Saturday, March 31, 2012 take down our sign

...since block leave has officially started.

He's been welcomed home.   (Audrey has personally taken care of his 'initiation' back into the family).

It's the real deal this time.  He's staying.  Thank goodness.

Thirty days.  Of hanging with us.

What's on tap?

One road trip with the whole family!

A visit from his parents.

Several nights away just the two of us.

Lots of coffee.

Lots of catch.


Dog walking.


Wonder how long until he needs a break and starts working?

Thursday, March 29, 2012 go bowling with the wrestling club if this would be better than the last time we went bowling?

Will is officially done with his first season of wrestling.

The team held their end-of-season gathering at the bowling alley.  Instead of sending Mark with Will for the evening I thought it would be fun if we all went as a family...

J and Will showing off their awards!

Not so much fine dining and conversation but real kid family know the kind: bad bar food, lots of soda, and oh yes, black lights and disco music?

Very relaxing fun for the parents kids!

Will said that was the best time ever!

Audrey asked if we could go back tomorrow...

Sure.  Tomorrow.  

She has no idea how long it is until 'tomorrow' will come.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 lie low

...since I have my first real knock-me-out-for-the-count cold since before Mark left

It that he is home, my body must have felt as if it could let its guard down.

This cold is a doozy!

I didn't manage to do anything productive this morning except play with the girls.

Generally speaking my girls are dressed first thing in the morning.  Today was certainly the exception.

And here are two examples of my energy level:

1) Playing Hi Ho Cherry-O at 11:30 this morning...

2) Building a tower 'o blocks at the same time as the above pictures.

Yup.  She's in the buff.  

Don't ask why.  I didn't either.  

I was too lethargic to care.  

Head colds are the worst...

Monday, March 26, 2012 head to Syracuse

...for a girls day out!

The little girls and Amy and I had a great time on our impromptu trip to the city for the day.

We browsed through the enormous Carousel mall, enjoyed our favorite restaurant for lunch (Chipotle), and stopped in the heart of the city for me to do a return (the real premis of our trip).

Sounds delightful?

Unless of course you have my two cherubs as tag-a-longs.

It would have been a lot more fun without the little girls...

A few visuals (I wish I had more of the torture that Amy endured for me):

In this photo I have bribed Abbey and Audrey with treats from their favorite coffee shop.

Here the girls are indulging in their choice confectionaries at Banana Republic.  Don't they look sweet?

I think that Audrey is trying to kick Abbey off of the stool at this point.

I have before described the difference between bribes and rewards.

The problem with bribes: when one is trying to shop you can only feed and imbibe two and four-year-olds for so long.  The effects of gum, chocolate milk, and donuts eventually wears off and the babes will whine and cry anyhow.

In the photo below I have 'rewarded' them for their behavior at the mall.  I guess it was because they didn't actually lie down and have a tantrum.  Well Audrey actually did lie down and stomp her feet and scream while we were in H&M, but I guess I forgave that brief moment of craze we all endured and indulged them anyway.

Abbey is sharing the one rare moment of sweetness she displayed today with Amy on the Carousel.

At the end of the day, Amy and I returned to Fort Drum with some fun new clothes and we enjoyed several hours of frequently interrupted conversation.

What more could we have asked for?

Sunday, March 25, 2012 donate the items

...although I meant to post this days ago...

Anyhow I still have a few regrets of my donations from the other day.

Let me do a quick recap:

I have a lot of stuff.
I have a lot of stuff that we don't need.
I have a lot of stuff that doesn't have a spot in our home.

This all correlates to the fact that I could stand to get rid of some things.  Things that I logically know that I don't need OR have a place for.

So Audrey and I took many items to the thrift shop.  I would love to say it was a truck full of things but that would be exaggerating.

I did have that 'feel good' feeling when not one but three ladies were ogling over the fun bike that I had brought in of Will's.  It made me feel great that some little guy was going to love that bike!  If I had I seen the ladies before walking into the shop I would have given it to one of them on the spot.

But that I am home I have donor's regret.  Don't get me wrong I am happy that someone finds his bike fun.

But I don't even have a single picture of it.  And worse, I don't think I even have a picture of him riding on it.

I know, as I write this I can sense the ridiculousness of what I write.

