Monday, August 19, 2013

Birthday love

My sweet aunt's birthday is tomorrow.  It's been a tough year for her and the one thing she wants most right now is sadly not something I can give her.   Next to my mother, she's the strongest woman I know and will come out a better person on the other end.  In the meantime, I tried my hand at putting my love down on paper so she can feel it every time she looks at it.

Happy birthday, Aunt D.  

My trio

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sunny Days

We just spent a week at the beach. With three small children. And we loved it.

In what was possibly the most enjoyable vacation since Costa Rica '08, all 13+ of the Greater Shaw Clan traveled on the annual pilgrimage to historic Pawley's Island SC, arrogantly shabby, home of the Grey Man, land of sun & surf but with none of the crowds of Myrtle or the uppityness of Wild Dunes. We have been going to Pawley's for about 23 years - hard to believe - and every time it feels like a little sliver of home. There are those that would argue it is better to rent than own at the beach, gives you the flexibility to go when and where you want. But there is a counter argument of the value of permanence, of tradition, of timeliness - of having Bud's grandchildren play in the same sand and on the same stairs that Jupe's grandchildren once did. Regardless, this is where we go, and it suits me just fine.

This year, in addition to our 13+ (Jim, Janet, Stephen, Kim, Jack, Caroline, Sam, Sara, Pete, Sidney, Alex, Drew, & Anna+), Granny had a whole host of Other Shaws down for the big celebration. Bob and Sue, Kena and Robin and Audrey, Rachel and Dave, Dee, Jere, even Tim Debbie and Roberta for a day.  So the Other Shaws stayed at the big house this year, and the Greater Shaws holed up in some very nice condos at the Pier Village - which worked out great. The kids loved having the pier and the pool in addition to the beach, Mom and Dad got a great cabana for some shade, and we could not have been closer to the beach. Nearly as important, in our condo at least - all of the kids slept through the night for the most part, despite all sharing the same bedroom. Actually, I think they kind of liked having their own little den of iniquity, and Sam definitely liked being able to wake up and see his siblings. 

On Sunday, once everyone was down and settled, we celebrated Granny's 90th Birthday. 1923 she was born, and she is still dancing and flitting around and smiling and laughing as if she was still 21. The party was a blast, it was great to see everyone and we had a huge shrimp boil and all the cousins (from three different generations) loved running around together. 


Robin and Rachel put together matching t-shirts for everyone, and Anna and Drew brought our koozies that said "Shake your hiney, Granny's ninety.". In particular it was great to see Tim and Debbie and Roberta, who we definitely don't see enough and who are boatloads of fun. We also got to celebrate Caroline's Third Birthday, and had a baby shower for Anna and Drew's new bundle of sex-indeterminate joy.

I was amazed at how much fun the kids had, and how agreeable they were. They really got used to playing on the beach, getting suited up and greased up and heading out in the sand and the water. Caroline did great, floating way out beyond the breakers with Dad and I, and seemed to show a lot of potential as a little fish. I think once Caroline figured out she could jump off the side of the pool with enough floaties to pop back up like a cork, she must've done 200 cannonballs.

Jack loved building sandcastles and then jumping on them, or finding shells with Nana, or darting in and out of incoming waves like a little plover. Put Sam in a big hole full of sand and seawater with a shovel and a bucket and he was good to go for at least an hour, until he noticed the breakers and started running headlong into them. Sunscreen and rash guards worked great, no one got burned or even a little more than a light tan.

Once we'd had enough on the beach, we'd roll in to the pool and grab a snack and jump and splash. The first couple of days, we skipped naptime and tried to push through to dinner, thinking that would buy us a better night time experience. But after a few days, the older kids started dozing off in weird places and we brought naptime back for everyone. That way Doc could nap and it gave me some time to catch up on work stuff, which was unfortunately very crazy at the time. Next beach trip, I hope to just unplug and not worry so much, but this time there was just too much stuff going on at the office.


We got to go to the hammock shops and eat fudge and get silhouettes, and all the middle cousins (i.e. young adults) took off to Georgetown one night sans rugrats to enjoy the fine dining of The Rice Paddy. We got to take the boat out a bit, and fish from the pier. And you would not believe how easy BOTH car trips were for our crew (although I know Sara and Pete had a little less fun on I-95).

I really love our family, big and small. What a good vacation - one that actually felt like a vacation, and one that no one wanted to end. I can't wait to go back.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spreading the love

Something magical happened to me today.

Thursdays kids can eat free at one of our favorite local restaurants so I decided, since I'm flying solo without Matilda, a night out with the kids would be a welcome change from trying to prepare a meal with Snacks on my hip while Honeybadger and Melman hold a UFC style throw down in my sun room.  That's not to say taking my trio out to dinner is easy, but it does involve less exposure to open flames. I picked the kids up from daycare and headed over to beat the rush, still in my work clothes.  As per usual, Snacks wanted to be monkeyed on my hip sucking his thumb while I ordered and felt his drool slide down the front of my silk shirt.  HB and Melman went to pick out our table (a.k.a. play "where's the meerkat" on each booth in the restaurant, disappearing below eye level whenever I asked them to get down only to pop straight up in the next booth over). Finally, I wrangled the Three Amigos into our table, got food in front of them, and was in the middle of asking HB to stop putting her potato chips in Snacks' nose when I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.  I turned around to see a blond-haired, sun-kissed boy about 8 or 9 with his hands by his side.  He looked me in the eye and said as simply as if he was stating his name "You are a good mom."  And then he kept standing there, just looking at me.  He didn't run away embarrassed or ask me to buy anything.  Just kind of smiled and then turned and walked away.  I scanned the restaurant and saw a woman holding the exit door open for him.  Probably his mom.  She kind of smiled too and then they left.

