Wednesday, 7/23/14


We don’t do big birthday parties for our kids every year. And even when we have them, they’re at home and are not over the top at all…  so when Natalie asked me if she could throw Ainsley a surprise birthday party I had to mentally take a deep breath and recalibrate.

Natalie’s totally competent at planning parties so I knew I wouldn’t have to do too much, and I know it’s good for her confidence to plan another one successfully. And who can say no to making another kid feel special? Nevermind that we’d be coming off of two weeks of hosting families with five or more children or that I’m having a hard enough time keeping up with just maintaining.

Natalie and a little girl down the street planned for a month and I finally got on board two weeks out when I finally sent out text-message-invitations. About a week before the scheduled date, Ainsley asked if she could have a birthday party. She told me the names of the girls she wanted and specified she wanted a penguin party. Luckily, we’d invited almost all the right girls but we quickly switched from a jungle to penguin theme.  The little girl who was helping invited Ainsley and Ryan (and Natalie, who politely declined) over for a play date for the 2 hrs preceding the party. As soon as they left, Natalie and I switched into high gear. She started making lemonade and decorating.


I started icing the cake that I’d baked the night before. I’ve never iced a cake so fast in my life!


Since Ainsley thought she was having a party on her birthday (which is really tomorrow), the girls made this game together earlier in the week. All Natalie and I had to do was tape it to the wall.


We did simple decorations in shades of blue and white.


And stuck a penguin in the middle of the table (I couldn’t find any penguin decorations at the local stores – - at least not the fun, little kid ones. There were plenty of Pittsburgh Penguin hockey decorations!)


Natalie made place cards with fish cutouts.


Her friends all arrived and hid in various places near the door. And then the moment came…. I could see her running up the walk from her playdate.


When she came in she saw me standing there with the camera and was very confused.


And then her friends jumped out and said surprise!


Natalie got them going right away on games while I cooked the pizza.


Henry ended up coming home early  - another surprise! He helped with pin the beak on the penguin.

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After dinner, the girls were excited to watch Ainsley open presents.



Ainsley had so much fun with her friends and Natalie felt so great making the day special for her sister. We celebrate her actual 8th birthday tomorrow. It’s hard to believe my second baby is already 8.

Monday, 7/21/14

Piper – 7 months

Piper turned 7 months on July 4th. Still smiley and happy, she continues to grow and develop. She’s giving us such joy.


She still doesn’t take a bottle so Henry and I are spending a lot of quality time with her on our dates!


And here she is with me at the dentist.


She’s tagged along to plenty of swim team practices and meets.


She even visited Niagara Falls and Chicago!



Probably the biggest development this month is that Piper is sitting up. I was starting to feel bad that she wasn’t sitting up yet and even mentioned it to a few people (whisper – Piper isn’t sitting up yet and she’s almost 7 months – gasp!)  I resolved to work on it…. the first time I plopped her down she was a little wobbly but just sat and looked at me. After 3 days she was a pro…. I guess I waited a little long to have her start trying!  Or better yet – I waited just long enough that I didn’t have to prop her up on pillows and set her back up every 5 minutes!  Anywho – - she’s sitting up now. This is her about the first time she sat up. Not kidding.



Piper – 7 months (picture by Dottie Ward)





Friday, 7/18/14

Playing our way through Pittsburgh

They say when you’re behind on photos to start in the present and catch up by working your way backwards. Soooo, my sister Johanna is here this week. We’re having a blast hanging out and taking the kids to do fun things. It reminds me of my mom and Aunt Karen when I was growing up.


Night one we took the kids to see The Croods in a nearby park. It was a little colder than expected so we all wrapped up in our blankets and chair covers.

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I’d never seen it before and was pleasantly surprised at how cute it was.

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Wednesday we headed down to The Frick Historical Center. It’s no secret I love The Frick House. They have a free art museum, car and carriage museum, and greenhouse. With ten kids (we had an extra friend) free is awesome. Even better is that The Frick offers free family tours to children 12 and under on Wednesdays throughout the summer. Um, done…. so we made a day of frolicking about the grounds and touring what we could. (unfortunately the car museum is closed for renovations)

kids at frick house

We hit the art museum first and the kids did a pretty good job walking through and looking at the paintings. They have a Edgar Degas exhibit right now that I was excited to see.  Johanna and I probably had the best time out of all of us. The kids moved on to the scavenger hunt in the greenhouse, which was more their style.


