Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Enjoying the Small Things

This is why I love blogging.

...because at the end of the day, I finally sit in the red chair to edit a few pictures. I settle into my nook and turn my speakers up, cueing the dogs to come curl at my feet, one on either side, as I begin the process--sorting my favorites into a folder. I slowly click forward, one photo at a time, and smile. Things I've forgotten I snapped. Sweet smiles I overlooked. Moments I might have never thought about again.

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But now they are frozen, magnified by the size of the screen, glorifed by the glow of computer light, and I stop and really look at them...and remember it all.

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The sky seems bluer, the trees more vivid and life just a tad bit sweeter.

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And somehow this ritual of stringing photos and words together makes me more grateful, more aware, more present.

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And I like that.

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Enjoying...

Breakfasts with Friends.
A new Wednesday ritual--one that will definitely stay. We house swap each week, and this week brought a small group of friends to my kitchen. I love having people in our house.

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Which reminds me of a particular afternoon when I lived with my grandma and grandpa. The living room was full of visiting friends, and I watched as my grandma hurried around the kitchen, pouring coffee and arranging food trays to serve the friends that laughed and told stories in the other room. I offered to take over as certainly, she'd rather be part of the conversation in the living room. And my grandma smiled a different smile--the all-knowing "I have this one figured out" smile and replied, "No, I don't have to be in there. I just like hearing them." I know exactly what she meant.

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Hunting in the Woods.
Lainey's favorite game right now is hiding tiny things in the woods and making me hunt for them. Like these baby chicks.

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Eleven chicks she hides under pinecones and dried leaves, and she remembers where every last one was placed.

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More "Ohs"
The Bath Oh, ranking slightly below The Beach Oh, but still pretty high on the list of Ohs That Make Me Smile.

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Nook Spruce-up.
Had to hang my Abernathy art above my desk ("the only thing I am 100% certain of is what I am doing exactly right at this moment now") and needed something different. Small but necessary change. I can't have things looking the same in my house for very long at all, or my inspiration gets stale.

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Baby Dolls.
It's happened on its own with both my girls--their love of baby dolls. Nella's finally given up bossing them around and now she's gentle...but if you'll notice, Lainey still puts them in their place.

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Her Squinty-Eyed Smile.
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Almond eyes magically transfrom into almond slivers when she smiles, and I've memorized this face and see it in my sleep...sweet little crescent moons that get me every time.

But full moons are quite lovely too.

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And the barrettes? Adorable stay-put gems from new sponsor, Coco Penny. The barrettes stay in all day, work brilliantly with baby fine hair and can be clipped onto everything--purses, belts, headbands, you name it.

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Check out their amazing assortment of headbands, clips and embellished onesies, and use code "smallthings" for 10% off your order. (Nella's worn our favorite felt flower clip practically every day this week!)

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TWO commenters on this post will be randomly selected to receive a $25 gift certificate from Coco Penny. And because I love hearing what you have to say too, in your comment tell me what's the last thing that made you laugh?

The last thing that made me laugh: Lainey tattling on Nella as in "Hey Mom, Nella's being mean to me!"

So yes, this right here is what I like about blogging. Feeling *that* much more aware of the little things that add up to one big thing. And I tie a grateful note to the string of a balloon and then I let it go...into the void, having no idea where it's going but feeling good watching it float, float, float away.

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Publish Post.

Dog

Post coming soon, but it's late and nothing sounds better at this moment than crawling into bed with my babies, so a quick little video from today for now.

This just barely catches the bits of magic happening between my girls lately. Nella crawls the fastest, fights the hardest, pushes the most determined when the prize on the other side is her sister. Today, we caught Lainey teaching Nella how to say "dog" with her flashcards. And the little student performed. The big sister taught the little sister how to say "dog," and my heart could not be happier.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dirty Bit.

We had a hot date Saturday night. I wore a dress; Brett spritzed cologne. There was the rare ritual of lipstick, hair curling, hobbling out into the living room with two different shoes to ask Brett which ones (he chose the closed-toe flats; I, of course, wore the open-toe sandals). I explained the baby food and bedtime routine to Brett's mom while he kissed the kids, and we were out the door--late, as usual--two seconds later to pick up our friends and head to our swanky destination.

