Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's all about the kids.

When the grandparents come to visit, we end up doing all kid-oriented activities, and then wonder what we used to do before kids. Oh yes. Visit cute coastal towns and go out for delicious restaurant meals. Now, we go to the children's museum.

Fun with water and plastic boats.

Working hard in the pizza kitchen.

She does a good waitress face, huh?

Reeling in the cargo

Pulling the fog horn

Skyler went to the reading of the really cute book Winter Visitors by Karel Hayes while Reed climbed around some more.

And we got a signed copy to take home.

A walk in the tree farm

What he is thinking.

"I don't mean to be so intimidating."

Friday, November 28, 2008

The decoration. The feast.

I got the idea for this sign from one of the crafty-mommy blogs I look at {moms who do so much crafting with their kids that I feel like I am most certainly not cutting it as a mom when I read them}. Each letter is made with a different, natural ingredient, like lentils, brown rice, sticks, berries, pine-cones and dried leaves. I just made the letters with the glue, and Skyler stuck stuff on. Simple.

The Grandparents are visiting!

Having Lila and Joe here from Michigan means we do a lot of this:

And then we switch:

{smiles all around}

Turkey Trek (2nd Annual!)

The Thanksgiving 4-mile trail run/food collection for the local soup kitchen went like this:
8 am, sparkly, sunny, cold.
43 runners and walkers, a bunch of really cute dogs, one really cute baby.
Collections totalling 8 grocery bags and one big box full of food.

(Last year was our first year and we had a much smaller, colder, wetter group)

The collection of people was really cool: colleagues, students, parents of students, people from St. John's, former students, my mom and friend Jo, friends from grad school, and several people I didn't know who were forwarded my email about the event.

I provided water, banana and pumpkin bread, and fruit for the participants, and then got to see so many wonderful people together, so happy to be trotting through the brisk and sunny woods on the morning of this food-filled and thankful day.

Thanks, everyone, for coming and for being SO generous with the food donations.

Catherine and Grace, home from COLLEGE.

The Lanham brothers and their steaming heads.

My girl Steph

Sophie and Maureen!

The beneficiary of all that love:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm thankful for

4 days off in a row.
Burt's Bees chapstick.
Sweet potato caserole.
New running socks.
My husband's obsession with cleaning the house.
The house I call home.
Baby wipes.
The Food Network.
Good music to run to.
Having such a wonderful family.
Hot sauce.
Having such good friends who live close to me.
Reed learning how to kiss on the lips.
Skyler's running, jumping hugs.
The internet.
Snow days.
First snow.
Graduated students coming back to visit.
Loving to teach grammar.
The Red Sox.
My new camera.
The farm share.
Late-night swims.
Race medals.
Reading in bed.
Thinking of myself as a runner.
Sam making me laugh when I'm mad.

Skyler is thankful for...
"my family"
"that I can write"
"that I am a Manhart"
"our sunflowers"
"that we go swimming"
"that we have nice food"
"my brother Reed"

Friday, November 21, 2008

28 degrees

One of my children likes playing outside in the really cold afternoon better than the other

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My new toy

I got an early Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday/Valentine's/Flag Day present from Sam (this was all my idea, if you didn't guess).

And I'm SO excited.

Here are the first shots, just fooling around, with my new Nikon SLR digital super-beautiful camera. We're still getting to know each other, so it will be awhile until I can showcase our potential.

Look, Mom, no flash!

Monday, November 17, 2008

it's not that I'm defensive, but...

... I did not have "umpteen" boyfriends. I had a very normal amount of boyfriends, starting at a normal age, and through my twenties.

And after laughing with my mom about her comment on the previous post (I called her when I saw it and said: "seriously? Umpteenth?"), I asked her to find the letter that I wrote her from NELP. After some digging around in her files, she found it today.

The basic premise of the letter was that I was so incredibly and overwhelmingly happy living and teaching at NELP that the rest of my life had gotten whacked out of perspective and I was having a hard time imagining ever leaving there and going back to my old life. And just for the record, I only mentioned Sam at the end when I said "I have to admit that there is someone here who has captured my attention." And I said that Sam and I had been canoeing a lot and baking together. I didn't say he was "the one." I just don't want Sam to think he was just the next chapter in the dramatic saga of a lovesick psycho girl. (I was really worried).

