national zoo

This weekend, 4 and I are boarding a plane and heading to our nation’s capital to see ‘the bunnies’ — 4 has been obsessed with pandas (or bunnies, as he so lovingly names them) since he first saw one in a book. Two years ago, we were in town for a baby shower and took him to see them at the zoo — enter, Little Bunny, the stuffed panda he chose there. Little Bunny has been his right-side guy every night since then. It seems 4 is excited to add a sister-bunny to the mix this weekend and has already asked if he can pick one out.

Who am I to say no?

I am really excited for this mommy-4 trip. Our last trip together was in the spring when we went to Great Wolf Lodge; there, my son kept yelling, “I’m trump patrol and I’m ready to roll” — what he meant was ‘chug patrol’ from a British cartoon he enjoys: Chuggington. I can only imagine what little statements will come up on this trip.

We land late Saturday morning and will head straight to our hotel and then lunch with a dear friend. Sunday is our national zoo trip with some of my closest girlfriends and one’s little lady (she’s two) and Monday is completely up in the air — whatever the little man is into, I suppose: Could be a museum trip or a few hours at a local playground. At the end of the day, I’m just really excited to have this time to spend with him. He’s my little buddy and our time together is so special.

I am also excited to share with him where I spent nearly 10 years of my adult life. I love getting back to DC and haven’t been there in two years now. I have kept in touch with my closest friends from there (of course, I just went to Charleston with one) and so having 4 be a part of that circle is also something that’s so very important to me. Every trip we take, he gets to learn more about his tribe of people who care for him endlessly.

I’m not sure what else will be on our agenda — I’ve thought about a special dessert trip to the Melting Pot because who doesn’t love chocolate fondue and I read about a local doughnut shop just near our hotel; of course, I love my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in DC, Cactus Cantina and 2Amys, right next door with the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I am packing our Rider Safe so that we can take a taxi through the city if we so choose and maybe get to my alma mater for a quick tour.

I am all packed and ready to go and my heart could just explode thinking of all of the memories we get to make this weekend. To top it off, 4 had a great day at school today, so we are heading into the weekend in a really good headspace and are ready to take on our mommy-4 adventure!

*Note: This was written Friday but I set the publication date to go live after our return (safety reasons).

mom’s trip

Traveling is good for the soul; this is absolutely a fundamental belief of mine. I love to go places and experience new things; without hesitation, quality time is my love language and what better way to spend quality time with people than to head off on an adventure.

If you’re looking for ‘proof in the pudding’ … I do not have an engagement ring or a wedding band. My husband and I traveled to Vietnam in lieu of an engagement ring and spent two glorious weeks trekking through that beautiful country. Chicago was a little trip that took place of the wedding bands. While my husband is my favorite travel companion, I was able to travel to meet my dear friend this past week.

She and her family moved to Florida over the summer and the prospect of heading someplace other than Kansas was great. We decided to ‘meet in the middle’ and spent a few days in Charleston, SC. Holy moly — what a beautiful, quaint town. When I returned home, my son asked what we did the whole time and I told him that I talked so much, I lost my voice.

It’s true — we walked 20+ miles in 3.5 days, talked, took a tour of the Aiken-Rhett House, moseyed around The Battery, walked through outdoor markets, and met up for rooftop drinks with my first DC roommate. It was a great way to celebrate 16 years of friendship and the much needed friend time I so badly desired.

Charleston was a breath of fresh air: It was in the upper 70s and was super sunny each day; had some issues with our hotel but they compensated us with prosecco and cake; and we were picked up Friday night by my old roomie in his golf cart and then got to meet his girlfriend and her son.

Everything that went right could have and I returned home to hugs and a visit from my parents (they got to our house about 30 minutes after I did). Friendships are something that I cherish and I try to stay in touch with people the best I can, so this trip where I got to spend a few days with my DC bestie and then get to meet up with another old friend was great.

We all knew each other before significant others — there’s nothing like the people you navigated the waters of your early 20s with. We’d all moved to DC at the same time; I met my bf at the Steelers’ bar my first weekend there and as the only two girls in the bar, we became fast friends. Then, I found a place in Georgetown but needed a roommate: Enter, Roommate — he was the first out of 16 people I’d met who I didn’t think would murder me in my sleep (or when I was awake for that matter). We spent our earliest twenties bar hopping and making not the greatest choices at times. It’s great to reconnect with those we know at different parts of our lives and was fun to reminisce about what life was like before kids and a dog.

