Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh Family Vacay!

This post is looooooong over-due.  However, since I'm itching for another summertime trip reminiscing about ours from May will have to do for now.

If you ever watch our wedding video one of my bridesmaids, Lori, repeatedly talks about future family vacations.  We've imagined them since we were fourteen years old.  Fast forward 15 years from those high school days and 3 years from that wedding video and we took our first family vacation together with two other couples in 2009.  It was on that trip that Joe and I announced we'd soon be a family of three (little did we know we'd actually be a family of four!) and on that same trip we celebrated the recent engagement of one of the couples and the upcoming wedding of another couple.  Beach days were lazy, corn hole games were competitive, hot tub sessions were frequent, nights were late, days were casual, walks were long, bikinis were abundant, dinners out were enjoyable, and the drinks flowed easily.

The Sheltons, Davises, Watsons, and Stewarts
2010 brought new babies, a wedding, and a move among the four couples, so 'family vacay' was put on hold.

2011 brought more new babies and alternative summer trip plans, so once again 'family vacay' was put on the back burner.

2012 had promise, but with new jobs, tight budgets, mismatched schedules, and quite a few little ones running around 'family vacay' took on a whole new look.  But the makeover was a welcomed one, and while 'vacation' has taken on a new meaning in the last few years, IT. COULDN'T. HAVE. BEEN. BETTER.  It really was pure, simple, inexpensive, quality, sunny FUN.
The Hales, Watsons, and Sheltons

Schedules were loose; mealtimes were delicious, chaotic, or late; toys were everywhere; bedtime was a process; mornings were early; beach visits required a pack mule; corn hole and Caronas were non-existent; and walks along the shore were few.  But the water was crisp and welcoming; the sand was hours of fun; the pool, basketball courts, shuffleboard, and playground filled the late afternoon; nap times were a time to recharge; and the togetherness of friends and little ones was bliss.  For the first time since the boys were born, this trip was more fun than work.  We were so thankful our friends traveled from afar to be together for a week as we welcomed summertime.  The space was perfect; the amenities kept everyone happy; and the boys successfully slept in bunk beds (the bottom of course).  Whew!

Of course we all felt like just when we hit our stride and settled into 'vacation mode' by mid week it's time to start packing up in just a couple days.  

Our loads to the beach dwindled by the day as we realized what we needed and didn't need.  
We rotated dinner duty and avoided any trips to a restaurant because dinner in public with four little ones is more like punishment than a treat.  

Naps were a tag team effort so Joe and I could take turns having some time to ourselves (although I quickly learned I can't spend ALL DAY on the beach like I used to!).   And in between kids cuddled, shared toys, and played played played.

There was also plenty of time for exploring, coffee shop visits, and ice cream treats.  The best part is that it was all within a ten minute walk.
We met other families and cooperatively dug giant holes that kept up to fifteen kids occupied for HOURS at any given time during the day.  The adults talked.  Uninterrupted. For unheard of lengths of time.  While One Step Ahead offers some clever and practical items for every vacation need under the sun, we learned all you need is a shovel and a couple buckets.  Win win win.
We came home relaxed, happy, and ready to go back again.  Hello, summer! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quality Time

