The Graduate

However this is the version without Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.

Thank goodness.

I'm not certain but I think it was only yesterday that Annelise marched her little ol' self into kindergarten (well, the paparazzi--AKA moi--went with her).

At least it feels like yesterday.

Except on the real yesterday she did this:
Exactly WHO has given her the green light to grow up and finish things like Kindergarten?

The nerve, right?

Last night the stars must have been in perfect alignment because we got to the school early enough to save really good seats in the second row* and take a few photos before things got under way.

Annelise and her friend Z. showed how they are 87% of the time...We posed for a quick hallway self portrait with The Graduate (we missed getting one with Scott who was busy saving those seats, thanks babe).Here's The Graduate with her sweet teacher.Then, in the blink of an eye, our little girl was walking across the stage, shaking the Headmistress' hand and getting her diploma.All the other graduates paused for a moment at the edge of the stage for a photo op. Not our Annelise. She walked right down the steps, ripped her cap off of her head and sat back down.


So much for posterity, pomp and circumstance.

However, The Graduate could NOT ignore the right of passage otherwise known as cake. Especially once she saw her name took up TWO cupcakes instead of one like all the other graduates.Since a ceremony like graduation signals, oh, I don't know, the END of the school year, I had to put the finishing touches on Annelise's gifts for her teacher. Okay, I actually finished approximately 2 minutes before leaving the house this morning to go to school. Procrastinate much?

This year I helped Annelise write an acrostic poem about her teacher. This kind of gift might just become our trademark, the thing we do because it's simple (printed poem, photo and inexpensive black frame), thoughtful and child made.
We also made a candy poster, which turned out to be fun. Scott was skeptical at first (he thought I'd lost a few marbles I'm sure, but doesn't he know by now that's just me?)
It said, "Mrs. Shotwell, Thank you for being a WHOPPER of a Kindergarten teacher and for loving me when I was SWEET and TART." Then on the back it said (I realized at 1o:30 pm I probably should have bought the bigger poster board, oh well!), "You have Junior MINTS (meant) so much to me. I hope you have a HOT TAMALE of a summer!"
Corny, I know, but Annelise liked the idea and her teacher burst out laughing this morning when she read it, so...YAY!
We also gave her a gift card to a restaurant, which was kind of a stab in the dark. Fingers crossed it's a place she'll like.
Now it's time to shift gears into lazy days, no alarms, no major routine, lots of pool time and general slothlike summer behavior.
This should not be too difficult.
*Remember how I boasted earlier about getting ideal picture taking seats in the second row? Yeah. About five minutes before the ceremony started they politely asked us to move because the second row was where the graduates would be sitting. We had to relocate to, like, the sixth row, which is otherwise known as photography dungeon. Sweet.


Slip Slidin' Away

Is there a better way to celebrate the swiftly approaching end of Kindergarten than with a water party? Annelise and her five and six year old crowd (there may be one or two seven year olds thrown in the mix too) certainly don't think so.
Not only was there a thrilling water balloon toss,
there was also a water squirter station and...
a bubble station. Which of course I have no pictures of because Annelise was not really in a bubble mood.

She was jonesing for her turn in this:
so she could do lots of this:
How can you compete with a bouncy slip and slide? You can't. That station was perfection.
If you are six.
The kids rotated through the different water stations, pausing only for a picnic lunch and a Popsicle break here and there.
I'd say those Kindergartners sure know how to parTAY.


Just Beachy

One little girl's first real trip to the beach.

Even though we live only 30ish minutes away.

I know.

Loads of fun in the surf and sand.

Six sunburned shoulders (even with 50 spf.)

Sand in our sandwiches.

Attempt to carry everything back to the car in one poorly executed trip.

Me shouting out in frustration, "We are such hillbillies on parade!" (As another plastic Wal-Mart sack dropped to the sand.)



Friday Flashbacks: Bicentennial Ballerina

Are you sitting down? Good. You might want to swallow your coffee and set your mug down before you take a peek at this picture.


