The Big Dipper

You’d be lying if you didn’t admit that there’s a bit of a lull…a dip, so to speak…between the end of Christmas (or Hanukkah) and New Year’s Eve. We’ve spent well over 30 days work-work-working to celebrate-celebrate-celebrate (however you choose) and now, WHEW, it’s gone and over for another year.

And then you sit back on the sofa, knee-deep in torn paper and empty Lego boxes and strips of packing tape, waiting for the timer on the oven to go off, only to realize that if one at my [ahem] youthful age is lucky, she has maybe 40 more Christmases left.

Seeing how fast my first 40 Christmases flew right on by, this little sobering fact always knocks the wind out of me. Knowing that so many little ones who had so many Christmases ahead of them had them stolen away recently just shreds me up inside. The Big Dipper always peeks out when I’m finally sitting down in this one huge leather chair in which no one ever sits until Christmastime when we have to relocate it to make way for our tree–when it becomes Popster’s Chair. He typically sits there, sequestered in the corner in the dark and with his coat on at 6:45 a.m., watching his grandsons’ tear at their gifts with no abandon.

Inevitably, Jack gets a gift which pulls him away from all the rambunctiousness, and Popster follows, toting a new book he’s just received.

Jack and his Popster are thick as thieves:  they defeated the entire game of Plants vs. Zombies–from start to finish–on Christmas Eve (see below). They’ve tackled World of Goo one summer before. But my oldest child and my dad both have a pull towards the solitary that this only child completely, utterly understands. I’ve often called it a need for “Only Child Time,” but I realize, obviously, everyone–regardless of the number of siblings, or children, or whoever elses–truly needs his or her Only Child Time. I think Christmas day is a wonderful day for some Only Child Time, to contemplate life and to be grateful. Sitting quietly in the big brown chair, surveying the mess and the happiness and the number of people I love all in one place is what Only Child Time is all about.

These are some of the most magical moments of the day, trust me.

This year’s batch of Reindeer Food, whipped up by Chef Theo, contained oatmeal, glitter and protein powder. Tucker was in charge of stirring.


Here’s what you need to know about Reindeer Food: if you toss it all over your driveway and it rains on Christmas Eve, it’s going to make your driveway look like it’s coated with barf. Glittery, vanilla-y barf.

The glitter attracts the reindeer.
Or so I’m told.
Theo engages in some intense reindeer food distribution.

Jack sang with his school at Phipps Plaza before Christmas.

Cue the jazz hands.

The entire production was adorable, and we are constantly amazed at how into theatre our quiet and typically reserved Jack is.

Here’s some more singing, this time at his school’s official Holiday program. Check out the cuteness on the front row, far right in the green tie.

Theo was not as into Jack’s program as the rest of the family and spent a majority of the nearly 2 hours there doing some variation of wallering. [Yes, I used the word “waller.” Not “wallow,” mind you. “Waller.” That’s a little South Georgia for ya.]

We’ve also been playing (and watching) a pile of basketball. Jack plays some mean defense. His hair helps him. That floppy bird’s nest is a wicked distraction.

Number 2 on the floor but number 1 in our hearts…

Santa brought us a ping-pong table! Santa suspended gravity in our basement, too–for ping pong balls at least.

We’re winding down the last few days of December at the beach and couldn’t be happier to be here. It’s the perfect place to rest and refocus while in the dip. It’s breezy and chilly here, but the boys and the dogs are on Cloud 9 and seeing them happy makes the rest of us happy.

Here’s to hoping you can use your time in the dip to fully enjoy and appreciate your gifts–all of them.

2012, July through December

The first half of the year zoomed by quickly and rather uneventfully. The second half, while still fast, was filled with bits of…well…excitement, but we all weathered the events marvelously.

Tucker’s half-birthday celebration was one of our more festive days of the year. He shares his half-birthday with the real birthday of our nation: July 4th. We were at the beach, where every American should be on the 4th of July.

Cue the Sanford & Son theme right about now. 

This kid knows no fear.

We morphed the Bunny-Mobile into the 4th-of-July/Half-Birthday-Mobile for the great parade. (You know you’re hearing the Sanford & Son theme in your head, now. It’s ok. We are, too.)

Riding a skim board is surprisingly difficult. Or maybe it’s just difficult for adults who are scared of how bad it hurts to fall.