Does Will care that his super fun bike is gone?  Of course not, because he has a zillion other super fun toys to take its place.

But I care.  We bought that bike for his 5th birthday!  While we lived in a house that is no longer standing.  Ugh.   I didn't even like that house, and I wasn't partial to the bike.

What if in a few weeks he decides it would be fun to ride that bike?  And then remembers he decided to give it away.

This is my struggle; the circles my thoughts swirl in when I even think about trying to get rid of things we don't need, use, or even have space for.

I'll keep organizing and sorting...I am great at these.

I just need to join a support group for help with that last step.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 begin to purge things in the household

...since spring has sprung

and because today was such a good day.  There are no children on the purge list!

I spent weeks preparing for Mark to come home.  I cleaned out closets, organized spaces, and wiped away dust in anticipation of his arrival.

The funny thing is, is that he isn't even that particularly fussy about the state of any of our closets or drawers.  But I spent many, many late-night hours trying to get so many things right.

The problem with all the cleaning and organizing that I have done, is that I haven't gotten rid of all that much.  This problem is compounded by the fact that I continue to fine 'new treasures' to decorate our abode and I was already over our 'weight allowance' here on our move this fall.  

My little secret to my mostly tidy home is that I am great at organizing stuffing all of my shtuff into hidden nooks and crannies.

The other problem(s): 

I am hopelessly attached to things.  I can remember where I purchased, found, or whom I received from, most every item in our home.  This holds true for everything from toys our kids have received (even from my baby showers) to the gifts I have received from families I have worked with over the years.

I might use it again.  We move often.  13 homes in 14 years of marriage.  Who knows when I might need those lavender sheers again?  Or be able to find a place for the floor lamp that sits unused in our living room corner?

Then there are the items I don't even use.  The pretty hand painted shelf that has no home on our walls.  The country style wall quilt rack with a heart in the middle?  I don't even like it.  So why can't I get rid of it?

Maybe I can repurpose it?  Oh...Pinterest you are not helping me purge my currently un-useful items!  Ideas like here, here, and here make it hard to toss and purge!

And then there is this thought in my head that I focused on the wrong areas to tidy and organize.

Since Mark has come home he has:

  • cleaned out the garage
  • organized the entertainment center
  • sanitized the garage refrigerator
All of these are incredibly helpful tasks and it is so sweet of him to jump right in to help.  But truth be told, he would really just like me to donate, toss, and purge these things that I am spending time tidying and organizing.

Well, yesterday I came across this article that I found to be written just for me.

I can empathize and relate to nearly all that the points the author talks about.  Her bottom line.  Let go.

I have had this large pile of items in my room that are things I will no longer use, for quite some time.  But I haven't been able to part with them.  While cleaning the garage we also came across several no-longer-useful items that were taking up space in our garage.

My task for tomorrow: donate ALL the items. 

Mark has already loaded the truck.

Wish me luck.

I can do it.

Although even thinking about my task for tomorrow makes me slightly panicky.


I know.  I know.

I am going to reread that article before I head off to bed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 celebrate the first day of spring

...and what a beautiful day it was!

As we begin to settle back into our routines I am back to enjoying the everyday and so Audrey and I spent the  morning running a few errands (which of course included a stop at Starbucks) and exploring Watertown a bit.

I'll admit I haven't really given this town much of a chance.  And while it is not yet rating on the top-ten-places-I-have-lived-list, but we did come across a fun surprise today....

Thompson Park

Can you believe Watertown has such a lovely play park for the kids?  I am quite excited that tomorrow is a half day for the big kids and they can all go run around and enjoy this treasure!

On a side note I just have to show off the one beautiful sign of Spring that is growing here in my home...

thank you Lisa!
My very good friend sent the best flower gift ever!  These beauties, when opened were stalks about two inches tall that were laying in the pot flat.  In just a bit over a week they have grown so incredibly tall and begun to bloom!  The kids especially have LOVED watching them grow; literally right before their eyes.

Happy Spring!

Sunday, March 18, 2012 enjoy the Watertown St. Patrick's Day Parade

...on a most unusually warm, March day

William had a scouting commitment this weekend and while it might have been nice to stay home and relax after such a busy week, we took the opportunity to enjoy the afternoon as a family.   (Well, sans Isabella as she had a birthday party to attend this afternoon).

