Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy 5th Birthday to Our Handsome Young Son

Our birthday tradition is to open presents in the morning upon awakening. Here Benji gets his first present, a treasured (and powerful) Pokemon card from Danny. It was a little dogeared, but very sweet and Benji loved it!

My dad always used to call my brothers his "handsome young sons", and I find myself saying the same kind of thing sometimes - "Benjamin my son, my handsome young son." Of course nowadays you're not really supposed to give praise based on beauty, rather on capabilities or character. I do agree that as a culture we tend to praise boys and girls differently, often commenting on how "pretty" and "adorable" girls are while using words like "tough" or "active" for boys, so I do try to be aware of the kind of language I use, but for today, in honor of my dad and my newly minted 5 year old, I think I'll just stick with "Benjamin my son, my handsome young son!"

For those who still visit this blog, you may recall that last month was a pretty tough one for Benji. He was sick from Nov. 12th - 26th which is a really long time. He's been a lot better since then (not including yesterday's nausea and fever) so we are just about back to normal.

He turned 5 just yesterday so last weekend we threw a Teenage Mutant Teenage Turtle Movie Matinee party at our house. We borrowed a projector and played the movie across a whole wall in the basement and it was great fun!

Then yesterday he got open his presents from us, his favorite being a DS that his Nana got for him. It's the same kind Danny got a few years ago and he is delighted.

When I pulled out the Happy Birthday banner that I'd gotten at Value Village (a local thrift store) I was pretty surprised to see that it was actually a Happy Boss's Day banner. Decided to leave it up as Benji can be quite bossy sometimes. ;-)  Here are a few pics from the past few days. Time now to get ready for Christmas! Have a great day everyone!

My "Happy Birthday" oops banner.

Oh yeah! A Nintendo DS!

Parallel play with their Nintendo DS players. It's nice when they can get along. ;-)
And what's not to like about a clock that doesn't need batteries--just fruits or vegetables for power!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When a "rough day" turns into a rough two weeks...

Being sick for going on two weeks landed Benji in hot water. Actually water with dextrose and saline. He had some tests to rule out some really scary possibilities which is a huge relief. Getting IV fluids for a few hours really helped him feel a lot better--at least for now. Hoping that the worst is now past and he's on the road to wellness. -Monica

UPDATE: I am such an optimist. This illness will go down in history in our family. We traveled to SC to the boys' grandmother's house and he got even sicker. Benji ended up in the ER there because of bad stomach pain to go along with his long term illness. Turns out he also has an ear infection. Thanksgiving Day itself resulted in yet another call to the advice nurse. Glad that November has now come and gone. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

"I'm having a rough day" (which resulted in a rough night)

Actually sleeping at home while the sun is still up? Definitely sick.
So last night before going to bed Benji seemed particularly sluggish and in fact begged off eating supper and went to the couch while the rest of us ate. I was pretty shocked when he fell asleep, but that was my first clue that he was indeed, in his own words "having a rough day".

We carried him up and after using the bathroom he quietly crawled into bed. Clue number two.

My prediction that he might really be sick came true at about 1:00 am when he at least had time to yell out "I think I'm going to gawk!" (A favorite word for barf around here.) And gawk he did, poor, poor guy. But at least he make it to the toilet to do so.

I made a little makeshift bed for him on our floor and laid down with him. He was very good about using the bowl when he needed to but it was pretty hard for me to get much rest after this trying to be alert to the coughing that would precede the next round.

And of course all this commotion woke up Danny so that was also a bit complicated trying to get him to settle back down to sleep in his own bed.

We kept Benji home from school today and the good news was that the "gawking" stopped in the morning (I am pretty sure that's the end of it but who knows?). The bad news was though that then he started having some trouble on his other end. I will spare you the details, but let's just say, there is a load of clothes in the washer right now with super hot water and super strong disinfectants.

We figure it's just a stomach bug and will pass, but it's so odd seeing Benji with so little energy. This is the kid who has not napped at home here since 2012 or something like that. All day today he was pretty lethargic, but wouldn't dream of napping until about 10 minutes ago. He was talking to me about something and I looked over and he was out for the count.

Hopefully he will be feeling much better after having some supper in a few hours and a full night's sleep. Finger's crossed! -Monica

P.S. Laying bets on who will be next. I'm betting his brother. Oh joy.