It was getting to be that time so we pulled out our picnic lunch and made ourselves at home on the lawn. Mi casa es su casa, as the Frick’s used to say. (I kid, of course)


Piper had her first “solid” in the form of a veggie stick. She basically sucked on it until it disintegrated.


We had a few minutes to kill before our scheduled tour since the car museum was closed so we (and by we, I mean the kids) played sharks and minnows in the park across the street from the estate.


At 1:15 we took the Clayton House by storm…. I’m not sure our docent was excited to take 10 kids on a tour… we’ve definitely had better in the past but the kids didn’t complain – in fact they were quite the angels asking questions and keeping their hands behinds their backs. (no pics allowed inside… boo)


After our tour, we finished out our day by sharing a few desserts at the Cafe. I could’ve eaten all the coconut creme brulee by myself, but I was nice and shared it with those brave enough to taste the “fancy pudding.”


Thursday Johanna and I spent a few hours in the morning out and about (namely shopping for supplies for a surprise birthday party that will be posted in the next few days), and then spent the afternoon with the kids at the pool. The day was perfect and with that many older kids, Johanna and I managed to sit under an umbrella chatting and posting selfies to Facebook (I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I like it!)


The little girl fell asleep in her chair surrounded by the sounds of kids playing in the pool and birds chirping in the trees. I couldn’t help but snap a picture of her tiny painted toes (compliments of her sisters and cousins)


Today we’re finishing up our visit and will sadly part ways in the afternoon. I’m trying to hold in my tears until they leave. It’ll be a sad day in the Marquiss house. Kidding – - Johanna’s right here as I type and I want her to feel guilty enough to stay another night. Tee Hee.

So much more to catch up on… stay tuned for Chicago, Piper’s 7-month update, family pictures, and more!


Thursday, 6/26/14

Things you should know.

I have never done so many loads of towels in my life. Swim team plus daily showers for my kids. What is this world coming to?

I don’t know how to relax. (shocker) I’ve been trying all week and have yet to do so. My head is so full of things that need done I’m fidgety when I sit down. I HAVE to keep moving but I’m not sure how much I’m really getting done. Hate this feeling.

Weeding never takes 5 minutes. I’ve worked in the yard at some point each day during the last three days. I get out of the car and think, I’ll just XYZ. In my head XYZ is going to take 5 minutes. It’s averaging an hour or more and sore muscles. So far I weeded the veggie patch, pruned three large shrubs, and weeded several beds that just needed “quick” cleaning up. I hold serious resentment toward Adam and Eve.

I decided what color to paint my bedroom. It’s been eating at me all week. I think that’s one reason for the restlessness. I saw an inspiration photo in Better Homes and Gardens a few weeks ago and decided on the spot I wanted to paint the walls a warm beige – - like a golden beige, but not yellow. But yellow is not my thing… even if it calls itself beige. I ruled out cream too. I’ll have to take a picture when it’s done…. I’m shooting for a brown/gray compromise. I feel much better.

Piper slept through the night 3 nights in a row. Ainsley and Ryan did not. Dagnabbit.

In two more days we have family arriving for the weekend. Yeah!

We’re into our second week of summer. I have yet to get us into the routine I had in my head so I’m giving it up. I consider this progress.

I’m off to buy bedroom paint, then to read Catch 22 I’ve only had it out of the library for 8 weeks. I’m hoping to finish by it’s due date of July 1. I think 9 wks is long enough to read one book.

The end.



Tuesday, 6/24/14

Summer is kicking my butt

Summer is kicking my butt. Well, really swim team is. It’s a big time commitment… so is engaging four children every day. I have so much respect for moms who home school. Seriously, dudettes, you rock.

The only thing I’m rockin’ is yesterday’s make-upless face on a pretty regular basis.

I’ve actually accomplished quite a bit in my “spare” time. We redid our closet (with the help of a handyman installing rods).


