Monday, November 7, 2016

Golden Fall

It doesn't produce the straight-on-and-smiling shots that grandmas love to get on Christmas cards, but my favorite way to photograph the kids is when they are totally engrossed in some sort of play. 

Lately, those opportunities have been easy to come by, since we can't get enough of our backyard.  It has been (I'm told) an extra mild fall in Ohio.  At first I fretted that too many leaves were falling without turning; it felt like fall in Louisiana all over again, all promise and no glory. One of these days, maybe I'll learn patience.  It has turned out to be absolutely gorgeous!

I don't love every single thing about our house, but the lot? Heaven help me, I'm in love! The best part of it is wooded, such that we have a solid population of chickadees, finches, cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches and titmice, millions of fireflies all summer long, and now a curtain of gold.

So I do what any sane person would do, and take way too many pictures of the kids playing out there. I'll also do what any narcissist does, and make you see them all :)

We inherited the swing set from our neighbors, and the kids love it. We honestly have the nicest neighbors ever.

Hunter likes sniffing around in the leaves, looking for trouble.

This could just be the fall time talking, but I think that if Ohio grew a mountain or two and wooed our families into living here, it might just be the perfect place.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Show Boat

This is Jude on his balance bike. The boy who cries when I leave him alone in our basement for two seconds has absolutely no fear when on a bike. He rides up to the top of our little cul de sac and then comes screaming down the hill so fast that we all think he will die (mostly because he's busy checking to see if we are seeing this, rather than watching where he is going). Total show boat.

I dread the day when he gets a peddle bike and can go even faster. They don't make a helmet for that kind of crazy.

Eden, meanwhile, has learned to ride a peddle bike all by herself, no training wheels. Thankfully, the child is a chicken. She pumps her breaks constantly on any sort of hill. I can keep up with that.

In case you are wondering, Eden was wearing her winter jacket. It was 70 degrees, or as I like to call it, "colder than our last Christmas in Louisiana". Bless our hearts, we are in for some pain.

After the kids get bored of bike riding, they often spend their evenings playing in the grove of trees between our house and the neighbors. They collect sticks, climb trees, and pretend to be birds. Here I caught them in an impromptu embrace.

And just to prove that I don't only photograph my kids, here's a gratuitous picture of heavy dew and a leaf in a spider web. Why not?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Who started attending a preschool co-op? This guy. I'll be honest: he doesn't need the school part of it at all. At all. Colors and shapes? Please. Do you want them in Spanish or English? Jude lives for octagons. Counting is a breeze. He stops me numerous times each day to explain what letter a word starts with and which other words rhyme with that word. His current conquest is alliteration. He is three. Academia, meet your match. 

Now let's talk social skills, shall we? When I was a kid, I would do anything to disappear when forced into a group of people I didn't know. This is why I spent recesses during my entire semester of kindergarten with my hat pulled over my eyes. Actually, that was so the kids playing tag couldn't see me. I don't think it worked. The point is that I was born socially awkward and, though I've learned to fake it under duress, I'll die socially awkward. Kris meets me there. Our daughter is some strange Aphrodite who basks in the reciprocal adulation of the masses. Our son? He's a cagey soul with a lethal stink eye who saves himself for the last ten minutes of the pool party, having an absolute blast once all of the other kids have removed their pruney bodies and he's got the whole place to himself. We understand him better.

And that's where preschool comes in. We want him to develop the confidence to exist (dare I say thrive?) without coasting on Eden's social coattails or hiding in my arms. To learn to advocate for himself. To learn to endure his initial shyness and open himself up to friendship. To be a little bit better at that than we are.  

Good luck, Jude.  And don't worry: We can still hide out at home, alone, the other five days of the week!   

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Tomorrow, Eden starts kindergarten.  But is she ready?

I'd say this picture about covers it...

She's the jumping out of her skin kind of excited. As we watched the big kids get on the bus this morning, she was sure that they were headed to paradise. She just can't wait to meet all of her new friends.

Eden picked out her first day outfit weeks ago, and has had her backpack packed since the first day of August. When we talk about our day during bedtime, she often tells me that staring at her backpack was one of her favorite parts. This kid has a serious crush on kindergarten.

Let's hope it lasts. I'm pretty sure that hugging trees and identifying the birds at our backyard feeder aren't part of the curriculum. As long as she gets to hug the class pet turtle, I suppose it might work out.

Jude and I are going to miss her so much that it hurts. I feel a little like I'll spend tomorrow wandering around the house like Jerry Seinfeld after the Soup Nazi has spoken. "No Eden for you!"

 This face. Who could help but love this face? She's going to be amazing.

Monday, June 13, 2016


A month ago, we left Louisiana.  I've been a little surprised at just how much I miss it.  Like, I didn't expect to take it so personally that the grocery store here doesn't sell a single "Slap Ya Mama" product.  Where, oh where, have all the Cajuns gone?