UPDATE: So, how silly of me to think that this was a 24 hour bug. Benji proceeded to gawk in the night on Wed., Sat., Mon. and Tues. And continued with the diarrhea. After speaking with the doc, we did get him in to see her just to rule out other possibilities like a head injury or even a central nervous system prob, but after examining him, her thought is that the poor guy had more than one viral infection at the same time. Danny also got sick one night in the middle of all of this which was actually reassuring to the doc as that pointed to a viral bug. As Benji's nose seemed to run a lot after his episodes, she also thought he might be having some post nasal drip causing him to gag so last night we propped his pillow more than usual and ran a moist air humidifier. He slept beautiful all night. Halleluia! One thing I'll say for Benji though, after that first day of being wiped out, the rest of this illness he has had a lot of energy. Now I'm recovering from all he energy spent with him during his illness. Yawn. But so grateful he is okay!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Don't Give Up on Us Baby...

Seriously. Don't give up on our blog! I fully intend to keep it going. Time just has a way of making mince meat out of my plans. The last time I posted was after our really fun summer reunion which was way back in July. Since then, we enjoyed the last of summer and jumped right into the school year. Danny is in second grade now where reading and math dominate his world right now--in both Spanish and English.

Benji at age 4 is still in Pre-K and doesn't have homework, so we have him work in an age appropriate workbook while Danny gets his nightly work done, both to keep him busy, and so he won't distract his brother.

In the meanwhile, we've been keeping busy with cub scouts and ball games and other random stuff. I'll write more later, but for now, here are a few photos from the last few months. Ciao! -Monica

The joy of victory and the agony of defeat at the PG County fair.
2nd grade, here he comes!
Pre-K again?
The Nationals last home game. A no hit shutout that was amazing to witness!
Equal opportunity sports fans. With friends at a DC United game where they clinched the playoffs.
At Jane's Island on the Maryland's eastern shore we took a canoe to a sandbar.
Guess who?
Danny and his classmate and fellow Cub Scout had a great time camping this weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reunion Fun in the Sun!

Our trip to the Outer Banks last month to meet up with 30+ relatives was great fun! If a picture paints 1000 words, then here's a little slide show (about 4 minutes long) that should say it all.

Just click on the photo below and then the slide show. Kudos to my amazing wife Susanne who took most of these pictures. Extra bonus--when the music ends there are a few classic family photos too.

We've got a pretty great family if I do say so myself! Enjoy! -Monica

Shaugnessy Strong -  A good assortment of the Mills, Terry and Houlihan descendants

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In the top row in the center is Mary Shaughnessy (my mom called her Nana Shaky--(rhymes with Rocky). She is surrounded by her 5 daughters. Her oldest was Ella (bottom left), second oldest was Madeline (lupper left). Next was Mary Burnadette (lower right). The two youngest were Sarah (Sally) lower middle, and Jane (Jennie) upper right. So clockwise starting with Nana Shaky (center) are Jennie, Mary B., Sally, Ella and Madeline. 

This weekend the descendants of these lovely women on my mom's side of the family will descend upon the Outer Banks for a reunion. It has been a long time since our family has gotten together and actually the last time an event (in the 1990s) was planned the cousin who was going to host it unexpectedly died a few days before everyone's arrival. So instead of a reunion, they got a funeral.

I fully expect that this year's reunion will be better! More pics to come from the festivities. Have a great day! -Monica

Monday, July 07, 2014

It Really Was a Happy 4th of July!

Hello! We just had a awesome weekend with some fun visitors, a parade, lots of pool time and a visit to watch our Washington Nationals win! And the cherry on top of it all was a chance to see the DC fireworks from the rooftop of my office building downtown.

As beautiful as it was though, it was extremely loud and that really threw Danny for a loop. (The pic below captures his feelings on the whole thing very well.)

He was very brave though, and after we stepped inside for a few minutes after the booming began, he acquiesced to being led outside again to enjoy the amazing view. Benjamin had sympathy pains and cried along with him although I suspect he wasn't much bothered by the noise.

It was like a 3 D movie the way that the fireworks exploded so near to us. You felt like you could almost reach out and touch them! If you click on this picture you can see a fun 30 second long slide show of some of the other highlights of our 4th of July! Bye now.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Sweet 7!!!

We are still a bit in shock that our little Danny is now a 7 year old, but it's true. He had a great week of fun, starting with a visit from his grandfather and family, then a Treasure Hunt Adventure party at our house. The hunt ended at at the splash park across the street, and all in all, it was a very fun birthday!

