10 January 2013


I'm not the resolution type (because I'm terrible at following through and finishing what I start!), but in the spirit of a new year, I'm hoping to start blogging again, at least on an occasional basis. I've realized lately how much I like (and miss) having this kind of record of our lives, so I want to try and do a little bit more. So I'll begin with a review of 2012, the first year in which I wrote absolutely nothing on this blog since I began it in (just had to look back and check and oh my goodness that was a long time ago) 2005!

2012 was a pretty busy year for us. It's the first year in which we've had to consider buying a second car because having to schedule the one made things pretty difficult sometimes. Between our regular commitments (Greg's job [still working at the university], my volunteerism at the kids' school, swimming lessons, soccer games, ultimate frisbee, band and chorus) and the more irregular things (doctor's and dentist's appointments, birthday parties, races, concerts, field trips, adventure races, weddings, funerals) we found ourselves on the move quite a lot. I'm hoping to go into more details in some future posts, but I'll touch on some of the biggest events of the last year.

Shortly after the new year, my grandmother passed away -- my last remaining grandparent. Several months later, Greg's grandfather passed away as well -- the first of his grandparents. We feel lucky to have had loving grandparents, and we're grateful our children were able to know their great-grandparents. 

Luckily we had many more happy moments than sad during the year. We got to see my family quite a bit, what with several family meet-ups at my mom's house, a visit from my sister and her husband, and my third annual New England road trip with the kids. We also took two trips to Washington to see Greg's family -- once in July for his sister's wedding, and again at Christmas.

We tried to stay pretty active this year. Every year I feel as if we don't manage to get out hiking and camping as much as we'd like, but when I looked back at the year's photos I realized we did a pretty good job. Thanks to last year's warm winter, we were able to hike snow-free during January, February and March. We went camping in the Adirondacks twice during the summer with friends of ours, as well as doing plenty of summer hiking, and discovering some cool new places. Our biggest physical accomplishments this year include my second half-marathon, Greg's first 24-hour adventure race, and the kids' first 5k. In addition, Greg and I ran a fun Mud Run together, and I ran my first Boilermaker (a huge, very popular 15k near my hometown).

Some other fun we had this year: the kids and I got to meet James Howe (author of the Bunnicula books, among others) when he visited their school last spring; I took Greg to see a live Mythbusters show for his birthday; Greg got me an awesome new camera for my birthday; we spent a weekend at a cottage in the Finger Lakes with friends; Greg and I got to attend a fancy gala at the local science museum thanks to his job; Greg and I celebrated 3 years of marriage (and 12 years as a couple!); we took the kids on a weekend vacation to an indoor water park; the kids went white-water rafting for the first time; and Greg and I went to a concert for the first time in years (Shiny Toy Guns, a pop/rock/dance band). We also came close to being sued, but that's a long story for another time.

Hopefully I'll remember to update a bit more frequently than in recent years. I apologize for the lack of photos, but I wanted to put something up without spending too much time searching for pictures to accompany the post. I post photos regularly on my Flickr page, so you can keep up with us there if I'm too much of a slacker here.


05 June 2011

now we are six

Dear Evan,

I failed to write you a birthday letter when you turned five, so now I've got a lot of lost time to make up for. You turned six today! It's a little bit unbelievable, how much you've grown. Looking at your six-year-old face, it's hard to find any traces of the chubby-cheeked baby who used to toddle around our house. You're getting taller and skinnier all the time -- those Schmidt genes are finally starting to show themselves.

You've had a lot of big changes in your sixth year. The most important in your day-to-day life was starting kindergarten. Finally, after all those years of waiting, you get to ride the bus with your big brother and your neighborhood friends. Now you, too, get to have gym (your favorite) and music and library and computer class and field trips and bingo nights and all of the wonderful things that come along with grade school.

And you're right at home in school. Your teachers have sent home glowing reports, you're making friends, your handwriting has progressed from shaky preschooler scrawl to careful, precise printing, you're adding with ease (and getting there with subtraction), and best of all, you're reading! You took your time getting into reading, but once you got the hang of it you quickly became a pro. Now you read stories aloud with perfect expression and barely any stumbles at all. You're a huge fan of comics, but you're beginning to make forays into chapter books as well.

