Saturday, May 30, 2015

End of May. End of May??

Things I love right now ~

1. Coffee and a favourite playlist before the house wakes up
2. Graham reading
3. Anything with goat cheese
4. Sunrises before 5am and sunsets at 10
5. A sweaty workout after it's over
6. Visits from old friends
7. A weekend trip to Dublin
8. Playing golf with the boys

We have just rounded out our 3rd year in England. We were in Seattle for 4 years and Milwaukee for 9. We celebrated 15 years of marriage last December and we both turned 40 this past year. Greyson is 9, Graham 5. I am truly trying to live in the present and enjoy the moments as they are here but I don't feel like that much time has passed yet I wonder where it all went. I love being 40 and the cred that goes with it (real or imagined). We love where we are, often wonder where we're going and also know the reality of how fast it will all go, again.

The moments I mention? Here are a few of them.

I was the "Mystery Reader" at Greyson's school this week. While waiting to go in and surprise him, I found this piece of art outside of his classroom. The unit is about the world around us and they were tasked with drawing things that are needed and/or useful on the street where we live. Who couldn't use a Porsche, a gumball machine and a portable toilet?

The boys after dinner on Bank Holiday Monday

Graham after Greyson whacked him square on the face with a plastic whiffel ball bat.

My *isms* of the past have morphed into what I overhear when listening to the boys playing (or when I'm deliberately eavesdropping)
  • Graham to the iPhone: "Siri, do you have a girlfriend?" (For the record, Siri's answer was "no, I'm too busy answering questions")
  • Greyson: (smelling the new Chocolate flavoured Cheerios): "Graham! These smell amazing"
  • Greyson singing the entire Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head while taking a shower (sweetly and in tune)
  • Greyson to Graham playing with a bow and arrow: "Keep your extra bullets in your underpants"

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hello again!

I got an email from my brother a couple of weeks ago with one line that read "why don't you blog anymore?" Over the past 18 months I've gotten an occasional twinge of guilt about it but that email put me over the edge. Over the edge in a good way as it reminded me how much I enjoy collating stories about the boys and that despite my unsympathetic subconscious, I am a mom doing the very best she can. I'm not going to recount the milestones of 18 months - no one has the time to read a 2 hour blog so I'll just give a little fly-by into what's going on over here which can be summarised in two words: English Football.

I've told you about it before of course but the levels to which it's risen are crazy. You may not find it strange that a 5 year old boy put 5 things on his Christmas list this year and not one of them was a toy of any sort but I thought it was unusual. He wanted 3 football kits, a football calendar and goalie gloves. Our 9 year old was the same - 3 kits, goalie gloves and boots (English-speak for soccer cleats). Neither of them opened a single toy or game. Football is a year round sport here so they were outside within minutes and playing until the sun went down - that is what an average day looks like here.

If they aren't playing in the garden, in club or at school it's because it's dark outside and even then they're playing inside with a small ball and the couch and a kitchen cabinet as goals. We have no less than 3000 Match Attax cards, Top Trumps and FIFA stickers strewn about the house. They multiply like Gremlins. It's equally cute and maddening. 3000 cards and they will find a way to fight over 1. Greyson still supports Chelsea and Graham is an Arsenal fan but when it comes to football kits, they want the stars despite the team. We can't tumble dry them for fear the names will melt off the backs so our dryer rack is incessantly filled with all colours and sizes of kit - jerseys, shorts, base layers and socks. Graham plays on a team of 6 and 7 year olds and scores the majority of goals. Greyson's footwork is improving and last week he scored 6 goals in 45 minutes. Modest he isn't so we've been listening to the tales of his prowess for a week. Mike's working on his humility - if you know Mike, this trait of Greyson's doesn't sit well. He is his mother's son after all.

That's the life of our boys, truly, in 200 words or less. They have one more month of school and then football camps, golf and tennis will continue into the summer. Greyson will be in Year 3 in the fall, Graham starts Kindergarten (OMG).

