Halloween Costumes: Themes & Sibling Groups

My kids woke up this morning practically vibrating from excitement.  And Halloween isn’t even until tomorrow.

But my parents are coming to visit this weekend and they fly in tonight and they’ll be here for Halloween and trick-or-treating ZOMG and so my kids are already crazy.  God help their teachers tomorrow.

We’ve done themed/sibling group costumes quite a few times, though not every year.  The theme ones are always my favorites!  I try not to buy whole costumes simply because I think it’s more fun to make them, but we do buy accessories we need (wigs, beards, weapons, spray paint, etc).  It forces us to be a little creative about how we interpret the costumes, I think.  And I love the craftiness of it.

Here’s a few #TBT Halloween shots from the past:

LOTR HAlloween

Halloween 2013, Lord of the Rings (Gimli, Gandalf, Legolas, Arwen)

halloween parade

2011, Wizard of Oz

retro halloween

2010, Classic Halloween Monsters


2008, Superheroes (crazy that there were only 3 kids then!)

This year’s costumes were the easiest EVER.  Everyone wanted to be something we already had or could borrow and so I spent exactly zero dollars and time on costumes this year.  Which, AWESOME.  We have no theme, but the kids are all happy with their costumes, excited to dress up, and thrilled that Nana and Pappy will be here for it!

Happy Halloween!

Uncharted Territory

balancing on a tree

Having a tiny little newborn is physically exhausting and mentally all-consuming.  When you have babies, you think nothing—NOTHING—can ever be that demanding again.

In a way, it’s true.  Your children, as they grow, demand less and less of you physically.  My babies are all old enough now to feed themselves and dress themselves.  They’re potty-trained and no one needs to be carried or pushed in a stroller.  They can buckle their own seat belts and brush their own teeth.  My hands, while always busy, are not constantly moving in service to a child’s needs.

We’ve moved on past the physical stage of parenting, and in some ways it’s a great relief and unburdening.

But in leaving that stage behind, we’ve moved on to new challenges.  With my boys, ages 8, 6, and 4, I’d say we’re firmly in a teaching stage.  We’re constantly showing them HOW to do new things—like read, make a bed, ride a bike, throw a football, fold laundry, understand fractions, build Lego cities.  They’re almost always in learning mode or practicing mode.  Although it’s definitely time-consuming, it’s also pretty fun.  And watching them learn a new skill or perfect something they’ve been practicing is really rewarding.

With B, though, at age ten, I think we’re moving into a whole new stage that we’ve not dealt with at all before.  This new stage seems to revolve mostly around emotions.  It’s not surprising, certainly, that a preteen girl is ruled by her feelings and her moods, but it is a new world for Matt and I as parents.  We’re treading carefully and trying to parent thoughtfully, but it’s going to be an interesting balancing act, I think.

I remember, a little at least, how difficult it is to be a preteen and teenager.  I remember how overwhelmingly significant everything seemed.  B is a lot like me, too—given to drama, over-sensitive, and fairly self-absorbed.  In some ways, that makes it easier for me to empathize with her.  But it’s also difficult because I can see her leading herself down the rabbit hole, and I can remember going there myself, and it’s all I can do not to shake her and say STOP IT THIS IS NOT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, I KNOW THIS FROM EXPERIENCE.

It seems like Matt and I have nightly discussions to figure out how we want to deal with pretty major topics–technology, access to things like Instagram and texting friends, balancing fun and responsibility, respect and kindness, and the list goes on.  We’re trying really hard to be PRO-active instead of RE-active.  But it is not easy.  And I know it’s only just beginning.

So I have a request for parents of teen girls:

Please, please tell me if you have tips or tricks or advice or stories or warnings or things you think you did well or things you think you could have done differently.

If you don’t have teen girls, but you know someone who does (or did and now has lovely grown daughters that turned out wonderfully!), please pass this post along.  I’d love to hear from more people who have been there and made it through relatively unscathed.

I know we’re not alone in finding the pre-teen years a bit challenging, but as they say, it takes a village, and right now, I’m looking to my village for some help and support.  Hook a mother up.

Home Grown

raspberriesI am no farmer.  I can barely call myself a gardener–my April enthusiasm is always replaced by July negligence and my plants must fend for themselves in the hot D.C. summers.

I’ve learned to be okay with that.  I’m happy enough to support my local farmers by buying produce from nearby markets.


We have a few little raspberry vines in a raised bed in our back yard.  We planted them a few years ago and basically ignored them and they were tiny and yielded nothing.  Until suddenly a few weeks ago I noticed a flash of dark pink as I walked past the sad, untended little things.  Lifting the leaves, I saw a half-dozen perfect little ripe raspberries, and a dozen more still to come.

There were only enough berries that first day for each of us to try one.  But, man, they are juicy and sweet and delicious.  And we grew them.  I mean, sort of.  Mother Nature gets 99% of the credit, but we DID plant them in the ground.  She did the rest.