While this might not have been our first choice of an activity to do for the day, as I look at the photos I see how perfect the time was.

It is SO nice to have Mark with me for events like this.  Not only to have an extra parent for convenience (and boy it was SO convenient) but to share these special moments:

abbey just adores her daddy

so proud walking in the parade with his den
our babe asleep in her Daddy's arms
And my favorite photo of the day:

This about sums up our afternoon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 begin to adjust to our new normal well as a full dining room table

Honeymoon's over.

Mark was back to work at 7 a.m.

As the little girls were getting out of bed this morning:
Audrey:  Where's my Daddy?
Me:  He had to go to work.
Audrey:  In Afghanistaaaan?
Me:  No, honey at his new office that we drove by yesterday remember?
Audrey:  (ignoring me) Is he coming home in a long time?  On the airplane?
Me: No.  He'll be home for dinner.
Audrey:  From Afgahnistaaaaan? 

I decided it would be a good idea to take Daddy lunch today.  At his new office.  That is only three miles or so from our home.

That might have been a great idea had I remembered that only my standards of how our children dress and look when they go out in public have changed.
Sheer exhaustion and complete lack of control over these heathens have forced me to surrender the last bit of influence on their appearance that I might have had.
Anyhow, it seems that Mark doesn't appreciate yellow highlighter as eyeshadow and blush nearly as much as Audrey does.

Perhaps I should just send him to work with his lunch tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 look back Mark's past returns

July 2003

July 2005

Back to the future...

Welcome home back to our crazy.  We missed you so.

Monday, March 12, 2012 attend a Welcome Home Ceremony!

...the day was here.

We were supposed to arrive at the ceremony two hours prior to its start.  Lucky us Mark's ceremony was moved up one hour to 4:30 a.m.

I woke the kids up at 0200, as in 2 a.m.  All three of the bigger kids leapt out of bed just as easily as they would on a Saturday morning.  I woke Audrey and carried her right to the car.

I was prepared for anything!  I had blankets, snacks, movies, water bottles, and electronic devices.  Whatever I thought it might take to entertain our cherubs while we waited for two hours in the wee hours of the morning in a gymnasium.

They were excellent.

While we were waiting...

 All set up watching a movie under the bleachers.

Still waiting...

The welcoming committee:

One of the ladies from my neighborhood happened to be at our ceremony and took pictures for me.  Here are some of our Kodak moments...

I'm already teary just watching them march in.

be still my heart

our family is complete
Abbey is the most smitten.
Audrey is very proud of the sign she made.

Oh what a day.  


My heart is full.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012 keep the kids busy

...while checking a few things off of the list

While there are lots of things I would have liked to get done today we just hung around together.  I didn't feel like doing too much.

My house was clean...and I don't say that too often.
I didn't really want to cook...Or I might have messed up the kitchen.
We have finished Harry Potter Prisoner of Azkaban and watched the movie.  Twice.

It was late in the afternoon when I finally mustered some motivation.  The little girls decided they wanted to play outside.


Hats.  Coats.  Boots.  Brr.


They quickly lost interest as it was quite cold outside.

No worries.


As I was hanging this...
I came inside to this...
And this...(real fingernail polish!)
Trying to hide the evidence.
Perhaps as we continue the countdown I can keep working on my projects, but maybe I shouldn't leave my girls unattended for so long?

Thursday, March 8, 2012 share our thoughts of D-A-D the anticipation becomes almost unbearable!

  • New running shoes.  Arrived.
  • New iPhone.  Activated.
  • Trip.  We are on to plan C.  Reservations made.
  • Kids at ceremony.  Happily resigned to this fate.  He'll be around to help deal with them the next day!
  • Job.  Well.  Um.  I'm working' it.  He can't expect everything on his list to be finished!

Abbey brought her down around 1am last night to sleep with me.  Abbey was lecturing her about how these nighttime visits would becoming to an end in a few days because D-A-D was coming home.  And they would be able to sleep in my bed anymore because they currently were sleeping in Daddy's spot. Audrey's response:
"No Abbey you sleep in Daddy's spot.  I sleep in the middle.  There will still be room for me."

