Friday, December 30, 2011

To Tolerate or Not to Tolerate

Today is a day that I like to call "Procrastination after a Long Trip Day." It's my own personal holiday after a holiday. Yes, I have large suitcases to unpack and new toys and generous gifts that I must find a new home for, but instead I will drink coffee and will veg with my children in front of PBS cartoons and will wear comfortable workout clothes when I have absolutely zero intention of doing anything remotely close to burning calories. Well, I might take a trip around the den on Mimi's new scooter, but that's about it. We are completely out of garbage bags and very close to being out of toilet paper, but it's raining cats and dogs outside, which is my excuse for not getting out to buy more. Maybe I can borrow from the neighbors . . .

This morning I noticed Mack drinking from a sippy cup that wasn't his and realized a buddy left it at a play group I hosted a million years ago, which prompted me to get on Facebook to send a message to the moms, which forced me to read every single new post since I checked it last night, and that caused me to come across a new article written by a mom on NPN. Whatevs, you know I don't need an excuse to stalk people on FB. Anyway, this post was about the rules with noisy toddlers, which I just HAD to read since my last post was about almost exactly the same thing -- tolerance and noisy children.

Hers was specifically about restaurants, and she concluded that moms need to take their screaming children out immediately while other restaurant patrons could also be a little more tolerant. She mentioned a restaurant in Pennsylvania called McDain's, which recently banned all children under 6 because "Their volume can't be controlled and many, many times, they have disturbed other customers."

Okay, I can understand that. Sometimes I also want to go to a nice, quiet restaurant and actually have a conversation with my husband or a friend. I'm not offended by that at all. But the restaurant also commented, "their endless screams at public dinner tables are the height of being impolite and selfish."

Hmmmm . . . they are the height of being impolite and selfish.

This makes me giggle. Well, of course they are at the height of being impolite and selfish. That's what toddlers are. They don't know the ways of society and don't give a rip about what others think of them. But was it wise for the restaurant to make that statement? And if the parents are allowing the little ones to stay at a table in a public place while they are endlessly screaming, well then that is another problem. I should know because it JUST happened to me a couple of nights ago.

I spent one night at my parents' home this week, and my dad took us to his favorite restaurant, Catfish Hotel, so we could get our fill on all things deep-fried (yummmmmm). Mimi didn't get the best nap that day, but I truly thought she would be fine once we got there. It's a very kid-friendly restaurant, and she has always been able to find another little buddy to look out the window with. Near the end of the meal she had a bit of a melt-down when I wouldn't allow her to run around like a chicken with her head cut off. I know, I'm such a mean mom. But the truth was that she was tired and had very little control over her actions, and I knew this. So I stuffed one last hushpuppy in my mouth and got her out of there as quickly as possible. It wasn't her fault. It was mine. Of course I took the opportunity to explain why we don't act like headless chickens in public places, but she didn't get punished.

I did get some looks from other tables while I was rushing her out of the place, but 95% of them were also parents or grandparents who were thinking, "oh, that poor thing." The other 5% can just go eat at McDain's in Pennsylvania.

It also happened a few weeks ago at a local Mexican restaurant in my neighborhood, which happens to be the most kid-friendly neighborhood in the city. And it was about 5:30PM, which is when only families with toddlers and senior citizens go to restaurants. The other parents don't mind, and the seniors can't hear. It works out well for everyone. Anyway, we were with other families and three toddlers squealed at the same time, which most of us thought was kind of funny (well, probably because we had several pitchers of margaritas by this point), BUT out of the corner of my eye I saw that one table of two forty-something-year-old women gawking and complaining to their waiter. Great.

So the manager came over and the concerned expression on her face completely melted when she saw our table. She let us know another table complained, but our children are so little and they seemed to be having so much fun. Then she winked and said that she just wanted to make sure that table saw her come over and say something, and then she brought crayons.

. . . the height of being impolite and selfish . . .

One reason this statement makes me giggle is that the children have done nothing wrong. Crying and being noisy isn't a sin. It isn't evil. But this restaurant has stated that it is "selfish," which is indeed not a good thing to be. I assume what they mean is that the parents are being selfish. The parents have selfishly gotten themselves and their toddlers bathed and in nice clothes. They selfishly packed snacks and crayons and Magnadoodles along with diapers and wipes and an extra change of clothes and plastic utensils and bibs and a bazillion other things into a ginormous diaper bag instead of bringing a stylish little purse. These same selfish parents then struggled with the little ones to get on their shoes and coats and then wrestled them into car seats. They selfishly waited on a table and quickly moved away all the glasses and sharp utensils so their children wouldn't knock them over or throw them across the room. The selfish moms balanced nursing a baby under a gigantic cover while helping her husband shovel chicken nuggets and peas in a picky toddler's mouth to keep her quiet. Then they selfishly pack away most of their dinner into styrofoam containers because the little ones have reached their melting point. How. Freaking. Selfish.

