August 25, 2006

Fall Lesson Planning

Well today while the kids had some friends over and played I was able to get some lesson planning done for the fall. I pulled together the kids weekly schedule template and went through all their books to make sure I have everything and have a feel for where they are headed. This weekend Serona and I will sit down together and go through everything to make sure it looks good and we are both happy with it. Then we head away for a two week vacation to California for the wedding of my brother and other festivities including visiting our nephews!

I am excited with the planning we have done so far. I will post our tentative (though always changing) schedules and a list of our books and resources for the year. This year Rhiannon will be in second grade and Ciaran will be starting kindergarten. Our basic goals for kindergarten are to work on learning to read and very basic math skills and of course having lots of fun. Sirah will join in on some activities as she wants especially the craft type activities.

We will round things out with our homeschool coop classes and field trips as well as other things we choose to do just as a family. It is Rhiannon's season to pick an activity and she choose rock climbing. Ciaran will take swim lessons and all the kids will be in Awana. It is shaping up to be a great fall.


August 24, 2006

Mom and Kids Ipod Playlist

Here are some of our most played songs in the car these days in no particular order as they are usually on shuffle. Most of them can be heard only under the loud voices of all of us singing along to them, often out of tune but always full of enthusiasm and fun. They are songs we now all enjoy but each of them started as someone's favorite and the one they always chose when it was their turn to choose.

Fireflies - Faith Hill
Starfish - Sara Groves
Awesome God - Rich Mullins
She's a Butterfly - Martina McBride
Fast Asleep - Sara Groves
It Ain't Easy Being Green - Kermit the Frog
A Whole New World - Alladin soundtrack
Be our Guest - Beauty and the Beast
I Can't Wait - Sarah Groves
At the Zoo - Simon and Garfunkel
When New York Was Irish - Andy Cooney
Station Wagon - Sarah Groves
Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song) - Buddy Jewel
Little Bitty - Alan Jackson
A Lot Like Me - Sarah Groves
Garden Song - Andy Cooney
Jesus Take the Wheel - Carrie Underwood

What are some of your favorite songs to listen to with your kids?


Since my dad gave me his old Ipod (thanks again Dad) we have been listening to it in the car and it works great with the kids and we have been having fun with it. Lately we have all taken to singing this song together.

Rhiannon, ever the director, gave us all parts that we each sing and parts that we sing all together. This song is special because it has so many elements that remind each of us of the other and their interests. There are fairies, princesses, frogs, castles, travelling, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and an easy tune to sing.

If you know our family at all you know this song is perfect for us. The frogs make everyone think of Ciaran, the fairies of Rhiannon, and Tinker Bell of Sirah. Peter Pan makes us think of our family trip to Walt Disney World and reading the book aloud together. The travel and the part where she sings about her husband make the kids think of Serona and I and the whimsical and make believe tone of the whole song is representative of the imaginative world we often live in together.

It is a great song and today after we sang it through three times in a row I knew it had really become a part of us. It was a precious moment and realization and while a blog post can't represent it I want to hold on to the memory a little longer.

Try to find it and listen to it with your kids.

Fireflies by Faith Hill

Before you met me I was a fairy princess
I caught frogs and called them prince
And made myself a queen
And before you knew me I'd traveled 'round the world
And I slept in castles
And fell in love
Because I was taught to dream

I found mayonnaise bottles and poked holes on top
To capture Tinker Bell
And they were just fireflies to the untrained eye
But I could always tell

Cause I believe in fairy tales
And dreamer's dreams
Like bedsheet sails
And I believe in Peter Pan
And miracles, anything I can to get by
And fireflies

Now before I grew up I saw you on a cloud
And I could bless myself in your name
And pat you on your wings
And before I grew up I heard you whisper so loud
Well life is hard and so is love
Child, believe in all these things

I found mayonnaise bottles and poked holes on top
To capture Tinker Bell
And they were just fireflies to the untrained eye
But I could always tell

Cause I believe in fairy tales
And dreamer's dreams
Like bedsheet sails
And I believe in Peter Pan
And miracles, anything I can to get by . . .
And fireflies
And fireflies . . .