Swanky Destination: The fellowship hall of a Catholic church where a yellow balloon arch was erected in celebration of the North Naples Kiwanis Club fundraiser. Plastic cups, buffet line, all-you-can-eat coleslaw. Oh yeah, we go all out.

We had purchased tickets a couple months ago to support the cause and represent our dear neighbor who works with the club, and, despite the fact our hot date was a stone's throw from an altar and a crucifix, it was still just that...a hot date. My dress was a little overdone among the throng of shorts and flowered shirts, and we may have been the youngest couple there, but I'll be damned if it wasn't a complete blast. The deejay ripped Chubby Checker and Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs, and we twisted and cha-cha'ed and joined Conga lines where the tipsy grandpa behind me tickled my sides and asked where my husband was...swear. But the entire night was full of deep inhalations of sweet, sweet life. Ones that included toasting red plastic cups and cheering on the limbo line and whispering amongst friends, pointing out which fun crazy grandmas on the dance floor we hoped represented our future selves (for the record, the future-self I've had my eye on--oh, for the last seven years since I've known her--is Kathleen, the most beautiful, vivacious, high-on-life sixty-something-year-old I've ever met).

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Matt & Dede, fellow neighbors and friends.

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Bonus of the night: Kathleen taught me the polka. And let me tell you something...those people were serious about their polka dance. Definitely not amused by the girl in the long dress who was stepping on their toes and crashing into their moment of polka glory. My jerky side-skipping looked nothing like the polka, and I must have apologized twenty times. But I totally made up for it when I taught Nana Kate some new moves to Black Eyed Peas' Dirty Bit.

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So, the clubs may wanna take all the credit for where the party was Saturday night, but I'm tellin' you, it was happening on the dance floor at St. John the Evangelist Church.

Oh, I've had the time of my life, and I've never felt this way before, and I swear this is true, and I owe it all to you. ...Dirty Bit.

The rest of the weekend in snapshots:

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Nella's new found love is toilet paper. She is thrilled with the fact that one good tug of the roll spins a huge mess, and she drags it around the house with a mischeivous grin while the dogs paw at the paper trail behind her.

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Our neighbors across the street have the best tree swing in the history of mankind. It looks very Swiss Family Robinson.


We went for a 6 mile bike ride yesterday--three miles to the park and three back. We left at prime time for the sun show, right when it was angled appropriately for the most dramatic rays-stretching-through-trees effect and large contrasting shadows of our silhouettes that rode parallel to our right. However, unbeknownst to me for the first stretch of our trip, my bike brake was malfunctioning and I pedaled three miles resisting the little brake that was half-gripping my back tire (me and bikes don't mix). I thought I was out of shape and didn't mention anything to Brett, embarrassed that the lowest gear setting had me laboring just to answer his questions and praying the park would suddenly appear when he seemed to be zipping through his leg rotations and effortlessly pulling two kids behind him. I started counting my pedal cycles in my head half-way through, hoping Brett would shut up so I wouldn't have to waste breath answering him and attempting to get my mind off the fact that my heart seemed to have moved to my head as it was beating prominently between my ears. Thankfully, we arrived right as I was spinning/gasping/heaving into the six-hundred-and-seventh rotation. I've never loved the sight of a park so much in all my life.

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Don't be fooled. I'm smiling but very aware that my heart is still racing and my calves are still twitching.
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Nella's famous pout protest, ticked I swept mulch out of her mouth: Photobucket Photobucket

Thanks to an adjusted brake, the ride home was much more enjoyable.

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Lest ye be concerned, photo taken pre-bike helmet, thank you.


The sun had settled for the absence of a brilliant light show for our trip back, but unicorns have a way of showing up when you're looking for them. Hence the random peacock that strutted through a clearing where we pedaled past. WTH?

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Jelly Shoes: check. (thanks to whomever it was that suggested Old Navy) Carry on, Spring.

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And, just as the ritual of trickling hot coffee into my mug this morning commenced the beginning of a promising week, our long ceremonious hot bath last night closed out all the adventures we enjoyed over the weekend.

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Nella won't sit for anything anymore, and bath time has become an entertaining adventure where my attention volleys between baby sit n' stand repetitions and Lainey's pleas of "Hey, Mom, watch this doll go pee-pee."

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The week awaits.

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I will perfect my polka.

