all there was to the cabin. There was also a half-loft, where I presume some of the children must have slept. We moms all agreed that these living quarters made us freshly grateful for our suburban homes, cramped as they may feel to us!

Matthew loved trying out this wooden yoke, for carrying buckets of water.


He wasn't satisfied just to try it on, either; he had to walk it across the room.


'Course, I imagine if I lived in one room with seven other people, I might be volunteering to take walks with that yoke all the time!

Our next stop was the blacksmith's shop.

There is a real blacksmith who has his own working shop nearby (so cool!), and he comes and demonstrates his smithy skill when Rose Hill has a festival. But the blacksmith wasn't in the day we visited, so Miss Peggy showed us the bellows (and other equipment).


The kids checking out some old horse shoes: (Good grief, they're heavy things! Glad I'm not a horse!)


Meg's best buddy, cutie-pie Madison:


Examples of blacksmithery:


Our final destination was the ice house. I never realized before that an ice house was built over a deep hole in the ground--the insulation of the cool underground earth was what kept the ice all year. Miss Peggy said that the Rose Hill ice could last from the time they cut it (deep winter) straight through to the next November. Wow.

Fake block of ice suspended over the pit:


The function of the ice house, however, was much less intriguing than the black snake we found there. We had heard from the other tour group that we could expect him, but when we first went in, no one could spot him. It wasn't until Matthew and Madison mistook him for a tool or a rope and almost picked him up that we discovered his hiding place.


Non-poisonous snakes don't bother me much, but it's always a little freaky when you don't realize one's there and then suddenly--something is moving just inches away from you!


This root cellar was also inside the ice house.


After our tour, I took a couple last pictures...




...and we had to go. I'll tell you what, though, my kids absolutely LOVED this place and cannot wait to go back. They have several festivals throughout the year, and I believe the entry is free except for a nominal parking fee. It's worth checking out if you live near Frederick!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Who We Are" Updates

I try to keep the "Who We Are" column on the left of this blog fairly current. This means revisiting what I've written about the kids somewhat regularly, as their little tastes, personalities and interests are in constant flux. But whenever I make changes, I loose the old text completely, and as I made my most recent revisions, it occurred to me that I could track my changes here in the body of the blog. At least this way I'll have some record of my ever-evolving perceptions of their ever-developing selves.

Am I making any sense?

So here we go. Until 5/11/13, the kids' bios read as follows:

At seven years old, our Meggie lives life at maximum volume, with maximum enthusiasm. Her delights include talking, drawing, reading, laughing, coloring, singing, shrieking, bossing, bouncing, emoting, learning, running, mothering, helping, and playing.

This boy is a five-year old mass of contradictions. He's alternately rough-and-tumble and fragile. One moment he's clueless, the next he's acutely sensitive and sharp. He lives to make others laugh but spends much of his own time in tears. He never sits still... unless you have a building or crafting project for him, in which case he's all yours for hours. Oh, and he totally digs Spider-Man Angry Birds.

Our Esme Rose is something else: charming and challenging, independent and affectionate, adorable, and maaaaaybe just a wee bit enamored with herself. She's three years old and all girl, with a bad case of the dress-ups and a yen for helping mommy in the kitchen.

Graham David
Born in January 2012, this little man is the sweetest, huge grinningest baby ever. We are all his adoring slaves.

To see what I changed, check out the newly renovated "Who We Are" column!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rose Hill Manor Field Trip, Pt. 1

Early in April our home school group went to Rose Hill Manor in Frederick. What a great field trip! The kids had a blast, and I also enjoyed it thoroughly, as you'll be able to tell from the number of pictures I took.

Rose Hill was the property of Thomas Johnson, the first governor of Maryland. He lived on the estate, and when his daughter Anna married, he gave it to her as a wedding present. It was she and her husband who built the manor house.


Our tour began in the parlor. (By the way: parlors? SUCH a good idea. A room where no one [ahem, children] ever goes, unless your family is entertaining guests, and therefore a room which always stays clean. It's brilliant, I tell you. Sign me up.) Our docent, Miss Peggy, was great. We went with the younger half of our group that day, so she was speaking mostly to 3-5 year olds, and she succeeded in keeping them engaged for well over an hour.


This is a portrait of the Johnson family. Governor Johnson is at the top left; Ann, future heiress of Rose Hill, is directly below him in pink.


We proceeded upstairs, where we viewed the master bedroom and learned about bed warmers and chamber pots. Then we went into a sort of Textiles Room, where we learned how our pre-industrialized ancestors made their clothes and bed coverings. For starters, each of the kids had a little bundle of wool to card.



Then Miss Peggy demonstrated spinning the carded wool into yarn. It was the first time I've ever seen anyone actually use a spinning wheel!


We learned about the different substances used to dye wool.


And some of the kids got to help weave a few strands using this loom.



Next we took a look at the children's bedroom and their nursery (play room). I didn't get any pictures of the nursery, but the kids had a lot of fun there, playing with the kinds of toys 19th century children might have enjoyed.



After we finished upstairs, we passed through the enormous and stately dining room and into the kitchen. There Miss Peggy got busy preparing some authentic popcorn for the kids' snack--over the open fire in the enormous kitchen fireplace!



Here's our group of hungry little historians waiting for their popcorn and herbal tea:


(This made me chuckle: many of the kids [and at least one of the moms] were turned off by the old-fashioned, cold spearmint tea they received along with the popcorn, but my kids, steeped (yuk-yuk) in the ways of tea since they were toddlers thanks to their tea-loving Nana, gulped theirs down without thinking twice.)


Storage and preparation areas in the kitchen:



And Meg taking a turn at the butter churn:

This concluded our tour of the mansion itself. I'm going to do a second post for the grounds and outbuildings, as this one is already much too long!