Mystery animals at Baba and Popster’s. Popster thought it was a snake (his eyes are bad–ha!) and was flooding it out of his hole with water from a hose pipe. I went over to see what was going on and, after explaining that flooding a rattlesnake out of his lair might not be a good idea, we both leaned over (yes, because that was a good idea) and peered in the hole to find this nest of baby rabbits. Very wet baby rabbits. Mama rabbit came along and moved them all about twenty minutes after we took this picture. Popster claims the backyard is Bunny-Ville on any given morning. Tuck wants to catch some for pets.

We took a behind-the-scenes tour of Turner Field with several of Jack’s baseball teammates in late July.

If you need to get in touch with Rick Flare, all you need to do is visit the Braves pressbox. In case you were wondering…

The adorable one turned 4 and celebrated with a Sparklers and Sprinklers party.

Yoga is a big deal in our house lately. Nightly plank contests are a good way to wear out overly excited boys, by the way.

Tucker’s headstand, which he perfected earlier this year, now has multiple variations…

…even one on a boogie board (talk about core strength!).

We were almost late for the very first day of school because Tucker lost his first tooth–as in, LOST it. It fell out as he was walking down the hall to his room. Tuck loses teeth as passively as Jack does, apparently (and has only lost 1 to date even though there are 2 super-wigglers in his mouth right now).

Closing out the summer at the beach over Labor Day weekend. Best brothers on a perfect day.

No, not South Korea. It’s just a firework.

Sweet Jack broke his collarbone after being catapulted off his scooter in early September. Kudos to the good folks at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for fast-tracking us through the ER and for being generous with the children’s Lortab. Jack sat outside the x-ray room in a wheelchair next to 2 other kids with visibly broken limbs, all 3 of whom were looped on narcotics. Listening to their conversations was like sitting in a bar late-night:

Jack (to the 2 boys in football uniforms next to him, both wearing green jerseys–1 saying Packers; the other Eagles):  Looks like it was a bad night to be on the green team.

Football player 1 (watching a Disney movie playing in the hallway near them): I think they’re playing hockey.

Football player 2: No…that’s baseball.

Jack: No, those are birds flying around.

When we finally made it into the x-ray room, it was obvious something was amiss. Thankfully they set his collarbone while he was standing there, without any warning. Like I said, Lortab was Jack’s friend that night.

It’s no secret we love us some Halloween around here. Check out our newest decoration: a box of fingers. Um, yeah.

We hosted a fiesta for cousin Kate and her fiance’. It was a wonderful night of hanging out with my Bedingfield family.

Tucker played fall ball and was on one of the greatest teams ever…as far as names go:  The Lugnuts.

Theo and I took Digger and Henry to be blessed on St. Francis’s Feast Day, which was a good thing since Henry had major oral surgery a few weeks later. Henny-bug is now in the possession of only 4 of his teeth, but he acts like a puppy again, which was a fair trade, I’d say.

Q:  What do you get when you have 7 members of Section 3 gathered in a hotel conference room in Macon, Georgia?

A: A 10-year law school reunion. 

Move over, Pele. Take a seat on the bench, Beckham. Here comes Theo, the Mighty T-Rex!

Tucker finally got to hold a live rabbit at the Art Barn. Love at first sight, for sure. Tuck plots where he’s going to set up his bunny traps in Baba and Popster’s backyard.

The cul-de-sac firework festivals with our neighbors have now morphed into bonfires. Right smack on the pavement. There were adults present, I assure you–and not just the one photographing the event.

Halloween, finally. Theo loved the facepaint. 

Two skeletons and Harry Potter. Jack defaulted to the skeleton after his first two choices (cow-serpent and satyr…no kidding) were determined to be impossible to track down.

Collarbones heal very quickly, thank goodness. Jack made it back to finish out the last 3 games with his fall ball team, the Hooks.

That’s some fierce rope jumping right there.

In November, we learned we’ve been given the gift of dyslexia.

After years of me worrying, a few months of attentive concern from his teachers, a few weeks of tutoring with his learning specialist and a few days of testing with a psychologist, we were finally given the answer: Tucker has a magic brain. He is unbelievably math-y, creative, clever and adept at problem solving. He can think in 3-D. But letters do weird things inside his head (he told the psychologist and us that either God or ZEUS (so help me) tells him to say the wrong word after it comes into his brain). He also told the psychologist that he might be a demi-God. OK, then.

We are grateful to have answers and to have a plan to help Tuck. And Tucker is visibly relieved to have an answer, too. He leaves me notes like the ones below all the time. We think he’s pretty “wabrfll,” too. Having a magic brain is definitely wonderful; don’t you agree?