Since then we’ve had 6, 10, 12 berries every few days.  Q goes out to check them and always calls me before he pulls any off the vine–he does not want to eat them before they’re ripe, so he wants to be sure they’re ready.  He needs help too, because his still-pudgy little hands tend to squish the berries rather than gently pull them loose.

We don’t have many, but raspberry plants spread, so there are quite a few vines in our raised bed now.  Maybe next year we’ll see more.  If not, though, it’s okay.  I’m happy with a handful of berries every few days.

It’s a lovely surprise how different they taste when you’ve grown them yourself.

Photos and Memories

IMGP7561Digital cameras make it so easy to take dozens and dozens (and hundreds and thousands) of photos of every little occasion.  But of all those hundreds of pictures we take, how many of them ever actually get printed out?  Too few.

When I was little, my mom had a huge trunk full of photo albums and pictures–photos of me and my sisters as babies, photos of my parents before they had kids, before they met, when they were kids and my grandparents were young.  I loved going through those pictures–laughing at my Dad’s perm and short-shorts in the 70s and my mom’s coordinated Easter dresses and matching bonnets when she was a little girl.

brdly fam circa 1982

My Mom & Dad, middle sister, and I in 1983.

I had some specific favorite photos–me standing on the steps of our house in the city when I was about 2, looking like a baby from a Sally Struther’s feed-the-children commercial.  My middle sister at about the same age, wearing some silky pajamas, her blonde hair in pigtails, wearing big, marble-sized clip-on earrings.  My baby sister, sitting in her high chair covered in smashed and mushy oreo cookie.

feed this child

Two year old me.

But I realized not long ago that my kids don’t have a trunk full of photos, or even a bunch of photo albums–in fact, we have very few printed photos because every picture we take is digital.  Uploaded to the laptop, stored on Shutterfly…and unseen after that.

I decided I had to remedy that.  I had a few half-started albums tucked away in a closet that I got out, put on the coffee table, and within days everyone was looking through them and asking about the different pictures.  I ordered a hundred prints from Shutterfly that day.  I’m planning on ordering a hundred more every few weeks so I can fill those albums.  And then buy more albums and fill those too.

I want my kids to be surrounded by memories of their childhoods, to be able to flip through a book filled with images of them at age 3 and see how cute and chubby and sweet they were.  I want them to know what their Dad and I looked like when we met, before they were born.  I even want them to make fun of my feathered hair and poofy bangs in the 80s and 90s.

1990 m & j

First day of school, 1990. Oh, my hair. My amazing, feathered hair.

The added bonus of this project is that I get to scroll through thousands of pictures online and relive those moments.  It makes a semi-daunting task–sorting through a decade worth of photos–into an absolute joy.

photo quote

Sail Away

I was going through my posts this past weekend and realized I never wrote about the finale to our Turkey vacation back in June–our private yacht!  Here’s the final post about that trip…although now that I’ve looked through all the pictures again, I really, really want to plan another trip like this!  For now I guess I’ll settle for reliving the memories.

IMG_1752We spent the last few days of our trip to Turkey sailing around the Aegean on a chartered sail boat.  This was literally a dream trip–the most relaxing and amazing few days I can remember.

We chartered the boat directly from the hotel we stayed at for the wedding, but there were many, many other places that rent these boats, called gulets, in Turkey.  In fact, this seems to be a pretty common and popular vacation choice there and the boats came in all sizes and levels of luxury.

Our boat was pretty sweet.


See that amazing red sail boat off in the distance? That was our boat. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

There were ten of us aboard, plus a 4-man crew.  For three days, we sailed, swam, read, relaxed, played games, snorkeled, jet skied, kayaked, drank wine, ate delicious meals prepared fresh by the chef on the boat, and were generally pampered and spoiled.


Boarding our boat, I think we were all a little amazed at it’s awesomeness.

When we boarded the boat, the captain showed us a map of the coastline and basically asked us where we wanted to go.  We discussed our options and made a plan, he offered advice and suggestions, and we set sail.  While underway, this was how we spent our time:

IMG_1771 IMG_1770


The first day we sailed for a few hours and dropped anchor in this cove so the chef could cook dinner.



Matt taking the leap off the bow into the Aegean.


Our first sunset on board. I could totally get used to this.


Good friends, wine, a private yacht, and a spectacular sunset over the Aegean=best start to a vacation ever.

After we ate, we set sail again for another few hours.  We woke up to this:

IMG_1857  IMG_1848We had asked the captain to bring us to a place where there were ruins we could explore.  He brought us to Knidos, where Greek ruins were excavated by an archaeological dig in the late 90s.  Waking up, we gazed at the crumbling walls of a 2000-year old city.  It was breathtakingly gorgeous.  And it certainly puts our 250-year old historical sites in the US in a very different perspective.