As a picture (or several) speak a thousand words, without further ado here are some fun pics to help us all remember the day! -Monica

Getting the highly coveted Razor Scooter from Nana was the beginning of a fabulous birthday!
PopPop enjoyed lunch outside with the kids --Birthday boy Danny has a "table for one" off to the side.
Mindy joined in some Stomp Rocket Fun while visiting with her dad.
Time for a little brownie treat.
The weekend birthday party began with an agenda. It actually worked out very well.
The kids got ready for the airplane competition. Nice job!
Even some of the "big kids" joined in the fun!
Then it was time to start following Danny's treasure map to find clues to the buried treasure!
One clue led to a pirate's costume which added to the intrigue.
The treasure was spotted at long last! Gold candies and coins for everyone!
The treasure chest before the pillaging began.
Time to play on the playground and water park!
Our favorite Irish dads assume identical poses to keep an eye on the mayhem.
There was running!
And lots of splashing!
Finally cake time!
And on the morning of his birthday he awoke to gifts and breakfast and fun. That's what we like to see. A happy 7 year old!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New York, New York! (And other fun tidbits)

Greetings from DC. We are all doing well and are thrilled that spring has finally arrived! It was definitely a long and cold winter. Let's see.... What's new? Oh, last weekend we went up to New York to visit friends and had a blast. Seeing Andres, Tony, John, Su's college friends was great, as was catching up with my dear friend Gerri-Ann and her husband Kev and the kids.

I must say, though, hearing from Danny that his favorite part of the trip was getting to watch Andres and Tony's huge TV made us both cringe just a little bit. But it was indeed a really BIG screen compared to ours, so I can understand his excitement!

We did more than watch television however. This pic of the boys is from our trip to Brooklyn. We went there so I could show the boys where my family lived when I was born, and they were totally unimpressed. Not unimpressed by Brooklyn, they just thought it was a little lame to take a stroll down memory lane. Oh well. I enjoyed it!
It was taken in Broolkyn's DUMBO area (which apparently stands for Down Under the Manhattan and Brooklyn Overpasses). Loved the view of the city from there.

Anyway, I figured today would be a good day to pull out some memorable quips from our facebook posts over the past few months. Hope you enjoy. Here you go... 

May 21 
So, Su and I were eating black olives last night and little Benji was suddenly very interested. Turns out he thought we'd said that they had pigs inside of them. He was duly disappointed when he saw the pits.

May 10
Danny just ran back from our favorite neighbor's house and announced that he couldn't get to their door because their cat was in the way. "Did you tell her to move?" "No, I don't speak cat!"

April 7
My auto correct on this thing keeps turning the word "toddler" to "fiddler". They do like to try and play us I guess, so I'll accept this.

April 3
While affixing a patch to Danny's Cub Scout uniform, the boys chatted about ranks. Four year old Benji wondered if after attaining the highest Eagle Scout rank, the boys get a chance to be Girl Scouts. Something to do with access to cookies. Still smiling

March 20
For fun tonight, Danny's Cub Scout leader showed the kids a rotary phone. Hilarity ensued (for the adults at least) as they all gave it a try!

March 8 
Danny just asked if his name was Danny Focus. Hmmm...maybe we say that a bit too much?

February 15

Our 4 year old had his Ninjas all lined up at lunch and was telling us that his blue Ninja had Chicken Pox. Turned out he meant Nunchucks. In his defense, they are both pretty dangerous.

And that's all folks! Until next time! -Monica

Monday, May 05, 2014

Prides, Joys and Other Stuff...

Once again it's been far too long since I've posted. I really want to do a better job at keeping up with this blog.  I see it as a tool to be able to remember things that will otherwise slip into oblivion in the years to come. Now if I could just remember to post! ;-) Anyhoooo...

It's hard to post about things other than our children. They are such an incredibly huge part of our life. And even though it's probably yawn-inducing to those who do pop over to read this blog from time to time, all I can say is that I can't really help it. For me not to write about them would be akin to a pastor not talking about God or a child not talking about yum yum.

This all being said, I will take a few minutes to chat about all the other things going on in our lives before turning to our prides and joys. ;-)

Susanne has been on a grand jury for the past several weeks--every weekday for a whole month. She's learned a lot about some of the crime that goes on in the District of Columbia (disturbing to say the least), and has also met some really incredible new friends among her fellow jurors. I guess you really bond when you have to come in together ever day for so long and get some down time during which you cannot use your electronic devices.  She's been at her job as a social worker for almost 12 years so I think it was kind of nice for her to get a break from that and engage her brain in a different way for a while. That jury will reconvene two more times in this month and I think they will all enjoy seeing each other again.

This weekend I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to a rented place in the mountains of North Carolina to help a dear Peace Corps friend celebrate her 50th birthday. It was just the birthday girl Alvina and our fellow RPCV Carrie as well as one of Alvina's neighbors. It was just a blast to go down memory lane. The bond I formed with Alvina and Carrie more than 25 years ago when we joined the Peace Corps and served in Guatemala as health workers is an incredible one.