Tucker fears nothing; we knew that already. This is just one of the many reasons why we know he is going to be better than OK.

Three eggs; four yolks. It’s the little things in life that keep it spicy.

Jack’s new favorite place to read: nestled down in my bed.

Thanksgiving brought us a trip to Charlottesville and a serious asthma attack for Tuck.

The boys with Grandpa. This is what 3 days of being maxed out on steroids looks like on Tucker. At least he has his clothes on. 🙂

When it’s tough to blow the fluff off a dandelion, you know your asthma is back. We’ve since gotten back on top of it and have accepted that Tuck still hasn’t grown out of it.

Monticello in November.

Our boys’ motto this year:

Jingle has returned. Lord help us all…or, more accurately, Lord help us remember to move him nightly.

Yes, the tree is leaning; it’s not just your imagination.

Two more days until Christmas! Baba and Popster (and no wild bunnies, we hope) roll into town later today. The excitement level of 3 little boys, 2 dogs and 1 gerbil just keeps amping up.

We hope you are experiencing the same level of joy in your own home, too. Hold your loved ones–especially the littlest ones–close this year. We know we are.

The merriest of Christmas wishes to you and yours!

2012, January through June

I was so surprised at how many people came up to me (or called my mother!) to ask why we didn’t send a Christmas letter this year. I had lots of reasons: the boys are bigger and the things they do aren’t as funny anymore, I had writer’s block, we were saving paper. In the end, I just ran out of time. (Read: I was lazy.)  

I did take boatloads of photos this year and spent forever uploading them to Photobucket, so I felt obligated to use them in a post somehow. Thus, I present this post (brought to you in 2 parts), subtitled The Year-in-Review for Family Members and Close Friends Who are Bored Silly Right Now and Looking for a Way to Kill a Few Minutes.

Looking back on 2012, I think it’s safe to say one thing for us:  it flew by. Even some of the more tedious parts of it zipped by without us even blinking twice.

Tucker played basketball for the first time and loved it…though truth be known, he was most excited about getting a medal at the end of the season.

Jack played team basketball for the first time, too. We learned that he is one scrappy, tough, fast little hoopster. It’s more about the size of the fight in the dog than the size of the dog in the fight, you know. We continue to be so proud of his “coachability”–the characteristic more than one coach has used to describe Jack.

The best home art project this year, completed by the boys with the assistance of the uber-talented, artsy Ms. Emily. Jack began taking art lessons with Ms. Emily about a month after he turned 2. We knew then that she was a gem. And her art teaching skills are impeccable, as you’ll see further down this post…

Pokemon vs. views of the ocean. Pokemon wins. Mom is sad and resolves to enforce screen time. Said enforcement rarely ever materializes. Mom is even sadder at her lack of resolve, but sometimes (like on 6 hour drives or on an airplane) rules are made to be broken. It’s a vicious cycle of electronics.

We spent President’s Weekend at Amelia with Russ’s parents. Nothing kicks the mid-winter doldrums to the side like a weekend on the coast.

Thomas and friends were our constant companions, at least through the first half of the year. Leaving Theo’s backpack full of tracks and trains somewhere was a recipe for confusion and delay.

Sweet Mama B shines through my boys in their love of Extreme Seasonal Decoration. Theo unboxed and set up Mama B’s Easter Tree all by himself. I remember this crazy thing from growing up and am so happy to have it around our house to help pump up the pre-Easter pastels. Nothing says “most important celebration of one’s faith” like a bright pink tree with tiny chicks, eggs and bunnies hanging from it.

Theo is always on the move. Always. The faster the wheels, the better.

Those red Hunter rainboots were a splurge but worth every single penny. Theo wore them daily, regardless of the weather. It’s hard to get much cuter than a 3 year old in rainboots.

First day of March. First time in 2012 that the temperature hit 70. Boys begging for the slip-n-slide already. 

Back to the Bahamas for Spring Break.

Dance moves have been perfected by all the boys this year. Nightly dance parties at the Herako-Casa are a given. Some of our favorite tunes of the year (disclaimer: these are the boys’ favorite songs, not necessarily ours. The things we do for love, right?):

“Moose on the Loose” by Ozomatli

“Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5

“Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO

“We are Never Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift

“Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

“More Moles” by Caspar Babypants

We are clearly straddling the line between true children’s music and ‘Tweener stuff (already?!?), like Justin BeaVer and Selena Gomez. Times, they are a’changing, indeed.

