Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday, At Last

At this moment, from my desk chair, I can peer between the blind slats of our office/soon-to-be-Lainey's-room window and view a scene that summarizes the goodness of summer, the commencement of a lazy weekend, the celebration of a daddy who's returned after a four-day retreat. A shallow puddle of water from an abandoned running hose slowly spreads across our driveway cement, and tiny wet footprints escape from its edge. There are barefoot babies, a mess of trikes, a bottle of bubbles tipped over and spilled, and a beach chair throne erected in the thick of it where Brett sits, content, as bright sky fades to dim sky fades to dark sky.

I love Friday nights. We make a big deal of weekends with its waffles and coffee refills and no-such-thing-as-time mentality, but really the peak of a weekend's glory is all about the Friday night. It's the Christmas Eve of Weekend. The potential of really great things.

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While Brett was gone, I remembered to haul garbage cans to the curb, lock the doors, dim the lights, and I only had to scrape dog poop out of our entryway rug once. It's amazing just how much I get done when I am motivated to prove a point to myself. Something about badassery, I guess, but still--knowing I am capable is satisfying.

I worked harder, stayed up later, woke up earlier, kissed more, cleaned more, and was that more aware to be present.

I enjoyed them so much this week.

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Bed photos: ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/50 s (16-35 mm) , no flash

Last night, I tucked them into my bed later than usual. Lainey fell asleep quickly and easily while I staved off Nella who laughed and babbled and tried to scale her sister's body, no doubt aware she wasn't to be disturbed. Finally, her steady breaths joined her sister's, and I huddled over them, studying my favorite features. Paper thin eyelids that beg to be kissed, soft wisps of hair swept over forehead, shallow slopes at the tops of their noses where I run my finger again and again.

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There is a magic to a sleeping child--a spell cast on the beholder. When I watch my children breathe steadily as they dream and peacefully sleep, I am so acutely aware of the gift they are, and I am smitten with love in a breathless moment of They Belong to Me.

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Big, big love.

*****

We enthusiastically welcomed our morning today with an early hike along a stretch of boardwalk near my dad's place. The setting was picturesque, brilliantly enhanced with dabbled sunlight and lush greens. Perhaps it was my last hoorah in proving I was a badass before Brett came home, a valid proclamation evident from our trek across the finish line an hour after we commenced.

But first, I felt brave and ambitious as we approached the starting line of our journey. The sun was angled for comfortable shade, Latte was trotting energetically, Lainey had a half-skip to her step, and Nella smiled and waved as the wheels of her car ka-bump, ka-bump, ka-bumped over each boardwalk plank.

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We stopped to collect pinecones.

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We paused to snap pictures of grasshoppers.

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And the half-way point took my breath away with its mirror image clouds and rippled water--like Monet's stippled paintings.

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It was peaceful, that half-way point.

We stared at still water, waiting for the surface to break with a manatee snout or dolphin fin, but the gulf was quiet, and so we made up for it in meaningful chatter. I answered questions like "Mama, what are bears afraid of? What do pigs give us? What do cows eat?" because she's enthralled with this food chain idea lately and wants so badly to make sense of it. Before I could answer what makes a bear fearful, she answered her own question with her quip of "I think bears are afraid of themselves--when they look in the mirror"--and then she laughed and carried on.

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Everything changed the moment we turned to walk home. The sun climbed higher, the mosquitoes grew hungry, the dog started panting, Nella fell asleep and Lainey insisted her Build-a-Bear wanted to sit by himself in the push car.

What began as a semi-manageable congregation of toddler plus baby plus dog-on-leash turned into a living hell. For three quarters of a mile, I walked--holding a camera case; guiding a leash; cradling a slippery, sweaty baby; slapping mosquitoes; and thrusting my hips to push a car with a grumpy toddler and a lazy stuffed bear.

I tasted the salt from my sweat as it streamed down my temples and beaded above my lip. And with every ka-bump, ka-bump, ka-bump on the way back, I alternated curse words with the little bits I knew of the Serenity prayer.


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But we made it. Home. At last. And Brett pulled in late this afternoon, and now we are complete.

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Looking forward to the weekend.

*****

Friday Phone Dump:
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*****
Giveaway Winner:

I wish blogs had sound effects because I'd do some really cool Price is Right call down for giveaway winners. Just imagine it.

(I'm yelling really enthusiastically): "And the winner of the
Scentsy cupcake warmer and Happy Birthday bar is...(drum roll, drum roll, Bob Barker freak out...)"

Comment #22, Alisha: That last photo melted my heart. Nella looks so grown up sitting at the table and the way she is looking so adoringly at her big sister is SO beautiful.

Congratulations, Alisha. Sorry it's not a new car. Please send your contact info to
kellehamptonblog@comcast.net, and your house will never stink again.

*****

Re-Introducing:

One of our favorite sponsors is returning this month: Popina Swimwear. I've proclaimed my allegiance for their retro swimwear in several posts, and it's true--I love their butt-hugging, breast-boosting, waist-cinching vintage suits. So much, I occasionally wear them under jeans out and about when I'm feeling a little Betty Boop.