As for the adults, Mike cycled Cyprus a few weeks ago and has seen some of the best golf courses in Scotland and Ireland over the past year. He has a regular golf game with 2 guys who also stay home with their kids and is in a cycling club with a group of men and women who love it as much as he does. He is a man contented but now striving to cycle one of Le Tour's legs in the Swiss Alps next year. I've spent the better part of the past year traveling for work and some play. The highlight for me was skiing in the French Alps but I also enjoyed an amazing girl's trip to Thailand as well as sunny holidays in Italy, Cancun and Costa Rica. Although my work trips aren't holidays, I am grateful for the experiences and the great people I work with who share the experiences with me. It's not a job, it never has been and I'm filled with gratitude to be surrounded by some of my best friends when I'm away from home.

As a family, we are keeping our feet on the ground for the foreseeable future now that the weather is getting warmer but looking forward to visiting Seattle in August - a long overdue return to a city we fell in love with and miss very much.As ever, we miss our friends and family, many whom have visited or plan to. We are blessed, sometimes stressed and still enjoying the experiences of life abroad. Keep in touch, give us a bell, hop on a plane and in the absence of these, know that we think of you often.

xo, Mike, Jess and the boys

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gurls, Gurls, Gurls

Greyson’s latest bedtime request is to ask me to ‘talk’.  This is his most effective stall tactic yet because I’ll give my right arm to listen, and give advice, to my little boy.  We’ve had grand conversations about life, sometimes about death, always about his friends.  He is now listing, on paper, his best friends, enemies (yep) and gurlfriends (sic).  And on the latter, this includes pairing up his best friends with specific girls in his class with a heart next to each couple.  Greyson’s girlfriend, to no one’s surprise, is Linda.  I wrote about Linda last year. She’s from China and has had a crush on Grey since the first day of Kindergarten. She wrote him a valentine that said simply “I love you Greyson” and at the end of the school year, she signed his yearbook “I want to marry you”.  So, he’s following in his Uncle Nate’s footsteps whose first crush was my amazing Asian best friend Tina. 

We took the boys to their 2nd “Boo to Boot” at the school – a safe, fast but frenzied trick or treating event where they go from car to car collecting as many sweets as they can.  This event gives me a chance to catch up with the moms that I never see.  These moms think Mike is THE best (I already know this) but I did have a mom tell me this year that Greyson is apparently the talk of the 1st grade- for the girls anyway. Her daughter Taylor told her that all the girls like Greyson and this mom rambles on about how cute he is and all of that and I’m smiling and giving the obligatory ‘aww, that’s nice’ but thinking to myself ‘how is this possible, that 6 and 7 year old girls are already talking about boys in this way?’ and I know Greyson’s daddy well enough to know that when you combine Greyson’s list of ‘gurlfriends’ with the feedback from Taylor’s mom, that we’re in for it where girls are concerned. 

Grey has taken to blushing when he sees kissing on TV and if he’s reading a book that talks about a ‘beautiful girl’, he stops, gets a little sheepish, and then reads the sentence or paragraph with a catch in his throat. Graham is blissfully unaware but as is the case with all little brothers, follows Grey’s lead by covering his face at the kissing parts or burying his head under a blanket. 
Graham isn’t ready to tell me all of life’s little secrets yet but we are having great fun. Both of the boys have taken up tennis this term and Graham’s coach Pippa is usually one-to-one with him. He talks about his tennis lessons a lot and it’s obvious he’s really taking to it. Between tennis and golf, we’re taking a different direction than Mike and I did as kids but hoping that we’re forming a team that will play together into our golden years.  This is one thing that American football can’t do.

I’ll close it off by plugging my upcoming “Survival of the Fittest”, a 10k that I’m running on Saturday for two worthy charities. I’ve raised £1600 so far for CLIC Sargent in the UK. CLIC benefits children with cancer and I decided to take it a step further by personally donating $1 for every £1 raised to The Paxton Andrews Foundation, based in Wisconsin.  Paxton’s story is equal parts heartbreaking, uplifting and maddening and if you don’t know it, I plead with you to read his momma’s letters to her son –  She lost Paxton last year, when he was 5 months old, and her fight to raise awareness, to cry out in unspoken languages that demand you listen, is changing the face of childhood cancer forever.  I know Paxton’s momma personally and a few months ago I read every letter and was moved to action.  £1600 isn’t enough, but it’s a start. Join me.