Yes, there are those parents whose only action with fussy ones in public is to yell at them to make them stop yelling, which we all know never works. But more times than not the majority of parents are the ones I described above. They just want to have a nice evening out with their family because they know that the benefits are worth the risk. It is worth all the trouble it takes to get my family out of the house. I try my best to make sure that no one is sleepy or starving or needs to potty or get a clean diaper. I try to pack my bags with all the essentials. We call ahead for early reservations and ask for a table in the back when available. And if all goes as planned, we get a good meal that we don't have to prepare or clean up and my children show us the best time. They usually dance at the table to the music, joke with the waiters, and say really, really funny things to the people sitting around us. The risk is SO worth it. They are the most interesting and best dinner dates Clint and I have ever had.

So go eat at McDain's and other places banning children. Sit in peace and quiet and turn your nose up at anything louder than the terrible elevator music I'm sure they'll be playing. Don't take the risk of being tickled beyond belief at the funny things that toddlers do in restaurants. Having children isn't for everyone, and I don't recommend to people who are even the slightest bit unsure of it. But you want to see how selfish you are? Then have a kid. I never realized what a narcissist I was until Mimi came along. I used to wake up early and take FOREVER to get ready to go anywhere -- to work, to dinner, to the grocery store. I would piddle and watch TV and pluck my eyebrows and chat on the phone and check my e-mail. I would clean out a closet and then mess it up again looking for just the right outfit for lying around the house and watching reality TV. I could spend all day shopping for the perfect socks or downloading new music.

But I never had enough time to get anything done. Ha. Ha ha ha ha. I was so stupid and selfish. I wanted to have children so badly, but I never knew how badly I needed these children. Clint and I are smarter and stronger and closer to God than we've ever been or ever would have been if we didn't have children. They taught us so much about life that we owe it to them to give it all we have. Which means taking them out in public places to have fun -- and to show them how to politely have fun in public places. To teach them everything we know by spending lots of quality time with them. To feed them healthy food and make sure they get plenty of exercise. To teach them to be kind and selfless and patient -- and these especially we must teach by example, which isn't always easy.

The past couple of weeks of traveling and eating in restaurants and staying at several other homes and sharing space with people of all ages has been GREAT for all of us. Not always easy but it has given Clint and me the best opportunities to teach them all of these things (and to learn more ourselves). If we never took the risk, then how would each of us learn and grow? We wouldn't.

So the crazy point I'm trying to make is this -- I hate it for those who don't take the risk to include children. I'm not mad at the restaurants and other places that ban children. Whatevs -- they're trying to make good business decisions. But I'm mad at the attitudes of those who ban children. Who don't see their importance. Who don't want to listen to their noise. Who push them away constantly for a quiet, peaceful moment. Please don't miss the opportunities you have with your little ones. The opportunities to make sure they have fun and are learning to be just as cool as you are. If you don't like how they're behaving, then show them how to do it correctly. We all learn best from examples.

Something about lots of families getting out to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus (the key here being BABY) has made me think a lot of attitudes toward little ones. Even if you think Jesus was just a complete nutcase who claimed to be the son of God, you can't argue with the example he set for mankind. He was kind to EVERYONE -- a dirty tax collector, a hooker by a well, dirty sick folks with no insurance, and noisy, fussy little children. They probably had boogers in their nose and sticky hands, and Jesus was so cool that he asked them to come to him even though the snooty adults told them to go away. He knew that those little ones were important. He knew the importance of putting others first.

I've always loved this Proverb, ". . .refresh others and you will be refreshed . . ."

I pray I never forget that.

And that I never have to eat at McDain's.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Make a Joyful Noise

In a house full of 7 young children, I have finally found a nice, quiet spot for just a few moments . . .
. . . but I don't know how to sit still and rest and be quiet, so why not catch up the blog . . .

My two little wild monkeys have FINALLY crashed after spending a couple of days with their 5 middle school-aged cousins. They tried so hard to hang, but their little bodies just can't do it yet. After a serious Mimi meltdown, she is sound asleep in Coco's bed. Whew.