And the fact that I'm actually writing a follow-up post about this proves beyond a doubt that I am a total control freak. But you see, I can't edit my mom's comment (damn).

(i love you, mommy) xoxoxox

Saturday, November 15, 2008

on love, friendship, and letters

While looking for a photo album in our living room bookcase this morning, I spotted an envelope packed 3 inches thick with all the letters I had received while teaching at NELP in 1999 (New England Literature Program in New Hampshire). This was not just any teaching job. It was a 6-week college literature program taught in a boys' camp on Lake Winnepesauke, a job I had fantasized about since I had been there as a student during my senior year at University of Michigan. It meant living in a log cabin, teaching classes on the dock, baking bread every day, and being surrounded by wonderful, outdoorsy, smart people. It was also exactly five days into this teaching job that I fell in love with another staff member, Sam Manhart.

When I found these letters this morning, I started reading them and entered into a moment of my life so ripe and full and tender, and I haven't been able to shake the feelings they brought up all day. I became a bad mommy for a while, glued to these letters, totally distracted, and doling out play doh and crayons to keep Skyler and Reed busy.

First of all, how sad that I don't write or get letters anymore. How incredible that I have these long (sometimes 8-10 pages) thoughtful letters in my dear friends' and family members' handwriting.

I got probably 75 letters during the weeks I was there. Everyone knew how much it means to get mail at a place like NELP, totally (wonderfully) cut off from phones and email, and my friends and family really stepped it up.

The content is quite interesting too. My friends and I were all at such poignant moments in our lives, so much change, so many big decisions. Everyone writes about new love, decisions to move, start grad school, commit to a relationship, quit a job. I guess now that we are all so settled, it's surprising to remember how tumultuous everything was for that decade.

It is also clear that I had written to most of these friends, and to my family, about meeting Sam, falling in love, and deciding to end the relationship I had been in for 2 years in San Francisco because of it. The reactions were mixed. Some friends were thrilled by the news and wanted all the juicy details, others letters were full of advice to slow down and remember what I had left in California.

There are separate letters from my mom and my dad, both cautioning me of the false "perfect" world I was in and how that may be dangerously coloring my experience with Sam. Who was this tall, cigarette-smoking, wood-splitting, canoe enthusiast poet I had thrown everything out the window for? How would this relationship hold up in the real world?

My dad suggested I slow down, take some slow, deep breaths, though he added "I honor your feelings. They are yours alone." He signed his letter "I love you immensely." I feel so lucky that so many people were so engaged in my life and took all of these cumulative hours to write to me and be a part of it.

So all day I thought about those delicious, emotional, wood-smoke filled days at NELP when I could not take my eyes off of Sam. I thought about how much faith I had that everyone's concerns that I had rushed into love with a new man would blow away as soon as everyone met Sam. (I was right. No one ever second-guessed my decision after meeting him.)

I thought about these friends, my parents, my siblings, sending me fat and loving and newsy letters. And I'm proud that I am still in close (if less frequent) contact with everyone.
Thank you Mom, Dad, Liesel, Chris, Kelly, Christie, Adrienne, Ethan, Marjorie, Cassie, Lisa, Gabe, Jae, Michael, and Lidia. Your words are officially safe with me, and unbelievably cherished.

Two big problems, one easy solution

Troubles on the sleep front here at team Manhart.

1. Reed can get out of his crib! The first time he did it he just quietly got out and joined Skyler in her room. I hear: "Mom? Did you let Reed out of his crib?" Uh-oh.

The next time he did it he fell and landed flat on his back and knocked the wind out of him and was really scared. He hasn't climbed out again, in 2 weeks now. Just in case, we had dragged the mattress from the twin bed also in his room (Skyler's old bed) to catch his fall. He is SO not ready for a big-boy bed.

