Twenty years and back again

August 2, 2016 at 12:22 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Not much has changed in my hometown since 1996. Birkenstocks are back in style. Tune into 98.9 The Rock and you’ll still hear Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. And there’s a Clinton running for President.

Some things have changed, though. The house I grew up in has changed color, the décor and furniture have been updated, and the backyard looks completely different. I’m sleeping in the same bed at my parent’s house as I did in my youth, except now I share it with a fussy toddler. And, of course, my fellow graduates of Lee’s Summit High School and I have, shall we say, aged a bit.

Our twentieth high school reunion this weekend was quite an extravaganza. A two-day event, even. Friday night, about fifty of us met at the tiger head with our parents, siblings, spouses and children for a tour of our alma mater. I brought my mom and the kids. I was sad to see the classroom where we put together the school newspaper every month was completely gutted. In fact, most of the upper-classman section (called Div 2 in my day) was under construction. In the PAC, Liam ran around on the stage with some of the other kids. When one of his friends asked him to join her up the stairs of a stage set, he decided against it. He deemed it too dangerous…didn’t trust the builder. This kid.

I saw many familiar faces on our tour, gave many a warm embrace and fawned over many an adorable child. The lunch room was smaller than I remembered it…and one section in the back was completely rebuilt. The breezeway from the lunchroom to the under-classman section (Div 1, see what they did there?) was completely enclosed and air-conditioned. Back in ’96 our school only had air-conditioning in the PAC. Kids these days have it so easy! I found my old German classroom…which appeared to be used for band practice now. Climbing the stairs from the PAC back to Div 2, I suddenly remembered standing right in that hallway as the OJ Simpson verdict was read. As I mentioned it to my mom, a guy piped up behind me — turns out he was actually with me when that happened! I’d completely forgotten. We were doing a poll for the newspaper, and we could hear the TV on in all of the classrooms we were passing. I remembered hearing them all echo in the halls as we peeked our heads inside to find out the news.

Violet got a little sidetracked at the lockers, toddling down the row and spinning all of the combination wheels she could reach. The kids spent the rest of the tour running around the Field House and the football field. By the time we got home they were ready for bed…and I was ready to continue the celebration at a bar downtown. Drunken merriment ensued. My girlfriends and I kept pointing out people to each other, “Who is that? Was she in our class?” It was hard to tell our classmates from the bar flies. Thankfully everyone would be wearing name tags for the reunion Saturday. It seemed most of my classmates wanted to stand outside…right next to the band. So we had to shout at each other, “What have you been up to? Where are you living now? How many kids do you have?” Sheesh. I’m too old for this. I was back home before midnight.

Saturday night, the main event, was held at Stonehaus Winery at 6 o’clock. I was “fashionably” late (putting a baby to bed…nothing fashionable about that), and I was met with a line out the door for booze. Better get in line then! Immediately I recognized the people around me: Mary and Kara, Adam, Katie, and Toji!! So many more passed by to say hi with a hug. Thanks to Facebook I’d kept in touch with most of them, but it was still great to hear more details about their lives now. Grunge music filled the hall — my musical tastes are still stuck in the mid-90s, so I was loving it. Angst! Yeah! A wine glass in each hand (so I wouldn’t have to stand in that long-ass line again), I set about to mingle. Lots of Hi-Life alums, IB classmates, and theater folks I had to talk to. I surprised a lot of friends when I told them I lived in Greece now. Turned out to be a great conversation-starter. Outside on the lawn I took a much quieter seat to catch up with Joanne and Bernadette. Many of us are moms now, and I even discovered one grandma (Wow!). One friend I didn’t even recognize she has changed so much. It was great to catch up with her.

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4-eva…whoever “eva” is, lol.

I spent a fabulous half hour taking selfies with my best friend, Katie. I remember we sat together on the first day in Mrs. Long’s fourth grade class at Westview Elementary. She had big glasses and an even bigger personality. I was the smallest kid in the class. By the end of the day she told me were going to be best friends. I happily agreed, and the rest is history. We both worked for the high school newspaper, we both went to J-school at Mizzou, and we both had our kids at about the same time. After graduation, our relationship ebbed and flowed, as friendships often do when you don’t live in the same town. We lost touch for a little while there, but somehow reconnected as adults. And I’m so happy we did. Now we do play dates whenever I’m in town. Our oldest kids are the same age, and they played so well together on this visit! The next generation of best friends, perhaps?