Since we are celebrating the end of Annelise's fourth year in dance with her recital this weekend, I thought I would show y'all pictures from my first, and possibly only, year in dance back in the day.
Do I scream 1976 or what?

I don't remember the song I danced to, but I still remember my severe disappointment over the tutu. When my mom told me she had enrolled me in ballet and tap I was beside myself with joy over getting my very. own. tutu. I imagined it to be exactly like the long flowy one on the little ballerina that popped up in my jewelry box.

It wasn't.

Not only was it scratchy red, white and blue (Go America!) tulle, it stuck out completely perpendicular to my body. I may still be a little bitter.

I also danced a tap number that required me to dress in some sort of pseudo-hobo attire (again, I have no memory of the song).
Don't you love our carpet? I think it was indoor outdoor. Nice.
I think the fact that my undies are peeking out ever so slightly just completes the overall ensemble, don't you?

Peculiar sidenote: Annelise takes dance at the same studio I did. Isn't that sweet and kind of freaky at the same time? The recital this weekend is a review/celebration of the last 40 years of the studio. I am old.

Have a fabulous weekend my friends!


Where's My Line?

We were a split family for a while Saturday afternoon when faced with a conflict of interests. Scott and Annelise wanted to go to Fry's (an electronics store) that was having some sort of party (a hot dog and a coke for .25) and I wanted to go to Hobby Lobby for scrapbook supplies.

For some reason I couldn't persuade them to join me.

It worked out nicely though because Annelise bought Scott lunch with her own money and they had fun browsing all things electronic and I could wander freely through craft supplies. After choosing a few papers (hey, I'm finally starting on 2008!) I made my way over to the fabric section (cue hallelujah chorus). I flipped through the pattern books hoping to find cute, yet extremely simple patterns to make summer dresses for Annelise. After much hemming and hawing I finally settled on this simple yet versatile McCall's pattern. Then I stood beside the pattern cabinets a while longer having a debate inside my head that sounded something like this:

"Well, this looks easy enough and I can make dresses and shirts and capris from this one pattern, it's a cute style but what about the neckline? Is it too revealing? It would certainly be cool and comfy for the summer but should she wear a t-shirt underneath? But our summers are so HOT! Should I not even attempt to make this style in the first place? But it's soooo cuuuute!!"
Needless to say simple and cute won my internal diatribe and I bought the pattern and fabric for two dresses. But I felt a little guilty. Am I breaking my own modesty clause? I don't know.

I don't want Annelise to wear clothes that are too mature for her or too revealing--even though there is nothing to reveal yet. I'd like her to wear knee length shorts, skirts and dresses knee length or longer, tankini swimsuits, sleeveless is okay but not too tank-toppy and no spaghetti straps. I hope that if we stress modesty now it will be (fingers crossed) a little easier later.

I say that, I think that and then I go and fall for this pattern and plan to make cute dresses out if it.

Maybe my own line of modesty is a bit blurry after all. Or maybe I'm a hypocrite. I don't know.

So I wonder, where do you draw the modesty line for your daughters in the summer when it's scorching HOT and humid? Is your modesty line set in stone or is it, er, ...a little more fluid like mine?


Down at the Barre

I had the best time earlier this week watching Annelise in her last dance class of the season. Her moments at the barre were somewhere between hilarious (think of the I Love Lucy Episode where she tried ballet) and occasional glimpses of grace and poise.

We're looking forward to her recital this weekend down at The Grand Opera House in Galveston where she will shine for a few moments up on stage dancing a ballet number to "It's a Jolly Holiday with Mary" (from Mary Poppins). I love her wrinkly elephant ankles.
(photo from picture day last month)
She'll also dance a tap routine to "Calendar Girls" and then...
she'll finish up with a jazz dance to "Move It" (from Madagascar). I didn't have a photo of her in her jazz outfit (mom fail), so I snapped a photo of her professional jazz photo along with her award certificate (she only missed once dance class this year) and her four year pin (each year she'll receive a bar--or charm, I'm not exactly clear on that--to add to her pin).
Don't worry though, none of the routines this weekend will be ANYTHING like this one:

****Well, obviously the video link has been pulled. It was of the little girls dancing to Beyonce's Single Ladies at the World Dance Competition--maybe you've seen it? Yeah.
And I am totally okay with that.