In case I haven't told you, I flew to Nashville this past Monday. With my two toddlers. BY. MYSELF.

And no drugs were involved. Just snacks and cartoons and prayer.

But we made it, and I will TOTALLY be doing that again. Not half as bad as I thought it would be. Clint was able to go to the gate with us, so I basically only had them by myself for about an hour and a half. The flight attendants and captain were ridiculously sweet as were most of the surrounding passengers on the plane. But OF COURSE there was this one lady who sat right behind us who was ill and grumpy and whined, whined, whined. My children were much better behaved than she was, so maybe I'm not such a bad parent after all.

The only moment of the trip where my palms got sweaty was the few minutes before we boarded the plane. Mimi saw people ahead of us in line going toward the plane and was so worried that they were leaving us. She hasn't grasped the idea of lines yet and how there was room for everyone. So she began freaking out, and all of the sweet folks around us assured her that they wouldn't let the airplane take off without her -- she was the star guest. And then several other passengers told me how they have small children or have had small children (or have friends with small children, or whatever they could think of to make my hands stop shaking) . . . and then all my worry melted away. My crazy kids couldn't possibly be the worst children to ever fly.

Do the rest of you get nervous about times like this? We recently invited friends to dinner with us, and the mom commented that she didn't want to be that person who brings a baby to an innappropriate place. I assured her it would be fine, and it totally would have, but I knew what she was thinking at that time. She wanted to avoid the stares and rolled eyes and flared nostrils from others who don't love the noise of children so much.

But when my children and I were settled in our seats eating crackers and cookies and pretzels and watching a Winnie the Pooh movie, the last passenger chose the middle seat behind us, which was the last on the plane. Well, it wasn't quite the last because there actually was an empty seat next to me . . . but it only took a couple of seconds to understand why she didn't choose that one. After she knocked out everyone around us with her bulky bags and then gave them a half-hearted apology, she turned to the cute guy by the window and began attempting to flirt. She asked where he was from, commented on the football team on his hat, and then bragged about something expensive she owned. Then she began griping about how she was a terrible flier, and was mad at a lady at the front of the plane who was sitting next to the window with "her dumb kid" and wouldn't budge. Out of the corner of my eye (I just wrote that like I casually glanced, but you know I was totally spying) I saw the guy roll his eyes and look out the window.

And then I realized something. Every time Mimi and Mack made a peep on that plane some sweet soul turned around to give them (or me) a smile or a wink. Not everyone loves the sounds of children, but NO ONE loves the sounds of a complaining adult. Especially when that adult is complaining about an innocent little toddler.

I am going to carry this lesson with me this week . . . no matter how many children are crammed in the house with me. I will encourage my noisy children and nieces and nephews to keep making noise and make it joyfully. That noise means they're healthy and happy and how can I not love that?

I can't wait to catch you up on the rest of our time in the south, but for now I must watch the rest of the Toddlers and Tiaras marathon with my nieces, who will no doubt have the best commentary ever.

And Mimi wanted me to introduce the family boxer, Lucy.
Love, love, love her.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah to you all! More to come later . . .

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let's Go Back . . .

. . . and I mean waaay back to September. I remembered there were some photos we downloaded to Clint's computer while at the beach because my memory card was full. But I finally moved them, and although the quality was pretty awful (some little one had been playing with my camera that day) I'm still pretty excited to finally be able to see them again!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Control Issues

I have a confession. Lately I've been a bit of a . . . dare I say it? Hi, my name is Jeri Anne Darby and I am a Type-A control freak.

If you know me, you know that this is waaaay abnormal behavior. It is just not in my nature to not be okay with, well, pretty much anything that is thrown at me, but I have learned that this is completely normal . . . I mean, I am a human being and all.

I heard some news yesterday morning that literally rocked my new control-freak world. I was sadly reminded that I am really not the one in charge. Not at all.

Let me start this story with telling you about a really great guy I went to elementary and high school with. His name is Ron and he is about the nicest guy I've ever met. I mean super-nice but not in a dorky pushover kind of way but a nice that is genuine and caring. He was a football captain and president of the FCA our senior year. He was even voted Mr. ACHS (along with a really dorky girl for Miss ACHS . . . not sure what our class was even thinking), and basically everyone liked him. I remember sitting in Mrs. Foust's senior English class one morning, and Ron turned around in his seat to ask me what I thought about Amanda Cossey. Should he ask her to prom?

