“Just Like Dad’s”

There are no words that could make this Big Love moment any sweeter…





Last week Kai Arthur turned three.  Look at him…all sweet and big and wild in his three year old self.  Here he is embodying every single attribute of his self-designed, multi-themed party:  The Green Super-Hero Kitty & Cape Party.

The best part is that other than putting that green shirt on him, I didn’t do a thing…the cape, the green kitty face, his embodiment of his super-hero persona…that was all him.

Kai had a super birthday weekend surrounded by so many who love him.  First, his Nanny and Bapa arrived and we spent the day at the LEAF festival.  It was music, bubbles and dress up costumes all day long.  This was followed by the sweetest gathering of our family ad fifteen amazing little people ages six and under that you can imagine (and their amazing parents, of course).

The day of Kai’s party began with the unwrapping of gifts from Nanny & Bapa and Poppy & Grammy.  In true Leroy style, the unwrapping was followed by toy assembly, which is truly just about as meaningful as the toy itself.

Thank you Grammy and Poppy!

This assembly job went from fun to frustrating, as it often does, especially when there's so many little hands involved. Eventually, after a few tears and a stand off of wills...

...thank you Nanny & Bapa! The new excavator is a well loved!

Kai was showered with gifts…race boats and a grabber, stuffed animals, new cars, videos, an airplane from Leif, and his very own trumpet, (from his dad, of course.)

Think he loves it?

Papa Rich, knowing Kai’s affinity for cats, as well as his love of catchy sing-along tunes, wrote him a song about his cat called “Charlie Cat”, sung to the tune of Davey Crockett.  Guess who will be rocking that at bedtime soon?  You know it.

My friend Jean even made Kai his very own set of wings.  Aren’t they beautiful?

Kai's beautiful new wings.

All of the gifts were so thoughtful and brought great joy, but the most precious part of the day was seeing Kai surrounded by all of his friends.  As I watched him play with his buddies, I felt profoundly grateful for each and every one of them and the gift of friendship they give him all of the time.

Kai's community of friends.

Really, Kai has no choice but to be surrounded by other little ones, since I do child care out of our home.  What I find so sweet is how much being surrounded by  his friends has changed him…has helped him grow into such a dynamic and sweet (and still very spicy) little guy.  Since last fall when we began having other children in our home I have seen such an incredible evolution in his ability to be a friend.  Last fall Micah was Kai’s best and only true friend…and even then, they were little and their friendship was more defined by space and time, then by their heart’s desire. But now, I can truly say Kai has forged a real, true friendship with each of the little people that visit our house on a weekly basis.  He as learned to engage with each of them, just where they are at…from Daphne, at 18 months to Ryan, who is 9.

Micah & Kai


Stella and Kai getting into the bubbles at LEAF.

Paul & Kai sharing their loot from the pinata.

Waiting patiently for turns at the pinata.

Micah, doing some damage.

EllaGrey & Corrine

Lena Bella meticulously picked each piece of licorice "mane" off the cupcake and ate it, one by one.

Some mama friends, Ginny, Rebecca and Bevin.

Some dad friends, Paul, Dan and Mr. Steve

Connor, Aidan, Micah, Kai, Leif & London

And, oh yes, I must take a minute to mention the cupcakes…they were lions (the “kitty” part of the theme).  Dan and I found ourselves up way too late the night before the party cutting those little pieces of shoe string licorice.  A true labor of love, for sure. Wish we had a picture of that to share.

Kai's kitty cupcakes.

And, last but not least, a part of the party not at all included in the theme, but oh so much fun…riding the bmx track.


Happy Birthday, sweet Kai…we LOVE you so.


Spring Break, Part 2

Spring Break, Part 2: Loving the Chaos

The quietude of our first few days at the beach with Steve, Becky and Eliza fueled us up for part two of our spring break at the beach: The Party.  Okay, truth be told, it was mostly a popsicle party (with as much beer, wine, card playing and laughing going on as we could sustain while keeping the popsicle partiers happy).


The Popsicle Party: Kai, Leif, Lexi, Lena, Aidan & Connor

Our friends Cris and Thalia and their two girls have been joining us for spring break at the beach for a few years now, and this year our dear friend Bevin and her two boys joined the fray.  Yes indeed, there was as much chaos as you can imagine with those six children running around, but not so much as to overshadow all the sweetness.

There is something about being at the beach that allows everyone to shed a layer of intensity.  Plus, there’s enough sand and water for everyone to play with, so no need to fight.  Except over that tractor, maybe.


