Thursday, May 30, 2013

Shutterfly Card

Sharing the following project with the promise of a $10 gift certificate from Shutterfly. I made my Mother's Day cards through Shutterfly, too, and had them shipped here. (I'm having Shutterfly send the Father's Day card directly to my dad). I was thrilled with how the Mother's Day cards turned out and, for that matter, have been thrilled with all my many projects through Shutterfly. And--just in case you're wondering--I don't have to say all these nice things to get the $10: just share my project.

Shutterfly often has coupon codes. You can order one greeting card for free, right now, by using code CARD4U.

The photos on my project below were taken by me with the exception of the one of Chip and me (top left), which was taken by Anjie Kay and the one of Cade at the Tennessee Aquarium (top right), which was taken by Erin Snyder.

5x7 Folded Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Highlights. Lowlights.

I understand, suddenly, why bloggers throw up their hands, overwhelmed by the prospect of writing their lives. I've been on the road again like Willie since the weather's warmed, and I've found it hilly as the one what leads to Hollowell Brethren. Which is to say: at least hilly enough for the flight of a Volkswagen Beetle. At least.

Lowlight: for those of you who've been reading my adventures in marriage counseling, I had another reflective-listening fail a week ago Sunday. This carried over into the first part of last week. Yuck.

Highlight: celebrating Becky's 40th birthday a week ago Monday evening.

Highlight: the little kids and I met my blogger friend Jamie and her kiddos at the zoo last Tuesday. As with other blogger friends I've been blessed to meet face-to-face (including Becky), I found Jamie to be in person who she is in words. I love that. I love her.

Highlight: visit from from my cousin-sister Andrea Tuesday afternoon/evening. We never know exactly when Andrea might appear, but when she does, she shines and shines on us.

Lowlight: marriage counseling on Wednesday. Oh, my word. I was a sobbing wreck, leaving. "Why does it seem like I'm the only one suffering?" I asked Jim.

"Because, Honey," he offered kindly, "we haven't even gotten to our issues, yet. We're working on process, and I'm a process man. Hurry up and master the process so I can suffer over my issues."

Lowlight: dance photos, Wednesday evening. Thank you, Lord, that I had Cade to help with Baby Chip, who chose that very moment (uncharacteristically, I might add) to whine like a dentist's drill. Two girls, four costumes, eight shoes, individual ballet, sister ballet, class ballet, individual tap, sister tap, class tap. High stress.

Highlight: Green Valley Book Fair, Thursday, with my girl Christy and Baby Chip. Why, yes, I did leave my daughters with Miss Sarah Beagle (of St. Baldrick's fame) for six blissful hours. I've never shopped so well at the Green Valley Book Fair. No one grabbed books off the shelves at all. It was amazing!

Highlight: Epic at the Goochland Drive-In with the fam**, Rachel, and Zach on Friday night.




Highlight: helping my friend Anjie photograph a wedding on Saturday. It was my first time being away from Baby Chip for more than thirty minutes or so. Yes, that's crazy town considering he's almost seven months old. I pumped my first bottle in the approximately twelve years since Cade was a breastfeeding baby. Yes, that's crazy town considering: between then and now, I nursed the boys' sisters for fourteen and fifteen months, respectively.

I learned so much about what I didn't know, taking photos at the wedding, like: don't wear ill-fitting underbritches as a photographer, and always carry Tylenol. (It got me, early on, in the back.) Always photograph backdrops in case you need them later, in editing. Learn (really learn!) how to use your camera at night. And I have many more thoughts to share, later, but bottom line: awesome experience. Thankful for the opportunity. Thankful for Anjie, in general.

Highlight: church on Sunday.

Highlight: meeting with a pastor friend, Sunday afternoon, and asking him to put me to work. Being well-received, encouraged on several fronts.

Highlight: I have to brag on my husband; he saved $200, Sunday evening, performing a couple repairs on my van by himself.

Highlight: Memorial Day at the zoo with the fam.