Fun with Butter

Ever since Santa brought me PW's cookbook for Christmas I had been itchin' to make her scrumdillyicious cinnamon rolls but felt I needed a reason to have that much fun with butter. With my sweet friend's birthday approaching and a little surprise brunch in the works for her, I decided that would be the perfect occasion to bust out my rolling pin.

After a quick stop by HEB for foil pans, a brick of butter and a bag of powdered sugar and reading through the recipe at least three times (I was a tad scared), it was time to get cooking. Things were going swimmingly until it was time for the filling. This is where you pour an obscene amount of melted butter on your rolled out dough and then sprinkle sugar and cinnamon until you think you might be arrested for indecency.
This is also where the filling takes on a life of its own and proceeds to run in every possible direction. I sensed trouble brewing when I felt a splash of filling land on my big toe.

Um, PW? 1 1/2 to 2 cups of butter is A. LOT. I'm just sayin'.

I also had a wee bit of trouble rolling up this massive goo pile, slicing it and plopping the goo balls into their buttered pans (yes, more butter) all the while stressing because my version wasn't looking like PW's perfect slices in her pictures.
Some pans looked more like actual rolls, some looked like that gooey mass pictured above. In the end, it didn't really matter because the dough rose, took on more of a pleasant roll shape and was eventually covered in delicious icing anyway.
As I plugged along on my cinnamon roll journey, I learned a few things:
*use less melted butter for the filling
*add a little more flour to the dough before rolling
*don't use wax paper to roll your dough on, it just becomes a soggy mess; sprinkle flour on your counter and then go to town
*vanilla extract can be used in the icing instead of maple (maple adds a yummy syrup flavor though)
*only let them rise for 20-30 minutes before baking (first batch), not 2 hours while you go to evening church and supper (still tasty, but much more bread-y)
*butter does in fact make life better
and finally...
*these cinnamon rolls will change your life (and your pants)
I highly encourage you to make some soon (so we can be jiggly together, m'kay?)


For a Few Moments

For a few moments today she sat on my lap. Her legs hung lower, her body sat up higher and she seemed so much bigger.
For a few moments today she stood up on stage, her heart bursting with pride, her voice with song.
For a few moments today, with her knees sticking out, her blouse almost too short, the tips of her shoes scuffed with her toes scrunched inside, I thought about how much she has grown.
For a few moments today my heart spilled over.


Across the Sea {My LOST Thoughts}

I realize I have been in some sort of denial these last several weeks over the swiftly approaching end to LOST. Maybe I've been in this denial most of the season, I don't really know because I'm in denial. It's a defense mechanism I refer to as dying animal syndrome, or in my case, dying cat syndrome. You know how a sick animal will separate itself from its pack, slink away to hide and die alone? The pack goes on about its business and may or may not notice that one of its own is missing for some time. Ten years ago, when my 18 year old diabetic cat Omar was on his last furry leg and staying at the vet's office in intensive kitty care, Scott and I visited him faithfully and received regular phone updates on his approaching demise. I was in a state of denial about all of this and needed something positive to focus on. After one of our sick Omar visits we made a detour on the way home by our local SPCA to scout out possible Omar replacements.

I promise I am not evil and I do really have a heart, but this was my way of dealing with the impending loss of my faithful furry friend. A day or two later Omar passed peacefully from his kitty life and Scott and I were the proud parents of two kitten sisters, Spunky and Spooky (who are still with us today).


I've been exhibiting similar behavior with regard to LOST's eventual demise. Separating myself a bit, still watching but trying not to obsess, not writing my LOST thoughts, steeling myself for the last three hours and wondering which show will fill the huge gaping TV hole left by LOST once it's all over.


I'm still recovering from last week's so long Sun, Jin (SOB) and Sayid (SOB) submarine drama and wondering what FLocke is going to do next--with Jack?!?!? I did enjoy the sideways drama between Jack and John Locke in the hospital. There is hope!