The class of ’96 was the last class to graduate before the new high school opened, and I think that instilled some comradery among all the different clichés. Sure, we had jocks and brains and all of that, but I felt like our circles comingled. That being said, there were still an awful lot of kids I never got to know, and quite a few at the reunion I had never met. My memory is such crap now, though, that sometimes someone would know me and I’d have no idea how I knew them. Thank god for the nametags! Near the end of the night I locked eyes with one girl and instantly recognized her…and yet I couldn’t remember her name or why I knew her so well. Curse you, mommy brain! This baby is sucking out all of my brain cells.

As the party started winding down, I turned to see about a dozen tired husbands sitting around mostly empty tables. What a priceless visual! And it made me glad I’d left mine back at home. I’m sure he was glad, too, ha! With more than 200 guests, this reunion was going to go down in the record books for sure. I don’t think we had so many at the last one of these I attended a decade ago. I was there four hours, but I could have stayed so much longer talking to people. Alas, I had that cruel toddler wake-up call in the morning, so at midnight I knew it was time to scoot. I’m sure there were after parties, and I’m sure they were fun. Sigh. Perhaps in another ten years when Violet is 11 (yikes, I can hardly imagine that!) I’ll go to one of those.

 

Easter at the Ambassador’s

April 3, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Saturday we got to spend the afternoon at the Ambassador’s residence for an Easter party. The kids got to hunt for Easter eggs, and they had little tables set up for crafts. Liam saw quite a few school chums there, and though he hung back a bit at first, he did get to play with at least one of them once he got a little more acclimated to the crowd. It was a good turnout — I think there are a lot of embassy employees with kids at the moment. I saw quite a few familiar faces, as well. It’s amazing to think we’ve only been here two months and we’ve all made such fast friends. We’re feeling very well taken care of, thanks to the good ol’ US of A.

Look at these cuties!

 

Violet is 8 months old!

January 11, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Words cannot describe her cuteness right now. But I’m gonna try. Here’s what my sweetheart has been up to this month:

  • Violet is finally rolling over! I knew she was just holding out on me! I noticed she didn’t fuss so much when I laid her down on her back, so we’ve been trying to leave her there longer and longer so she can get used to it. One morning I left her lying amongst her toys while Liam and I ate breakfast in the dining room. When I came back she was on her tummy. Sneaky lil’ thing!
  • And now that’s she’s rolling over, she’s starting to get her knees up under her. She still doesn’t love being on her belly, and she’s nowhere near crawling. But it’s definitely a start.
  • She enjoys eating solid food a lot more now. She’s able to nosh on whole cheerios and small pieces of bread without too much trouble. I added a little salt and pepper to an avocado we were sharing and she just about inhaled it. She loves whole milk yogurt, and I discovered these applesauce and fruit medleys in squeezable pouches that work perfectly for restaurants. She loves those, too. She’s definitely not a fan of peas, but she seems to like green beans a little more now. And while carrots are not a hit with her, her brother finally tried his first baby carrot the other day and declared that he likes carrots now. Only took six and a half years, lol!
  • We’ve transitioned out of the infant carrier and into a regular car seat. Despite her small stature, I can barely stand to lift her from the car and up the stairs into the living room. Liam’s old car seat was set to expire this year, so we bought a new one that is much smaller and more light-weight, and touted as one of the best for airline travel. Plus it was purple, so I couldn’t resist!
  • Violet had her first haircut at grandma’s house. It wasn’t a huge deal – I just trimmed up her bangs and the little baby mullet she was sporting in the back. Her hair is coming in blonder now, much lighter than mine was and darker than Jill’s was. James had light hair as a baby, so it might come from him. It curls a bit on the ends, but it’s still too soon to tell if she’ll inherit my bouncy baby curls.
  • Bye bye baby bathtub! Violet is also taking baths in the big tub now. It’s still a little early for this (maybe? I don’t really remember when Liam started it), but we figured we couldn’t get the baby tub to Greece in enough time, so why not try it now? And she sits up so well, she took to it just fine. She had a little spill in the tub yesterday, and she was NOT HAPPY about the water that got up her nose. But I only fill is a couple of inches, and I always sit nearby, so it’s all good.
  • She still pretty much only says “Mama”, but James heard her call him “Nah Mama” just like that baby dinosaur on that old ‘90s TV show. She also called my mom “Inga” once, so that might be a thing? Liam thought she might start calling my dad “Nah Inga.”