Before you met me I was a fairy princess
I caught frogs and called them prince
And made myself a queen
And before you knew me I'd traveled 'round the world
And I slept in castles
And fell in love
Because I was taught to dream

30 Pounds Down

Well I have lost 30 pounds this spring and summer. It feels good. I have more energy, I am almost sleeping like a normal person and my clothes fit different or don't fit at all. It has been slow but steady progress.

I exercise between 4 and 6 times a week and have tried to make life sustainable eating habit changes. Dieting has never worked well for me. I tried Weight Watchers and become very frustrated with it. I need eating habits that I can keep for life.

Here are a few that I have tried to incorporate into my life now.

1. Drink lots of water. Basically it is all I drink with an occasional glass of juice, soy milk, diet pop or wine. They say to drink half your body weight in ounces or a minimum of 8 glasses a day. Let's say I drink a lot more than 64 ounces!

2. Don't eat after 7pm. Okay so I often fail at this one but I have been trying. I find sometimes we eat dinner late or if I am up too late I need to eat something because my stomach needs to be settled and sometimes I just fail and just give in to wanting to eat. But I have changed my mindset to try to avoid doing this and if I do eat to make that a healthy food choice.

3. Using a smaller plate. I switched to using a salad plate instead of a regular dinner plate. This helps me control my portions and lets me decide if I really want seconds or not easier. I also eat second with pleasure because I know my intial portion was well under control.

4. Enjoying fruit and veggies. Personally I do like the concept of Eating a Rainbow and find I really do enjoy eating a variety of colors of food. I really think fruit and veggies taste better than most proccessed foods now. I think the more you eat of it the more you realize how good it is.

5. Controlling my bread intake. Bottom line bread is my weakness. I could easily carb load with a great bread. This is where I can too easily lose track of what I have eaten - I have worked hard to keep this under control.

6. Looking at my kids. When I look at the kids I remember two things. I want to be healthy for them so they see a good model and so I have the energy I need to keep up with them. I actually want to race them and have to pretend to lose instead of really losing. Secondly I look at them and realize I am carrying an extra child around in my extra weight. I look at them and realize I need to lose as much weight as you weigh. When I carry Sirah around now I think about how heavy she is and how I used to carry that much extra weight around every day. These thoughts inspire me to keep working.

7. I love exercise now. Okay I don't like walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical while I am on it truly but I always feel good when I am done and I am pretty unhappy when I don't exercise for a few days. I really feel the difference in me and can see the emotional differences as well as the physical differences it makes in me. I want to exercise each day because I know the results even if I still don't LOVE the activity itself. Though I really do enjoy my water aerobics class outside in the beautiful sun and perfect temp pool, it's like being on vacation every morning.

8. Understanding more. I understand more and more each day about fitness and my health. Not exercise, dieting or the current tricks and trends but true understanding of long term fitness and health. The more I learn the more motivated I am to stay the course.

9. Results. Okay so losing 30 pounds certainly has kept me motivated to lose the rest I need to. It is helpful to see regular results and to know it is making a difference.

Losing this weight has not come easy to me but I really wanted to do it in a life sustaining way. I have been around friends as they went into dieting cycles and became obsessed with everything they ate, their exercise and watching the pounds drop. I knew I could not take that kind of approach for two reasons. First it would not be sustainable for me given my personality and struggles with weight over the years. Second that kind of approach requires too much "me time" and "me thought" of which I simply do not have the time or mental capacity to spend that much time thinking about me and my needs. I needed an approach that would work for my whole family and I would be able to maintain through life. These are the things that I have found have worked for me so far. I'll check back in 6 months and see how things are going then.


August 23, 2006

Red Cast

Rhiannon has a bright red cast on her left arm. She broke her ring finger yesterday playing at the gym. She just feel while she was running, it could have happened anywhere. After several hours of running to different doctors and locations she was ready to get a cast.

When she got her cast the first thing she thought of was that she was going to be in a wedding (a flower girl) and wanted a white cast to match her dress. She was discouraged from white because it will get very dirty so she choose red to match the bridesmaid dresses and the second color in her own. She was also sad that she can not go swimming in the Pacific ocean with her uncle.