G: “Have you ever had cancer mom?”
Me: “No, but Papa has – he had colon cancer when he was 50 years old”
G: “What’s a colon?”
Me: “It’s the large intestine – it digests your food”
G: “I hate digesting – especially in the mornings”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Grahamalama Ding Dong

Our boys are different, yet the same. My memory is doing an OK job of recalling images of the things Greyson was doing at this age and his 4th birthday is very vivid for a number of odd reasons; none of them particularly meaningful, but vivid all the same.  Greyson was really into Spiderman at 4 - his birthday party was Spidey-themed from the bouncy house to his birthday cake and choice of Tshirt - a very gaudy blue and red thing that bled in the laundry.

Graham hasn't caught the Spiderman bug though he'll certainly sit with his brother and watch the movies followed by a chase around the house shooting webs and attempting to fly.

Graham's 4 year old self is all about Scooby Doo. He caught the bug last year and it really hasn't waned though he does alternate with his love of Lightning McQueen. So we've given him a bit of both this birthday. He's easily pleased, this one. He didn't care about a party either so we're taking advantage of the half-term break again and this year piling onto a business trip to Paris. The boys will meet me there and we're taking them to Paris Disney for a couple of days. We've been told it's not as exciting as DisneyWorld or Land but they've never been to either so it will be better than Christmas for them. We'll be sure to take pictures of Disney a la France.

Graham Roman (October 19th 2013)

Since we're leaving for Paris on his birthday, we celebrated this past weekend with a very fun and low-key day. He opened his gifts, we ate some cake and the boys spent the rest of the day and night playing with Shaggy, Scooby and the gang. Near bedtime, they went upstairs, changed into school clothes and raided the refrigerator. Graham is his brother's shadow right now and aside from a few spats over toys that won't be shared, they are inseparable. 

Happy 4th birthday to an unbelievable little boy - so full of life, milkaholic, grumpy in the morning, out of his mind crazy before bedtime, obsessed with private parts and as sweet and silly as he is cute and snuggly.  We are so in love with you, Graham. You've rounded out our little family of 4 and life would be dull and gloomy without you.


G: "Dad, can we listen to Pearl Jam?"
Dad: (beaming and proud; no words necessary)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fall 2013

Greyson is halfway to age 8. Half a year can go by in the blink of an eye, can't it?  Graham turns 4 next month. I don't need to lament this with all of you - you, my friends and family, are experiencing time passing too and I enjoy listening and watching as you experience the day to day. I read somewhere that there are 962 Saturdays (or something like that) before your children go to college with the message to make the most of each of those days before the kids leave and I thought, 'ok, sure' there will be Saturdays where fun and games are planned and every minute is filled with wonder and joy, laughter and memories. But more often there will be Saturdays where the laundry gets done, the house gets cleaned, errands are run and we shoo our kids out the door for some peace and quiet and I see no reason to feel bad about that. Is that making the most out of a Saturday between now and college?  I think it is or the kids would stink and we'd lose our minds.

I'm frustrated with the age of Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook not because these vehicles allow us to share but because they feel like the scoreboard of a game. And although we don't necessarily see the points tally up, we keep track because to compare is human. And validation feels good.

We, the Guenthers, are doing the best we can and I've not written about it lately because, well frankly, I'm tired. And the snuggle time on the couch with the boys or the quiet times to sit when I've shooed them outside is all I have effort for. Until today.  I've saved some photos and some quotes and apologise that you haven't had a chance to keep up with us more reguarly because those of you who check in frequently have told me how much of a bummer it is to see the same post here for 6 whole months. So, here you go! Enjoy!

We moved into our new house in April of this year- if you're keeping track, this is house #5 in 5 years. We live in a great English neighbourhood in the village of Ascot and if you're a horse racing fan you should plan a visit as the famous Royal Ascot racecourse is walking distance from our front door and on race weekends we can hear the crowds cheering. The Queen comes to Royal Ascot every June and next year I do plan to get fully dressed up, crazy feathered hat included, Mike in a morning suit if for no other reason than to take a picture and tick the box - been there, done that.