And because we just can’t get enough of her cuteness, here are some more photos from today:

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This whole photo shoot with the house plant seemed like a good idea until she got a piece of vegetation in her mouth. I think she managed to swallow it. Extra fiber, right?

Christmas 2015

January 11, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Oh yeah, and we had CHRISTMAS this year! What a crazy month we’ve been having. We spent two weeks at my parent’s house getting in all of the family and friend time we could squeeze in. I think Liam really enjoyed have a cohort for present opening. He also relished handing out presents this year.

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Aren’t they adorable?

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We thought surely the Nintendo 3DS would be Liam’s favorite gift this year. But instead, he absolutely looooved this. He set up a grocery store in the back room, complete with play food and shopping cart. Kept him entertained for hours. And when we got home he set it up in the basement and started “charging” us to put him to bed. And, of course, it’s perfect for the snack bar on movie night. He seriously plays with this thing every day.

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Mom got me these. Can’t wait to break these bad boys out in our new townhouse in Athens.

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After that it was play, play, play with the cousins!! They played inside and outside, enjoying the brief snowstorm we had after Christmas. Good times.

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Milo. Gotta love this kid. Three was a crowd – poor lil’ guy kept getting the short stick when Evie was around. But we managed a little one-on-one time with Liam and Milo, and they got along like peas and carrots. We’re really going to miss them when we go!

Liam Turns Seven

December 14, 2015 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s been chaos here in the Fletcher household: the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas, pre-trans-Atlantic move rush was complicated by a bout of suspected food poisoning amidst all of my birthday party planning. So while I booked Liam’s party at Jumpy Jump Land a month ago and sent out invitations two weeks before the event, the actual party only came together by sheer will and the incredible generosity of friends, family and neighbors. I doubt Liam will ever know the difference – he had a wonderful time jumping, eating massive amounts of pie from his favorite Derby restaurant, and opening lots of presents. He didn’t notice that: A) I didn’t remember to bring birthday candles; B) Nobody actually sang Happy Birthday; and C) There were no presents from me and daddy. I also didn’t bring anything to properly cut the pies with, so my poor mother did her best using plastic cutlery to dole out rough pieces of delicious Holiday French Silk and Pumpkin with Whipped Cream. Being the birthday boy, Liam got a piece from each. He must have worked up an appetite from all that jumping. He made short work of them.

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Because we have a limited amount of space for Liam’s things in the move, we decided to request books as gifts. Though Liam is only just starting to get into reading, he loved the idea and was delighted to open all of his gifts.

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Notably, he got several Magic Treehouse books (his favorite series at the moment), a “7” shirt from my mom, picture books and activity books that will be great for those dull moments on the way to Greece, several other chapter books, and a really cool travel atlas from Jill.

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He even got a $20 bill. Evie was green with envy.

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We had about a dozen kids in attendance, which turned out to be a perfect number for the venue. We had plenty of food and drinks, and I think everyone had a good time. I had to mind the baby quite a bit, so I relied on Jill to snap most of the photos and mom to feed all the kids. Violet was pretty good about letting my friends take turns holding her so I could get a break from time to time.

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At first I was a little concerned about having the party so early – 10 AM was the only time I could book it – but I really appreciated having the rest of the afternoon to recover. Evie, Milo and Liam played all afternoon (read: tore apart my house), then we all watched Home Alone that night. None of the kids had seen it, and they absolutely loved it. They kept telling and retelling their favorite parts to each other while brushing their teeth before bed. And the next morning Milo went on the hunt for paint cans to hang from our stairway. Thankfully he’s too young to get up to TOO much mischief. Yet.