School has been a huge deal this year, but you've grown up in other ways as well. You learned to ride a two-wheeler this spring, and you could not have been more proud of yourself. In true Evan fashion, you spent a few days complaining that it was too hard and you'd never be able to do it, and then one day practically without warning you climbed onto your bike and rode off down the street as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

One of the biggest changes since the last birthday letter I wrote you is that tantrums are nearly a thing of the past. You have come a long way in learning to control your temper, and your hard work and practice have paid off. You seem so mature these days. There are still occasional bumps in the road, but you're really learning to master yourself, and I think that makes everyone who lives with you a little happier.

One of the biggest challenges you had to face this year was the sudden death of your uncle John, your dad's older brother. This was your first real, personal encounter with death, and it took some time for you to really process and comprehend what had happened. We were all deeply affected, of course, but it breaks my heart a little that you only had a few short years to know your uncle. I hope you'll always remember how much he loved you.

This year wasn't all changes, though. In many ways you're still the same Evan we've known and loved for so many years. Rambunctious, spontaneous, imaginative, funny, affectionate. Still obsessed with Legos, still in love with any animal you lay eyes on, still ready for snuggling at bedtime. You're still the same unpredictable child who constantly keeps us on our toes. You make sure our lives don't get boring.

Only a day into six years old and we've already been told that six year olds don't need help with things anymore. Six seems to be a Big Deal, the first year, maybe, in which you really believe you have changed. But at the same time you're not in too much of a hurry to grow up, and I'm glad for that, because it's so much fun to be your mother, Evan.


13 October 2010

a letter to my brother-in-law

Dear John,

A million thoughts have been swirling through my head in the last couple of days, but the one I keep returning to, the thing I can't get past, is how unfair it is that you're dead. How unfair it is to you, who had so much life left to live, and how unfair it is for the rest of us, who have to figure out how to live in a world you're not part of anymore.

It's so unfair that you were taken from us so suddenly. I'm just hung up on the injustice of it, from the stupid little things like how sad I am for you that you'll never get to play the keyboards on Rock Band 3, or how you'll never get to read the book you were telling me about the last time I saw you, to the huge things like how you won't get to see your nephews grow up, and how terribly sad it is that you and Elizabeth don't get to grow old together. You had so much left to do!

I've been your official sister-in-law for less than a year, but I felt like family from almost the first time we met, nine years ago, because you were so open and warm and friendly. I've lost a number of relatives in my life, but this is the first time I've lost a family member who was also a dear friend. And maybe it's because I'm so far away, but it still doesn't feel quite real yet. When I think that I'll never see you again, never hear your wonderful contagious laugh, never have another huge warm hug from you, it seems impossible.

I only got to know you for nine years, which was not nearly long enough. And if nine years can produce so much grief, how much worse must it be for those who knew you and loved you for decades, for your whole life? And there were so many who loved you -- who wouldn't love you? You were an amazing person, a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, an uncle, a friend, and you were so kind, generous, loving, and always smiling. My heart aches for your parents, your siblings, all of your family and friends, and most deeply for Elizabeth.

How do you say goodbye to someone you didn't even know was going to be leaving? We all miss you, more than words can adequately express. It's so hard to see beyond the sudden pain of loss. I know it won't always be this painful, but your absence will always be felt.

Thank you, John, for being such a wonderful person, for all the fun and laughter and hugs and conversation and games and generosity and kindness and love. You will never be forgotten. You will ever be missed and loved. Rest well, brother, and maybe someday we'll meet again.



21 January 2010

belated birthday post

Dear James,

I'm a month late with your birthday letter, but surely after eight years of living with me and your dad, you've learned that punctuality is not something we're known for, nor does it run in the family, so I know you'll forgive me. I know this, too, because you're a forgiving sort of person, quick to move on, never holding a grudge.

Thank goodness for that, because this year you are beginning to make comparisons between your life and the lives of your peers, and you're quick to let your dad and me know when we fall short of the parenting ideals. Too many chores, no allowance, we never take you to McDonald's, that sort of thing. You like to inform us of all of the wonderful things you'll do as soon as you turn eighteen. I almost died the day you added "buy whipped cream in a can" to this list. Someday you will understand that your mother always whips real cream not because she hates you and wants you to be weird, but because she loves you and wants you to enjoy real food.