Oh my gosh. Amanda was a couple of years younger than us and possibly the sweetest girl I'd ever met. Why hadn't I ever thought of this brilliant match? It was too, too perfect. He was a football player and she was a dancer . . . he was FCA president and her father was a preacher . . . they were both smart and cute and nice. Too perfect.

So they went to prom . . . and started dating . . . went to college . . . and Ron eventually became the head coach of a high school football team in the small Mississippi town of New Albany. Amanda also taught there and was a speech pathologist. When I was a cheerleader sponsor at a nearby high school, I can remember Ron coming across the field giggling after his team played mine because he heard some cheers from our old high school (remember the "Get. The ball. Get, get, get the ball" one? And the "Football jerseys, football socks, we've got the Bulldogs by their jocks. Pull, team, pull!" It's tacky but so fun.) I was so glad to see his smiling face and find out that he and Amanda had gotten married. And then a few years later I found out they were expecting a baby girl a few months before I had Mimi. I was so very happy for such a sweet and deserving couple. And everyone I've ever met from their new small town felt the same way. What a perfect, perfect couple.

According to the newspapers, Ron and Amanda had just arrived at home Tuesday night after taking a student to an all-star game, and Amanda had let their dog out into the backyard. Just an average day in their life. Get home. Put down their things. Put the baby in bed. Take out the dog . . .

Then she spotted an intruder . . . screamed . . .

. . . and was shot.

Ron ran outside . . . and he was also shot. Ron is expected to be okay . . . but Amanda . . .

So now that three-year-old girl has no mommy and Ron has lost his best friend, and my heart hasn't broken like this in a very, very long time. I am so freaking angry and sick that I can't stand it. I want to find this person who committed this act and . . . well, basically all the same things you're thinking right now. But it won't bring her back to her sweet family . . . and it won't changed the horrible things that have happened.

I spent most of my day yesterday being angry. What the hell? Why did something so awful happen to such awesome people?

But the truth is that bad things happen to pretty much everybody in some way . . . as do good things. We have absolutely no control over many, many things. No matter how much planning and preparation and effort I put toward disciplining and teaching my children, cleaning and cooking, and all the many, many other things in my life I try to control, it can all be taken away instantly. Life has to go on, and we have to figure out how to continue.

So today I decided to stop trying to control and to just let it go. Of course I fed my children and brushed my teeth and all the other things I normally feel I need to do, but I didn't lose it on my children when they made absolutely the most ridiculous messes ever (like I did recently. Ouch. It hurts to admit).

Like this guy who loves to steal ornaments from the tree . . .

"I need this turtle dove. Mom won't notice."

I let them eat their snacks in the den and space out watching a movie.

This has been a hard one for me lately because Mack LOVES to shake the heck out of his snack container until all the Goldfish or pretzels or whatever are slung literally all over the room.

Just a friendly game of keep-away.

And then they stomped on their Goldfish, and Mack decided he needed to "swim" all over them.
I refrained from yelling and cussing and spanking and losing my shiz like I did recently over a puzzle mess. Seriously. People, I promise I try really hard to be a great mommy, but sometimes I am TERRIBLE at this. Not often. But it does happen.

So after I completely lost it, that night I got my pay-back. When little Mack hurt himself on something and cried, Mimi sweetly asked me, Oh, shit, Mommy. What happened?

Yes, you read that correctly. She said a four-letter word. It's no lie that I don't use them when I feel necessary, but I don't exactly want my daughter at three-years-old to use them. And I don't say them around her. But I guess in one of my rants over a bazillion puzzle pieces being slung all over the downstairs, I let that word slip. A good friend reminded me that I'm going to mess up occasionally, but I still want to stick my head under a pillow and hide in shame over that one.

But Mimi and I discussed how that word isn't appropriate for her to use, and she was all cool about it and hasn't said it since.

So anyway, I was much more chill and regular and not all uptight and strict today, and guess what? Things went much more smoothly. All I can do while I'm on this earth is try to be kind and good and teach my children the same. I'll make sure we have some fun along the way (a whole lot of fun), and I'll try to be prepared . . . but that's all I can do.

So on that note, Mimi painted a picture. I know it has nothing to do with anything, but she did.

I like how she has to hold her tongue just right.

While I was snapping this shot, she was telling me, "Wait, Mommy! I not finished! Just one more thing! The princess castle needs a sidewalk, so she can get to the train and go to work downtown!"

