Friday, December 28, 2007

A Perfect Example of The Greatest Generation

It is a sad time for our family. After 83 wonderful years, Joseph McGuinness passed away yesterday. He was loved by everyone who knew him. He had a joyous spirit and a zest for life that was evident to anyone in his presence. Known to me always as "Grandpa", he was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He grew up with virtually nothing (not even a bed to sleep on) and created a life for himself and his family that must have been far beyond his wildest dreams. Here is a picture of him from his surprise 80th birthday party as he was greeted by his adoring family.

And here he is surrounded by 11 of his 12 grandchildren.

Grandpa left a legacy of family. He had four daughters - each of their families strong and intact (although we miss Uncle Bill greatly). Family celebrations are such fun with lots of food, lots of dancing, and lots of laughs. Grandpa and Grandma (who I never had the pleasure to meet) raised their daughters to understand that happiness can be as simple as being together with the ones you love and just enjoying each other. It's as simple as that.

Here's an example of the dancing. It seems every time we all get together there is lots of music and dancing. This picture is of Matt's mother and Grandpa dancing at his 80th birthday party. She was with him yesterday when he passed away. It comforts us to know that he wasn't alone.

These are Grandpa's four daughters and I know they will miss their father very much. They have taken such good care of him over the past few years and I know his memory will always live on in the values they have instilled in each of their children.
Family comes first.
Here, in this picture, they had all traveled to be at my baby shower when I was pregnant with Drew. It was a wonderful surprise and it meant so much to me that they were all there.

These last few photos are of Grandpa at a recent family wedding. Always the center of attention - he wasn't going to let a wheelchair slow him down. He truly lived a full and happy life.

Grandpa, you will be missed more than you will ever know.
Thank you for giving us a wonderful example to follow in living the best life possible.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

In Which There Is Much Harmony

For all the harmony, scroll down to the video of my sweet children singing their favorite Christmas carols. In the meantime, here are some pictures of our Christmas celebration with Grandaddy, Nessa, and assorted Aunts and Uncles.

Are there even words to describe the joy in my heart when I look at this picture? I think not...

As most of you know, it wasn't long ago that Grandaddy won his battle over cancer. He's healthy and happy and in love with his grandchildren.

I had to post these pictures because Grandaddy added my website to his IPhone today and I know he'll be checking for pictures ALL THE TIME!! Welcome to the century of the technology, dear Grandaddy!

There has been a development in the competition for "favorite uncle." Uncle Adam introduced us all to the newest member of the family today, little puppy Cara. (or is it Kara? these are facts I should be checking before posting on the internet). Anyway, the kids were ecstatic and they both told me that their favorite part of the day today was playing with the new puppy (despite much present opening). Uncle Austin continually reminded them that he takes them to Disney World, but the sweetness of their little furry friend won out today.

Here's Uncle Adam with the adorable puppy who had been worn out by my extremely playful and affectionate kids!

And now, finally, the Christmas carols!!

Joy to the world, my friends. Joy to the world.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dear Santa,

We went to visit Santa today. The kids were excited. They were dressed. They were brainstorming the best gifts to ask for from the jolly man himself. They practiced their "ho, ho, ho's" and we read 26 different Christmas books before we left the house. We looked at pictures from last year and talked about sitting on Santa's lap. I didn't want anyone to be afraid. They didn't seem scared. They were ready.

We got to the mall and Drew insisted he would rather play at the playground than see Santa. He told me "Mama, I think it's just going to be too crowded today. " Abby wanted to see Santa though so I bribed Drew with a snack and we got in line. Fifteen minutes later we were at the front of the line and Drew made a beeline for Santa. He jumped in his lap and was all smiles and already listing all the things he wants for Christmas. Abby, however, froze. Her face crumpled, tears sprung into her eyes, and she clung onto me for dear life.

Did she miss the part with all the preparation?

We are not scared of this man with the beard, little girl. We are not scared.

Except we were. But, then the photographer pulled out a spinning toy with lights and Abby was hooked. He told her she could play with it if she sat on Santa's knee. Well, clearly the child doesn't have any toys with lights on them at home because she jumped up next to her brother with lightning speed and pulled herself together quite nicely.

Drew had so much fun. He talked and talked about the things he would like Santa to bring him. He asked about Santa's beard and if it was "scratchy." He gave him lots of hugs and told him "Don't forget to make a birthday cake for Jesus...after you finish flying with all of your presents."

And then Santa asked Abby what she wanted for Christmas. "A telescope" she told him. He said, "Oh, do you want to look at the stars in the sky?" "No", she said, "I want to look for animals just like Diego does."
Maybe I should consider cutting down the amount of TV we watch.
You think?