Yesterday you were angry with me for one of my many parenting failures and you demanded, "How do I know you're my real mother?" It's hard to tell sometimes, because you are still so remarkably like your dad. Your second-grade teacher is very impressed with your math knowledge and skills, and she told us how surprised she was during the first week of school when you informed the class about negative numbers. I would have loved to see the look on her face a couple of weeks ago when you went to school armed with the information your dad had just taught you about imaginary numbers.

You take after your dad in so many ways. You share his curiosity about the world around you, and from him you've learned to turn to science for your answers. You're so imaginative, always coming up with new ideas. You share his love of games, especially video games. You can be so silly -- you should have seen the look I gave your dad when your teacher told us about all of the weird noises you make in class, seemingly without even being aware of making them -- but you still have a surprising attention span, especially when it comes to drawing and reading.

Now, reading: that's one way I know you're my son. When you find a book you like you get so wrapped up in it that you can't put it down. You don't hear people talking to you, you carry the book around with you when you're forced to do something other than read, you bring a flashlight in the car so darkness won't prevent you finishing this chapter. You're reading books that are shelved in the Young Adult section of the library, yet you still like to be read to at bedtime.

It's a strange age, eight. You're navigating the gray area between childhood and adolescence. You like to snuggle on the couch and watch nature shows, yet you like to rock out to Weezer. You play Legos and cars with your brother at home, yet on the playground at school you and your friends play Twilight. I was the kind of kid who always felt a little out of place at this stage, but I think you're enjoying it, being able to move within two worlds.

You and your brother are still great friends, but I've noticed a bit of a change this year. It's becoming apparent that you are growing older, your tastes are changing, and you're a little less content to play the same old games. Sometimes you even decline to play with Evan in favor of reading, which sends him running to me, pleading can we please not get Calvin and Hobbes from the library anymore because all James does is reeeaaaaad!!! Evan gets frustrated with your growing maturity, but you are often kind enough to humor him.

It's fun being your mom in so many ways, James, whether you're telling jokes or drawing comics or helping me cook or regurgitating facts you've learned from Nature or Nova or from your dad. I like watching you crack up while you watch movies; I like sharing favorite books and movies and music with you and knowing you're old enough to really appreciate and enjoy them; I like overhearing you sing songs or recite poems you've learned at school; I like to see you drawing charts and graphs for fun, or designing board games, or writing stories.

Thank you for helping make our lives so much fun, James. Happy belated birthday. I love you more than any blog post can convey.


17 December 2009

catching up: washington vacation

Since we're leaving on Friday to spend Christmas and New Year's in Washington with Greg's family, I thought it was about time I got around to posting about our summer vacation there.

It had been three years since the last time we'd been to Washington in the summer, and we'd almost forgotten how much there was to do there in warm weather. Such as horseback riding:

And trips to the beach:

(I believe that was Evan's first time at the Pacific Ocean.)

We went to the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park, one of the few temperate rainforests in the world. It's full of giant old trees all covered in hanging moss, which, on a sunny day, is quite lovely. I've actually never been there on a rainy day, so I can't speak to that experience, but I'm sure it's neat then too.

Icidentally, the drive to the rainforest takes you through the small town of Forks, which is now well-known as the setting of the Twilight books and movies. It's amusing to see the Twilight mania in this little logging town -- every business with a sign out front welcomes Twilight fans to town, there is a store on the main street selling only Twilight merchandise, and we even saw some teenage girls posing in front of the "Welcome to Forks" sign as we drove into town.

Anyway. This photo is of one of the more memorable parts of the trail through the rainforest, and gives you a bit of an idea of the size of some of the trees.

Greg and I were able to take a couple of days to ourselves to go hiking and camping in the Olympics (thanks again to Greg's parents for watching the boys for us!). We hiked to Royal Basin, a lake that is only reached after climbing a seven-mile trail that rises over 2500 feet in elevation along the way. Needless to say, we were sort of useless in the movement department for a day or two after we got back. But that view is worth it, don't you think?

We also saw our first wild bear on that trip, although we didn't get any photos. We saw him only because he heard us coming and started crashing through the underbrush trying to run away from us, so even if we had gotten a photo it would have been of his rear end. So.

We went to Salt Creek, which is a very pretty beach and a great place to look at tide pools. We've been there many times as well, but it never fails to amaze us with its beautiful scenery and the interesting creatures you can find there. In addition to all of the tide pool animals we've seen there (such as sea stars, mussels, crabs, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, snails and fish) we've seen bald eagles, sea lions (or were they seals? I can never remember), sea otters and whales.