Last night, I spent 98% of the episode thinking, "Why is CJ Cregg from the West Wing on the Island and why is she killing that sweet lady who looks like Minnie Driver that just gave birth?" along with, " How did CJ Cregg/FakeMama never age while Jacob and MIB did?" and also, "Just who exactly is this CJ Cregg/FakeMama anyway and what is growing in her hair?"

I kept waiting to see Martin Sheen come walking out of his jungle Oval Office.

I liked how CJ Cregg/FakeMama told young MIB that answering questions only leads to more questions, she must have known our pain as dedicated LOSTies. But I still didn't trust her. I have some what mixed feelings about Jacob and MIB (or maybe I'm just confused). And I think Jacob can be a little whiney.

At least we know who the Island's Adam and Eve are now. Sort of.

What did you think of last night's Across the Sea drama? Are you on Team Jacob or Team MIB? Are you in denial like me?


Little House on the Prairie: The Musical

Or the reason we told Annelise she'd have to miss a school friend's birthday party (Do these things ever stop? Since it was a water party and parents were invited to partake in the fun too, I feel confident we made the better choice--plus we had already bought our tickets.) Annelise also had to forfeit a sleepover (she had invited herself in her head) at Pappo and Grandma's house because she needed to be *fresh* for the matinee (read: not overindulged and sleep deprived). Once she got over all of that, she totally soaked up the prairie experience and enjoyed herself.
(Pardon us while we take more photos with our playbills, because playbills are the coolest things ever.)
Now it's our turn to pose.
Over the last few years Annelise and I have read together Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek and have enjoyed escaping back to simpler times with Laura and her family. When we heard that the musical was coming to town we thought it would make a perfect family outing, which of course it did. The musical is based on the Little House books, not the TV series, and featured Melissa Gilbert in the role of Ma. Seeing her in this role, instead of Laura was quite freakish, but all in all she did a good job. The actress that played Laura was outstanding, and I might regret admitting this, but Nellie Oleson was enjoyable as well (in a perfectly she's so spoiled and awful kind of way).

There was plenty of humor along with a strong message about the importance of family, making the best of hard circumstances and even some courting between Laura and Almonzo which was sweet. I highly recommend you seeing this show if you get a chance.
I don't know if it was a combination of enjoying the show with my own daughter, feeling joyful that she is growing up with Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie (granted, with some nudging from moi) like I did, or seeing Melissa Gilbert as Ma and remembering her as Laura, but during the finale (the cast performed a fun dancing number) I was quite surprised to find myself choking back semi-sobs with tears threatening to spill over my bottom eyelids. What in the world?!?!
After the show we paused for obligatory photos beside the poster.
(Still clutching our playbills like hicks in town just for the day.)
We waited by the stage door for a bit while Annelise got the autograph of the amazing actress who played Laura. We were hoping (okay, maybe it was just me) to get Melissa Gilbert's autograph, but they announced that it was her birthday that day and they were having a cast party. Rats.
While Annelise's excitement was still high on all things Little House, I capitalized on that by suggesting we read By the Shores of Silver Lake last night before bed, and she eagerly agreed.
I'm so sneaky.


Mother's Day = Mixed Emotions {and a new mop}

For most of my life Mother's Day has been a holiday filled with mixed emotions. Feelings of loss and longing came bubbling to the surface as I thought of visiting my mother and grandmother's graves at the cemetery. It was with a jealous eye that I watched other daughters celebrating the day with their mothers. I cringe with shame now as I remember neglecting to wish Ruby (my step-mom) a happy Mother's Day for years because I selfishly thought, "Why should I? She's not MY mother!" Oh, I was such a joy to have as a step-daughter I'm sure. As I've grown older, and hopefully more mature, I realize how lucky I am to have had an assortment of influential women in my life. Aunts, step-moms, godly women at church of all ages and experiences and close girlfriends have enriched my life greatly. I am lucky.