Springtime brings baseball. Baseball brings joy to Jack and Laura, big time. Jack caught a few flyballs at 3rd this year and showed he has catcher-blood in his veins by making several outs at the plate, even while being plowed over by boys twice his size. That’s our tough guy.

Here’s our other tough guy, climbing the walls at our pediatrician’s office. I was climbing the walls in the other corner seeing as this visit was the 2nd time in the same day that we’d been in there.

Remember me saying Theo loved wheels? He outgrew his tricycle by late March, so I hauled up the Tiger bike (a little 15-inch hand-me-down training bike we’ve had since Jack was 3) and was going to let him have it after I reattached the training wheels. Theo wanted to give it a whirl sans training wheels, so I said, “what the heck.” He hopped on and took off peddling by himself. No wobbles, no falls. At 3 years, 7 months old.

Meanwhile, Tucker perfected his own new stunt: the headstand. Tucker spends half his time this way now.

Pensive Theo awaits a slice of pizza with “mayor-a-nayer-a”. We had a year of food drama, with 2/3 of our boys holding fast as neck-and-neck leaders of the Picky Eater Club. Theo’s favorite foods? Chocolate, rice, waffles with butter. Jack’s staples? Peanut butter & honey sandwiches and chicken.

Tucker, on the other hand, is on his way to being a culinarian. He ate asparagus, Thai food, Chinese food, Mexican food and baked potatoes this year. The child will try anything. He’s part goat, for sure, but it sure makes life in the kitchen a bit more, um, palatable.

Imagine my surprise, then, when everybody (well, almost everybody–Jack wouldn’t touch it) slurped down a pot of “Mayor-a-nayer-a soup” (pasta fagioli) that I made last week. Full of vegetables like beans, tomatoes and celery! All large and visible, not pulverized into an invisible puree of glop! I caught a glimpse of what a normal family could look like!

Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character Day at Trinity was a huge success, even if it did take me an entire package of glue gun sticks to whip up Tuck’s costume. Here we have Harry Potter and Phillip Rainsford, III (from The Candymakers).

Our favorite reads this year:

Jack’s top 5:

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series

Rick Riordan’s Olympians series

Tucker’s favorites:

The Brick Bible by Brendan Powell Smith (a retelling of the Old Testament, smiting and all, in Legos)

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Theo’s best:

Splat the Cat books

Clifford the Big Red Dog books

Go, Dog Go! by Dr. Seuss

Laura’s favorites:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Giver series by Lois Lowry (yes, one of the last folks on the planet to read these)

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock

Jack discovers the wonders of baseball cards. Mom re-discovers the wonders of baseball cards. Many a spring night were spent lying in Jack’s bed, digging through the old shoebox of cards from my childhood (and my dad’s and uncles’ childhoods). Thurman Munson? Phil Niekro? Johnny Bench? Jack has a new cache of heroes now.

Our often quiet Jack has a speaking role in the 2nd grade play at Trinity. He’s a Lorax (one of several), but he said his lines clearly and loudly in front of the entire school. So proud of him. The neon orange costume, however? Ouch.

We’ve always known Tucker is pretty amazing. Here he shows the loot he won from The Claw Game at Taco-Mac–IN ONE DAY. Most folks go their entire lives without ever beating The Claw. Not Tuck. Twice in one day. That takes skills, folks. Skills and a whole lot of quarters handed over to you from your Popster.

Proof of Ms. Emily’s fantastic art teaching abilities: Jack has a watercolor chosen to be on display for the entire school year at Trinity!

Tucker’s huge heart has no boundaries. He adopted one of the hatched chicks from his kindergarten class only for us to discover after we got home that the chick had a deformed foot. Thank goodness for friends with farms; Tuck’s chick went to live with a very caring farmer who set up a special coop just for her. If you listen closely, you can probably hear Peggy clucking and chirping and screeching right now; sister had some lungs on her.

Tucker and Mom on Worldwide Hyperemesis Awareness Day. He is a tough guy, indeed, on so many levels.

Our greatest picture of 2012:

Jack turned 8 in May and celebrated with a “Paleontology in your Pajamas” party. It was just as wild as it sounds.

We spent Memorial Day at the Ford Plantation where a snafu in our hotel room led us to spend the weekend in an adorable little cottage on the grounds. The boys had just gotten wands from Ollivander’s wand shop (via Russ) and they spent the evenings walking around the front yard casting spells on one another. You can’t make this up, people.