Connor, Kai & Aidan

What is so beautiful about playing at the beach is that eventually the toys loose their appeal because what is most fun is just being there, completely immersed in the elements…running in the waves, loosing oneself in the sand, feeling the strength of the wind.  And this is what we did.


Lexi and Leif

Bevin kept sandy hands off the snacks.


Cris and Dan got serious about paddle ball.

Meanwhile, Leif and Lexi got serious about watching paddle ball.

But, because attention spans tend to be short in those six and under, we came prepared with a few special activities up our sleeves…

One day we presented the kids with twenty origami boats.  We made the boats from paper the children had been drawing on.  The, after folding the paper into boats, we dipped them in beeswax so they would float.


All the little boats in a row.

In theory, this was a great idea.  But, here is what really happened…


Aidan used the boat as...a boat!

Kai used his to carry water...

...then he ripped a hole in the bottom...

...and crumpled it up and threw it off to the side while he buried himself in sand.

Lena wasn't sure what to do with hers.

First she tried it as a hat...

...then, she deiced it was much better used to collect pretty things.

On another day, Bevin produced art supplies for each set of siblings to make themselves a real pirate treasure box.  She even brought pirate hats and eye patches.  The kids ran around the beach for two days collecting things for their treasure boxes.  Then, on the night before we left to go home, we sat up late after the kids went to bed and created treasure maps.  The next morning, the kids were delighted to be sent on a treasure hunt.


Leif and Kai’s treasure map
Off they went…
…shovel in hand…
…in search of…
..the “x” that marks the spot.
And, with some good hard work…
…the treasure!
Six happy pirates eating chocolate at the beach.

Not all the fun was had at the beach, though.  There were plenty of lovely moments spent reading books, baking bread with Thalia, building legos, sharing meals, and doing art projects.  Being together at the beach is fabulous because of all the special things there are to do there.   But, the real sweetness, I believe, was that for a few days our three families did all of the every day things that we always have to do, but we did them together.  In doing this, the activities and rituals that are simply routine at home became special.


Meal time


Bath time

Chill time

Fish-sitting time

Lego time

We are so blessed to have such fabulous friends and family to share our lives with.  With deep gratitude and feelings of Big Love all around!

Bevin, Thalia & Me

Cris, Thalia and the girls

Aidan, Connor & Bevin (jumping in for a swim)


Spring Break, Part 1

Already, our kids get giddy with excitement when Spring Break approaches.  Leif, especially, knows that spring break = beach time.  We pack up the car with swimsuits, skateboards, bikes and sand toys and drive.  The long six hour journey usually includes a sleepover at Nanny & Bapa’s, which they LOVE.  Or, at the very least, a shared meal with them & often Grammy and Poppy, too.  Which usually means they get a special drink and maybe even ice cream. Then there’s gas stations…Leif LOVES to stop and “relax a little bit” at a gas station.  We use the bathroom, change into pajamas, and brush teeth in the parking lot. And, since late night driving usually includes a movie on mom’s lap top, the long drive seems almost bearable.  Finally, both boys sleep.  When they awake, we’re there.

Spring Break, Part 1: New Traditions & Our first Passover

We spent the first part of our week at the beach this year with Dan’s brother Steve, his wife Becky and our sweet baby cousin, Eliza.  We felt so lucky to be able to share a part of their blissful maternity/paternity leave with them.  They were in that sweet space of being completely relaxed and happily absorbed into each and every moment together. Eliza was just over two months and beginning to give us hints of a smile.

Unlike when we first met Eliza a month earlier, Leif was completely into connecting with his baby cousin this time around.  He paid attention to how the grown ups were taking care of her, and then did his best to do the same…offering her a soother, rocking her seat, patting her back gently, talking to her in a sweet voice.  It was touching to see him genuinely connecting with her.


One night, Becky led us in our first, and very special, Seder dinner together.  It was a beautiful ceremony full of ritual and meaning.  Becky took a lot of care to include us all in the process of creating the dinner (though she did most of the cooking).  It was very sweet.  Though the children got a little antsy, they were intrigued and excited by it.

Seder Dinner

They especially liked getting to drink so many glasses of grape juice and the really cool masks.

Kai chose "Lice"

Leif preferred "blood"

Being together with Steve, Becky and Eliza at the beach felt like the beginning of new tradition (we hope!)  One pretty afternoon while on a walk, Becky and I spent some time daydreaming about how nice it will be to share time together at the beach like this every year, and for our children to grow up with a wealth of shared memories together in that special place.