Like a princess walks on a sidewalk to take a train to her job downtown. She rides in a chariot. Duh.

I will leave you with this until next time . . .

I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:19-34

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Fall Finale

Oh, lucky you. You are about to get the biggest dose ever of Darby kid photos. Grab a cup of coffee . . . never mind -- make it a glass of wine . . . because this is going to take a while. This is the sort of thing that happens when the days get a little too crazy for me to sit still long enough to download photos and type up a blog post. And, boy, has November been a crazy month around here. Clint and I had to have a bit of a come-to-Jesus talk last night because I've had a problem of stopping to sit and relax and smell the roses. So this is the product of my sitting . . . and relaxing . . . and smelling the Christmas tree . . .

Just a little bit of Darby love . . .

Sure, they fight and fuss and steal toys from each other, but they do love each other so.


First I must go back . . .

. . . to Halloween and wrap up Fall before moving on to my favorite time of year -- the celebration of baby Jesus. Yes, I too think that the baby Jesus is my favorite Jesus. But I'll get to that later. Now for a little more of a Chicago Autumn . . .
Let's go waaayyyy back to the fun Pumpkin Fest at our neighborhood school -- possibly the school my kiddos will attend (I mean, it's only a block away. Fingers crossed the tour is amazing).
Linus waiting on the Great Pumpkin . . .

So Mimi wanted to be a cowgirl riding a plush purple and pink unicorn, but then she broke up with the unicorn and became a cowgirl with no horsey. Whatevs. Either way I needed to finally find a way to make her sit still long enough for Jessie-style French braids. Voila!!!!
Our neighborhood also has a perfect toddler Halloween parade, which basically consists of the neighborhood high school marching band (It's the most beautiful high school ever. I must take a photo one day) and then the families march behind. How simple is that? Why in the world doesn't every town do that? Then all the stores pass out candy to the kiddos and everyone has a fantastic sugar high and takes a good nap.
Yes, I know I'm repeating the Halloween blog, and I've already talked about some of the festivities surrounding this fun holiday, BUT I finally figured out where the photos from my phone were hiding on my computer. I couldn't just let them stay in the folder. So we went trick-or-treating on our street, which is the best trick-or-treating experience ever. Almost every house is decorated and some play spooky music and even offer spiked cider to the parents! Woo hoo! And when every house is only a couple of feet apart, the candy bag gets full in only a few blocks. Mimi went trick-or-treating with her new buddies Paige and Kara and our sweet little neighbor William. Kara is a very serious 4-year-old, so I couldn't stop giggling when she broke out into Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" several times on our walk.

Awwwwwww . . . .

Three lollipops at a time. That's how she rolls.
This Fall was much milder than last year's, so the Darby family spent a lot of time at the park, which is so much more fun now that Mack is walking. And climbing. And going down the super-fast slide head-first.


A couple of weeks ago we went to Memphis . . .

. . . and were able to play with some sweet friends one morning. And this is what Libby and I found Mack and Ellis doing . . .
Boys, boys boys. T-R-O-U-B-L-E. I love talking with friends who have a daughter first and then a son. EVERYONE seems to make the same comments -- the daughter is more independent and the sons are a little more clingy . . . but the boys are very destructive and wild.

But don't they look so sweet??
Dressed in their Sunday best in a church pew. And we were at this church for a very, very special occasion -- the rehearsal for the wedding of my brother-in-law Tyler and my sweet (like, beyond words sweet) new sister-in-law Beth. I love, love, love her. And I love, love, love them together. Tyler has always been more reserved and laid back (much more so than his brother who I happened to marry), but when he met Beth some spark was ignited -- in a very good way. After meeting her for the first time, I had no doubt that he would never bring home another girl. They are both incredibly awesome, and I'm excited to see how their relationship is going to grow over the years.

Clint and I were so honored that our children were asked to be a part of the wedding, but a little panic arose in me when I realized what this meant for me. Mimi was a part of a very small wedding a couple of years ago, but this was a whole new ballgame. My children plus their fun cousins was going to be, well, maybe a little more fun than I could handle. But it was fine and my parents came to help out (whew), and they truly did have a blast.

Little Mimi just couldn't understand why she wasn't the one getting married. She kept repeating, "But, Mommy, I want to get married. J.R., why won't you marry me?? We can stand up there with Beth and Tyler and then dance!! Pleeeeease!!" Like, to the point of tears. I have a video. One of Tyler's friends heard this and commented, "Wow, it really does start early in the girls."
The wedding was gorgeous -- like, brought me to tears several times gorgeous. The children performed their walking down the aisle duties beautifully, but of course the best part for them was the reception.