Kiss from Farley. She lured him to the glass by showing him her belly button; it's his thing.

This isn't the greatest photo, but it was a big moment for Charleigh. I think it was her first time feeding an animal at the zoo.

And maybe I'm forgetting things. (If so, you see why: busy, busy!) Love y'uns.

**Kind of fun to look at our drive-in photos from July of last year to see how much the kids have grown and Jim has shrunk.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Virginia Discovery Museum

I'd wanted to visit the Virginia Discovery Museum in Charlottesville under our (reciprocal) science- museum membership, but it had expired before we'd made it. The good news is that it costs $2 less per person ($2.50 less with AAA membership!) to visit the Virginia Discovery Museum than it does to visit any of the three Children's Museum of Richmond (CMoR) locations.

Like CMoR (but unlike Amazement Square in Lynchburg), the Virginia Discovery Museum is geared more toward toddlers or kindergarteners than other school-aged children. Even though my thirteen-year-old would've been bored out of his gourd, I was thoroughly charmed for several reasons. We parked right beside the elevator in the Market Street Parking Garage, which kicked us out into the beautiful, enclosed Downtown Mall:

Like CMoR, the Virginia Discovery Museum is all on one floor (ahhhh), and strollers are permitted (ahhhh). Overall, I just felt like it was an experience I could more easily navigate without a helper than so many others. As it turns out, however, I had an adult companion in my friend Karen, who deserves her own post sometime in the near future.

The Toddler Room and Karen's Daughter Izzie


Open Studio

Left: TreeHouse Room, Right: Virginia Frontier area

Little C'Ville: Panera Bread (Amazingly realistic!)

Little C'Ville: Paramount (Popcorn on the floor just like in a real theater!)

More Little C'Ville (Panera/Paramount/Bee Corner)

I didn't manage to get good photos of either the pipe organ or the Airways tubes: both of which are so fun! But I enjoyed great success in photographing my very favorite part of the Virginia Discovery Museum: a kiddie carousel (the last of its type, supposedly) featuring 1910 Mangell's castings of Marcus Illion's horses.

I didn't realize (until another woman's child got on) that kids were allowed to ride!

Bottom line: you wouldn't be able to beat me away from the Virginia Discovery Museum with a stick. It's only a one-hour drive from my house. It takes 30-45 minutes for me to drive to the CMoR locations, where I spend more emotional energy in getting everyone inside safely and more money for admission. (I did have to pay $2 to park in the Market Street Parking Garage, but only because we were at the Virginia Discovery Museum for longer than the two, free hours I received with the museum's stamp. Still less than $20, total, for admission and parking!) I look forward to many, many more trips to Charlottesville with my little kids!

Amazement Square

In recent months, the little kids and I have visited two children's museums outside the Greater Richmond Area, so I thought I'd share some photos and observations from our experiences.

In March, we visited Amazement Square - The Rightmire Children's Museum in Lynchburg, Virginia, which is a two-hour drive from us. I don't know how I failed to blog about it before now except that my brother visited around that time, and then I got caught up in Easter festivities and spring break.

Anyway, I learned of Amazement Square from our friend Sharon, who rode along with us the day we visited. It's a large museum (four floors!) in downtown Lynchburg, and--while my two-year-old and four-year-old daughters found plenty to do--I thought it much better suited to elementary-school-aged children than the children's museums in the Greater Richmond Area.

I felt panicked for just a moment when someone at the front desk of Amazement Square told me I couldn't use my stroller, but he provided me (for free) both a backpack for the baby and a locker with a key. Chip was happy enough in the backpack, but--at four months--he was still a little floppy for it. Sharon tucked a blanket around his head and performed all the hard scrambles after the girls.

We had a wonderful time and didn't visit the Imagination Studio on the first floor or, for that matter, anywhere on the fourth floor, at all.