We made such good friends there too.  Eden sometimes cries about how much she wishes she could have them all over to play.  Jude often packs a bag and tells me he's headed to Shreveport.  I just mope in silence and swear to never make another friend again as long as I live.

In truth, we're doing fine.  Ohio is beautiful and full of such nice people.  Our neighbors have welcomed us with open arms. In the evenings we head outside so the kids can ride their bikes with their friends two doors down.  It's actually shady and cool enough to do that here!  Plus, no venomous snakes. Loving the absence of snakes.

The move wasn't without a few bobbles.  We spent two weeks living on base, and then another week and half camping out in our empty house.  In spite of the fact that Susan Bell's moving service didn't come bail us out this time, our main living areas are all unpacked. One round of the flu, one round of strep, and a good case of food poisoning (thanks, Cracker Barrel!) haven't stopped us. Life here is beginning.

After all, we're together.  We have ice cream and bubbles. What more is there, really? Team Bell, doing this thing.

P.S. How about that Ohio Mama Barber strike?  It's really taking a toll! Maybe one day Jude can loose the shag...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Louisiana: (n.) a French word meaning one big flood plain

This week our area got between 15"-18" of rain.  That's a LOT of water.  At one point during the night, the thunder was so continuous that I couldn't ever gauge how far away it was by counting between strike and roll. It never got quiet enough.

Although many of our friends have been evacuated from their homes, we've been just fine. It's been sobering to see that some of the neighborhoods under water are places where we considered buying. I'm forever sold on purchasing the high ground!

Because my church calling makes it my responsibility to help coordinate our congregation's various welfare and disaster relief needs, it's been a very busy week as well. My initial glorious ideas of rainy days spent reading books in our pajamas got smothered under a giant wet blanket. I've spent a lot of time glued to my phone.  A lot of time telling my children to hush and go away. Although I really find value in serving my community, this hasn't been my gold star mother moment. These pictures are to remind me that I do fun stuff with my kids (at least some of the time).

  (Random side note, bathtub crayons are really not that easy to clean off.)

This spring, along with a hoard of weeds large enough to take over Manhattan, our lawn produced several volunteer lettuce plants. Eden came inside a few days ago to announce that she had moved the lettuce back into our garden for safety.  I thought every plant would be dead by morning.

What do I know? Every single plant is thriving!  We sowed a variety of seeds today, as well as placing some flowers to join our valiant lettuce.

I've always and illogically been a tad superstitious about names.  Notwithstanding a long rap sheet of former students named Angel who were devils, I've somehow clung to the idea that what you name a person can become who they are.  So I guess I'm not really surprised that delightful Eden seems to be the best gardener in the family.  At any rate, I'm glad we could dig in the dirt together today. That's just good, clean family fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Sometimes you're Elsa.

And sometimes you're Elsa every day.  That's currently the case for Jude.

Because why not?  When you're two, the world is your oyster.

Hopefully he changes career paths soon.  I mean, we do not want an emotionally unstable human full of extremely destructive powers running Arendelle.  I feel like we've been there before, and it wasn't good.  Also, you're welcome, High School Jude. The ladies are going to LOVE this post! A princess phase may not last forever, but the internet will: life lesson.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mr. Hunter

The year that we were married, a puppy was born. Maybe that was a nuisance, an unwelcome and unplanned expense for the people in charge.  Maybe he was from a planned litter, sold to an excited family and loved for a while, before chasing a cat too far and exciting a flurry of "Lost pet!  Please call!" signs.  Maybe he was neglected, abused, and finally abandoned. Who can say?   

We found him at the local no-kill shelter, hungry, desperate, and wary.  He was the only dog not yammering his head off. By the end of the day, we knew that he was the dog we hadn't planned on having.

The shelter called him Hunter.  Ha!  However he spent his formative months, it wasn't learning to do dog things. Barking wasn't the only skill he lacked: when we took Hunter home, he couldn't swim!  A Labrador retriever, terrified of water.  He couldn't track a tennis ball to save his life. There wasn't any hope of him fetching our pheasants (which is fine, since we don't hunt). He needed a whole lot of kibble, reassurance, and love.

His face is now flecked with the white of old age, this dog of ours.  He has been Kris's solace through the stress of two new jobs, two moves, two births, and the beginning of fatherhood.  My balm when all I wanted was a baby to love.  A nonjudgmental companion when I finally had one and embarked on day after day of figuring out how to survive children. He's Eden's co-conspirator and protector, the one who sleeps at the foot of her bed to chase away the shadows.  Jude hugs and kisses Hunter good night, like the dear old friend that he is. To think that all good dogs go to heaven is one thing; I'd be just as satisfied if this one lived forever.