So, he discovered this, the bed frame, as his new reading spot:

2. Skyler does not like to be left alone at night and bedtime is still often a battle. We reinforce the same things night after night (we refuse to stay with her until she falls asleep, though she begs and pleads), she has a night light, is allowed to read quietly. She cries: "I JUST GET LONELY!" (our poor, tender hearts ache).

It all came down when one of her fits was so loud that Reed woke up. I went in to comfort him, Skyler climbed onto the mattress under his crib with her blanket and stuffed puppy-dogs and fell right to sleep. The next morning I said: "Do you want to sleep with Reed so you won't be lonely at night?" Her whole little face lit up. YES. (me: why didn't I think of this last YEAR?!?!?!?)

So, for one week it has worked like a charm. I put Reed to bed at 6. Skyler gets stories at 7:30 and then crawls in to bed next to her brother. If he decides to escape his crib again, he'll land on the mattress (or Skyler's head, but that's nothing new) and everyone is happy.

Skyler loves this whole routine, the responsibility of comforting Reed, the companionship of his quiet, sleeping breath. She also knows she can't make a peep, which is why it is so BRILLIANT.

The last thing she whispers before rolling over to sleep: "Goodnight Reedo. I love you, buddy."

Water baby

He is an Aquarius, after all.

Watch Reed (three times!) on the twirly slide at our local pool, where he is known as "that fearless boy" by wide-eyed on-lookers.




Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life at our house lately

cough, cough, cough.
doctor, motrin, nebulizer, inhaler.
cough, cough, cough.
restless sleep, sore throats, irritable babies.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Breakfast with the paper

My mom has a series of photos of us as kids holding historical newspaper headlines

We figured this was an historical headline, for sure.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I have a happiness headache

"We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."

-(President) Barack Obama

I feel so hopeful, so light, so misty-eyed.

As amazing as his acceptance speech was, my very favorite moment on television ever was when Obama stood on that stage afterwards with his family, and that music, and that crowd.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dear America,

Please. We can do this.

My palms are sweaty with anticipation of this moment in time which feels so gigantic and bursting with possibility. I am so incredibly excited/nervous for tomorrow. We didn't have early voting here, so tomorrow I'm going to cast my one vote with as much energy and power as I can muster, come home and hold my breath, eat Skyler's halloween chocolate, and watch CNN with Sam all night if we have to. How long have we been waiting for this?

Two photos that require explanation

Skyler, showing me the burn she got by touching the glass of Omom's fireplace.
Or, about to give you a piece of her mind.

Skyler showed me this at breakfast this morning. We have a poster above the kitchen table that says MARIN HEADLANDS and has a drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge. She looks at it over her cereal every morning, and today she realized she knew all of those letters!

It has been really cool to watch her interest grow about writing letters since school. She started out putting an "S" on the back of all of her artwork, and now this... so fast.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween and Pumpkinfest 2008

Here they are, ready for action.

Reed's first trick or treat experience.

The girls of our street. What is cooler than two 5 year old friends???

After doing our street as a family, Skyler and I met up with O'Reillys for pizza and then trick or treating in one of the big, decked-out neighborhoods where every house is lit up and kids are running everywhere. Skyler decided she was done after an hour, even after I offered to carry her up to the steps of the houses. "Nope. Too tired." So, we went back to the car and then home to show Daddy the loot:
Remember this part? The candy organizing!

The next day was our friend Jody and Justin's annual Pumpkinfest party at their big, old farm house. They are very serious about their pumpkins, and there is on-line voting with photos of everyone's pumpkins after the event. We didn't even carve any this year, just ate yummy food, oogled over everyone's growing babies, and jumped in the leaves.

The O'Reillys' grandpa, visiting from Connecticut, romped in the leaves and let the kids bury him over and over. Skyler thought it was hilarious!

Beckett's turn to get buried.

Rozzy keeping up with the big kids

Meanwhile, Meredith worked on her Beckett pumpkin

and Killian worked hard on his pumpkin for over an hour while talking presidential politics with the other adults. That's Killian for you.

Reed looking for trouble in the barn.