I treasured our time together in North Carolina, and also enjoyed the solitude of my long (8 hour +) drives there and back through the scenic rural areas of Virginia and NC.  Susanne had gotten me XM radio for the car as a gift recently, and I just smiled the whole time listening to "The Bridge" which plays classic folk rock from the '70s. The best part was that all the songs were so familiar and yet when I heard them in my youth I could not have imagined that I'd be married to a woman someday. And not just any woman. This one. Just thinking about Susanne as I listened to those songs that are buried somewhere in my reptilian brain I guess, just made me so happy. I guess I'm just feeling a lot of love lately and that's a really nice thing.

Work is going well. I have a new boss and he's really great so I'm in a very good place there. We are building a new back deck and getting beautiful brick pavers out back of our row house and we are THRILLED that we'll be able to enjoy the extra space with no mosquitoes! We've had some conflict with a neighbor who was convinced that our survey was not right, but it was indeed correct. That could be a whole nother blog post but never mind. Life is good.

Our sweet Danny will turn 7 later this month. Seven! As his birthday falls around Memorial Day when our pool opens we've always had his party there, but this year he's requested a treasure hunt! I'm sure there will be tons of pictures soon of the festivities, but we know that the treasure will be found over at our lovely new park across the street. Hopeful that the sprinklers there will be turned on weather permitting.

Today for the first time ever, I had to loosen the adjustable waist bands on Danny's shorts--he's really growing! Here is a pic of him last week (in the cap) at his cub scout meeting. I love that he loves scouts and soccer. He's also made great strides in learning to read this year as a first grader. He's doing really well in English and math. Struggles with the Spanish, but he's improving. He makes us very proud!


And Benjamin? He will turn 5 in six short months. That boggles my mind. He's our smart, strong-willed, funny face making, rock star! Full disclosure: I am completely biased. ;-)

Here is a picture of him yesterday at a Drum Circle that Susanne took the boys to with some of her new juror friends. 

All in all, we're good. Heading up to NY to see friends in a few weeks. The boys will have a week of baseball camp once school finishes. And then there is always the pool and the new back porch! Hasta la vista. I'll try to blog more frequently, but I'm not making any promises. ;-) -Monica

Sunday, March 16, 2014

One of My Favorite New Traditions...Florida!

In what has become an annual event, we traveled earlier this month to a warm location with Susanne's mom. Florida has become our default favorite place, and with the boys loving baseball as much as we do, it's been amazing to be able to catch Nationals' spring training games when we head south. Last year we saw them play the Astros, and this year it was the Braves. What can I say? We loved it!

We've yet to do the whole Disney thing, but have certainly enjoyed the many other fun things to do in the Orlando area. This year we hit Legoland, which was just as fun as it was last year, and even ventured a bit further southwest to a beach near Tampa. The beach was lovely but it was a bit too cold to really go in the water. We had a bit of rain at the beginning of our 4 day trip but made due with a visit to a lovely children's museum not too far from our hotel. It was also great returning again to our favorite 3 bedroom condo (with kitchen) that didn't break the bank,

With Danny now 6 going on 7, and Benji age 4 going on...well...7, (or so it seems), it is so much easier to travel with them. Their toys and clothes all fit in their little suitcases that they are in charge of. Okay, okay, we helped a few times, but it is much easier to travel now than it was in the toddler days.

With Su's mom driving down to Florida from her home in SC, our car seat situation is pretty simple too. She has one car seat permanently in her car and we just bring one booster. Although I must admit that riding in the back seat between my dear sons in her Rav 4 gets old really fast. More than once, the boys completed the trifecta of LOUD, CRANKY and CLINGY.

At the same time. Sigh.

I guess I could volunteer to drive once in a while, but I don't mind Susanne driving most of the time and she prefers it. It's not that she thinks I'm a bad driver (never had an accident or a moving violation,) she just likes to drive. I will admit that I am curious as to what might happen if she were in the back seat with the "trifecta" going on back there. ;-) On second thought, maybe they'd actually behave better? I have a feeling we may never know!

Anywhooo...I made a two minute slide show (flipagram) of our fun at the museum, ballgame, Legoland and beach. Just click on the picture to enjoy! (By the way, the scenery behind the boys in the pic? That's Washington, DC all made of Legos!)

As I look out the window right now in the real Washington, DC I'm seeing lots of snow falling. Definitely missing Florida... ;-)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Turning Lemons into Birthday Lemonade...