All in all though she has been quite a trooper through this. Bummer it is the last three weeks of summer though. No more swimming, biking and other various outdoor activities she loves so much.


August 21, 2006

American Girl Dolls

Recently I was asked by a reader at what age we decided to do American Girl Dolls and why. Rather than bury it in a comment I thought I would post about it.

Rhiannon received her first American girl doll Christmas of 2005, when she was 6 years old. I originally planned to wait until she was 7 or 8 but allowed it because she was truly ready for it.

Rhiannon started reading the books awhile ago and she by the time she got her first doll she had read the entire Samantha, Kirsten, Felicity, Molly and Kit series. She had not read Addy or Kaya yet because I would not allow her to. Rhiannon loves historical fiction and these are like the Little House series and the Betsy Tacy series.

At the same time she was reading the books she had been purchased the cheaper versions of American Girl dolls (Target and Michael's brands)to see how she would take care of them and if she would really see or notice a difference between the dolls. I also discovered that Rhiannon was not experiencing peer pressure to have the more expensive doll or the desire to have it because everyone else had it but she noticed things like how much nicer the hair was and how different the dolls were but she never complained she did ask for a "real" American girl doll. I explained upfront how expensive they were and what the expectation of care would be and if she was really ready for that. We had many talks about it.

Finally just before Christmas I realized that she was ready and she really would care for them and take care of them. She received Elizabeth and Felicity as gifts from two different people and much of their wardrobe. She played with them daily and really did a good job taking care of them. She also had big horses that they could ride on. With the dolls she had a renewed interest in reading the books. She also showed quite an interest in learning all the history associated with the time periods of the dolls. She began reading the "Welcome to Felicity's World" type books and enjoyed learning all the history.

American Girl dolls and the books have been good for us in our home. There are some mature topics for sensitive kids in them though so I do not recommend them without the reservation that you make a case by case decision for your child even for each individual series or book.

We enjoy historical fiction and really get into it and learn alot from them. The dolls really are well made and the clothes are lovely. They are expensive but she has received many as gifts and they are the toy she most plays with along with her horses.

For us they are worth it but I am also willing to give more in this area because as parents we have made the decision to not have Barbie, Polly Pockets and Bratz or those types of dolls in our home. Having American girl dolls has been a good thing for Rhiannon.

As for when a child is ready that is really best left up to the parents. Some kids may be ready younger and others should wait until they are older. I suppose you need to consider why your child or you want the dolls. Hope that helps.


My Baby is Three

Well Sirah is now three. For the first time I don't have babies and even toddlers - she seems so much older than three already even though she is tiny in size. We had a great day to celebrate her birthday. We made a nice big family breakfast and then headed to the Mall of America to ride on some of her favorite rides. Then we had some friends over for a little BBQ and cake party for her. The kids played together, the parents chatted and a good time was had.

She received several nice gifts and I think her favorite was her Share Bear Care Bear. Sirah has been asking for a care bear for a long time and I think the wait made her really enjoy it more. She has been carrying it everywhere with her and sleeping with it. She also loves the special necklace daddy got her and the book we found that is a two book in one (Papa's Wild Child/Mama's Wild Child).

For the kids birthdays we have two traditions that I really love. We make them a fresh flower crown for them to wear and we purchase a special and meaningful book and then write something special inside it for them. I think these mean just as much to me as to them.

I usually try to recall the child's birth story on their birthday. Sirah's is one I don't think I will ever forget so it is easy to remember because it was so hard on me. But she is worth it! I need to hug and hold her cuddling close more and more now as the time of that is coming to an end. Still there is freedom in how she is growing too, she is so much more independent now. I love her smiles and her babyish giggle still and Serona loves the way she kisses his nose.


August 16, 2006

Why I Love September

Seems a bit strange to write that title in the middle of August I know. Still I have been talking a lot recently about the month of September and the beginning of school this week so I have decided to blog about it.

We take off much, if not all, of the month of September. When people ask when school starts for us I generally say the first week of October, though sometimes we start the last week of September. And no we don't school year round we take nice long summer breaks.

