Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome to the world sweet Libby

 We were so excited to go greet her.

Norah looks amazing and Libby is precious, and sometimes words are not enough to describe beauty, hope, love, peace and joy.  

And now there are three:

“A ministering angel shall my sister be.”–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I have held each of these children the day they were born.

Sweet gentle girls, precious baby girl. 

"In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of two people existing only for each other."

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

"Birth is not only about making babies. It's about making mothers~ strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and believe in their inner strength"

~ Barbara Katz Rothman

So thankful for Libby.

In awe of her.

"A wee bit of heaven drifted down from above, a handful of happiness, a heart full of love."

~Helen Steiner Rice

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This Thankfulness Gig

As I mentioned on my last post, I was in a major funk.  This school year has been extremely hard for me both professionally and pesonally.  I need to feel good about what I'm doing, about what I'm accomplishing; I'm sure it is some cultural and personal flaw that I feel like I need to have a lot to show for my time.  I struggle with guilt and anxiety, and I just haven't felt good about the end result.

  Lately, I've felt like I'm really failing at it all, BUT I decided to focus on what I'm grateful for and I'll be damned, but it really worked.  You can't be grateful and in the self-pity state of guilt at the same time.  I wish I could be more effective teacher for every  one of the 180 kids I have (yes, budget cuts are a bitch), that I didn't have to choose between quality time with the girls and working out (my metabolism is a female dog as well), but as full as my life is, I've realized {again} that my life is full of good things.  I have a job I love, daughters who are happy and well-adjusted and a body I haven't neglected.  It isn't always good, but when I put I put it all together, it is all good. So the lesson of this whole month is one I have to learn over and over, and that is to STOP, look around and say I'm thankful for this.  When you say thank you, it sort of is like saying, "I am not owed this, I do not necessarily deserve this blessing, but it is good and I am grateful."   I have been writing, but not here, so if you are feeling like getting into the advent spirit, or just interested in the topics of advent (hope, joy, peace and love), you can read a series of devotionals here. I wrote about HOPE, yet all of them will be worth your time.

So back to blogging. I'm keeping it quick because I have a bunch of tupperware boxes and Christmas to get out, but I'm committed to stop and reflect before I enter the hustle and bustle of Christamas and setting out scenes of the nativity.

Before all the craziness, let me reflect upon what I'm grateful:

Fall lingering.

 Dear friends to share childhood.

This girl who is turing into the best big sister ever.  I know fights will ensue, but I just can't let myself believe it when I see her sweet, gentle compassion for Molly. And, she knows how to flash a smile that melts my heart.
The way these girls love each other.  Speaking of the guilt afore mentioned,  when they are playing together, I feel less guilty about doing all the chores around the house that need to be done in those few hours between work and sleep. They are getting quality time.

Molly's expressions and little personality. While her vocabulary is growing hourly, she does a great job communicating with gestures and facial expressions.  Check ou the crinkle of her eye brow.

And it doesn't hurt when I get this precious glare.

The monkey see, monkey do routine cracks me up:

 We had a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday with my parents coming up on Tuesday evening.  It is nice to get several days of quality visiting.

Not only do I not have to travel, but I also don't have to do the cooking on my own.  Something is so special about three generations of girls around a kitchen cooking a family meal.

Even if that meal is diametrially opposed to the way we think a family should eat.

The day was everything Thanksgiving should be, too much food, good fellowship, and family.

The next day, we were treated to an amazing experience hosted by my childhood friend, Dorinda, in her home on Capital Hill.  Dorinda is one of those people who is good at EVERYTHING with class about it all.  She even had goldfish in a crystal dish for Molly.

Lunch was divine..including home made ice cream with pecan pie.

Then, we went to look at the memorials near the mall.

The memorials paled in comparison to the joy brought to the girls (and BJ) by the company of Dorinda's french bulldogs, Lola and Blue (aka Bubba).

On Saturday, BJ and Daddy went to the UVA-VT game.

We stayed home to cheer.

Molly was dancing and it looked like she was doing Tai Chi. See how she is holding her chi ball of energy below:

We wrapped up the weekend by attending church and saying goodbye.

In wrapping up the weekend, and the season of gratitude, I hope to carry the calm presence of thankfulness throughout the season.  Long after the leaves are gathered, I pray my gratitude lingers for these precious souls who fill my life.

Home is where the heart can laugh without shyness. ~Vernon G. BakerIMG_6409.jpg

Saturday, November 12, 2011


I'm honored to have been asked to write devotionals for Advent and I'm behind on the deadline. I have NO business blogging because I need to crank those out, but when I was in college, I had to have a clean dorm room before I could write a paper. I need to clear my mind by blogging about my family; I have stuff to say, pictures to post to this imaginary space, which is sort of like making my bed.  My topic of advent is Hope so I'm open for your thoughts since I have a whole whopping week's worth to write...

So here goes...a late October/early November post.

The Bates family LOVES to be connected. I'm willing to bet with certainty that my parents have visited my alma mater, Cornell College as many times as I have since graduating. My brother went to VMI and his senior year was when I moved back home to small town, Tennessee to teach 7th grade and get my Master's Degree. I didn't have much of a life so I enjoyed tagging along with them to all of VMI home football games and forged special friendships with his roomates and their families.  Actually, it was at one of those Saturday tailgates that I met a friend who would eventually introduce me to BJ and most of my connections here in Fredericksburg.