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lost In Translation

My children love to talk, love to hear themselves talk, love to repeat things over and over, and, have I mentioned they LOVE to talk?? Seriously, they do. But, only on their terms and apparently, unless you are me, it is not always easy to understand what they are saying. Sometimes daddy even needs to ask me to translate for them, and, when I'm having trouble understanding one of them, the other one can almost always tell me what their sibling is trying to say.


So, imagine my surprise when I picked Drew up from school a week ago and he told me he read a book called, "The mother eats the baby animals." Appalled, I asked if he was sure that was really the name of the book, and, he insisted "Yes, mama. The mother eats the baby animals." I'm ashamed to admit that it took me more than a few minutes to realize that he most assuredly meant that he heard a book about a mother FEEDING baby animals - that's a pretty significant difference.

Especially if you are a baby animal mentioned in the above referenced children's book.

Anyway, it's things like this that just make me laugh as they try to figure out exactly how to express the thoughts that are constantly filling their little heads. From the minute she could talk, Abby has wanted us to repeat everything she says. Word for word. It's her way of making sure that we really understand what she is telling us - even two year olds need to be validated, people. Whenever I can't understand her I just try to nod and say ok or some other acknowledgement, but she will repeat herself over and over with increasing intensity until one of us finally figures out WHAT SHE IS TRYING TO SAY ALREADY!

It's charming, indeed.

Oh, but their little voices. I love the sound of their little toddler voices. Still baby-like, but often they say such big words or have such important thoughts and it just sounds so precious coming from those sweet mouths. They learn quickly, these kids, so they are always picking up new words or phrases or stories even after only hearing them once. Drew learned the story of the three little pigs at preschool and could re-tell it with amazing accuracy even though he could have only heard it just a few times. Of course, Abby also jumps right in on the story-telling fun!

That's not just me, right? Could they be any cuter?

And, notice they both said that the three little pigs built a "house of straws." There is no doubt in my mind that when they imagine that part of the story they are seeing a house built of drinking straws rather than the actual straw the pigs used to build their houses.

A mother just knows these things...

Every night I tell Drew, "I love you with my whole heart." Last week, as I was leaving his room he grabbed my hand and told me, "Mama, I love you with YOUR whole heart!"

And then my heart melted, because though his translation was a little off...I totally understood what he was saying.

A mama just knows these things...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dreams Come True! Dreams Come True!

Well, at least at Disney World they do!

My brother, Austin, has been slightly offended that I have yet to mention him on my blog. He's always doing great things to try to earn the "Favorite Uncle" award, and thus be mentioned on the blog.

You know, the one that tens of you read each month.

And, a note to the other fantastic uncles and aunts in our lives, you are much appreciated as well. It's just that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, folks.

So, I've decided to dedicate an entire post to Uncle Austin and he would be the first to tell you that he could view the whole thing on his fantastic little IPhone. Shouldn't we all be so lucky...

We'll address his great deeds in the order that they happened - if for no other reason than the importance of historical accuracy.

Back in June of this year, Austin scored us some free tickets to the Magic Kingdom so Matt took the day off and Uncle Austin learned the joys of spending the day with two preschoolers at the happiest place on earth. Seriously though, it really was tons of fun even though I kind of felt like I had three kids rather than two. Beggars can't be choosers, people.

Here is the happy uncle and nephew on the carousel.

And, here Uncle Austin gives Abby a front row seat to the parade. Austin used to work at Disney and he was quite a celebrity so he still knows forty-eleven people who work there. Including this guy from the Mary Poppins section of the parade. Austin got about half a dozen different characters to come right up to Abby - she was elated!

Oh, the magic carpet ride. We had to do this one twice so they could each have a turn with Uncle Austin. I didn't feel unloved at all...

And, here is the reason for the name of this post. We watched the show that they have at Cinderella's castle. Abby was in complete awe of the spectacle before her and was mesmerized by the entire show. At the end they chant "Dreams Come True" over and over and over and over. It became Abby's "thing" for awhile and she said it all the time, especially when talking to her uncle on the phone. Also, for some reason she got it in her head that Austin lives at Disney World. To this day, if you ask her where he lives she'll tell you Disney World. And there is no mistaking the look of pure envy that crosses her face.