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...I've had the time of my life
and I've never felt this way before,
and I swear
this is true,
and I owe it all to you.

Dirty Bit.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happiness is...

Happiness is...
...making sure to jump up and tap every reachable branch above you on an afternoon run. And then screaming "YES!" after you do it.

Happiness is...
...the "I trust you" face that prefaces the stomach-flipping delight of a daddy toss.

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Happiness is...
...spring driveway car washes. Preferably when the cars are small and plastic and passed down from big brothers who used to Flinstone-pedal down this same driveway years ago.

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Happiness is...
...the heart-swelling feeling of "she belongs to me."

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Earrings, Miss Scarlet from Linkel Designs.

Happiness is...
...a Friday afternoon ballet recital, enthusiastically performed in our living room by Dot the Great and Lainey.

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Happiness is...
...my soon-to-be stepfather who took a detour from his Orlando trip to come visit us. Yup, stepdad. Remember the EHarmony story? Well, my mom and George are happy and in love and later this spring, we will be driving to Michigan where my brother and sister and I will be giving my mom away. And that makes me happy. Because he makes her happy. And that will give my kids a fifth grandpa which is just plain cool.

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Happiness is...
...four kids, two moms, and one overpriced bag of cotton candy at the Collier County Fair.

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Happiness is...
...laughing at my girl who begged to ride the hamster wheel but just sat all shy and quiet in it during the entire ten minute ride.

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Happiness is...
...being a kid again.

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Happiness is...
...coming home with dirty feet and clothes that smelled like grease and cows and corndogs but, even better, a conked-out kid who would awaken with stories. Of rides and animals and cotton fluff that melted into sugary puddles on her tongue.

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Happiness is...
...her "front gate" teeth. Crooked little pearls that make me smile.

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Happiness is...
...tiny french braids. She is still and quiet as I braid, and I am careful to weave her hair as gently as I can so she continues to agree to this new braiding ritual. It makes me happy in that I-dreamed-of-this-when-I-was-twelve way. Because I always wanted a little girl who'd let me braid her hair ever since our old neighbor, April Shea, braided mine. She was in high school, she was cool, and she did the best french braids--no bumps. Because, God, there was nothing worse than going to school with bumpy braids. And I liked the way she used the wrong end of the comb to split my hair into the world's straightest part...and the way I shivered when the comb hit the nape of my neck. I'm gonna perfect April Shea's method, I am.

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Happiness is...
...this.

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Happiness is...
...cool contests.

I would like to announce a photo contest for my friends in the Down syndrome community. Conny Wenk and I provided photos for the book Diagnosis to Delivery: A Pregnant Mother's Guide to Down Syndrome. DownSyndromePregnancy.org is moving on to other projects, which includes several booklets as well as Spanish translations. It will take some time to complete each of these projects, and quality photography will be an important part of each of them.

If you have a quality photo of your child with Down syndrome, you can submit it to me at kellehamptonblog@comcast.net. Please title your subject line PHOTO CONTEST. Your photo may be selected to be a part of DownSyndromePregnancy's future projects, or appear on its blog.

While all photos are welcome, photography which features extended family, and photography showing fathers are of particular importance. Also, photos reflecting ethnic diversity are being sought as well. Please provide a sentence or two which identifies the individuals in the photo and their relationship to the person with Down syndrome, as well as ethnicity if important.

In order for photography to be used, the following criteria must be met:

1) You must own the copyright;
2) You must agree to full license for use by DownSyndromePregnancy.org.
3) Photos must be submitted in .tiff or .jpg files

There will be no financial payment for the use of such photos.

The text of the first booklet, "Your Loved One is Having a Baby with Down Syndrome" is complete. Photos, and funding for the design work is all that is needed to have a wonderful resource for the extended family and friends of parents learning of a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

I look forward to seeing all of those beautiful faces!

Giveaway Winner for the Bambaroos gift certificate: Comment #16, Tabitha: Thanks for sharing this today...it was good to hear and made me reminisce about my own childhood memories. also beautiful pictures and what pretty oranges!

Tabitha, please e-mail your info to
kellehamptonblog@comcast.net, and some pretties will hit your mailbox soon!


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Have a happy weekend. It's a good weekend for dancing.

Happiness is...
...present.
Find it.

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