Anway, the point is that it may sound a little weird that Fall included for BJ and me and the girls a trip to VMI for the weekend since it clearly is not an alma mater of either of us, but when my brother and family came up for his college reunion to VMI, at my brother's invitation my parents and my family met up for the weeend, too. And, it is sort of a little weird but I love VMI and the people whose bond the years have forged.  When Douglas was in the military and in Iraq and I was single in Fredericksburg, I drove down to many of the VMI home football games just to be with his friends.  In fact, BJ and my second date was to a VMI football game (where he wooed me with his tailgating prowess-- miniature pecan pies and bourbon).

When BJ and I got married on a few day's notice, it was the C-31 gang who made up my little group of friends in a whirlwind, and wives of my brother's roomates who stood up for me as bridesmaids. So I feel connected to VMI, to the friends I made through my brother's experience, and BJ and I are always up for a time to see family, so we made a beautiful Fall weekend trip to southwest Virginia.

Including taking the girls to see a zoo in Natural Bridge. BJ and the girls love animals and I have faith that we will visit as many museums as we will zoos, safari parks, farms and anything with animals. I love seeing them impressed; watching children's newness to the world unfold in wonder is priceless (and really worth all the hassle).

Sometimes, even adults are impressed, too. BJ loved being this close to the giraffes.

I love capturing this:

Nature is beautiful and I'm thankful for the ways the clunky camera around my neck nudges me to notice.

Anna Cate was excited to recognize her sight words.

After the zoo, we went to this diner called the Pink Cadillac and what I remember about it was how great the french fries were because I ate there with the VMI/ C31 gang one weekend in the Fall of 2005.  I missed the bourbon, but damn did I enjoy the french fries.  This time I just enjoyed trying to capture vintage and natural beauty:

Of course, the highlight was being with family on the VMI parade ground.  I don't know how to describe VMI but to say in a corny way that it really is a special place.

This place is repository of gentility and pride, of pomp and parades, literally. It makes me happy to show my little girls these parades. Molly seemed to even know how to stand.

Anna Cate loves it, too.

But just like my little brother included me a bit in his life there by sharing his friends, Anna Cate's Uncle Doug included her in making a memory.

They love each other; they have a connection.

These connections are precious.

Molly thought tailgating was wonderful because she could run around and eat a LOT. This child loves to eat.

And tailgating here is pretty nice:

The weekend came to a close with an anticipated excited ending... NANA came home with us.  She played with Molly, went to school with Anna Cate one day for lunch and some quality time.

Molly Mae stayed home with Nana during the days while we went to work and school, establishing a sweet connection. (yes that is a black eye -- Molly fell off the bar stool right in front of me)

Mom went to school to have lunch with Anna Cate, and I love this picture of them.

The Fall fun continued with a visit to the Pumpkin patch.

Leana and Anna Cate, sharing a hug and childhood.

And of course, Halloween.  

We started celebrating a day early with a delightful event at our church called "trick your trunk."  At the end of the evening, I wanted to make dinner and said to Anna Cate, "I don't think you've had anything green today," to which she replied in all seriousness, "that is not true; I had green skittles."

Anna Cate has watched all of the Harry Potter movies and we are reading the books, so she went as Hermoine. 

In my effort to find a connection, Molly went as a witch to go with her wizard sister. Molly loves shoes so Nana Sharon (Leana's grandmother), made this shirt for Molly. I have fun with and outfits. 

On the actual evening, we were invited to Laurie's neighborhood and like everything she does, it was a great little party.  

Anna Cate helped Laurie pick out her costume to match Evan (I can't even recall which Star Wars character he was). We had fun with them and trick-or-treating.

By night 2 of Halloween, I was able to get her to wear the tutu.

I tried so hard to get a perfect Halloween picture of them, but looking at these was almost as good as that perfect picture because it makes me laugh.

But you don't have to always capture it perfectly to know it was a good times and we made memories. Thanks, Evan and Jackson for making fun memories together.

(Molly kicking up her heels at Baba's house)

Last weekend, we had a fabulous time for a Fall festival at the Silvers' farm. 

Beautiful landscape, great times.

And more indulgences as if they didn't get enough halloween candy. S'MORES!

So that wraps up our last few weeks and now I can focus on Hope.  I'll close with my thoughts on connections with an admission.

I have been in a major funk lately. I seriously feel like I do nothing well and am running like a hamster, so I was inspired about all the people on Facebook who focus on gratitude because I know the number one secret to happiness is an attitude of gratitude. So last Sunday night, BJ was out of town for a few nights and I let AC sleep with me, and I told her about my plan to focus on what I'm thankful for.  She said, "let's do more than 1 a day, Mommy. We can do 5."  And we talked a few minutes about all our blessings. I felt connected and thankfully my funk has left the premise. Connections do more than give us moments or reasons to make an effort, these connections endure and enrich my life.  For all the connections I see, have experienced and live --  I'm grateful.

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life - to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.
-- George Eliot