Learning How to Milk a Cow in the Big Red Barn

1) Voltageville, 2) Giant Kaleidoscope, 3) Light-up Steps, 4) Mirrored Wall

On Stage:The Rockstar Experience

Inside Listen to the Rhythm Music Studio

Inside the Paintbox

Clockwise from Left: 1) the Examination Room, 2) the Walk Through Heart, 3) Slide, 4) Outside Art

I thought Amazement Square well worth our two-hour drive, and I intend to return once or twice a year until the little kids outgrow its sort of fun. In the future, I'll arrange for longer days there because--as I've already indicated--we didn't explore the entire museum (and couldn't because I needed to be home by 3:30 to get Cade off the bus). I'd like to spend more time in Lynchburg, in general, which looked like an interesting town.

I was thankful for Sharon's assisstance on the day in question and won't return (at least for a couple years) without a helper: even if that helper is Cade. At thirteen, Cade's probably outgrown much of what Amazement Square has to offer, but--unlike the Virginia Discovery Museum in Charlottesville, which is its own sort of wonderful--I think he could find ways to enjoy it. I'll write about the Virginia Discovery Museum, soon.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Random Beauty

I wish I had time to blog all the beautiful things I experience, or even photograph. I try to keep up, to document the beauty of our days and relationships, but loveliness slips through the cracks. I'd get discouraged if it weren't such a good problem to have: this business of being overwhelmed by blessings.

I thought I might try and put together a post of random (as yet unblogged) beauty from the last two weeks of my life.

04/29/13: Baby Aubrie

I prayed so hard for this baby, and even as I took photos of butterflies at the Tennessee Aquarium over spring break, I was thinking of her and how, after her birth, I'd like to give her wings. Her sweet mama was gracious in giving me the opportunity to try. This is actually a composite of three different photos. 

05/04/13: Zoo Trip with Daddy 

The three little children and I go to the Metro Richmond Zoo very often, but Jim had been to the zoo only once before: on May 1, 2010, when I was pregnant with Charleigh. Here's a photo of Jim and Clementine from three years ago.

 Here's a photo of Jim and Chip from the other day:

 And here's a photo of Jim and the girls:

Jim's weight loss is dramatic; isn't it? I don't know how much he weighed three years ago. What I do know is that he's lost over two hundred pounds in the last twelve months: fifty going into his gastric-bypass surgery, and more than one hundred and fifty since.

I'm so proud of him. He was incredibly brave to take that step, and I know he did it out of his profound love for us. He's looking more and more like the man I dated nineteen years ago, but I've always seen that man in him. What I appreciate more than his appearance is his new-found ability to keep up with us. I couldn't help but remember, the other day, how often he had to stop and rest on his only other trip to the zoo.

Lord, we give thanks to You for Your faithfulness and help.

I love dearly this photo because our little Charleigh is skittish around animals and birds. Daddy made her brave.

I wanted to share these photos, too, because remember how I blogged about our IMAX experience at the Science Museum of Virginia? The film we saw, Born to Be Wild, was in part about a woman who cares for orphaned orangutans. So it was meaningful for the girls to have this experience just four days later:

May 11, 2013: Date Night

Jim and I ate dinner on the patio of Champps and spent some time walking around the outdoor  fashion park. We had Baby Chip with us, but he's an outdoor man just graduated to an umbrella stroller, so he was perfectly content and quiet. Jim took this photo with my cell phone:

May 12, 2013: Mother's Day

Jim brought me breakfast in bed: an omelet and sugary strawberries. The six of us went to church and, afterwards, to a one-hour play called Cinderella: The Fairy Godmother's Tale. Here, the girls with "Cinderella":

That night, Jim prepared an amazing dinner of salad; baked potatoes; and grilled corn, steak, and shrimp:

It was my first Mother's Day with Baby Chip and, therefore, with all the children this thirty-nine-year-old body will ever bear. I studied their faces and thanked God: at last, we are all here. I thought, as I do often, of those who continue to wait for someone. Please know: if you're waiting, I'm praying for you.