It's also just fun to play in the sand and water there:

We hiked out to the Devil's Punchbowl at Lake Crescent, along the Spruce Railroad Trail, a trail that actually used to be a railroad. We've done this hike many times in the past but it's a good one for kids (relatively short and flat), plus it's beautiful, so we keep going back again and again. Here's James on the bridge over the punchbowl:

And here's Evan along the shore of the lake during the hike:

In addition to all of these day trips we took, we also had a lot of fun just hanging out with Greg's family, playing games, watching movies, berry-picking, walking the dogs, building with Legos, eating fresh seafood, and just generally being on vacation.

Last night I finally got around to posting some of my photos on Flickr, so click here and take a look if you're interested. Those are maybe half of my photos from the trip, but it took about eleventy-zillion hours to upload and label them all, so I think that's all there will be. There are more photos of horses, hiking, the beach, the rainforest, and tide pools, among other things, so check it out.

We're headed back to Washington tomorrow morning, and can't wait to spend the holidays with Greg's family! And hopefully it won't take me quite as long to post photos from this trip once we're back home again.


12 December 2009

trivial pursuit for kids

My kids love to play games, any kind of games. Video games, computer games, pretend games, guessing games, board games. James, especially, love games so much that he's constantly making up his own or playing games by himself. If he doesn't know the rules to a game he'll invent them. His games are always terrifically complicated.

He's certainly passing on his love of games to his brother. This morning I came downstairs to find them deeply involved in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Evan can't read yet, and most of the questions are outside the limits of their young knowledge, so they make up their own questions. Usually their questions are about Star Wars or Pokemon, but this morning they actually created their own categories to work with: Animals, Water, Sand, Air, Candy and Plants. Evan was The Questioner.

Evan: Why doesn't sand evaporate?
James: Because it's not made of water!
Evan: Good!

Evan: Why don't all birds eat fish?
James: Because they don't all live near water!
Evan: Good!

Evan: Why can't you eat sand?
James: Because it's not food!
Evan: Good!

Evan: Why doesn't water go upstream?
James: Because hills make it go downstream!
Evan: Good!

It's so much fun listening to them.


04 December 2009

friday photos: thanksgiving edition

We spent Thanksgiving at my mom's house, as we do every year. Only one of my sisters was able to come, and we had a slightly shorter vacation than usual, due to both of my sons having school on Wednesday, but despite those things we still had a fun long weekend.

My sister and I made Thanksgiving dinner for 13 people, which was less work than I expected, and utterly delicious. (I didn't take any photos of the food, but my sister's turkey was one of the most perfect-looking -- and delicious-tasting -- main courses I've ever seen.) We took the kids to see Fantastic Mr. Fox, which was a big hit for both kids and adults (Wes Anderson + Roald Dahl is like a dream come true for me). We played a lot of Rock Band:

On Saturday we went down to the Cooperstown, NY area (famous for being home to the Baseball Hall of Fame) to go to a local cider mill and to a historical museum and village, the Farmers' Museum. Believe it or not, the kids were not enthralled with this part of the afternoon, but there were some parts they enjoyed. The highlight for them was the carousel ride:

I am in love with this carousel. The animals are all animals native to New York State, and they are both adorable and hilarious in carousel form. Some of the animals included a bear, a loon, a goose, a skunk, a frog, a cow and a fish, as well as the pig, raccoon and beaver shown below:

The historical village was really pretty. It would have been nicer to walk around there on a sunny day, but even with a chilly drizzle it had its charms:

In other news, a few days ago we woke up to the first snow of the season, which we were actually pretty excited about. We have a holly bush outside our front door, and I loved the look of the white snow, red berries and green leaves together:

The trees edging our apartment complex looked beautiful topped with a little snow:

And Evan was thrilled to make some snowballs:

The snow has since melted, but its brief appearance has helped get us in the mood for the holidays. We have a Christmas tree (which we'll hopefully have time to decorate soon), we've taken our Christmas photos, and we've started diving into Christmas books and movies and music. And in two weeks we'll be on our way to the west coast to spend a couple of weeks with Greg's family -- we can't wait!

Oh, and by the way, I've started uploading many of my photos to Flickr -- so far I've mostly put older photos up, but I'm hoping to keep up with posting newer photos there too. Check it out if you're interested!