Mud Season

Little boys just can’t resist

Last night’s rain soaked soil

Cool mud is paint

Bodies are canvases

Spring is here

Mud season



The Exhibition

This past week Leif had his first exhibition.  The first of many.  Let me explain…Leif goes to a very cool public charter school called Evergreen Community Charter School.  It’s a regular public school in that it looks like the typical elementary school you might imagine in your mind.  But, at Evergreen, learning and evaluating learning looks a bit different than at other schools.  At Evergreen, the kids are led through “Expeditions”, where all of their academic learning is integrated and practiced through the lens of the particular expedition they are doing.  So, for example, this past expedition was called “Community Workers”, which acted as the focal point for learning all subjects in the classroom.

Helping Hands: Community Workers

And then, rather than sitting down and taking a test, at the end of each expedition comes an “Exhibition”, where the students present their learning to their community…parents, teachers, administrators.  Clearly, this looks very different for the different grades. But, in kindergarten, this is what it looks like…

Leif with his model of the Colburn Earth Science Museum

Leif. Dressed up as the community worker he interviewed…a geologist.  Down to the izod shirt (tucked in!) & belt (which you can’t see, but he insisted was very important).  Here he is sitting in front of the model he built of the local earth science museum where his geologist friend works.  Leif’s teachers worked tirelessly to create a model with each child in his class…impressed?  I was.

Leif, Geologist Extraordinair

In addition to building the model, each student had put together a “report” that recorded the process of their learning.  It included the original interview questions, some research the student completed with their sixth grade buddy, as well as written piece of their very own and some art work.

Leif's written report

Check out the handwriting!

When we entered Leif’s classroom on exhibition night, it had been transformed.  It had become a city.  On the floor were little black roads made from construction paper  that connected all of the children as they sat proudly beside their work.  When we entered the classroom, we were handed steering wheels and asked to “drive ourselves around” to visit the different workers in the community.  This was the sweetest thing of all.  Imagine…families milling about the classroom “interviewing” one another’s children, asking thoughtful questions, looking with care at their work, and ultimately, celebrating them.  I truly have never seen Leif so confident and so proud of himself.

Leif being interviewed


...and again.

Leif must have spoken to at least ten parents during the time we were there, and he still didn’t seem tired of it.   At one point, I attempted to lean over and listen while he was talking with another parent and he looked up at me with wide eyes, while saying through clenched teeth, “Mom, GO AWAY, I’m talking right now!”  So, off I went…only intruding with my camera when I could.  🙂

We all left Leif’s first exhibition feeling proud of what Leif has accomplished at school so far this year.  I mean…wow!  Leif can read now! He can communicate a thought through writing. Most importantly, though, my son’s incredible natural curiosity for the world has been nurtured.  School is fun.  He reads on his own because he loves it.  He draws wildly and with great focus.  He has good friends, he plays hard and he feels a part of a community.  I know how hard it is to be a teacher, let alone an amazing one, and I have so much respect and admiration for both of Leif’s teachers.  Their love and passion permeates their students very beings.

Here is the final image I will leave you with.  At the beginning of the year, each student is asked to complete a self-portrait.  They are asked to do another one at the end of the year.  So his teachers say, it’s pretty incredible how much change there is.  I’ll let you know.

Leif's beginning of the year self-portrait


The Sick Boy and His Cloak


Enjoying some solitude on the window seat.

Since Micah’s birthday, Kai and Micah have been wearing their new capes for play (and car rides, and reading books, and taking naps).  Leif was a bit envious of their new silky costume apparel and wondered if there was one in the making for him, as well.  I know my big boy well enough to know he would want one, but I’ve been having a hard time getting it done…until this weekend.  This weekend our boys were sick, which made for a little more quietude around our house than usual.  This meant I had some unexpected time on my hands.  Leif’s cape was top on my to do list.


Sick & Sleepy

This was our Saturday.  A moment like this is what we call a “magic moment” around here.  They don’t happen EVER anymore now that Kai doesn’t nap.   Both boys were doing a lot of sleeping and sitting with fevers in front of the television.  At one point on Sunday, Kai was taking a nap and I asked Leif if he wanted to help me make his cape. He thought that was a great idea and off to the craft room we went.  Turns out it wasn’t so much a cape that he had in mind.  Leif wanted a cloak.


Leif's new cloak.

Leif didn’t want his piece to make him fly, rather,  he wanted to wrap up inside all of that silky material and disappear.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have quite enough material to really make it wrap around him, so we spent some time thinking about what to do.  I kept suggesting things and he kept saying “No, mom…I need…” “And it needs to be brown or grey, this long, and I need to be able to do this with it”  (He was demonstrating all the while).  As we sifted through my piles of fabric and clothes waiting to be up-cycled, he spotted my last year’s Old Navy skirt.  He had found it!