For many years those mixed Mother's Day feelings were coupled with a different yearning and grieving for a child of my own. To tell the truth, I still struggle to varying degrees with all of those emotions but they have been tempered greatly by the blessing of becoming Annelise's mother five years ago. On Mother's Day I also think of her birth mother in Russia and her generous gift to me. My life was changed forever by her decision and I am truly thankful.

Since Friday afternoon Annelise had been teasing and hinting about the special gift she made for me at school. She was bursting with excitement to give it to me then, but she somehow managed to wait until this morning.
Inside a decorated folder was a booklet of questions Annelise answered about me. Last night, Scott helped her answer a few more questions and her answers to both were a true delight to read. It was the perfect gift!

Today, after church we made a beeline for Tex-Mex (you aren't really surprised are you?) and then... we hit Target another for a *present* or two.Don't laugh and please don't report Scott and Annelise to the Inappropriate Mother's Day Gift Squad, but yes, that is a toaster, a mop and a fan you see in the cart (along with new sponges and 3-way light bulbs inside the plastic bag)*.

My family knows how to treat me right.

**Our fifteen year old toaster (it was a wedding present) has been on the blink, our mop needed to be replaced and it was in sweaty desperation while trying to apply my make-up this morning that I asked for a tower fan for our master bathroom.

Do you ever feel mixed emotions about Mother's Day?
How did you celebrate Mother's Day?
Would you feel cheated if your family gave you a toaster?


None of These Things is Quite Like the Other

The sights and sounds around our little neck of the woods are ever evolving. After 40+ years of undeveloped land across our street Progress (?) has swooped in and has been busy making improvements (?) off and on over the last couple of years. They have been in full swing these last few months wiping out scrub trees, digging a deeper canal, misplacing (rudely kicking out I say) the deer and rabbits that have lived peacefully around us for years, and getting ready to build a Master Planned Upscale Community or something like that.

I can't wrap my head around the fact there will eventually be homes built across the street from us, which means people (read: strangers) will eventually be moving in to our peaceful, private little paradise.

Last week we saw (and heard) more innocent trees knocked down and fed through this beast:
There are presently no less than six mountains of mulch staring back at me when I peek out our front windows, which of course hurts my heart. Change has been known to make me try and bury my head in the sand, although in this case I guess I'll be burying it in mulch.

I've felt quite restless lately (maybe it's all the changes surrounding me) and haven't quite known what to do about it. So I've basically done nothing. Thoughts of sewing summer dresses for Annelise pop into my head and I've almost made it to the fabric store a few times, but I end up talking myself out of it fearing I would get stuck halfway through project anyway since it's been years since I've sewn clothes. But maybe I'll still give it whirl soon. Thoughts of sprucing up our house with new wall arrangements, pillows, bedding, framed pictures or cute craft displays get ignored because I can't (or at least shouldn't) justify spending money on stuff like that right now. The best way to feed this hunger would be to go garage sale-ing (yes, it's a verb), which I think Scott and Annelise would enjoy too, but that would require planning and actually getting up early and actually leaving the house as a family before 11:00 on a Saturday. Oh the pressure!