This year we have a family vacation to California planned for the first week of September. My brother is getting married and then we extended our stay to visit Serona's sister and her family. We will return after most kids have started back to school. Then for the next two or three weeks we will spend some of my favorite time of the school year together as a family doing lots of fun stuff.

As the big yellow school bus drives by we may still be playing outside enjoying the yard or getting a late start to a day at the zoo. The first two weeks of school are the ABSOLUTE BEST time to enjoy all the local museums, zoos and any place that is usually crowded with kids. The reason is most kids are back in school and school field trips have not begun yet.

We have spent the entire day at the MN History Center and been the only people at the exhibits. We have taken our time at all the zoo exhibits never feeling rushed, we have explored the science museum without experiencing the usual pushing and shoving and rowdiness of the school groups. We do typically go to three or four locations each week and simply enjoy ourselves.

I find this to be a great transition back into school. My kids will bring their sketchbooks and draw a picture or take notes about something they observed. Sometimes we follow up at the library to pick up more books on a subject and sometimes we just enjoy the exhibits. By the time everyone else is getting ready to start going to these locations we are done and ready to settle into school. I find the museums whet my kids appetite for learning while at the same time really brings home some of the advantages of homeschooling as they see their friends get on a bus and start up their long days again.

The weather in September is also typically beautiful and fall is my favorite season. We go on nature walks and explore the parks and enjoy our yard and the playground. We talk about plants and enjoy the arboretum. We watch the leaves start to turn and enjoy the extended summer. September is a wonderful month for us indeed! Take a little time now to plan some fun activities and events for your first weeks of school, let the books wait just a little longer and enjoy that magical time when your kids are home and so many others are not. Enjoy September!


August 15, 2006

A Different Kind of Worship

This past Sunday for a variety of reasons we did not make it to our church service on time. We decided that by the time we got into the building and settled no one was going to get enough out of it so we adapted our plans. On the fly Serona and I decided to have a day of family worship in a rather non-traditional way.

We unveiled pieces of our plan to the kids as we went along starting out by explaining that we were going to have a day of expressing our thankfulness to God for his many blessings on our family and of learning about him in unusual places. The idea of the day was to contemplate and discuss the ways we learned about God in each place we were and to explain how that experience or location or activity made us thankful to Him.

As we were going to spend much of the day in the car because of the locations chosen worship music also became a central focus. Each family member took turns choosing worship music, some from the ipod, some from the radio and some from the kids favorite Wee Sing Bible songs tape. We often sang aloud the songs, other times we listened quietly and sometimes we talked about them.

We began at the MN landscape arboretum. The day was rainy so we did not actually get out of our car, rather we took a 3 mile drive through the park listening and looking and talking about what we saw. As you can guess this location was filled with thankfulness and realizations of God's creation. Some things that were noted and appreciated included a variety of birds, trees, small animals, colors, variety and beauty. We talked quite a bit about the color green and blue and how soothing they are and how that is no coincidence. We talked about the colorful palette used to paint the world and about the way little raindrops looked on the edges of leaves. It was a great way to start the day.

On our drive to the next location we talked about being thankful for things like cars, gasoline and airplanes. We talked about how much easier transportation is now than it was before and how much more opportunity and conveniences we have. We talked about electricity and the sun, roads and living near airports. The kids went around the car sharing something they were thankful for or loved about each of their siblings. These answers were tender and cute, from smiles to silly faces to the way they feel loved to being read books and playing games together. We also reflected on some of the music we listened to and how it made us feel and what we learned from it. We took moments to say small prayers of thank you and to our amazement our little idea seemed to be working.

Our next location was the MN history museum. Here we learned about people, our history and things that we have accomplished and learned over the years. We talked about the role God had in these things, we talked about the blessings of progress and after visiting the tornado room talked about having a respect for nature and a thankfulness for the continual protection we experience from hardship and disasters. Of course we also had a lot of fun just playing and learning together.

We headed over to the science museum but the line to get into the parking garage stretched two blocks long. Not seeing this as a positive sign of how crowded it would be inside we changed plans and headed over to the children's museum also in St. Paul.

