Let them eat cupcakes!

The treats had been lovingly handcrafted by Hen House (after disastrous attempt to bake cupcakes by Mommy)…

Gifts had been opened and the wrapping paper devoured…

And then we dug in…

Nora, on sugar:

Tessa in a cialis professional cupcake trance:

The girls with “dairy” mustaches:

All in all, August 14 was a great success.  Happy Birthday babies.

The Little Ol’ Babies from Pasadena

The girls got these cute little car/scooter/walker gizmos for their birthday.

It’s a bit hard to maneuver on the carpet right now, but when we get a little bigger I think they’ll be a huge hit out on the patio.  The cars have lots of cool features, for example, ample trunk space to store multiple pacifiers (Tessa modeling the front-trunk apparatus):

 

This little fluttering thing whirls like mad when you take off at excessive speeds (see below).  And your sister can even reach over behind you to crank the “gas” cap in case you need that type of assistance.

Here, Nora is screeching to a haul due to the awesome acceleration capabilities:

The girls mostly like to just get on and off the cars.  And then on again and off again and on again and off again.  And they make a motor sound like a continuous raspberry.

We like to sing this Beach Boys rip off when they are playing cars:

It’s the little old babies from Walmer Streeter
Go Tessa, go Tessa, go Tessa go!
They have a pretty baby bed of white gardenias
Go Nora, go Nora, go Nora go!
But parked in their rickety old garage
Is a brand new shiny green Super Stock Plastic-mobile!

And everybody’s saying that there’s nobody cuter
Than the little old babies from Walmer Streeter!
They drive real fast and they drive real hard
They’re the terror of Walmer Boulevard!

Dismount!  We’re outta here!

The Big “One”

Dear Nora and Tessa,

On Sunday night, your father and I sat on the couch long after you went to bed and reminisced over the past year.  Mondays, every Monday, since you have been born, remind me of your birthday.  It is a strange memory in some ways, that every Monday morning, as I drive into work, I remember the same drive your father and I took to the hospital.  I can see St. Luke’s Hospital, where you were born, from my office window–just a couple of blocks from my office building.  Often, as I settle in for the week I sip my coffee and look over at the hospital, remembering…   

 It is almost like a movie of that day–a great love story–that plays through my mind, August 14, 2006.  I suppose it was a hot, sunny day–a day fit for a Kansas summer.  I remember many of the doctors and nurses that helped us.  I remember around 1:00 in the afternoon I ordered your father to “go eat something NOW because you might not otherwise get a chance to eat today“.  It was true.   I remember the exact moment that hit me like a bus when I realized that I HAVE TO HAVE THE EPIDURAL RIGHT NOW.  And after that, so many of the details were lost to me in the fog of labor. 

And then all of a sudden, in two separate moments of time that changed our world forever, Nora Marie, you were born at 2:41 pm, and then Tessa Leigh, you were born at 4:14 pm.  And our lives began all over again.  Two little changes, so profound, so dramatic, so expansive that our lives and love and hearts would forever encompass both of you.

Nora, you are an angel.  Sweet and innocent.  You were the first to twist my heart with your first (and my favorite) word, “Mum mum mum”.  Always in triplicate.

 Your flirty glances and sweet smiles are received with joy and elation by everyone you encounter. 

 You are our comic-relief amidst the chaos.  (Nora on the right)

Tessa, you are so full of curiosity and compassion.  You are happy and engaged and eager to learn.

What amazes me most about you is that not only do you already know the rules about everything, but you know when you are following the rules, and you know when you are not following the rules…

And you love to sing and coo and sing and coo and sing…

As you both have grown over the last year, we have learned so much about you and about ourselves.

Happy Birthday, Nora Marie, my little Norita.  I love you.

Happy Birthday, Tessa Leigh, my T-bird.  I love you.

The Birthday Wagon

I know they don’t turn 1 until next week.  But I couldn’t wait.

Daddy and Mommy got cialis pills Tessa and Nora a brand new shiny red wagon for their first birthday. 

Needless to say, it is a huge hit.  Tessa…

Nori…

It comes fully loaded with flip-up seats, safety belts, drink holders, and we still have plenty of room to wear our wide-brimmed hats…

Daddy, the wagon-puller,

Tessa, protesting hat wearing, and

Nora, the hat thief.

Still a little too close for our girls:

Happy almost birthday, girls.  Mommy just couldn’t wait…

Spare a dime?

Oh dear.  It must be raining again on Walmer Street.

We must don our best ‘kerchiefs lest we get drenched.

Hmmm…I shall ponder such wisdom briefly…

What great fun and such sweetness it is to have such silly hats!

Fishing for Bryan

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the amazing 2007 Bryan T. Reese C.A.S.T. For Kids event at Shawnee Park. 

 

This event provides an opportunity for at-risk youth from Kansas City, Missouri to participate in a day of fishing, having fun, eating bar-b-que and making new friends.