At bedtime this evening I was talking to the kids about how life might not be quite as dreamy as they think it will be.  After all Daddy can be tough on them too.  Her response:
"Yea, well, he'll be pretty vulnerable for at least a week or so!"

Was particularly, and strangely helpful and kind this evening.  Audrey led him around so that he would play her with.  He even read the girls a few bedtime stories.  I told him that I really appreciated how kind he was to his sisters this evening and that it made me so happy when I saw him being to sweet to them.  I also said I couldn't wait to tell his Dad about his unsolicited helpfulness this evening.

William was beaming.


I get no respect from her.  She hopped up here while I was watching her!  I am sitting right here, in front of the fire.

Add caption
I guess she is hoping that Mark has forgotten all the rules like I have.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 go to Sam's Club

... and mail a few packages.

This didn't seem like a big to do list.

But it's nearly a full moon tonight and and it was super windy again...

Translation:  My list grew and my children's behavior went spiraling out-of-control.

Don't worry about me though.  I still haven't jumped ship.  Thrown in the towel.  Deserted.

Somehow I managed to hold myself together.  I'm almost there....

Meanwhile these are the things I managed to do today:

Go to Sam's club to:

-buy several items I did not need
-realize they no longer carry the cheese's that I cannot live without (fresh mozzarella and goat cheese)
-take photos of my daughter who continues to insist on dressing herself with no regard for simple fashion advice:  never wear leggings without something covering your boo-tay.

Take my girls to the park...

with the ulterior motive that I could collect the items I needed to finish another terrarium I wanted to make. I know.  I know.  I vowed off new projects.  But I fell off the wagon... 

Ensure Mark will be getting the new iPad soon upon his arrival home..

-obviously I live on another planet since I didn't even realize until noon today that it was being released.
-an unnamed person requested it be ordered at 1:00...the moment of its release
-Silly me!  I assumed it would be as easy as going on-line to the apple store at 1:00.  It wasn't.
-After enlisting both Meghan and Amy's help, several hours and many, many texts, we were finally able to preorder that thing.
Really?? After all that work it will take over a week to arrive?
And finally the most noteworthy:

I made sure #2 and I won't be having too many homework troubles any longer...
warning: I do not recommend this tactic in your home but I can be pretty sure it worked in mine.

-the day was lovely after school today so the kids were allowed to go play before finishing completing their homework
-before dinner #2 was called in to do his homework, mind you it is pretty simple homework.  If he would just sit and DO it, he would finish in about fifteen minutes.
-He complained. Whined. Asked to do it after dinner.  Got up six times for some unexplained reasons.  Said he didn't want to do it.
-I prompted him along many times.  Coddled him through a few answers.  Begged him just to finish it.  Told him we could 'race' to see who would finish first.  

I promise I tried....

-I got nothing but whining, stomping, fist slamming, complaining how he didn't want to do his homework.
-I asked him if he was going to finish it.
-He said no.


I tore it in two.

There.  Now he didn't have to finish it.

But he would have to explain to his teacher...

Say what?

Then the floodgates opened.

Phew.  That was my day in a nutshell.

The momma.  That's who.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 work

...but instead I had to cancel all of my appointments for a sick little one.  Again.

Audrey seems to have another virus.  Poor thing.  Her only symptom is an extremely high temperature...103.2.  She is on an ibuprofen/tylenol regime to keep her comfortable and for the most part she is feeling much better this evening.  Abbey is already beginning to show signs of punkiness.  I am keeping my fingers crossed this virus (like last week's virus) will stay with only the two of them.

So, while my afternoon was spent sitting on the couch with the girls watching Calliou and Wonder Pets, my mind was creating my most important list....

The Menu for next week.

If this were my first-rodeo at the whole welcome home thing I would make sure to have Mark's favorite meals planned for the first few days.  Complete with some type of delectable cheesecake for dessert.  And when dinner would be served my feelings would be hurt because he would:

  • barely eat 
  • not be hungry (because of the time change) 
  • not feel very well.  

Yup.  A road traveled before.

But irregular sleep patterns, dehydration, bad food, and lots of snacks for several days in a row is not a good combination for feeling healthy.  In short, long travels aren't good for the tummy.