I grew up living hours away from my grandparents, so spending one on one time with them was a 'special occasion kind of treat.'  I remember spending the night at my mom's parents' house and Grandma would always have Pinwheels (chocolate covered marshmallow cookies) stocked in her pantry; I also sneaked squirts of whipped cream from the can in the fridge; and if I were ever hungry before bed she'd serve me a rice cake spread with peanut butter on top.  Grandpa makes the best omelets for breakfast and there's always sausage and peppers and homemade tomato sauce (or something of the like) simmering on the stove and ready to serve.  Their house has a distinct, welcoming, comfortable, 'come sit and eat and talk' kind of smell and every now and then I'll catch my parents' house smelling the same way.  It's about feeling at home.  I also remember reading next to Grandma in her huge bed before Grandpa came up for the night and I loved her fluffy comforter and thick pillows.  She let me play with her beads and scarves and I'd tie them together and dangle my Barbies and Little Ponies from the landing.  I also remember playing in the 'cubby hole' (storage area) and exploring nick knacks my grandpa had brought home on his many overseas adventures when he was in the Air Force.  The hula girl from Vietnam and his old flight jacket ring a bell.  The shag green carpet stands out in my mind too.  When I visited Grandma and Grandpa we filled our time by going to the hair salon (I still remember the lady's name that did Grandma's fluffy hair do), bowling (Grandma tried to teach me how to keep score before computers did all the work), roller skating, and swimming (Grandma would never get her hair wet).  Grandpa would always tell me to put socks on my feet and to "knock off that racket up there" as I did cartwheels in the living room.  He would spend hours in the yard, making their large corner lot and shaded backyard quite the sight (just like his dad did in the garden) and every year at Christmas he covered the huge tree in the middle of the yard with the big bulbed colored lights.  The tree is no longer there and finding those kind of lights these days is next to impossible.  A regular at the country club, he'd treat us to lunch, always give the waitress a hard time, and take us to see fireworks over the golf course on the 4th.  He used to smoke a pipe, and while I'm glad he kicked the habit ages ago, I'll admit that I loved the smell.  He also enjoys serving drinks on the his deck or from his downstairs bar and if I wasn't upstairs reading with Grandma, I learned to like the whatever Grandpa was watching on tv (because you don't take the remote from Grandpa).  My grandma taught me how to tie a bow on my pink bear (that now resides in my boys' play room) and she helped me make a dinosaur diorama in first grade.  She also shared her mom's pecan pie recipe - a menu staple during the holidays.  And did I mention the time when she and her mom rode with my brother, mother, and me to Florida?  Four generations on a road trip...brave souls.  While we lived a couple hours away from each other, our time together obviously left its mark on my memories.  And sometime this summer I'll be taking my own children back to the same pool Grandma used to take me so they can swim with her.  They'll also visit the park, lake, train tracks, and merry go round where we used to walk their dog.  Who knows what the boys will remember at just 2 1/2, but better to start somewhere than not at all.  Love it.  

At some point in my childhood my dad's dad lived with us for a few months every year, so our dynamic changed and I'm forever grateful for the day to day interactions we shared.  Before those years my brother and I would go to Arkansas in the summer for a few days to spend time with my dad's parents.  Grandpa hung a swing from a tree in the backyard and we'd hang on tight, leaning all the way back, and go as high as we could to feel like we were flying.  My brother ran around without his shirt on so I did too.  Grandma made us green Jell-o popsicles and we listened to old records in the dining room.  I vaguely remember songs about a cherry tree, alphabet soup, and a hippo in the tub.  They took us to Dogpatch once and I brought home a glass butterfly that I broke just a few hours later.  My grandma told me not to leave it on the floor.  She was right.  When I was nine (ten?) we had a family reunion at a lake; my brother got a Nintendo for his birthday while we were there (he went nuts); and my crazy aunts sang to the Chenille Sisters on the back deck.  A devout Catholic (a stark contrast to her husband and only son, who both say their church is the golf course), Grandma will pray for you until the day she dies and sprinkle the wheels of your car with holy water for safe travels.  We used to chase their dog, Moxie, in the backyard and my brother even sampled a bite of her dog food once.  Grandpa used to own a farm and later in life trained Border Collies.  A wanderer, a free spirit, he traveled out west for weeks at a time and made a home away from home in Brazil for a few months each year.  All this after he retired from the Air Force.  It was in between these trips that he stayed with us and in the last couple years of his life, moved in full time.  He ran car pools, watched countless baseball games while my dad and brother were on the field, took us out to lunch, had his own circle of friends calling the house, cleaned up spilled milk without getting mad, found the beer my brother hid in his mini fridge and kept it a secret, and let me drive his white pick up truck.  The boys have met their great grandma once and I'm certain their great grandpa is getting a kick out of watching them from above.  I swear he's sending angel messages to my dad about all the secret, naughty tricks to teach them.

So we are fortunate to live in the same town as both sets of mine and Joe's parents and it's a pretty sweet deal that they love spending time with the boys.  Hello, babysitters!  It's easy to walk out the door knowing everyone is in good care and I also think the their time together is invaluable.  I want my boys to have memories with their grandparents, and at their current rate and good fortune of having them close by, I'm certain they will.  Last Sunday my mom called and suggested I bring the boys over.  For the day.  All day.  And leave them.  I'm not sure how she could read our minds, but Joe and I were both dragging and felt clueless as to how we were going to fill the day.  Within the hour, I loaded us up, dropped them off, and we were on our way to spend time together for an entire day sans kids.  Win, win.  Never mind that Joe and I browsed the latest exhibit at the Science Museum, ate a leisurely lunch, and spent over an hour at the book store.  What's important is that the boys and their grandparents played with trains, watched golf, whined a tiny bit, ate marshmallows, watched Thomas the Train and baseball, took a nap, scared the thunder away, ate lunch, petted Katie, pitched quarters, and had a banana.  It made Monday's whines completely tolerable, mine and Joe's time together sweeter, and grandchild/grandparent time priceless.  Nana's bed and breakfast (the playroom) is getting good use and my dad is busy scheming up their next adventure, including a hike in the woods to explore the creek......