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I’m still putting away a few things I refuse to store in there any more, but I’m really happy with the results. It’s way more functional for both of us and so much easier for my easily stressed brain to look at.

We’ve gone to the pool A LOT and to swim meets. Such fun. But makes for late nights and cranky kids. We’re trying to find a balance of resting and activity.

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Speaking of going we were gone for the weekend with some friends to a lake house in upstate NY. It was absolutely beautiful. The weather couldn’t have been better and the company wasn’t too shabby either. I’d like to see this become a tradition.

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And a stop for lunch in Niagra because we could (and who wants to end vacation before you have to?)


And now on to this week… another couple swim meets… vacation Bible school in the mornings for the kids (knock out a few projects or relax? – - I’m having a hard time deciding. Monday was a to-do list, same with today – hoping to relax by Weds).

And looking forward to some company this weekend.

Summer…. got to love it!

Friday, 6/13/14

Last day of school!

Another school year is over. It feels like it’s been 9 months and on the other hand, it’s unbelievable my kids are another year closer to college. Agggh!

The first day of school!!



The last day of school!!




The Four Hobbits.


Our neighbor Suzette has an end-of-year tradition where she pelts her children with water balloons as they come off the bus on the last day of school. She invited several of us to join her two years ago. It was a pretty easy decision!  This is our third year teaming up to drench the kids. We meet early to fill the balloons.


And the water balloons.


Even Ryan was in on it.


Piper made a friend in Suzette’s dad who is visiting this weekend.


And then the bus rolled up!!


Let the fun begin….

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(I love how Natalie is crimping the hose in this picture – we added 2 hoses this year which changed the game a bit.)

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After an epic water battle, we all gathered up the balloon debris then settled into eating popsicles. And now summer…

Thursday, 6/12/14

Fun Summer Reading

Today is the last day of school. No. I’m not ready. I’ve been having small panic attacks all week when I think about the fact the kids will be here all day, every day. In one way it’ll be nice not to have to worry about homework, Girl Scouts, orchestra, et al. On the other hand – - the kids will be here ALL THE TIME and I know I won’t be getting anything done until September.

One thing I did get done is making a fun summer reading incentive program for the kids. Before you go thinking I’m all smart, know that I saw the idea in the most recent edition of Family Fun Magazine. They called it a book bonanza and did it a little differently. By differently, I mean prettier… with colored envelopes, and type-written titles on pretty medallion stickers. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

I did what I could. I bought 24 cards from Target for $4.99, used file folder labels I had laying around the house, and hand-wrote everything in Sharpie. Each girl got 12 books….


The article suggested having little prizes in the envelope. That’s NOT my idea of fun. I hate throwing away little tchotchkes that no one plays with, especially when I’m the one who bought them.


Instead I came up with coupons that fit our family…


The article did not give a list of book genres or prizes to cover 12 weeks. Boo. I spent more time thinking up those lists than I did filling out the envelopes. In case you want to do something similar, I’m going to make it easy and tell you my book genres and coupons. You could use whatever envelopes you have in the house and put little papers in them if you don’t want to spend the money on cards. It’s up to you. Have fun!  And don’t forget that area businesses and public libraries offer summer reading prizes. I know there are at least 4 in our area. Double Yay.  Now on to the lists.


1. Fantasy
2. Sci-fi
3. Set in another country (geography)
4. Historical fiction
5. About a girl
6. Your choice
7. About {child’s favorite subject} a puppy/Native American
8. About an animal
9. About orphans
10. Adventure
11. Mystery
12. Biography

(you could also do about space, about art, a classic, a book that’s won an award, a nature guide, a how-to guide, joke book, fairy tale, choose-your-own-ending, graphic novel, science experiment book, about your home town)


1. Ice cream treat from Brusters (local ice cream shop)
2. 20 mins later bedtime
3. Cuddle time with mom
4. Mom paints your nails
5. Falling asleep in mom and dad’s bed
6. Pick a chore for mom to do from your weekly list
7. Play date
8. Choose an activity with mom (20 mins max, must be at home)
9. Your favorite candy
10. 1 book from the used bookstore
11. Dessert before dinner
12. Treat from the vending machine at the pool


Thursday, 6/5/14

Ryan’s last day of preschool {2014}

Simply unbelievable. Little Boy Blue completed another year of preschool and lived to tell about it! He absolutely LOVED it. The friends he talked about most were Kellan, Bryan, Luke, and James. Last year it was Zoe. Times have changed!