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Picking a swimsuit to wear from my collection of Popina suits is like choosing what my babies will wear their first day home (You remember that? It's so much fun). Every option is good.

One of my favorites: The Grace. Very Beach Blanket Bingo, Baby.

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Wear it. Love it. Shop for yours here.

Oh, and giveaways make weekends better. Popina is kindly giving away a swimsuit of winner's choice to a commenter who will be randomly selected from this post. Tell me what you hope your weekend looks like.

Ours: Quiet. Coffee. Long Bath. Lying on the floor in the living room watching some old Meg Ryan movie while kids climb on me and play with my hair. Unplanned gatherings with friends. Hot grill. Hot pavement. Bare feet. Music. Writing. Sleep.

*****

Happy Weekend.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Friends, Same Friends

I walked out in the garage in my nightgown early this morning to fetch the back-up supply of half & half and there, on top of my car, dimly lit by the overhead garage light was Cat, sprawled out and sound asleep. This is becoming pretty funny.

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We kind of unintentionally stole a cat.

*****

Last night was special--like coming home from summer camp and exclaiming to your parents that your cabin mate was the coolest girl in the world is special.

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I "met" Brooke through a writing opportunity with Babble (Girlfriend can do wonders in the kitchen...check her out). And the great universe, in its way of drawing kindred spirits through the Internet, finally paved the way for us to meet in real life. I felt like I knew Brooke's family already and yet it's always cool, that movie-like moment where we both arrive at the arranged meeting place, search each other out and hug like long lost friends. I wanted to do the whole "I'll be the girl holding a book with a red rose" to reveal my identity, but two kids and a beat-up stroller heaped with junk pretty much gave it away.

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This adorable family slayed me with their kindness and their quest to live fully.

The scene was sublime--quilts spread over a carpet of dried leaves, a canopy of leafy shade overhead, a rare July evening breeze, the proverbial picnic basket, my mom's old-fashioned potato salad (I forgot the serving spoon. I packed a picnic for a professional foodie, and we had nothing with which to scoop potato salad but two cheap plastic forks)...

But the conversation? Oh, it was rich. While John & Brooke's kids whisked the girls away to entertain them on swings and slides and things with wheels, we adults talked about life and love and faith. We asked good questions and concluded it was okay not to have all the answers.

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The sun sank slowly as our comfort level grew, and for each hour we lingered, we could have stayed another.

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Nella wants a piece of the action every time Lainey plays games on my phones.

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The encore to our park picnic came in the form of Kilwin's Fudge and Ice Cream Shop, conveniently located only a block from the park. I smiled watching Lainey make new friends and successfully contain her shy smile.

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Nella seriously threw down on some rasberry sorbet.

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...and when it was finally time to pry the cone from her deadly grip, it was a hot mess of an ordeal. A sticky fit ensued.

Sister likes her cones.

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After hugs and last exchanges, I buckled two tired girls in the car and, as I drove, I thought about just how awesome it is that in a world of so many differences, when you really get to know people and open yourself up in an honest way to learn something...you'll discover how very much the same we really are. I find such comfort in that sameness.

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*****

Brett's away this week, training for a new job, and I find that more responsibility for me comes with more ambition. I like the challenge of holding down the fort, giving extra attention to the girls and maybe--just maybe--I'll blow his mind when he returns to a clean house and trash cans that I actually remembered to drag to the curb.

Today we cooked and baked with friends.

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Shrimp chowder, cupcake cones with sprinkles, and a kitchen sink bath for Nella after she so generously offered her help with frosting duties.

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And when our day was almost spent and shadows stretched long in the driveway, we retreated from homey comforts to outdoor adventures just for a bit.

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And then called it a really good night.

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*****

The winner of the Heal My Sole gift certificate is Comment #292, Small Town Girl: Cracker Barrel, I really do love that place! Being in Vermont, we experience Cracker Barrel very seldomly. It reminds me of trips to Port Charlotte/Fort Myers to see my grandmother.

Congratulations, Small Town Girl! Please send your contact info to
kellehamptonblog@comcast.net, and you'll soon be shopping for some sweet smelling scrubs.

*****

Scentsy Independent Consultant, Jessica Clough, is back to sponsor (thanks for shopping with her last month!) again this month. Thanks to her, a new ritual in our home is the breaking-of-the-bar. When I need some cleaning mojo, I always begin by breaking a new scent bar and revving up my warmer. The rest is history. Today, a block of Groovy Grapefruit and Michael Jackson's "Beat It" inspired a full kitchen shake down.

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I'm already dreaming of fall and think Autumn Sunset, Clove & Cinnamon, and some sultry Embers scents might jump start my enthusiasm.

One lucky commenter on this post will win a Cupcake warmer and a Happy Birthday scent bar, courtesy of Jessica Clough's Scentsy Shop.