Let the games begin.  And enjoy.  And thank you.  Because quality time with grandparents is priceless.
Thank you, Dad, for the pictures.  Thank you, Aunt Carol, for consolidating them into a collage.
First time sharing a bed since they were 4 months old.  Melt my heart.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

If you were a fly on the wall you might have witnessed this...

Last Tuesday was one for the Mom Fail books and if you were a fly on the wall you might have witnessed this...

I've mentioned before that Garrett has mastered the art of whining.  Gavin chimes in on occasion too.  Crying for Daddy from the second he leaves for work until the minute he returns home.  And then he whines for Mommy.  Whatever.  Either way it's enough to drive someone batty.  Sometimes the fits happen for no reason at all (Unless the fact that the interior light in my car goes off when the doors are shut is considered a reason...seriously.)  So the other day went like this...

After spending a fun morning at the pool with our friends, we looked like a three ring circus trying to get kiddos changed, bags packed, and everyone to the car.  My friend and her son headed home while I let the boys play on the playground for a few minutes.  After a 20 minute ordeal just get to the car, I then jammed out and sang every song possible while tickling Gavin and keeping the windows down so he'd stay awake on our ride home all while feeding both boys lunch.  Safe driving, huh?  Once we were home the boys went down for naps only after bouncing, squealing, and talking in their cribs for a good 45 minutes.  At 2:59pm on the nose the whining commenced again I hear that they're up.  After calming Garrett down and explaining for the 1,000,000th time that day that "Daddy will be home tonight.  Daddy's at work right now." I ask him, "Do you have fun with Mommy?  We are going to go downstairs and play and make milkshakes."  I get a big fat "NO."  Bottom lip stuck out, thumb in mouth, brows furrowed.  Well that makes a mama feel great, said no one ever.  Fast forward a couple hours, Daddy is home, and we're chatting in the front yard about our days.  Garrett goes to the front door and cries/whines/demands says, "Daddy, in!  Daddy, in!  Daddy, in!"  When I go to the door to let him in he loses it.  Or maybe I lose it worse.  In a matter of seconds a few choice words fly out of my mouth, I admit that "I've had it!," and storm upstairs to change clothes before heading off to tutor.  Did I mention that all this transpired as a sweet looking young woman (probably unmarried and childless, thus totally thinking I'm psycho) was walking by with her dog.  Fabulous, right?

And then I learn from a friend that she just found her two sons playing in the toilet.  The toilet that her daughter forgot to flush.  Thanks for hand sanitizer, right?  Ok, maybe that warrants a bath.

And then I receive a text from another friend explaining that she MUST cut herself off at just 2 glasses of wine tonight.  These nightly cocktails are getting out of hand.  Says who?  It's five o'clock somewhere, right?

And then I hear a story about an acquaintance who was once on a tirade toward her older son, and as every four letter word was flying out of her mouth, the sweet young boy next door was delivering an Advent calendar to her younger son.  Upon hearing the madness taking place in the house, he went home in tears.  Happy holidays, right? 

I guess if you were a fly on the wall you'd think we were all crazy.  But after a good counseling session phone call with a friend, a quiet dinner, a surprise cocktail in the fridge, and a good night sleep, I've decided that we're all just normal.

Friday, July 13, 2012

In the Kitchen - Summer Fruit and Veggies

Oh summer produce, I love you!  

At girls' night last week my friend Amy whipped up (literally in a matter of minutes) an amazing squash casserole with marinara sauce.  I'll admit that my first thought was that it didn't sound that appealing to me.  When I made it myself for my parents they too said it didn't sound good at first.  And then we tried it.  And went back for seconds.  Because it's that good.  I don't know that she followed a specific recipe, but here's the gist:

2 zucchini
1 onion
1 red pepper

Slice and saute in olive oil until onions are translucent and zucchini is tender, but not too soft.  Al dente.  Season with salt, pepper, dried oregano and thyme, and garlic powder.  Pour into a casserole dish, top with a can of crushed tomatoes and some of your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce.  Add mozzarella cheese and broil until bubbly and melted.