Marble steps leading up the hill to the Temple of Apollo


Hundreds and thousands of pieces of marble and stone columns, plinths, and pedestals that were excavated here.


Terra cotta pipes–originally buried next to the stairs–that were excavated and still mostly intact.

When we got to the top of the hill, we looked over the crest and saw this cove:


This is not edited. The water is the clearest water I’ve ever seen. And see that pretty little white church on the hill in the distance? It’s too beautiful to be real. But it’s real.

So of course, some of us climbed to the top of the very large rock.

IMG_1936And jumped.


This rock was really, really tall.


Matt in mid-air. The water wasn’t SUPER deep there, and Matt is 6′ tall, so when he landed, his foot hit the rocky bottom and he sliced himself all up. But it looked really cool while he was doing it. That’s what counts.


Some of us chose a slightly safer way to pass the time. (Although Alexis, on the far right, did jump!)

The next day we spent in another dreamy, unbelievably gorgeous cove.


The actual color of the water. This picture is straight off the camera, unedited.

IMG_2031We jumped off the boat, swam, snorkeled, and used the kayaks and jet-ski.


IMG_2060 IMG_2069 IMG_2114 IMG_2128 IMG_2146 IMG_2151 IMG_2160We were SO pampered on this trip.  The crew was amazing and attentive–you’d dive off the boat for a swim, and when you climbed the ladder back onto to the deck, one of the crew members would be waiting with a towel.  Our meals were delicious and fresh and gorgeous–the chef worked some miracles in the small kitchen below deck.

dinner on board IMG_2173The whole experience was just insane.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate the gorgeous wedding we’d all been privileged to attend, to reconnect with friends who I don’t see enough, and to relax and disconnect from our crazy, responsibility-filled lives for a few days.


Matt’s daily nap.

sailing with A and K

College roomies–love these girls.


Bodrum Castle

On the last day, we sailed back into gorgeous Bodrum harbor and went to the airport, where we flew back to Istanbul for one more, very low-key night before heading home.

It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.  Seriously, add this to your bucket list.

Required Reading


read with me_sarah jane

Lovely “Read With Me” fine art print from Sarah Jane Studios

We read A LOT in this house.  And we have A LOT of books.  Our collection grows frequently; there is no “One In, One Out” rule on books in this house.  I love getting new books and I love giving books as gifts.  I’ve always said there is just no such thing as too many books.

This week, though, the kids’ school is having a book drive.  And really, we have so many kids books, they spill off the shelves and onto the floor…in three different rooms.  Since the books are going to a place where they’ll be used and appreciated, I knew this was the right time to get rid of some books that we just don’t read that often.  I was able to cull about 30 volumes from the kids’ book shelf, and I’m hoping to do another pass and pick out a few more.

(We still have 200+ kids books.  But now we have 30 fewer, so that’s good.)

Obviously we kept our very favorites.  Make Way For DucklingsTikki Tikki TemboAmelia BedeliaFred and TedStrega Nona.  Dr. Seuss.  Blueberries for SalAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad DayCorduroyFerdinand.

I think it was a good exercise for me to look at the many stacks of books and prioritize them a bit–which stories do I not mind reading over and over?  Which books are the most beautifully illustrated–the books that the kids flip through just to see the art, and the words become secondary?

While I still think there is no such thing as TOO MANY books, I also believe in quality over quantity.  I like to think I’m working toward curating a little childrens’ library I’ll keep forever– that I’ll read these books to my grandkids someday.

What are your very favorite books for little ones?  I’d love some suggestions!

And a Half

andthentherewasoneThe baby is 4 AND A HALF today.  I reminded him this morning and he said, “GOOD!  When’s my cake?”

Normally I wouldn’t do a half-birthday post, but he didn’t get a birthday post back in April, so here’s a short review of why he rocks.  And he does rock.  So much.

Since he’s the only one not in full-time school yet, we have a lot of together-alone time.  I could not think of a better companion–he’s funny, helpful, curious, eager, and goofy.  He does errands without complaint–two to three grocery trips a week, to be honest.  He requests that we go to the gym so he can play in the playroom (so I basically have him to thank for any semblance I have of physical fitness).  He has never met a person or an animal he didn’t immediately like–he is by far the friendliest and most open person I’ve ever known.

Q first day of preKI love spending time with this guy.  We walk the puppy, play a lot of Candy Land, cook dinner together almost every day, read books, practice writing letters, watch movies, and fold laundry.

And through every bit of it, he is cheerful.  He doesn’t know how to be mad or mean.  It’s not even in his nature at all.

Q and OliverWhen he goes off to school, I know my heart will break–I stopped working just after he was born and have been home full-time his whole life.  He’s been my constant companion and my best buddy.  I’m working really hard to treasure this last year we have together. Every day with Q is a day well-spent.

Q as PharrellHe’s four and a half.  The baby.  It’s hard to believe.

Man, I love this kid.  Maybe I’ll make him a cake tonight after all.