Maybe his mother took pity on me and sent him over to deliver her attaboy.  Or maybe he overheard her say something that he thought he should share.  Maybe he was doing homework for his vacation bible school class or working on a boyscout badge by spreading random acts of kindness. Or maybe he is just a thoughtful, kind, wise old soul in a sweet freckle-faced body.  Either way, I was so dumbfounded that I'm not even really sure what I said to him.  When I'm with my Trio of Toddlers, I get so lost in them that I often lose my ability to remember how to be a normal responsive human. I just hope the look on my face was enough to reinforce to him the power of his words and the importance to continue to spread that kind of thoughtfulness around.

I didn't think my crew had even noticed The Exchange until the drive home when Melman asked me between singing verses of his favorite song what the little boy said.

Me: "He said that I am a good momma."

Melman: "Oh. I think so too."

Honeybadger: "Me too...and you have pretty toenails."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pier Fishing at Pawleys

We got out on the Pawley's Island pier a few times last week, and Jack enjoyed getting to sit up on the bench and help Bud man the rods. Nothing biting on our bait, but a young boy a few yards down landed a nice sized ray, probably two feet wide or more. Jack got to touch it before they threw it back - he reported that it was "slimy - and flapping its flippers." Indeed it was.

Sam enjoyed the outing as well, while Jack passed the time fishing by filling Bud's ear with endless "conversation" - I swear, this kid can really spin a tall tale. At one point as we were walking back, Jack said: "Daddy, Bud didn't catch any fish." To which I faithfully replied, "Son, that's what fishing is all about sometimes." Puzzled and looking as if I didn't hear him correctly the first time, Jack said, more emphatically: "Daddy - Bud DIDN'T catch any fish!"

Sigh. The naivete of youth.


Pawley's Pier, August 8, 2013.

(cross-posted from Dean the Dog)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We Love the Beach!

Pawleys Island - August 2013

A great time was had by all:

Full photo album is here.
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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Triple Crown

Caroline is Three!!!!    Bells peal throughout the land!!!!!    Princesses gather in celebration!!!!!

Princesses and fairies and ponies - oh my! - all descended on Gray Man Quarters II this weekend to celebrate the third birthday of our beautiful Caroline Grace. And our little pony princess was the fairest of all, darting around handing out hugs and kisses and wand slaps with reckless abandon. Somebody - I won't say who - is very very proud to be three. 

Caroline woke up and immediately donned her purple fairy wings, crown and purple wand, and was treated to her breakfast of choice - chocolate Cheerios. We corralled everyone over to Granny's house, where Nana broke out princess gowns for all the girls. Caroline chose the purple one - her favorite color - to go with the crown and wings and wand. Doc had pulled out all the stops and the house was covered floor to vaulted ceiling with balloons, streamers, banners, cupcakes, ponies. Cousins Sidney and Audrey were ladies in waiting, and Spartanburg friends Laney and Louisa Palmer spiced things up as Snow White and Cinderella. Everything a little three year old desires.

Caroline handled all the attention with the grace and panache she is increasingly beginning to show, not too prideful but not too shy, happy to enjoy the attention and the celebration but neither arrogant nor clingy. She is growing into a beautiful little girl with a super sweet smile.

It is hard to believe that three years have passed since that magical August night in 2010, just days after the bar exam and Kim's residency graduation, when Caroline popped into this world at 12:02 am. What is even more exciting to see is the transformation and metamorphosis that this young princess continues to undertake, from little smiling helmet head, to honey badger, to pony princess. She is so incredibly talkative, espcially when not around Jackson, and is so excited to tell you about all of the things going on in her world. She loved to take care of her baby dolls and the animals that live at her "office" - Polly is the latest addition (he's a parrot). She takes extra special care of her little brother Sam, and he repays her kindness with a special kind of big sister love. She loves to sing, especially when no one is watching.

This little girl boggles my mind in all them many ways she has woven her special little magic into our family. She will romp and play with Jack, turn and wrestle with Sam, come give me a hug and then sit on Doc's lap and watch over her little kingdom. She is a little sponge of knowledge and the only reason she has to be told something more than once is because she is choosing to be stubborn, in which case it doesn't matter if you tell her a hundred times. She follows Jackson around, learning everything he does, and then teaching it to Sam. She really is a clever girl. And she will not hesitate to let you know that she does in fact have her own opinion of things, especially when her view is the contrarian one. Often accompanied by a stern glare, which inexplicably she cannot maintain if you glare right back at her because then she will burst into smiling giggles. 

That is what is so special- that she has really started to come into her own, to display a measure of sweetness and charm that belies the stubborn strength and steely gaze. Princesses, dolls, hairbows, ponies - all of this too is her domain now, as is the turn of the head or a sweet glance. Looking back over some pictures, I guess this side of her has been there all along. But it sure is fun to see - she's quite a charmer.

Its a fact, Jack - this Princess has the Triple Crown: Smart. Sassy. Sweet. Just like her momma.