So, once the weather got a little cooler around here, Matt generously offered (read: gave in to my unrelenting requests and pleas) to get annual passes for the family. As soon as Austin heard about it he joined us for our first official trip with the passes and bought a pass for himself.
You may be impressed with how much he must love my kids. And he does. But, the hidden truth is he loves Disney just as much. And that is another reason why it is so much fun to go there with Austin. He worked at Disney for years in many capacities. The most fun being when he did character sets in the park. He was quite a legend in his time. Frequently called on to be Goofy in important parades. And, one of the few to do the Beast - Austin was great at what he did.
And, as a result, he knows SO FLIPPIN' MUCH about Disney. Important little facts that help make the day go by more smoothly and thus that much more fun. He is a wealth of information.
We went to MGM on Saturday while Matt had a day of watching the rivalry football games. The Indiana Jones Stunt Show is Drew's favorite show, so I begged Austin to volunteer to be one of the "extras" in the show. I figured the kids would LOVE it and then I could get some great pictures.
A little bit of yelling and hand-waving landed him a spot in the show. My last word as he walked away was "look this way so I can take pictures!"

Here he is during his little interview. They asked him to do the Goofy laugh and he nailed it!! The crowd was more than impressed.

Abby was also impressed. And overjoyed. She couldn't believe that Austin was actually part of the show! At least I'm pretty sure that's how she would have felt if she hadn't fallen asleep right before the show began. She missed the whole thing.

After they dress up all the volunteers, they pick one person (randomly) for a special little scene. Can you believe they picked Austin? It was awesome. I got the whole thing on video...

See him looking over at me for a picture. What a good listener!

Now he's waving!!! He's really risking everything for a great picture and I don't have the decency to even snap a clear photo. I'm asking Santa for a new camera.

It was a fun day and we stayed much longer than we had planned. I think Uncle Austin had a good time, but he'd also be the first to tell you how much work it is to take these kids to the park. He's got a whole year ahead of him though, so we better pace ourselves and not wear him out too quickly.
Because, these kids aren't crazy at all...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Did you know that bowling is expensive?? Well, a word of warning, it really is. But, Drew and Abby are lovin' it so much that it is hard to say "no" to one of our new favorite family activities. Our first trip was about a month ago and here is Daddy showing the kiddos how to bowl.

Could you not just eat my kids up with a spoon??!!

Anyway, Abby gave Daddy a big "high five" for his mad skillz when it comes to bowling!

Little did I know that Drew was going to turn out to be a natural. My "sometimes a little hesitant to try a new activity" boy was ready to shock us all!

And, Abby thought the air coming out of the vent was just terrific!

Every part of bowling is fascinating when you are under the age of 5.

I know. I know. That ball is just about as big as she is. But, she carried that ball up to the lane by herself and plopped it down before giving it a push that usually had the ball stopping mid-way down the lane. Daddy quickly became her personal bowling assistant so that we didn't have to spend the rest of our young lives waiting for Abby's ball to arrive at the pins. Still, not bad for a 2 year old.

Drew, however, had no such problem. He ran with that ball and threw it down the lane and it hardly ever touched the bumpers that day. We were amazed. He showed no hesitation and we began to wonder if he might be a natural. After all, it's in his blood. My parents were avid bowlers when I was younger. They played in different leagues and I remember all manner of bowling trophies sitting atop our refrigerator.
I was so proud.
Still am.
Anyway, here's some video of the fearless bowler. A few disclaimers though. When I'm filming these things I'm not really thinking about how they might end up on the internet so forgive the commentary from me. And, it's mercifully short compared to the other looooong video I took that day so, unfortunately, it does not also feature Abby. The other loooong video also shows Drew getting a spare (that's right, a spare). This doesn't even show how many pins he knocks over because I just can't take my eyes off of him.
I've got a lot to learn in the world of cinematography.

Look at that ball - right down the middle! Our second trip proved to be equally as exciting!

Here's Drew working his way through a split. Look at him about to get one of those last two pins. Is anyone enjoying this as much as I am? Hopefully if you are reading this you are either enthusiastic about my kids or enthusiastic about bowling. Otherwise, you have probably moved on to a much more interesting blog right about now.

And, my little sugar here has show some significant improvement since her first bowling experience. This past weekend she actually got a strike and two spares.

I'm not even kidding.

She ended up with a better score than I did.

And, the finesse. Let me tell you. They would throw that ball, kneel down to watch it, and then end up on their bellies as the ball made it's way to the pins.

I can't even make this stuff up.

It is not to be believed.

But, it sure is fun.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hello, My Dear Sweet Fall!

The weather over the past week or two has just been glorious here in the middle of Florida. We don't really "do" seasons here in Florida - it's pretty much the same all year round. Fall started way back in September for most people, and we are just now getting to it in November.