Even my mom joined in the fun. :)

When Tyler and Beth asked J.R. to be a part of the wedding, he immediately told them he wanted to wear a tuxedo and a mustache. He was dashing in the tuxedo . . . and I'm a little disappointed the mustache didn't come out until the reception.

Ahhh, the sweet first dance. But, wait, who are those two little party crashers??
I felt so bad that Mimi was trying her best to steal the spotlight during their first dance, but she caused much more of a scene whenever Clint and I tried to remove her. And all these ladies yelled at us to leave her alone, so whatever. And I did get to snap a few cute shots. :)

Mimi was so excited to see that her friend Emerson made it to the reception. They danced their little feet off and turned and twirled . . . and slept like angels that night for sure.

Mack lasted for a while, but when this little guy is ready to go to bed enough is enough.
Clint and I were so lucky to have my parents there to take the kids home to bed (well, my dad was the one who was ready to go to bed, honestly), so we were able to stay and have more fun than we should have had. The DJ was awesome, and I could kick myself for not getting a shot of Clint with the guitar. No, I'm not kidding. Their friends were too fun, and both families spent most of the night on the dance floor. What a joyous occasion!

And this photo has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

There are things you do because they feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other's cooking and say it was good.

-Brian Andreas

And one week later was Thanksgiving.

At my house.

With most of my family.

Yes, it was a lot of pressure on the youngest child to be able to unpack and clean and cook, but wasn't it about time? For years I've had everyone else waiting on me and helping out with my children, and I needed to repay. It started with my sister's family planning a weekend trip for her birthday . . . and then we hoped my brother in Ohio would be able to come . . . and then we couldn't all be here without my parents coming . . . and so it turned into a full-on Thanksgiving celebration. And it was awesome.

I attempted to make some new dishes -- Shrimp and Grits Dressing, Turkey with Bearnaise Butter, and Bacon, Pecan, Apple and Gorgonzola Salad with Cranberry Dressing -- along with a few staples -- Squash Casserole, Sweet Potato Crunch, and Green Beans.

Having most of my family at my home and being able to cook for them was a bit of a dream come true. I love the chaos of cramming too many people in a small space with a fire going and the smell of sauteed onions. One of the greatest parts of getting the family together is the children . . .
Mimi and Oriana . . . two peas :)

These two girls are only a few weeks apart in age but have been separated by many, many miles for the past couple of years, which has made getting together very difficult. I love how little ones don't seem to be concerned about the awkwardness of not knowing each other well, and they just jump right in and play.

"Oh, you like My Little Pony? So do I! And you like to dance to Katy Perry? Me, too!!" See, it's just too easy for them to love each other.


And then everyone had to go home . . .

. . . so it's just Daddy and Mommy and Mimi and Mack once again.

Even though the snow hasn't arrived yet (where the heck is the white stuff anyway???), we are still looking for warm places to play. We finally visited Pickles Playroom, which is my FAVE without a doubt. We love the coziness of Family Grounds, and while Little Beans is amazing, it's just way too big for me to watch both of mine without losing one (or both) of them. But Pickles is just right for my little Goldilocks -- not too big and not too small. And my Pandora stations couldn't have played a better mix than what they had coming through the speakers. Coffee and Coldplay and Mat Kearney and the Killers and Counting Crows . . . oh my. AND a toddler-sized rock-climbing wall?? Seriously??

For those of you who have absolutely no clue what I'm talking about, this is an indoor playground/coffee house/cafe. Why are there none of these in the mid-south?? I mean, it is too hot to breathe in the summer and too cold and yuck in the winter to go to the playground. If you want to start a new business, fly to Chicago and check these places out and please, please, please invest in one in the south. Pickles even has a salon on one side with really cool chairs and small flat-screens playing Dora or Diego or whatever makes your little ones chill. Just put in a soft floor, buy an espresso machine, and stock up on a bunch of toys at Ikea. Seriously. Best idea. Ever.


And this post just keeps on going and going . . .

. . . and this is where the pictures will have to stop (because they must). The beginning of the Christmas season for the Darby family starts with this . . .

A trip to our local Menard's and we came home this little green friend of ours. She's a little small, but I love her just the same . . . and so do my silly children who play with her lower branches just as much as they do their Fisher-Price Little People. But more of this later. Hopefully not much later :)