Tomorrow I’m planning to take Liam to the bookstore to exchange some of his Magic Treehouse duplicates and get the rest of the books in the series as our gift to him. Good save, yes? That was my plan from the very beginning…

Violet is 6 months old!

November 11, 2015 at 11:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Six months have gone by in the blink of an eye. Here’s what my sweetie is up to:

  • A couple of weeks ago this young ‘un sprouted some teeth! She’s got two little chompers on the bottom, and the way she’s drooling and fussing lately, I suspect two more will be coming in on the top soon. She loves to chew on teethers, toys, knuckles, bibs, her dresses…pretty much anything she can get to her mouth.
  • No more acid reflex, hooray! We stopped the medication over a week ago, and she’s been nursing like a champ.
  • She found something else to put her in mouth…her toes! She’s a lot more dexterous at six months. Every time we get the diaper off she curls up her legs and pops those big toes in her mouth. Yum, yum!
  • A few weeks back Violet started blowing raspberries. I tried so hard to get a video of it to send James, who has been out of town this entire month, but never got a very good one. And now she doesn’t seem to want to do it anymore. Funny – I remember when Liam started blowing raspberries, he kept it up because it got us to laugh. And he’s STILL trying to get a laugh out of us. I wonder what this might indicate about her personality?
  • Speaking of Liam, he is MUCH more enamored of his sister these days. He gets down on her level and plays with her, talks to her, tries to get her to laugh. Every morning he reads board books to her. When she falls over he sets her back up, and he’s always proclaiming that Violet loves him, and he loves her, too. It’s really adorable. Well, until she cries. Then he complains about her, yells at her, and tells me, “This is why I never wanted a baby sister.”
  • Our sleeping arrangements are soooo much better now! I didn’t have much luck getting her to sleep in her crib, so I moved the pack n’ play out of my bedroom and into her room next to her crib. It’s much easier for me to lay her down without waking her up there anyway. And for the past three weeks, save for a couple of nights when we were all sick, she’s been sleeping all through the night. She goes to bed around 8 PM and wakes up around 6 AM. I’ve been slowly throttling back on the swaddle, letting one arm out at first, and now she sleeps with both arms out. I still bounce her to sleep on the yoga ball with the pacifier in her mouth, and I can usually lay her down without waking her, though it sometimes takes a couple of tries. I’ve even had some luck laying her down with her eyes open and letting her cry for ten minutes. She’s getting much better at self soothing.
  • Violet loves eating pureed bananas, and not much else. We’ve tried butternut squash, sweet potatoes with carrots, peas, corn, green beans, and avocado. It could be a texture issue – I’m making all this food myself, so I may not be getting it pureed finely enough. And I’m sure the sweetness of the banana is a contributing factor. Perhaps I’ll buy some pears and peas at the store and see if I have better luck with those. Thankfully I’ve always got brown bananas on hand.

And because this cute little outfit is so adorable, here’s a better shot of it. Aunt Barb always sends the most adorable clothes for the kids!

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Backyard Photo Shoot

October 27, 2015 at 11:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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DSC_0008Fall has finally arrived, and with the nice temperate weather, I decided to bring the Nikon outside for a little photo shoot with the kiddoes. Liam needs a haircut, but oh well. I don’t know how these photographers do it. Getting them both to look at me at the same time with a good expression was almost impossible. We’re getting professional photos taken at JCP in November, so hopefully they’ll have better luck. Liam was so cute, trying to “helpfully” turn Violet’s head to face the camera. I finally gave up and focused on Violet, giving her some of Liam’s outdoor toys to play with. I ended up getting Liam in the background playing in his sandbox.

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Corn Maze and Carnival

October 21, 2015 at 11:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We packed a lot into our Saturday: First a trip to the Bergmann Corn Maze, then an evening at Liam’s school carnival.

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We first went to Bergmann’s when Liam was in preschool, and just like last time we rode the tractor to the start of the corn maze. Except this time I was considerably more burdened.

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Just like last time, we attempted to blunder our way around without consulting the map. I let him lead the way, and we meandered around until we happened across the first set of trivia questions. But then I was starting to feel it in my back, so I suggested we look at the map. He was a great little navigator this time around, and he happily took the lead and showed us the way out.