This year for Susanne's mom's birthday we'd made a plan to drive about 8 hours to her home in South Carolina. She makes that long drive to see us quite often, and we know that she was looking forward to having us come down there for a few days.

Her birthday happens to fall on Valentine's Day, and if you live on the east coast, you probably recall that this Valentine's Day was a mess. Ice and snow all up and down the coast. We were still considering getting in the car and going for it, when she called to let us know she'd lost power. This was not just a minor inconvenience. The temps were hovering around freezing and she and everyone else in the area where she lived were cold for sure.

We first had the thought to ask her to come to DC where at least we had power and heat, but then thought perhaps we could spare her the long drive and have an adventure by meeting up somewhere in between. We picked Fayetteville, NC and it turned out to be a very fun time.

We watched the Olympics and went to a children's museum and a few other fun things and enjoyed some dinners out. We were in the parking lot of the children's museum listening to the US vs. Russia men's hockey game when it went into overtime. We didn't even get out of the car it was so exciting! There were hugs and high fives all around as T.J. Oshie scored the winning goal. What a game!

The only rotten luck was that the pool heater was not working so that water was really too cold to enjoy. But the boys dangled their feet in the hot tub and I think by all accounts it was a nice weekend.

Happy birthday Nana. See you soon in Florida. Go Nationals! -Monica


I put together a little slide show--just click on the picture of Nana and Benji here to see the fun that was had by all.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nighttime, Daytime!

Just have to post this hilarious video so I can find it whenever we need a good laugh. The boys cannot get enough of this! Enjoy!

Our Little Comics...

Here are a few things we've shared on social media over the past few weeks. These two do indeed keep us on our toes!

Jan 2
Danny - "What's the best time to go to the dentist?"


(Yes, that would be pronounced tooth hurty.)

Jan 3
Not to be outdone in the joke department, from Benji...

"What's the strongest thing in the ocean?"

(Wait for it...)

"A mussel! "

(I should add that his actual favorite joke is "Knock knock." "Whose there?" "Bus driver." "Bus driver who?" "HONKA HONKA HONK!")

Jan 6
To paraphrase from Fiddler on the Roof... "May God bless and keep the children... far away from us!" (At school that is. Wonderful break, but it's time.) The boys had a Christmas vacation, but it was time.

Jan 8
It finally happened! First tooth gone! And by gone we mean completely gone... I guess he'll be leaving a note for the tooth fairy.

Jan 15
As many of you know, to our kids, I am Mommy and Susanne is Mama. It works quite well for the most part, although I do increasingly wonder if people think I talk in third person all the time. Like "Mama is really happy about how well you cleaned your room." Or "Did Mama say that was okay?" I guess I could have worse problems!

Jan 16
When Danny was a baby, Susanne and I sort of came to an unspoken arrangement that she was basically in charge everything that went into our children, and I was in charge of everything that came out. This arrangement has been awesome for me now that they are older, BUT, not so awesome when they are both spewing bile (err...having a rough night) at the same time. Fortunately after a day of laying low they both seem to be feeling better. Amen!

Jan 18
When Danny's throat hurts he always accidentally says his neck hurts so I have to ask whether it hurts inside or out. Benji does not make the same mistake. This morning he woke up telling us that his swallower was hurting bad.

Sweet even when miserable.

Jan 26
While making shapes with play dough this morning, Benji asked me why we say "ice cube". Excellent question young grasshopper!

Jan 29
There is something very wrong when your early riser is not a morning person.

Jan 30
6 year old Danny is suddenly interested in chess and checkers and is learning about the pieces and what they can do. We decided that the bishops looked like "pastors with fancy hats on", and I must admit that I cracked up when he then explained that "you know, those church people can only go diagonally."

Feb 2
The boys were taking their sweet time getting upstairs to bed while belting out Madagascar's I Like to Move It, Move It.

All I could think was "I don't think you really do."
Feb 6
Here's the thing with Benji. It's not that he cares much about what he wears. His only requirement actually is that it NOT be the thing you suggested he put on. He also doesn't fall for reverse psychology very easily. I'm guessing a career in politics?

Feb. 8
I know math is not my forte, but if the boys go to bed 3 hours later than usual (after movie night with a favorite babysitter), shouldn't they wake up more than 15 minutes later than their crack of dawn usual?

Feb 10.
So...quietly whispering "get your bum on the pew" does nothing but make a small child burst out laughing (kinda the opposite of the calming effect I was going for.) And why do we call church benches pews? I will never use the words "pew" and "bum" together in a sentence again. I swear.

Have a great day everybody! -Monica (and Susanne)