Get creative and add whatever you have on hand.  The first time I made this dish I roasted some eggplant to add in with the veggies.  The second time I made it I added meatballs and noodles.  Feta is also a great addition, as are Kalamata olives.  It doesn't have to be perfect - just use what you like!

And if you're making dinner, you might as well put together dessert.  So the boys and I went with some friends to the blueberry patch the other day, which has since warranted muffins, whole wheat corn meal pancakes, and our favorite pie.  All with blueberries of course!  This pie recipe comes from the berry patch's Facebook page and it's always a pleaser.  YUM!

9" Deep dish pie shell. (uncooked)
add 3 cups of fresh blueberries

Mix the following in a bowl and pour over berries in pie shell
1C sugar
1/3C all purpose flour
1/8tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2C sour cream

Mix the following until crumbly and scatter over pie.
1/4C soften butter (not melted)
1/2C sugar
1/2C flour

Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Sometimes a few more minutes to get a nice golden brown color. Pie tends to drip, so place something beneath it as it bakes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

These days...

Things are pretty low key around here these days, but still bustling nonetheless...

These days it still blows my mind that I can barely make it out the door by 9:15am.  And when I do load up the car it's inevitable that a neighbor asks, "Are you heading out of town?"  "No," I reply.  "We'll be back by lunch."  I guess getting three of us into the car with the diaper bag, pool bag, and snack bag looks like we're taking a trip.  I remember the days when I was out the door in a matter of minutes by 5:30am with my gym bag, school bag, and lunch bag.  If I'd only known at the time how easy that was.

These days Garrett whines a lot.  It's maddening.  But thank goodness for the cute moments when the boys play footsie in their car seats.  Maybe they sense I'm about to lose it or they don't want me to crank up the radio one more time to mask the whines.

These days I'm not logging as many miles, but still running no doubt.  My running girlfriends deserve a post of their own...coming soon.  What a concept to run less, strengthen more (even if I do have a love/hate relationship with the kick-my-butt conditioning class I've discovered), still fit into my pants, and feel pain free!  Where was this wisdom the past nine years?!?!

These days the boys are really into doing things "all by myself," such as climbing into their high chairs and getting into their car seats.  Score.

These days it's been HOT.  Africa hot, as my dad says.  Triple digit hot.  So hot that even the pool isn't that cool.

These days the boys are obsessed with space shuttles and robots.  They can tell you all about thrusters, engines, satellites, astronauts, rocket boosters, and fuel tanks.  Look out, NASA.  Big letters and little letters are also a hot topic around here, so we sing the ABCs A LOT.

These days finding indoor things to do is essential.  When we went to the library today to check out more books on their new favorite topics, story time turned into a $&*% show, as the train table was too crowded and the helicopter moms stopped hovering over their own children and instead hovered at the story room door. We decided to pass on story time and instead played nicely once all was cleared out and quiet again.  Smooth move.  And just as I was thinking my kids were being so good (don't ever let yourself think that...%&*$ will certainly hit the fan), my cute toddlers unleashed their 'two-ness' as we left.  Angry mommy, screaming kids, books left on the sidewalk to be picked up later.  Enough said.  And thank goodness for the playground and break in heat (but not humidity) until lunchtime.

These days I'm longing for a road trip.  Even though we had a grand vacation in May, there's something to be said for hittin' the road in the dead of summer to get away from it all.  I'm plotting...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Baby Love




On the heels of talking about four generations in our family the other day, the newest member felt it necessary to jump in on the action and make her debut nine days early!  On Monday afternoon Lindsay called me after her doctor's appointment, and since she was 4cm dilated the doctor predicted she certainly wouldn't make it to her July 12 due date.  Fast forward a few hours and around midnight of that same day the excited and anxious parents to be were on their way to the hospital!  They checked in at 12:30 and their baby girl wasted no time, arriving at 1:08am on July 3.  She weighed 6lbs 0.4oz and measured 18.75in long.  She has her mama's nose and her daddy's hair.  

She's perfect and beautiful.  

And I'm in love.

There's no denying the all-consuming love a mom has for her child, but what I didn't know was how much an aunt can love her niece.  If my heart feels this full, I know Lindsay's and Brandon's must be exploding.  I wish we lived closer.  I want to be a fly on the wall when the new family of three goes home together.  I hope I get pictures and videos when she smiles, babbles, rolls over, discovers her hands, and everything in between.  So leave it to the newest, littlest relative to remind us of the importance of family.