At the children's museum we explored the new art exhibit talking about color and lines and the art. We talked about nature in the camping exhibit and about sharing as they had to share with other kids. They explored and enjoyed and it was fun to be a part of that with them. We realized at this museum that we had long since passed Sirah's naptime and had limited time left.

Serona took the older two through the mechanical and more scientific type exhibits while I took Sirah to play in the child sized grocery store and kitchen. She had fun exploring and getting to be "grown up" and each kid got to spend time doing more of what they would enjoy without worrying about if the other sibling was okay or happy, a nice change of pace.

We all reunited in the water exhibit which is always a favorite with all the kids. Sirah raced boats down a water slide, Rhiannon spent most of her time trying to make extremely large bubbles and Ciaran was most interested in making the balls make it all the way through the water tubes by holding your hand over different holes to control water pressure.

We talked a little about being thankful for water and for fun. We also talked about how thankful we were to have memberships and the generosity of family that allowed us to do so many wonderful things all in the same day for only the cost of parking. We talked about being thankful for family and headed back into the car. We made it through about one or two songs before all three kids were soundly asleep for the remainder of the car ride home.

We arrived at home and made homemade pizzas and watched a family movie together before bed. All in all it was a great way to spend a Sunday! The lessons of being thankful for all we have (which is so very much) and of being able to see God's hand and role in all different aspects of our lives really seemed to have made an impression on them. The lesson hit home and it was just so much fun to do so many different and fun things together as a family.

I think what made the day so successful was the contextual framework we as parents gave the kids to filter all the experiences of the day through. It really kept them thinking about what we wanted them to think about and it kept the day enjoyable and fun. Very few squabbles or problems despite the marathon of activities and long time spent in a car. We always had something to go back to or to frame our experiences and I can not think of two better themes to frame our day than thankfulness and finding God in all we did. This is fun and easy to do with your own kids just pick some of your favorite things to do and help them see what you want them to see in it, letting them discover and point out the obvious and overlooked things in what we so often simply take for granted.

Peace in Him,

Irish Fair

We went to the Irish fair in St Paul, MN this past weekend. We have been there several years and really enjoy it as a family. There are many fun activities and events to participate in or just watch, not to mention the many interesting vendors to look at and all the Irish people you see. OK so many of them are like me and are American Irish, or Americans who are from Irish descent. Still I was raised with lots of Irish traditions, it seems at times my family simply called anything they wanted to stick around a tradition and it had long standing power. I love that about my family. I have a patient husband who realized that by joining our "clan" he suddenly was IBM - Irish by Marriage. He has been a great sport about it and joined right in and is passing that on to our children.

At the fair we watched hurling, the kids even learned how to play and played some. We of course watched some Irish step dance and listened to good Irish music. We watched sheep herding and the kids sang a folk song taking turns singing in the mike with lots of other kids as well. We looked around at lots of interesting Irish vendors and somehow managed not to spend too much money at them. It was a beautiful day, though a bit hot, and we all had a lot of fun.

I wondered if seeing the step dancers would encourage Rhiannon to want to take Irish dance again and it did to a point. Still there are many other things she wants to try first so I think the dance lessons are on hold for now. We are pretty limiting in how many activities we allow the kids to do at any given time otherwise I think she would still be in Irish dance as she did enjoy it and she loves watching them dance.

The St. Paul Irish fair is a great free family event. The only downsides, the food is not very vegetarian friendly and they don't serve Guinness!! This was a tough one for me to swallow - no Guinness at the Irish festival - something is just not right! I am sorry but Summit Stout does not even come close! Wish I had realized that before we made our beverage and food ticket purchases. Still, if you are ever in the neighborhood during the Irish fair in August be sure to give it a try.


August 10, 2006

Field Trips Ideas

Getting ready to plan out the field trips for our support group this fall. We already have many ideas in the works but I always love to hear about others favorite trips. Anyone have some great ideas for field trips from September through December? We have wide age ranges from preschool through high school, we run small trips and big trips. All ideas welcome!


Tender Thankful Hearts

Rhiannon shared with me this week as we passed the intersection of our car accident that she says a prayer every time we are at that intersection thanking God for protecting us during the accident. We pass that intersection many times in a week as it is on the way to Serona's office and near places we frequently drive. What a tender and thankful heart she has and what a good reminder to me.