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After a short rest, we started in on the larger of the two mazes. But three turns in and I could tell baby girl needed some nourishment. I told Liam to find us a nice, secluded dead end so we could feed Violet. Such a good boy, he consulted the map further while I covered Violet up with a blanket to keep her warm. The wind whipped through the corn above our heads, and we could hear distant voices from others winding their way around the maze. No one came across us there, though. After Violet was sated, I could tell she really needed a nap. My back and hip were aching, and even Liam thought it best to call it a day. We stopped by a vendor near our house to pick out a couple of pumpkins while Violet slept in the car – much easier than attempting the trailer ride to the pumpkin patch at Bergmann’s at that point. Plus, the line to pay was getting quite long.

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By that evening we were ready for carnival! I loaded Violet back in the Bjorn and headed inside. Liam used his own allowance to buy tickets, being the grown up first grader he is now. We skipped eating there this time and headed straight for the games. His favorite again was cake walk, but after three or four tries we still didn’t win. Last year he got really bent out of shape, but this year I promised to buy him a cupcake at Dillons if he didn’t win and didn’t throw a fit, and that seemed to placate him. He got a tattoo, played giant Yatzee, did the beanbag toss, fishing, and the lollipop tree. We stood in line for the balloon darts, but when I thumb tack accidentally flung toward him and landed with a small thunk on his shirt, he decided this game was “too dangerous.” Let’s go home. Ok, dear. It was probably just as well – as we headed down the hallway one of my neighbors noticed that someone in our party had dropped off:

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After the kids were (finally!) in bed, I had to take a couple Advil and rest my back and hips. I remember wearing Liam all around DC, even hiking through the Arboretum with him when he was older and heavier, but I guess nearing 40 has taken its toll on my poor, achin’ old body. Which bums me out – Athens, like DC, is not very stroller-friendly. James may have to do the majority of the baby wearing this time around. I don’t think he’ll mind. He not-so-secretly loves it.

Violet’s Big Milestone

September 29, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Look at my girl, she’s sitting all by herself now! At just a little over four and a half months old, she’s got Liam beat on this milestone by more than a month. But I’m not entirely surprised. Unlike Liam as an infant, she is not content to just lie around. In fact, I suspect she’ll start rolling over from her back to her tummy a bit later than Liam did because she detests lying down so much. She’s very nearly there, curling her little body into a little parenthesis when she’s on her back…but then she catches a glimpse of the TV, and her floor acrobats are over. Just trying to see what’s on, mom! Sigh…the TV is on a lot more because of her brother, and she’s showing more interest in it than Liam ever did. When Liam’s not around we listen to a lot of NPR and classical music. Maybe that’ll counteract all of the Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes.

Violet’s First Food

September 23, 2015 at 10:36 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I wasn’t sure when we started Liam on solids, so I consulted his baby book (no help—just a photo and no date) and this blog. Turns out he was around 5 months old, and I absolutely agonized over it. Silly first time mommy, me!

For the past few weeks Violet has been eying my food as I put it in my mouth, as if to say, “So…where’s my bite?” She loves sitting in the Bumbo chair on the table or counter to watch us all eat our meals. And for the past week she’s been voraciously hungry at night…even more than usual. She’s 4 1/2 months now…seemed like as good a time as any to try solids! (See what I did there? That is definitely a second-time mommy move.)

We read the label on the package, mixed up the cereal with the amount of breast milk it recommended, and fed her a few bites of the water concoction…which she promptly spit out all over her bib. (Cute bib made by Jan, BTW). I remembered this stuff being more like Cream of Wheat, so we added more cereal to thicken it up and tried again. A few more bites in and she was totally getting it. And loving it! I remember Liam having a very similar reaction to food, as if to say, “This is a much more efficient way to convey nutrition, mommy.” (That’s exactly how he would phrase it in his baby mind, I’m sure.)

She was in a super good mood for the rest of the night, and she immediately went to sleep at bedtime. She didn’t last through the night quite as I hoped (up at midnight, then again at 4:30), but as her appetite for rice cereal increases, perhaps that will change. Here’s hoping!

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