I hadn't planned on traveling the three and half hours to Allie Grace (named at almost 24 hours old!) upon her arrival, but when I woke to her squished face picture over text message on Tuesday morning my mind was made up.  I rolled over and told asked Joe if he minded if I hit the road since he had July 4th off.  It was a no brainer, so I packed my bag, grabbed my camera, and enjoyed a solo, silent drive to North Carolina once Joe got home from work that day.  Mom and Dad and I hung out; ran errands and picked up take out for the new parents; caught up without interruption; snuggled Allie; posed for pictures; stared at the awkward breast pump; played baby dress up; admired newborn skin and sniffed newborn smell; got comfortable in uncomfortable hospital furniture; and looked on in awe at how doting my bull-headed, stubborn brother was over his new little girl (changing diapers and talking in cutesy lie).  

And do not forget the real rock star in this whole scenario: MAMA.  Anyone that gains next to zero pounds during pregnancy, pops out a baby in less than an hour (without pain medication), and still looks cute for family photos earns instant super hero status in my eyes.

In the time since my boys were so small I'd forgotten how sweet it is to snuggle a newborn and feel her breath on my skin.  

And amongst the madness of life with toddlers it's easy to forget how blessed I am.  Then I meet our family's newest addition and am quickly reminded that life is SO good.  And sweet.  And precious.  

Welcome to the world, baby girl!  You're infinitely loved.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver and the other gold.

This morning I had a case of the grumps.  No particular reason except that I had a hard time keeping the kids happy, getting Joe's lunch ready, eating my own breakfast, and making coffee all at the same time.  We had nothing on the agenda, and while it feels nice not to have to be anywhere by any particular time, it also leaves me feeling anxious because after a couple hours indoors the boys pretty much lose it.  Or maybe I lose it.  Either way. 

But by 9:23am we were on our way to Target for an iced coffee, Capri Sun Sport Waters, and a second snack container (we left one at Nana and Pops' last night).  Really it wasn't a necessary trip but Mama wanted her coffee and this heat wave doesn't warrant a hot drink after 6:30am in my opinion.  Tomorrow after my early morning run it will be hot coffee, but today it was over ice.  And after Target we were off to the playground for some shaded playtime and walk in the woods. 

And presto!  The Monday grumps were taken care of thanks to that caffeine burst and a little exploration in the creek.  Who knew.

There was no reason for me to be grumpy...our weekend was busy but good, and the highlight (other than the vodka tonic, late afternoon pool visit, and take out pizza all with Oma and Opa on Saturday evening) was a visit to our dear friends and their little girl across town.  Rachelle and I played volleyball and ran track together in high school and she was a killer athlete, I might add.  We weren't particularly close, but teammates nonetheless and we grew up in the same neighborhood knowing a lot of the same people. Fast forward 12 years later when we got reacquainted while both of us were on bed rest at the same time just two doors down from one another.  People often ask me how I survived six weeks of hospitalized bed rest - Rachelle was a big contributor to my sanity.  These days we don't hang out or even chat regularly, but when we do get together none of us miss a beat.  When you share something major/traumatic/life changing you're forever tied together.  And there's something to be said when you chat about cervical lengths, urine input/output charts, and bedpan procedures with a friend AND her husband.  Get over it...nothing is sacred when you 'live' in a hospital. 

Four days before I delivered.

Rachelle and I (and quite often our husbands too) spent hours sharing worries, hopes, fears, daily vital stats, hospital menu tips, lactation consults, nurse visits, snacks, stories of loss, and dreams of future play dates.  We laughed at Facebook posts of our friends who said they felt stir crazy because of all the snow that winter.  They didn't have a clue about stir craziness.  On Valentines Day (2010) our husbands brought in Outback take out.  We made 'count down' paper ring chains marking milestones in our pregnancies.  And we both enjoyed our baby showers in the event room of the hospital's lobby.  We actually were discharged on the same to go home while my two sweet boys remained in the NICU; Rachelle to go home for the remainder of her pregnancy.  By mid April each of us were under our own roofs with our new families and a month later we had our first play date.

While the visits aren't as frequent as we like, the chatter never stops.  And with three toddlers running around neither does the movement or the noise!  We are so so lucky.

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