London recorded one of the hottest summers on record this year. Our new house has a great garden where we spent many days jumping on the trampoline, playing soccer and of course, firing up the BGE. It was an eclectic mix of activity from sport to theater and of course, travel. My mom and aunt visited in June, Mike's mom came in August and then the dog days of summer quickly turned into a return to school. Greyson in 1st grade, Graham in 'Scramblers'. There were zero tears this year (yay!!) - Mike carpools with our neighbours and the tears are coming from their little Scrambler, Graham's bestie Reid.  Graham tries his best to console him but the commute to school is a long one for Mike on his days to drive as Reid cries almost the whole way there.

We are now watching the leaves turn and today, as I write, the sun is shining. It is my perfect day - sunny and a cool and comfortable 60F. We watched the Packers beat the Redskins last night via NFL Gampass- $130 for the season is money well spent. American football is the thing I miss the most (even more than American bacon - no, really)

Mom: "Graham, do you need a napkin?"
Graham: "Mmm, no. It's faster if you wipe it on your clothes"

Graham: "When you gonna have a butt and penis? When you're a grown up?"

Graham: "Ow! That hit me on the headfore"

First day of school- 20 Aug 2013
Oaklands Close Ascot, Berkshire

Grey & Graham September 2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Magical 7

Our firstborn turned 7 today. Like every parent I know, we don’t know where the time went and like every grandparent I know we never will. It will be the rhetorical question that gets asked on every birthday and at every holiday and at get togethers in between.

I’m determined not to lament losing the time but rather enjoy the moments as they come. I found some old drawings and a few quotes that I’ve never posted so I thought I’d share them now. The below is a list of chores that Greyson wrote down shortly after we moved to England. His allowance would be adding up, if we gave him one. But he gets his fair rewards.

Grey chores 1

Grey chores 2

He woke up this morning, his 7-year old self and told me Graham could choose what we had for breakfast. When we asked him last night what he wanted he said he needed to think about it. Well he did and he gave the privilege away. He came downstairs to a wrapped gift on the table and he let Graham open it. He was humble and happy and it melted my heart.


I used to say that he came early (5 1/2 weeks early!) because he wanted to hurry up and get noticed but that description doesn’t fit him. I think he came early because God wanted him to. God put him in my arms early because I couldn’t wait anymore and He knew that the sooner Greyson came the sooner our lives would begin. This little boy has been filling our souls since that day and we’re so proud to be his parents.

From sometime in 2011: Grey: “I don’t want to be a grown up. I want to be a nice boy”

Late 2012 watching a bride having her photo taken outdoors:  Grey “If she were bare with no underwear she would be really cold!”

Happy 7th Birthday Greyson! Your Moshi Monster collection has grown, Star Wars and Legos are standing the test of time and futbol is here to stay, much to your daddy’s chagrin.

Monday, March 18, 2013

And it continues…

(As I’m standing in front of my wardrobe* in bra and underwear)

Graham: “Mom, your top and bottom doesn’t match”

And later on in the week, at bedtime…

Graham: “Dad, you don’t match”

Mike: “I do too!”

Graham: “Nooo, your hair doesn’t match. Yours is black and mine and Greyson’s and mom isn’t. You don’t match us”

Does Graham know that his Red Nose** doesn’t match his Scooby Doo jammies?


* wardrobe. Brit for closet.

** The Red Nose is from Red Nose Day, an honoured British tradition and charitable giving opportunity ~

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Life of Graham

Graham is nuts. You might have a 3 year old, or remember when you had a 3 year old and think “my 3 year old was nuts too” and I’m sure you’re right but it’s hard for me to imagine another 3 year old who can compare to the one that lives in our house – cute, crazy, annoying, smart, bull-headed and the energy! Oh my gosh, the energy. My mom tells a lot of stories about the stuff I did around this age- baby powder all over my aunt’s velour bedspread (I personally think I must have been trying to cover up the velour-ness of it), Vaseline all over my body and mirror, writing the word Bill in ink on the wall (the first word I learned to write- no idea why as there’s not a Bill anywhere in my family on either side), sticking my finger in a mousetrap. The list goes on.