The event is organized in honor of Bryan Reese who died three years ago in a car accident.  I never knew Bryan, but his sister, Liz Birch, and family are friends of ours that we met through our church.  One of the most wonderful parts of the event is to hear Bryan’s family and friends tell his story and honor his memory.  The most relevant memory for the day is one shared by Bryan’s father.  One day the two of them were talking and Bryan’s father asked him, “What would you do if you could do anything you wanted?”  Bryan replied, “I would take kids fishing that otherwise would not have the chance.  Give them a hobby they might love for life.”

And so we fished.

Each volunteer (about 50 of us) were paired with a youth (about 40 in all).  Kennadi and I were fishing buddies.

Kennadi is a sweet sweet girl.  She’s 10 years old and had never held a fishing pole before this Sunday.  I must say it had been some time since I had cast out the old rod (or is it a pole?).  My memories of fishing with each of my grandfathers are wonderful.  One time in Louisiana my granddaddy took my sister, Morgana, and me fishing and we were using crickets, held in a cage, as bait.  Morgana, who is always concerned about the life and well-being of all animals, freed most of the crickets on the dock before we could get much fishing done.  After wrangling a few crickets on the end of our poles (and inadvertantly feeding most of the fish with a swarm of recently-freed crickets) we then proceeded to catch a turtle and then a boot.  I think we saw an alligator or something and flipped out so granddaddy took us home.  We loved it.  My grandpa would also take us fishing in the park in Nebraska.  I remember the warm summer days, the quiet stillness of the park, the coolness of the breeze off the pond and getting ice cream on the way home!  Wonderful.

When I heard about this event I couldn’t pass up the chance to participate in creating a memory for a child who had never had such an opportunity to go fishing.  So, down to the pond we trudged our pole and tackle box, some mysterious bait-like substances and a life jacket.  It was a beautiful day–overcast, fortunately, to keep the hot July sun off our faces.  We attached some mystery bait and figured out how to toss the line into the pond a few feet.  Many of our first attempts got snagged in nearby plants, trees and nearly some other participants, but then–in that undeniable way that kids are able to catch on so quickly and amaze us–Kennadi soon seemed like she had been fishing for years.

I wasn’t sure how long she’d be able to stand there, line cast into the water, staring at the red and white bobber not making a move.  My own kids have about a one minute attention span and I wasn’t sure that a 10-year-old girl who had no previous fishing experience would be able to stay out there and wait…

and wait…

But then I realized, waiting is one of the wonderful, relaxing aspects of fishing.  And somehow she found this patience–touched with hope for a bite–and she really enjoyed it.  We enjoyed it.  After a couple of hours, with no bite, we headed back for lunch.

And a balloon release…

A water balloon toss!!!

Face painting

A ring toss for soda

But, Kennadi kept wanting to head back to the lake.  So we started to head back down to the lake to see if we could catch a fish.  On the way down we passed a sign posted in the fire-pit in the middle of the camp.  “Fishing for Bryan”, she read.  “Who’s Bryan?”

Oh wow.

Surely, the group Higher M-Pact, an organization that reaches out to at-risk youth and who organized the boys and girls to come out here, had mentioned Bryan.  We had been talking about him all day at camp, over lunch, even the t-shirts we were wearing had his name. 

I didn’t know Bryan and Kennadi didn’t know him.  But we were brought together that day because of Bryan, because of a dream he had and because his family and friends wanted to honor him, to remember him and to give some kids a chance to love fishing as he did.   I cannot imagine a better way to honor a person’s life than to reach out to give others an opportunity that they might not otherwise have.  We were all there for different reasons that day–some to honor a memory, some to support our friends, some just to get a chance to catch a fish.  But we were all there for Bryan, because of Bryan, whether we knew it or not. 

Kennadi and I found a spot on the “island” down by the pond in the shade out of the hot sun.  She cast out her line (a good 50 feet–what a pro) and we sat and chatted and just enjoyed being there in that time and that place.  We watched the turtles bob their heads up out of the water.  We speculated on the source of some bubbles coming from deep inside the pond.  We made predictions on how big the fish would be that we would catch. 

We didn’t catch any fish that day.  We gave it a good shot.  We had a couple of nibbles but it was not meant to be.  Earlier in the day I was worried how she might react if she didn’t catch a fish.  Would the day be a disappointment for her?  But I underestimated the impact of the entire event on Kennadi–fish or no fish–it was a tremendous success.  She slipped her hand into mine as we walked back from the lake to turn in our fishing poles and chatted the fun events of the day.  As the kids were lining up to get on the bus, I knelt down to give her a hug.  And she hugged me good and long–a second longer than I expected from a kid I met only hours ago. 

As she gathered up her bag filled with prizes, a tackle box and a plaque with her picture on it we both knew, in our own ways, that we had made an impact on each other’s lives because of Bryan and the family and friends who keep his memory and dream alive.  Peace be with you, Bryan.  Thank you.