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*****

We're exhausted.

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Happy evening to you.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Learning to Stand

She's fully capable of standing alone, I just know it. Her legs are sturdy, her balance is unwavering and yet there's that itty bitty finger grip. She's not quite ready to let go, and that's okay.

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You know how many times in life I knew I possessed every ounce of strength and skill to do something and yet I chose to wait, clutching on to the guidance of others for whatever reason, until my confidence grew so strong, it pushed me like a rip current?

While I hold that tiny hand, providing the steadiness she thinks I give her, I know her confidence is brewing like a long-awaited cup of coffee. It will come and, in the meantime, I smile knowing that something as little as my finger--a tiny part of me--is all she needs to feel secure.

*****

It was a homey weekend. We ventured out only to take the crew to the airport and gather ingredients for broccoli soup.

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We crafted. We're working on switching some rooms just for fun in our house and, in the process, Lainey will get her own. Poking around Ohdeedoh for inspiration, I found a room I fell in love with but knew I had seen it somewhere before. And then I smiled, recognizing it as my blog friend, Meg's. Meg is crafty, kind, homey and adorable. Her house tour will leave you completely inspired, and we love this room so much, we are incorporating a little "READ" in Lainey's room too, next to a hanging book shelf above her bed. The room is a work in progress, but we did accomplish finishing our letters this week. I love the work of Eloise Wilkin, and we happened to have two copies of the same book, so we (gasp) tore one up to decoupage onto cardboard letters. Someone needs to pry this damn Mod Podge out of my hands before I start shallacking walls.

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More to come on her room.

*****

We dwell outside a lot these days. Nella cries at the door to go out, cries once we're out to get down, and cries when we finally come in for the night. She is happiest when she is hot, dirty, and scraping her butt along pavement.

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Sister likes it too. This is her badass cyclist look.

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Last week, a neighborhood cat ventured down to our driveway and decided he's in love my kids. Now, we find him sleeping in strollers in our garage and hear him crying outside our door first thing in the morning. Lainey thinks it's the coolest thing that ever happened to us.

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And Nella and Cat are making friends, slowly but surely. There have been stand-offs.

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But Lainey usually intervenes and does some good mediator work and now Cat, Kid and Sister are getting along swimmingly.

Do you see a cat?

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Cat camoflauges himself in our mulch, just like Latte does.

*****

This morning, Lainey and I set out on a much-needed date.

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We drove farther than usual to a hidden Cracker Barrel nestled away from the main stretch, between a Super 8 motel and a storage garage off of CR-951. It made me think of this trip, where Cracker Barrel breakfasts were as common as stopping for gas. I love Cracker Barrel. I like the way their store front smells like licorice and cinnamon and wood floor polish. I like the Smoky Mountain Hymn CDs they sell and their pickle barrels full of Raggedy Anns and sock monkeys.

We played checkers. I let her win.
We ate pancakes. I let her pour her own syrup.
We talked about words, and when she asked "What does p-y-u-b-w-z?" spell (because we're in that stage), I let her think "pyubwz" was a real word and she was awesome for spelling it.

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And right when I felt like the Cracker Barrel off the beaten path was far from home, we bumped into good friends--right there in the general store next to harmonicas and penny candy.

Lainey's friend, Aleena.

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The girls were thrilled to see each other, evident by their strange dance moves and endless giggling. They have a secret hand shake, these two. We noticed it a couple times after they received stickers at the end of ballet class. They tap fists in some wonder-twin-powers-activate move and then follow it by wiggling their fingers under their chin and mumbling some Mork-ish babble. It's inventive and hilarious.

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There's still more daylight that calls for driveway butt scoots tonight. Nella's, not mine.

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*****

Winner of $60 gift certificate, courtesy of Oh Ollie: Comment #67, Heatheroo: Yay the oh is back...isn't it sad when your kids "outgrow" things...but I'm glad Nella still has her oh....it makes me smile! Have a lovely weekend!

Congratulations Heather! Please send your info to
kellehamptonblog@comcast.net.

*****

When Brett saw the box from our returning sponsor on our counter this week, he got all excited. "That homemade lotion stuff is back?" he asked. He loved this stuff, and he wasn't the only one.

Heal My Sole is returning as a sponsor this month. Heal My Sole, a company that began with an idea and some homemade recipes in a kitchen, offers all natural body products. We tried the massage candle (smells amazing), the citrus scrub, and the all natural bug spray which we loved. It's perfect for kids and works great for beach no-see-ums and post-rain mosquitos.

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Use Code KELLE10 for 10% off your order until 8/26, and one comment on this post will be randomly chosen to win a $40 gift certificate, courtesy of Heal My Sole.

*****

Last week seemed to last forever, but this week I am pushed forward by the current of everything good. My legs are sturdy, my balance unwavering.

We are looking forward to some fun adventures on our calendar this week.

Cat is crying at our doorstep. Must go.

Happy Monday to all...and to all a good night.

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