This time I am going to try to have a variety of simple foods on hand that will be satisfying but not heavy.  This is the plan so that when Mark wakes up at 3 a.m. and he is hungry and can't sleep, he'll have savory, sweet, and healthy options to choose from and he can nibble through mealtimes with the family.

Here are some of my ideas:

Quick things he can grab:
Hummus, pita bread, and carrots
Grandma's (Meghan's) french onion dip with veggies
Cold beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce
Caesar salad
Muffins (probably banana)
Rosemary cashews

Our family meals for the first few days:
Guacamole and tortilla chips with quesadillas
Caprese with simple sauce spaghetti
Chicken taco soup (a new favorite of mine and the kids)

And of course I have to have one favorite indulgence of his on hand:
Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies but instead of baking the whole batch right away I am going to freeze the cookie dough in balls and that way we/he can pop them in the toaster oven when he wants one or two.

I do have big plans for meals in the following weeks after his return after we have gotten into a better routine and he is adjusted to the time change.  It seems I haven't really cooked in ages!  I will be so happy to move beyond spaghetti, meatball subs, and tacos as staples!

I am not too sure the peanut gallery is looking forward to the menu changes on the horizon...perhaps I should consult with them?

Let's not get too silly....

Monday, March 5, 2012 enjoy the calm before the storm there has been this eerie peace in our home since yesterday

This is the second night in a row I have put the kids down to bed and 'wondered' what I needed to do.  Code for there isn't anything pressing on my list.

I have been manic for the past several weeks.  Projects, trip, organizing, tasks...

The kids know now.  They know that he is coming home soon.  The countdown has started.  It's kinda like counting down the space shuttle, but much, much slower.

They are so very excited!

I was super excited too until I saw the anticipated time of the welcome home ceremony.  Let's just say not too many people in the world are awake at that hour.  And especially not at the two-hour-earlier-mark that we are supposed to arrive at this undisclosed exciting location! the people who plan these things have children?  Do they realize we actually would want to look nice?

I briefly contemplated only attending the ceremony myself...but Mark would be disappointed not to have us all there; besides, I think the kids deserve all of the pomp and circumstance that goes along with these ceremonies.  After all, they have sacrificed and endured (and survived me) just as much as Mark and I.

So the past two days I have tried to relish the peace as I mentioned.  I am not going to start any big new projects, clean out any more drawers, or redo the decor.
Let's be honest, this is mostly because I am hoping that Isabella will forget all of the 'changes' (code for new items that have come into our home without three leaving) that have occurred in the past several months.  (I wish I could put the 'Harry Potter forgetful muggle' spell on her to make her forget!)  She is Mark's biggest ally and she is sure to tell all of my secrets on me!
So today the big activity was dance class.  We have missed the past three weeks because of illness or vacation and the few before that Abbey only sucked her thumb.  She didn't attempt even one shuffle!  So we prepared all morning.  The result is pretty cute if you ask me; but I am just the mom:

Abbey is the one in pink on the end closest to the camera.

As for my lists, I have lots of other things I want to make sure to get done.  Things like laundry, grocery shopping, prepare some foods, buy an iPhone 4s....

But I am also trying to enjoy these moments of chaos.  The chaos that honestly, I am nervous and scared to share.

I hope I have done a good enough job.

For them and for Mark.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

...spend the days with friends

...and thank goodness we have made a few friends since living here; since it is because of these two reprieves today that Mark's children are still alive.

I could say that today was not a banner day for the Crow family.

But that would be an understatement.

The little girls woke up like lion's ready to pounce on their prey and the big kids had their heads in the clouds.  And me the momma, is so strung up on stress that the combination was u-g-l-y.

And today is windy.  I remember my Grandma Viele telling me a long time ago that children (and she was referring to babies) are particularly fussy on windy days.  Maybe there is a correlation today between the wind and my children.  Or maybe they were just being irritating.

Whatever the reason when I spoke with Mark this afternoon I mentioned to him that I was thinking of leaving him and the children.  I was finished with the lot of his four children.  They had finally beaten me down.  I was broken.  I knew that if I just locked up the house and disappeared they would survive.  Frankly, I think they would be all the more happier to see him when he got home.  They would have a great story to tell...'Yea, Dad.  We worked at it all year.  And she finally caved! And we won!  We WON!  She finally left!  Woo time!