I sewed a wide cape and used the skirt as a second, inner layer that he could wrap around himself.  The fold-over band at the top of the skirt turned into the collar of the cloak, which fastened in two places rather than one (like the capes do), to make it drape over him comfortably.


The inside of the cloak

The finishing touch was a pirate button he had picked out well over a year ago, but that we hadn’t yet used.  He found it in my box of buttons and we both agreed that it was perfect.


Leif's special pirate button

Leif wore his cloak for the remainder of the day, like a little prince.  In fact, Leif is sort of like my little prince…our first born, the eldest of all of the cousins.  He was ALL that and more (a real novelty)  from the moment he was born until his little brother came along and he had to learn to share the spotlight.  And, I’m really proud of him…he’s done a good job of it.  He’s growing up well.  I love that we spent time creating something together on Sunday, it is so rare that there is the time for us to do one on one things these days.  I’m pretty sure he enjoyed it, too.  In fact, he seemed to feel a lot better after a day wrapped up in his new cloak.  I mean, who wouldn’t?  It’s like wearing a hug from mom (since I made it)…but don’t tell him that. 🙂

Big Love All Around

This past weekend was filled with Big Love moments worth mentioning.  We were gathered together with our family in Chapel Hill to celebrate Dan’s grandmother’s ninetieth birthday.  It was also our first time meeting our new little niece, Eliza, as well as an opportunity to see M.E. (Dan’s sister), all beautiful and pregnant with cousin #2.  As always, Dan’s parents pull together a party of twenty four guests as easy as making dinner for a family of four (at least it seems that way).  Everyone was there…minus a couple special aunties who couldn’t make it.  The kids couldn’t be happier, surrounded by their aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents and extended family.  It is a happy, nurturing space for all of us, where the old commune with the young, people relax, exercise, eat well, read, play games. Here are a few images from our time…

Grammy holding Eliza's hand

Grammy, 90. Eliza, 5 weeks.


Kai's turn to hold the baby

And a kiss!

Uncle Dan

If you are wondering where Master Leif is, well…he wasn’t really into holding the new baby.  He thought she was very cute, but seems like he’s waiting until she can do more than eat, sleep and soil her diaper to pay her much attention.  He didn’t make it into many of the pictures, since his favorite perch at his grandparents is upstairs in the playroom where he can build legos to his hearts desire and get thrown around by his uncles on the massive couches.

But, Leif was very helpful in creating the other very special thing that happened over the weekend.  He helped Kai learn to ride his new bike…a pedal bike with NO training wheels!  Thanks, Leif!

He DID it!


The Knights of Brucemont Circle


Ser Micah & Ser Kai

Indeed.  Two brave companions slaying dragons (trees) and saving damsels in distress (cats). What you don’t see in these pictures are their weapons. Kai fought bravely with a rake in hand, and Micah with a light saber.  Ski goggles made a nice helm, and chain mail was essential, of course.


Ski goggles and Chain mail

Silliness and adventure are nothing new for Kai and Micah. But, since Friday was Micah’s third birthday, I was feeling sentimental and finding their antics to be especially endearing. Micah is jus two months older than Kai, so in essence I was taking in how big BOTH of these little boys are growing.


Birthday Cupcakes

After a morning filled with knightly duties and cupcakes, the boys took to the yard and explored being warriors of a different sort.


body painting with mud in the backyard

I think Micah would agree that his third birthday was a pretty good day…filled with sunshine, good friends and sweet things to eat.  We are honored to get to share our lives with this special boy.  To watch him grow and change and become himself.  These are the days when I love my job.  It feels pretty special to be able to spend as much time I do with the children that I take care of.  Each of the little ones who join Kai and I in our home each week are extensions of our family and they nourish us as much as we nurture them.  Most definitely, our lives would not be as much fun without them.




A birthday kiss


Happy Birthday, Papa Rich!

Dear Dad,

From all of us here in Asheville,  Happy Birthday!

We hope your day feels special, as it should. May it be filled with yummy things like really good hot coffee, steel cut oats, then eggs and bacon, and whatever else you get your mind set on enjoying.  Definitely chocolate, a nice glass of red wine or a sip of brandy, perhaps.  May it be filled with all of the wonderful, earthy smells of spring grasses and wildflowers covering the hillsides and the warm breath of your horse when you say good morning to him.  May you have time to read, write, and have a good conversation with a loved one (or a few). May you feel the embrace of all of us who love you.

Today, we celebrate you…your unpretentious enthusiasm for life, your commitment to building strong relationships, your practice of openness and acceptance.  You are a pillar of love that supports us all.

With Love,
Marin, Dan, Leif and Kai

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