It was worth waiting for.

We have been outside so much, and we have just been having a great time during these past few weeks of gorgeous weather. One afternoon, during Abby's nap, I took a book outside to read in the sunshine (because it was too chilly in the shade). Abby woke up and joined me for some fresh air.

I loved the way the sun was shining on her hair...

and bringing out the most beautiful shade of blue in her eyes...

You might wonder how I got her to look at me with such intensity...

Yep, m&m's work every time!

And, then Drew joined us to play in the backyard. The sun was setting over the house and I love the effect of the sunlight in this picture. And, they are hugging, so it's just all really great.

And, then we played t-ball. And by "we" I mean I watched while Matt played with the kids. Let me tell you, Drew can play some serious t-ball. He was hitting the ball really well and Abby didn't do half-bad herself. And, there was no sweating or heat exhaustion or anything. We were outside almost the entire day.

Then they took a joy ride in the jeep. Check out Abby with the lollipop. Halloween is officially her favorite holiday...

And then we pulled out the big wheels because nobody wanted to go inside. It was just that perfect outside.

Good times, y'all. Really, good times.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Room Darkening Shades Don't Even Help...

Clearly, the inventors of daylight savings time did not have small children. Because if those said children began waking up at an unreasonable hour of the morning because "the sun is already awake" then they would have changed their minds and left well enough alone.


Because trying to explain to a 4 year old that the absence of complete darkness does not mean the same thing as "the sun being awake" is impossible. I've tried. In fact, Drew told us yesterday that he "waited and waited and waited for daylight" before he called us to his room.

I suppose I'll just be thankful for his patience...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far...

Oh no, it doesn't. My sweet daughter was in pure bliss - she loves her chocolate just like her mama! She discovered the "tootsie roll" last night, and let me tell you, it was magical. I'm just so glad I was there to witness it - what with the bronchitis Drew and I are sharing and all. No worries - we coughed and wheezed our way through trick or treating and managed to have a great time!

Captain Hook! Just about the sweetest pirate you'll ever meet. I tell you though, my neighbors, nice as they all were last night, they just took a lot of the fun out of it for my Drew. He loves ringing on those doorbells and all the anticipation while you wait for the nice folks to come to the door. He doesn't much care about the candy, and often hurries off to the next house without even waiting to have his bucket filled. Well, this year, most of our neighbors set up camp on their driveways and this meant there weren't many doorbells to ring. Drew took it in stride - he still had lots of fun, but I just knew something was missing and I finally figured out it was the joy in the ringing of the doorbells. But, boy was it a rockin' party in our neighborhood last night. These people take Halloween does my daughter...

Tinkerbell! I tell you, as each day goes by I'm just convinced there has never ever been a prettier child than this one (sorry about all the pride, but I just can't help it). Abby is all about the true meaning of Halloween - lots and lots of sugar-filled candy!! She didn't stop smiling the entire night and I think she could have kept up with it for hours if the rest of us weren't holding her back. The funniest parts were the moments after the candy had been dropped in her bucket. She would look down into the pumpkin and then look back up at the person with a look on her face that said, "That's it? You've got a whole bowl there...don't you want to share anymore with a cute little pixie like me?" And, faced with this expression, the majority gave her more candy - suckers!! She seemed quite pleased with herself by night's end.

And, they're off! These two raced around the neighborhood caught up in all the excitement at seeing all the other kids in their costumes. And the darkness! The darkness! They usually go to bed so early that they knew it was a very special occasion to be outside without the sun shining. And a special shout out to my dear mama who helped us get out the door - Abby's costume is literally pinned together with about half a dozen safety pins and I only had one bobby pin to keep the headpiece stuck on her head. These are things that only grandmothers are qualified for. My mom actually used to sew all of our Halloween costumes when we were little - that's true love.

Abby loved that she got to hold a "hook" instead of Drew's hand!!

See how they are looking at each other? I actually took this picture mid-conversation.
Abby: Drew, you are my favorite Captain Hook in the whole wide world.
Drew: I know Abby. You are my best Tinkerbell. I love you!
Abby: I love you so much too Captain Hook. Are we getting candy?
Drew: Yes, yes, say trick or treat. It's so much fun, right Tinkerbell?
Abby: Right Drew. Let's go!
Matt was telling me to stop taking so many pictures and I shushed him, "Did you hear that?" I asked. "They were just having the sweetest conversation." No, he didn't hear them. But I did. And I treasure it when they are so precious with each other.
But, he has a point. I guess there is such a thing as too much flash photography...