He’s learning to cut (we’re still working on that at home and with a occupational therapist) and continuing to improve writing his name. It’s a little iffy right now, but considerably better than the layers of circles he was drawing in the fall.


Spring self-portrait. He actually drew stick figures with eyes.


His name on a Mother’s Day card.



Ryan with Mrs. Kushner (left) and Mrs. Penrod (right)

The day after the last day of school, his preschool puts on a carnival. It’s really cool and I was surprised at how well thought-out and run it was.



They set up tons of little-kid carnival type games in the lower parking lot. I let Ryan choose where we went. He was pretty selective but liked everything he chose to do.


Trying to squirt a ping-pong ball off a water bottle. 


Planting a watermelon seed.



Playing golf

After playing games we bought Ryan’s favorite food – hot dogs! – from the carnival and headed home. He can’t wait until next year when he’ll go five mornings a week for a pre-kindergarten program.

His favorite book from class this year was Skippy John Jones and the Big Bones.

Wednesday, 6/4/14

Piper – 6 months

This girl kills me.  She continues to be the cutest baby ever… laid back and happy. She cries pretty much when she’s hungry, tired, or soiled.

She’s found her voice – which she uses often. It’s funny because she does her tongue and mouth funny trying to figure out how it works.



She’s super smiley and LOVES talking to people.



Her siblings continue to love her too… and play with her a lot.



She loves playing with her feet and is rolling over consistently.



Unfortunately, she isn’t sleeping through the night. Sometimes she’s up once, sometimes three times, a few times more than that. She’s most likely growing and needs more food, but she won’t take a bottle. Boo!  I’m getting more focused on giving her cereal and fruits/veggies during the day to get her more calories. That seems to help.



We’re also trying to figure out a schedule, but with so many older siblings running to and fro’ she’s often getting ripped out of bed to go pick someone up somewhere.




We head to the pediatrician next week for her vitals, but I can tell already she’s getting longer and staying thin. Her clothes are getting shorter, but the bigger sizes still envelope her. We’ll have to see what the doc says next week.

Did that 6 months go quickly for anyone else?


Tuesday, 6/3/14

On Starting Swim Team

Dear daughter,

You fought me. Fought me hard. You didn’t want to join swim team. Your fears were bigger than your desire to play with others in the middle of the pool, let alone the deep end. My fears were big enough to stand my ground.

You cried and begged and bargained to get your way out of it, even offering up your iPad for the summer. I didn’t waiver.


The junior coaches are amazing! I was completely blown away with how patient and encouraging they were with the ones who couldn’t swim. It restored my faith in teenagers! This is Ainsley getting some instructions.


When you understood that your commitment to the team would be 2 summers no matter how much rolling around, crying and bemoaning you’d do you adjusted your expectations… and your attitude.

By the first practice you were reserved, but ready to face the challenge of learning how to swim. Taking a flying leap out of your comfort zone and into the waves of the clear, blue water.


Practicing free-style

Paired up with one of the junior coaches, you spent your first practice literally learning how to swim something other than a doggie paddle. You put your head under the water. You left the safety of the wall. You took your time and eventually swam the length of the pool and back… with rests in between, and with your ever present coach.

When practice ended you wanted to keep trying but there wasn’t room in the pool with the influx of the next age bracket. So you huddled under your blanket while you waited for your older sister to learn the strokes and swim down and back, down and back.


You didn’t complain one time before practice or after. I was proud. And best of all, so were you.

Go get ‘em, girl!


p.s. Natalie was mad she was one of the slowest (if not the slowest) person on the team and didn’t know how to do the different strokes yet… I tried to explain she’s one of the only kids who hasn’t done swim team before. Many of these kids swim every summer and some year round. I can’t wait to see how far she comes this summer. She’s a strong casual swimmer. I know she’ll do great once she gets the strokes down.


Natalie is the one adjusting her goggles on the left.