Graham recently rubbed Vaseline all over himself and then dumped baby powder on top of that- at least he knocked out 2 in one shot. My mousetraps are of the plastic sort- I don’t think you can trap a finger in it- come to think of it I don’t know if you can trap a mouse in it. He doesn’t know how to write so I’ve got some time. You get my point. I was precocious, compulsive and a dare devil. Graham is all of these things. Thankfully he’s also tough so if he cries, he really is in pain unlike his brother who has 10 different cries for different things depending on who’s watching.

Like Greyson at that age, Graham is obsessed with private parts.

“I see your privates!”

“Dad has a BIG penis and I have a little penis”

“Dad, did you go potty out of your BIG penis?”

“Mom, do you have a penis?”

Yesterday he pulled out a British version of Men’s Health magazine.


“Dad is hanging from a big rock!”

Needless to say, between the Dad has a big penis comments and the certainty that his dad is the hunk hanging from the rock in the mag, Mike is loving Graham at the moment.

We went to Cancun last week. While we were gone, Sara watched the boys and when Graham realised that we weren’t coming home the first day he said to Sara “Cancun is closed!” He eventually accepted that Cancun was in fact open and made the most out of the 5 days with his favourite nanny. Here’s a few snaps while we were away.






We were grateful for our time in the sun. The weather was amazing and seeing our friends and colleagues was relaxing and fun.

In 3 short weeks we will be welcoming the Seattle Johnsons to London for a 2 week visit. We’re looking forward to celebrating Angie and Madi’s birthdays while they’re here. We’re taking a week long trip to Spain for Easter and will start packing to “move house”. We aren’t going far but we are settling in for a few extra years.  We will update you with pics and address information soon.

Please, if you haven’t already, check out Mike’s FundRazr page. He has already raised over $1000 for the Patrick Blessing Memorial Fund. He is training hard for his ride to Paris and every little bit of support helps!  Click here to donate!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy, Grateful, Blessed Holidays 2012

There are no new years resolutions worth a mention after a wonderful holiday break with our families- instead we prefer to revel in the fun and memories and we’ll think about tackling 2013 in good time. We are starting the year refreshed and we wish you a great start as well. 

All of our love to all of you! Happiest of Holidays!



Monday, October 22, 2012

“I wanna be 1” ?


For months leading up to Graham’s 3rd birthday, he demanded that he wanted to be 1, not 3. We don’t know why so we just said OK and moved on. He’s since owned his “3” and is now asking to be 5 and 7 depending the day.

Milestones that have NOT been hit as of today, his 3rd birthday: potty trained, nuk free. (The pic below if from his nap today which he took in his new tent)


We are going nuk free starting tomorrow. The needy babies of the world are crying for his nuks so they will be sent away, as Greyson’s were 3.5 years ago. Perhaps 1 of them comes back ‘broken’ (top snipped off) so he can cling to it at night for a week or so. Here’s to hoping it’s as smooth a process as it was for Grey because after this milestone, we move to full-on stealth mode for potty training filled with cajoling and bribes.

I posted a status on FB today that said “3 years ago today I was ready to drink castor oil to get this boy out…”. I remember it clearly. My blood pressure had me on bed rest which was fine by me because I couldn’t stand on my feet for more than 5 minutes anyway without my hips caving in. Like every pregnant woman I’ve ever met, my bladder performed as if it were the size of a pea and because I was an “aged mother” with early contractions and a previous preemie, I was in the doctor’s office every day strapped to machines for hours at a time while I willed my body to go into labor on its own. He was measuring big and at that point, I still had 3 weeks to go to full term. I sent Mike a text- I from my bed upstairs to him in his office downstairs that read “if we aren’t in labor after today’s appointment, we’re going to Walgreens so I can buy castor oil”. I can’t remember how he responded but I was dead serious.

That text was sent at 1:55pm Pacific time. Our appointment was at 4pm, I was admitted to the hospital at 6, given an epidural sometime after 10pm and and at 11:25pm after only minutes of labor, he was in my arms. No castor oil needed*

Happy Birthday sweet boy. You have your mommy’s patience (very little) and your daddy’s strength (oodles of it). You add levity to every day and we couldn’t imagine the Guenther family without a Graham in it.


*Disclaimer:  author was out of her mind and does not endorse castor oil as a method of inducing labor