August 9, 2006

Rhiannon's Amazing 7th Birthday - New York Style

Rhiannon just had an amazing experience that I was blessed to take part in as well. Her 7th birthday recently passed and for her gift (and just because they wanted to) my parents paid for her and I to return to NY for a visit with them. Just the two of us boarded the plane for a 5 day vacation with my parents. My brother and his fiancée were also in town from California and we enjoyed being all together for part of the time.

Our weekend vacation began on a Saturday. We woke up and spent our last morning with Serona’s parents (who were visiting from Maine). They left for the airport about an hour before us. Poor Serona, Sirah and Ciaran had to say goodbye to the grandparents, mommy and sister all in the same day. We headed to the airport and had a nice uneventful flight to NYC. Rhiannon gave up her window seat so that another passenger could sit with his family but she still got glimpses of the city skyline from the plane. We landed, got our luggage and headed to my parents house for a quick hello and then off to our family reunion.

I am part of a big Irish family. Every 2 years we get together with our extended family. My grandfather had 11 brothers and sisters and our families get together. Between his brothers, sisters and their kin we number well over 300! It is amazing to realize you are part of a family that big. Even just my aunts and uncles and direct cousins and families number in the 30’s. So the day we landed was the day of the reunion. We raced to the reunion and arrived late but still there were quite a large number of people gathered. Rhiannon, who has not been to NY since she was 3, met her cousin (a girl 6 months older than her) and they were joined at the hip the rest of the weekend as if they knew each other their whole lives. We went swimming, jumped on the trampoline, listened to patriotic music and had a nice time visiting with family. We got lost on the way home, my brother and I trying to navigate a place neither of us has driven in the past 5 years (over a decade for me), but eventually we made it home.

Next day was a surprise wedding shower for my future SIL. She was very surprised and that was a lot of fun. Because my family is pretty fun and non-traditional it was a mixed gender shower and that was fun to see everyone and visit together. It was a very hot day and only one room in the house had air conditioning but we all managed and had fun. The bride and groom were obviously happy and it was nice to spend time with my relatives that I so rarely see. It was an all day affair with us returning home well after 10pm. My parents, brother, SIL and myself played a video trivia game until the wee hours of the morning after Rhiannon went to sleep.

Monday was a laid back day spent with just my brother, SIL and parents. After they left to catch a plane back to Cali, my dad and I took Rhiannon to the ocean. While this was not her first time at the ocean, it is the first time she will remember and was truly old enough to enjoy it. We took her to Florida as a baby and she has been in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as a small child. She saw (and touched) the ocean in Maine this past fall but it was cold and not a place where the waves really rolled in. So this was like a brand new experience to her. Rhiannon has become quite the fish this summer, really enjoying swimming and spending several days a week in water (pool or beach) for hours at a time. It was a lot of fun to see her reactions to the water.

The surf was a bit rough, it was later in the evening and only I was going in the water with her. Having not been in the ocean in awhile I did not trust myself to go out to far with her by myself. So we played in the breakers mostly. I was tempted to take her out past the first breakers but in the end chickened out and we stayed close to shore. I think we received much more sand because of this choice.

The tie breaker for me was the massive amounts of jellyfish that were in the water. Most of them were dead but I really did not want to deal with the possibility of her freaking out from the waves and the jellyfish at the same time. I could not believe how many dead jellyfish there were. As you stood there they crashed into your legs and you felt them. If you looked along the shoreline it was covered with hundreds of them. It was interesting to examine them and I even tried to encourage her to hold one (they had no tentacles at this point) but she would not. She did touch one which she thought was gross enough. I could not help but think that if Ciaran were here he would spend the remainder of his time at the beach collecting jellyfish in a big pit or something and then trying to dissect them.

We stayed at the beach for a long time enjoying the waves, cool breezes and ocean smells. To this day the ocean is still one of my favorite places in the world. I could always spend a lot of time there and did all through growing up. I do miss the ocean here in landlocked Minnesota and have a hard time calling a lake a beach. It was special to get to share the ocean with Rhiannon and see how much she enjoyed it as well (though the jellyfish definitely were a downer for her). It was special to be there with my dad too as we both share a love of the ocean. We headed home and played a family board game until Rhiannon was too tired to stay awake and headed to bed.