School’s out! No more uniforms! Tucker takes it up a notch on Day 1 of summer break with the ever-classic tuxedo shirt.

Our Montessori days have come to an end. Jack and Tucker came to Theo’s year-end celebration and instantly reverted to their Montessori ways, pulling lessons off the shelf and getting down to work.

Our little entrepreneur. Tucker’s first money-making adventure of the summer: selling bird calls. Again, we can’t make this stuff up.

From bird calls to a bird’s nest: Jack’s hair still grows into an uncontrollable floppy mess in no time flat. Here his bird nest is aided by the high altitude on the top of Stone Mountain during our first family climb.

We said farewell to one of Jack’s best friends, Arin, who moved to Iowa over the summer. We were all so sad to see such a wonderful family move so far away. We’ve kept in touch, though, most notably on the phone–a truly hilarious series of half-hour discussions of what’s going on in math class and what the new games to play on the playground are.

Tucker still sleepwalks.

Theo loves spaghetti, but realizes that spaghetti from La Tavola is even better than Mom’s spaghetti.

2012 was the year of fireworks, thanks to our favorite neighbor, Mr. Brian. Move over, Smokey Bear.

Our newest family member:  Digger. After a 3-hour period of intense observation of all rodents at PetsMart, a wise employee finally came over to inform us that this little guy was the non-biter. Ten minutes later, he was ours. He has lived up to his name–both as a non-biter and as a Digger. We had no idea a little critter like this gerbil could be such a joy.

Tucker’s 2nd money-making project of the summer? Selling Gerbil Art. He had no takers, though we have no idea how anyone could turn down this little guy…

Tropical storm Beryl did a number on Amelia Island. After being cooped up for a few days, we finally could get back out on the beach–with the monster-sized (for the Atlantic) waves.

Buckley-Dog still loves the beach.

And with that, we’ve floated halfway through the year…

We (sort of) Sold Out…

We broke with tradition this year and did not get our tree at a fancy [read: quaint, yet overpriced] tree farm. Instead, we headed to the lovely Home Depot where we were able to land a ginormous, beautiful tree for way less than half of what we’d paid last year. Winning.

We wove our way through the sawdusty smelling store and debated adding animated flamingoes, an Elmo, and a tree-circling train to our stash of Christmas decor.

We passed on the flamingo (its laser-thin neck was just begging for a short life span) and the Elmo (Theo is way past Elmo but not way past being mocked by his big brothers for once loving Elmo–he’ll likely never hit that milestone). The train, of course, called out to several of the males in my family. Ergo, when the rubber hit the road, we didn’t actually save that money by getting the cheaper tree because Theo was able to convince Russ that we really, weally needed this train.

December is supposed to be cold, but in Atlanta, that assumption is always hit or miss. This weekend was a big, fat miss. We scrounged around for our Christmas tree under a giant orange tent in 70 degree weather, sweating and gruffing about how hot it was, but we still had a great time.

There wasn’t any hot chocolate or folks dressed up like elves, but there still was room for silliness.

And there weren’t any snippy volunteers around to fuss at us.

We had to employ a neighbor’s assistance to haul the tree in, and the second it was upright and unwrapped, Tucker and Theo started throwing ornaments at it.

Those of you who put up trees in your house know that this is not the order in which it goes. There are about 100 steps you have to take before you can hang the first ornament, all of which prove immensely tedious for a 6 and a 4 year old.

Lights. Always the man’s job, right?

Rescuing ornaments mid-throw, keeping children out of the box marked fragile and plucking boys down off a ladder all require patience and assistance. Hence, our other decorating companion:

Again, Bob Arns and his 2006 Tournesol knocked our socks off.

How about that awesome ornament, too? It’s front and center on our tree; trust us.

And that train? My stars, Theo was as happy as a clam.

Jack was pretty pumped about it, too, based on his camped out location under the tree where the train kept derailing.

Our halls typically take a few days to deck; this year was no exception. Here, Tuck places the star atop the tree the night after we put it up.

Sibling rivalry is running deep at our house; Theo pitched a fit to put on the star, too–but even with the ladder and his dad’s assistance, he’s too tiny. Luckily, this photo sufficed.

an exuberant Tucker after a solid 36 hours of decorating

Finally, our neon green skull from Halloween just serves as a warm-up for our neighbors. The photo below shows just 2 of the 3 fine, fine pieces of yard art the Herako-griswolds have staked in their front yard this month.

Humor us, people. You gotta live a little, especially when you have little kids.

It’s Christmastime, after all.