Mark laughed.  

He didn't say, "no honey, it was just a rough day".  "Tomorrow will be better."  "They can't be that bad"...

Nope.  He laughed.


I think they are slightly evil.  They are 'out to get me'.

It may not be cognitive; they may not be able to be charged with bullying-their-mom-in-the-first-degree but certainly there is some intent behind their actions....and today they all ganged up on me.

Oh boy...did I want to threaten our two activities today.  I wanted to say, "If you don't behave we aren't going to the party! or "If you aren't good in church we aren't going to our friends' house" but I knew that I needed these breaks today as much as the kids did.

So we mustered through the day.  The three older kids enjoyed the birthday party and Audrey, well....

This evening, after a few naps, went much more smoothly.

It was so much fun to relax this evening with new friends.

As for my kids, they went right to sleep when we got home.  Not a peep.  Not a complaint.  And not even a single, "Can I sleep with you?"

Maybe it is just as exhausting for them to be terrible as it is for me to keep them in-line?


Tomorrow will be a better day.


I love her rosy cheeks!

Audrey fell asleep in the wagon at the zoo.  Did I mention the winds were gusting at 35mph?

How couldn't I adore these kids?

Friday, March 2, 2012 share the photo of the day

...look at this cozy young man!

Typically I am so annoyed by early morning visitors...I really treasure my time early in the morning.  If I am going to run, which by nature is rather tortuous, I prefer to do it without answering questions, getting drinks of water, and changing television stations.

Much to my chagrin Will came in at exactly the moment I started my treadmill.  5:50 a.m.  Dressed and ready

He thought we would get in a little exercise before school this morning.  Adorable!

I suggested he just lay in my bed and rest until I was finished and instead he went and got the latest book Harry Potter book that we are reading together.

I can't tell you how excited I am about this.  Will is a smart little boy.  And despite the oodles of books I have purchased him in pursuit of finding the rights series to snag him, independent reading has not been his thing (Yes, he'll read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and Big Nate books but he prefers the audio versions on his Kindle).  That is, until we began this series.  And now, since we have began this third book (about three days ago), he'll continue reading each evening for a few minutes after I have finished.  This morning he completed nearly the whole chapter while I ran.

These books are addicting.  Obviously I missed the bandwagon when they debuted a few years ago!

But my big kids love them; and we have had so much fun reading them together...

If only I could stop the two of them from reading so far ahead of me and spilling little details!

And yes...Will did get in a 'lil fifteen minute jog.

Thursday, March 1, 2012 tidy my closet

...but I didn't go so crazy that I tackled sorting and donating my clothes

That task would have added an entire afternoon to this project!

I wish I had taken a before picture.  But all you have to do is picture several piles of random clutter stuffed in the corners around my treadmill, and five large prints that had yet to find a place in our house.  Pretty much the only reason there was any floor space at all was to keep my treadmill safe.

This project was another to-do-before-Mark-gets-home on my list and I am quite certain, he does not care how it looks.   Nevertheless, I feel a lot better having it complete.

One of my big tasks has been to try to minimize and decrease my clutter.  (Something about us being 'over-our-weight-allowance' on our move here to Drum).  And this, correlates nicely with a Lenten project (I originally got the idea from my good friend Lisa Glen, but I have since seen it on many different blogs) I feel compelled to try).

The other real catalyst for the project was since we inherited a new animal to add to our growing menagerie, I have been on the search for some type of table/stand to place her tank on.  So this morning, I made a quick stop at Goodwill to see if they had anything to suit this purpose; while they did not, I came upon this treasure instead!

I can't wait for warmer weather to refinish this all wood, perfectly-sized, and already-primed cabinet.  I snatched this up at the reasonable price of $9.99.  It's main purpose: to hold my computer while I am running so I can watch a video.  I haven't figured out what other things it will hold on its three shelves besides my running shoes and maybe some other, always-hard-to-find-at-five-thirty-in-the-morning items. 

I couldn't be happier with the results of this space.  [Except that now I have been contemplating how I can decorate the wall in front of me.  I have visions of a license plate gallery (we seem to have collected a bunch of them)...Oh The Places We Have Been.]

So happy that I almost can't wait to run tomorrow morning.  Almost...