Tuesday was our big day (can you believe that) as we headed into NYC. This was the first time Rhiannon was in NYC (she may have been as a baby but she would have no memory of that). She was overwhelmed by how loud and busy it was and how much bigger everything was. We drove into Manhattan and she started getting overwhelmed in Queens before we even reached the city. My father dropped us off at the door of the American girl shop while he went to park the car. We spent the next several hours in the American Girl shop. Rhiannon loves the American girl books and dolls. She has read all the books (except Addy which I will not allow yet) and last Christmas received Felicity and Elizabeth along with much of their wardrobes. While at first I had a hard time with how much all of that costs she really plays with these dolls nearly every day and truly enjoys and appreciates the historical fiction part of them. She has read and reread the books more times then I can count. So it was very exciting for her to go to the store.

Her first reaction was not what I expected. She was absolutely overwhelmed and did not know what to do. You come in on the contemporary level which held little interest for her and just seemed like too much. There were too many people, too many dolls, too many outfits and way too much noise. We went upstairs to the second floor where the displays are smaller and the dolls are all the historical characters and there she settled in and became excited. She spent a good amount of time looking at each dolls display and time periods and just relaxed. She did not ask for anything and was just taking it all in.

The first thing she asked for was to find a matching outfit for her and her doll. She wanted one from the Felicity time period but the store does not sell any of the historical clothing for girls. Apparently they are too expensive to make and there is not a market for them, most girls prefer the contemporary clothes for both themselves and their dolls. We did manage to find a Grecian princess costume that was perfect for her. Fancy, historical, fun and it looked beautiful on her. We then made an appointment for her doll to have her hair done. This can take all afternoon (there were 28 dolls in front of us) and is first come first serve, so do it as soon as you get there. While we waited we of course browsed the store for a long time.

When her dolls hair was being done she got to watch and talk to the woman doing her hair. Her stylist was fabulous and really took to Rhiannon. She even offered to do Rhiannon’s hair in the same style as her dolls (this is not normally done). In the end Rhiannon and her doll, Elizabeth (Felicity’s best friend) looked nearly identical and both were turning heads and making people smile. There were many girls dressed up but the outfit Rhia picked was more like a costume and very fancy in comparison to a lot of the others. She picked the dress up princess outfit to be sure. We went to the top floor so she could get her picture taken with Elizabeth for the cover of American girl (a personal copy – not the actual magazine) and then made our final purchases.

Her grandparents were very generous and Rhiannon decided on purchasing Kaya and a few of her outfits. Rhia loves Kaya, Felicity and Elizabeth because they all love and ride horses (her other passion). She was super excited and I lost all will to argue about having a third doll when I saw her expression and desire. We have no barbies, no polly pockets and no Bratz dolls. We have said no to a lot and it is nice that she has something she loves so much that has so much meaning to her. Besides Kaya is a very different doll in clothing styles and everything (being the traditional Native American doll) and she has one major thing in her favor – no care hair as she needs to keep her braids in at all times.
We left the American girl store and headed to St Patrick’s cathedral. Rhiannon lit a candle and prayed for her grandparents and some other prayers. We walked her slowly through the cathedral answering questions and pointing out the beauty and history of the place. I always enjoy seeing and hearing her observations as well. We spent just a brief time there but it was long enough for her and for most people I would think. We headed over to Times Square then which I knew would be overwhelming to her. We went to dinner in the Marriot Marquis’ The View Restaurant. This is one of my personal favorite restaurants in all of NYC because of the view. The food is good, the service is excellent but it is seeing so much of the skyline of Manhattan that is truly special. The restaurant rotates very slowly so you can see all points of view from your table. The restaurant was a bit too fancy for Rhiannon as even their children’s meals were done extra fancy and did not taste the best to her. Dessert was a real treat for her though and she smiled so big then as they places before her 6 miniature ice cream cones, each with its own flavor of ice cream or sorbet.