Hobby Lobby did have their floral stuff on 50% off this week, so I treated myself to new flowers for our front door basket since our old hydrangeas grew mold last season. I'm not over-the-moon in love with this at all, it seems to stick up too high and kinda shouts, "I'm totally fake!", but the nicer stuff was still a little too pricey (since they might just grow mold anyway), so I went with this fake freesia. Maybe I should cut the stalks so they fit down in the basket more?
Since they were also 50% off, I bought red and green apples so the empty jar on top of our armoire will stop mocking me. It might also help if I dusted it, no?
Those two small decorative changes curbed my restlessness a smidge, but not completely. I wish I was better at finishing craft projects instead of letting my creative energy fizzle out and watch the project die a slow, painful unfinished death.
In other news, look what arrived on our doorstep yesterday:
Yep, it's that time of year again: swimsuit season (GASP!). One tankini for me (a navy leaf print top and navy swim mini bottom with a cute ruffle hem, fingers crossed it fits) and two for Annelise. Even though Land's End suits are well made, they (at least the ones for kids) do get snaggly, this year I'll either rotate them or keep one in reserve for mid-summer pinch hitting.
Speaking of swimsuits (yes, that painful subject), I think I am in total denial that my I'll be trying to wear one very soon. Maybe if I exercise every.single.day for 6 hours and eat nothing but celery I'll be ready.
The last few months have been interesting (and frustrating) as far as my eating/exercising rollercoaster. As if I didn't know this already (denial rears its head again), I am addicted to sugar, plain and simple. All self control goes out the window and I start a downward spiral of binging on sweets and then remorse and self-loathing. When Scott and I were following Suzanne Somer's plan (which is basically high protein, no caffeine, no sugar and timing/separating protein and carbs) my body DID actually stop craving sugar. I can't tell you how much better I felt! Then we started on a slippery slope of thinking we could eat sweets and junk in moderation (cue hysterical laughter).
And here I sit cranky, lethargic and puffy, not doing what I know works and what I know is better for my body. I feel like an alcoholic must feel, thinking, "If only I can make it to lunchtime without ____ and then mid-afternoon without _____ and night time TV watching without ______(that's the kicker right there)." The wheels come off usually by late afternoon, definitely by TV viewing time and I'm face first in a bag of Golden Double Stuf Oreos, etc.
Okay, enough of THAT. I will do better today. I will be better today.
I snapped this photo of Annelise this morning as she alternated bites of breakfast (hey, another scrambled egg--I'm on a roll!) with peeks at her school year book from last year.
If you look in the upper left corner, on the patterned chair, you'll see one of current Scott's best friends--a heating pad.
For the past month or two he has had pain in his neck (but I promise it's not me) and shoulder and numbness down his arm that is ever so slooooowwwwly improving with a combination of physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, home treatments of heat, ice, and even neck traction (yes, it's like he's 86 and our family room is rehab).
He's also ordered what is supposed to be a miracle pillow (we'll see), requested and received a new ergonomic chair for work (which he neglected to realize he'd been sitting in it for FOUR days, so it must be really special), treated himself to a new ergonomic chair for our computer desk at home (and I'll admit it's pretty comfy) and is now embracing our friends to the east and having his first acupuncture session this afternoon. Not only do I hope it brings him some relief, I can't wait to hear about it since I've never tried it either (but as a possible peri-menopausal woman who fears her hormones are out of whack among a few other things, I might give it a chance soon).
I found this note in Annelise's backpack this morning and asked her what it was. She explained it was a note she wrote for her friend Zachary at school. I HAD to document this since she wrote it all by herself and used, um...creative but phonetic spellings.
Can you make out what she wrote? It says, "Dear Zachary, What if I forget you? (sad face), What if I don't like you any more?" I'm not sure what she meant by these questions, but she's obviously confused about their future. No matter how much we down play it, laugh it off, scoff, etc. she is determined that he is her *boyfriend* and convinced they will get married someday. He tells her that *stuff* too and draws her pictures occasionally, so it's not a one way affair and has been blooming since preschool (cringe). I'm not-so-secretly hoping they are in separate first grade classes next year.
Last night Scott and Annelise went on a daddy-daughter date to watch an Astros game. Our preacher has season tickets and often invites people to go with him. He asked Scott, but since I'd made plans for a girlfriend supper at La Madeleine, Scott told him he couldn't go. Well, he generously invited Annelise to go along with the guys, so everything worked out perfectly, except the Astros lost.
Scott did take the camera with him (he's a such a good bloggy husband!) and took a few pictures of Annelise, but forgot (chose not to?) to take any self-portraits together. I'm not sure why, but the Astros mascot is a giant jackrabbit, otherwise known as Junction Jack.
I don't really know what possessed me to think a post about mulch, decorating restlessness, swimsuits, sugar binges, acupuncture, love notes and baseball could be the least bit interesting, but when I started this mammoth word vomit I was obviously delusional. Please accept my earnest apologies.
I'm blaming the mulch. And the sugar.
*****Public Service Announcement #642:
Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can't Lose.
Texas Forever!
Friday Night Lights returns TONIGHT (7:00pm CST)
Make sure your DVR is set!!
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