Then we went to see the Broadway show Beauty and the Beast! It was amazing and incredible as you would expect from Broadway. It is magical to see everyone at their best. The best actors, the best musicians, the best lighting and sound technicians, the best stage directors, just the best of everything and it truly shows. The play was moving and touching and very well done. It stayed very true to the story, which was nice for Rhia to follow along with and be able to just relax and enjoy the show. We had fabulous seats, front row balcony seats. It was just too incredible to describe.

The entire day had been wonderful and amazing and a magical experience for all of us. Rhiannon was so grateful and realized how special it was and how blessed she was. She could not find words to express her thanks enough and still had not. She said it was one of the best days of her life. She certainly understands that it is a once in a lifetime kind of day, not an everyday experience, much like Walt Disney World was. She still talks about it and is still thankful.

As we left the theater and headed home, we drove through Times Square so she could get the feel for the lights and neon and whole thing. It was very overwhelming, too bright and just too much for her. She asked to see the Statue of Liberty so my dad, bless his heart, drove pretty much the entire island to get a glimpse of the statue at night. We had a great view as we crossed the bridge back home. We got home well after 1am and I proceeded to pack for our early morning departure. After around 3 hours of sleep we arose and headed home to an eventful and hot ride home but safely we arrived to find Serona waiting for us with roses and went to pick up the other kids and spend some family time together.

It was very special to have that vacation with Rhiannon. Not only did we do so many wonderful and amazing things together but we got to spend time just us together. That is nice to do with each child once in awhile. It was nice that it was just us in some ways. We certainly missed the rest of the family but it was fun to just connect with her. It was also a break to be able to visit with my family as I only had her with me and she spent nearly all her family event time with my cousin. I am glad we had this opportunity together. Mom and Dad, thank you so much for your generosity. Serona, Ciaran and Sirah thanks for giving us up for a little while and being such good sports about it. My two dear friends that took Ciaran and Sirah while Serona worked, thanks for making it possible. To the other friends who also offered to help out to make this possible, thanks so much. It truly was a special time that we all will treasure for years to come. I know Rhiannon will always remember this day.


August 8, 2006

Family Fitness

We had a great night tonight as a family. It was inexpensive, fun and healthy and we were together. After dinner Serona and I played racquetball while the kids played in a basketball court and playground. After racquetball (and burning around 600 calories) we picked up the kids and took them rock climbing. Ciaran and Sirah both learned to climb the walls (first time for both of them) and Serona took a belaying class so he could belay for them as they climbed. The kids did awesome; each of them reached the top of a very high climbing wall and rang the bell. Sirah and I watched and cheered them on. It was a simple and great night filled with exercise and family time. Hope to do this more often.


August 3, 2006

Pouring out the Rain

Song: Help Pour Out The Rain (Lacey's Song)by Buddy Jewell

The moment was custom-made to order:
I was ridin' with my daughter on our way back from Monroe.
An' like children do, she started playin' twenty questions,
But I never could've guessed one would touch me to my soul.

She said: "Daddy, when we get to Heaven, can I taste the Milky Way?
"Are we goin' there to visit, or are we goin' there to stay?
"Am I gonna see my Grandpa? Can I have a pair of wings?
"An' do you think that God could use another Angel,
"To help pour out the rain?"

Well, I won't lie: I pulled that car right over,
An' I sat there on the shoulder tryin' to dry my misty eyes.
An' I whispered: "Lord, I wanna thank you for my children.
"'Cause your innocence that fills them often takes me by surprise."

Like: "Daddy, when we get to Heaven, can I taste the Milky Way?
"Are we goin' there to visit, or are we goin' there to stay?
"Am I gonna see my Grandpa? Can I have a pair of wings?
"An' do you think that God could use another Angel,
"To help pour out the rain?"

Well, I thought about it later on,
An' a smile came to my face.
An' when I tucked her in to bed,
I got down on my knees an' prayed.

Lord, when I get to Heaven, can I taste the Milky Way?
"I don't wanna come to visit 'cause I'm comin' home to stay?
"An' I can't wait to see my family and meet Jesus face to face.
"An' do you think, Lord, you could use just one more Angel,
"To help pour out the rain?"

Mmmm, can I help pour out the rain?