I always feel like I’m the best wife and mom I can be when I have time to be ME instead of always H’s wife or 4’s mom and what a better way to be true to yourself than spend a few days with the people who knew you before any of the big life changes did. In a couple weeks, I am taking 4 to DC to get together with friends of mine — these are people in his village who love him and support him from afar. They are also people who knew single me and love me just the same.

Being a stay at home mom certainly can have its challenges. For me, those challenges have nothing to do with my child but rather the difficulties around maintaining my own personal identity and it really is great to have that time which always allows me to come home feeling like I can take on the world … or at least my household.

a week in review

Wow! This past week has been a whirlwind!

3 turned 4 on Monday — with Monday being a school holiday, my husband used his last free PTO day so that we could take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge. I took 3 there in the spring (thanks, Groupon, for mid-week specials) and I’ve wanted to take 11 & 13 (I took them to Water Country over the summer and we enjoyed the slides for a solid nine hours — so, I knew they’d love it). We prepared all kinds of food to take with us: chicken tacos and raw vegetables for the kids and prosciutto-wrapped chicken salads for us for dinner; boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast; and lots of snacks.

We took the 75 minute journey after church on Sunday and were greeted with wolf ears and a chance to hop right in the water. We spent six hours on the slides and at the pool on Sunday; needless to say, all three kiddos ate like savages and were out cold by 8PM. My husband took the kids back to the park Monday morning and I stayed in the room to get some reading done for one of my grad classes; after that, we packed up and headed home. We’d planned to stop for pizza and cookies along the way but 4 passed out, so we adjusted our plans. It was such a fun weekend and I think a much needed break for everyone.

Once we were home, it was back to the grind: 13 had a service meeting after school to prepare for the field trip which was on Thursday, 11 continues to learn more songs on the trumpet (I think he’s up to 15 now!), and 4 had t-ball and his Gotcha-day anniversary. Throw in my husband’s busy work schedule (huge presentation and meetings with his boss while he was in town from CA) and my workload and it made for quite the time.

We got through it and 13 loved her field trip on Thursday, despite the crummy weather with high winds. They went into Boston and had a lunch/dance party on a boat, did a scavenger hunt in the city, and had dinner in Faneuil Hall — highlights included the taco, brownie bites, and seeing celebrities shooting a film. I was so relieved to hear she had a blast — as the wind blew on Thursday, I worried that the trip would be unpleasant. This was another highlight of the week!

Friday rolled in and we put an end to the week with shrimp quesadillas and an early bedtime. Of course, for me, it means I was wide awake at 3AM, so I’ve been in the basement family room, online browsing, and watching Temptation Island. Having a day of separation from the week’s busy allows me to realize all we accomplished last week and how happy everyone was to get in some extra family time and then share personal achievements/excitements.

Our goal for this year (not calendar year, so much — because I operate on a school calendar year) was to be more deliberate about planning a family date each month. In September, the family date day was a camping trip in Salem, MA. I didn’t stay the night (stayed with the dog) but was there each day and this month’s was the Great Wolf Lodge. Next month, our family date date is going to be holiday shopping and dinner out — not as grande a gesture but still should be a fun chance for us to bond outside of the house.

We have a busy few weeks coming up, so it’s nice to look forward to the days where we can stop the busy and enjoy each other. I’m looking forward to next week; I’m traveling solo to visit with a friend — I’ve been trying to get ahead of my school work so that I can enjoy this trip without stress or work to do. I have three library books to read for pleasure and I’m so excited to get this girl time. My parents are coming to visit the following weekend; they try to schedule their visits when 13 & 11 are here so they can visit with them and so the kids never feel slighted for missing a visit.

We are in a season of busy — kids are busy — we are busy — but we are trying to enjoy the down time we have with nightly family dinners, walks, little trips, homemade weekend brunches, and basic conversation. I so very much look forward to these coming days but am happy I took the time to reflect upon this last week. It was truly, very special.

gotcha day

October is such a fun and busy month: 3 turns 4 and our Bruttie boy turns 10 a week later. There is a lot of celebration and far more cookies and pizza than usual. This month, we decided to do our family fun date around 3’s birthday because that’s what scheduling permits. I can’t wait to write a recap of that. Alas, I digress.

The most pivotal thing that’s ever happened in October is 3’s Gotcha Day. We officially adopted our little man two days after his second birthday. Our judge was also an adoptive parent and truly spoke from the heart when he met us. I will forever be grateful for his decorum: He gave our two year old child two stuffed animals (Rainbow and Nice Bear as they’ve so lovingly been named) and a gavel. We hired a photographer for our special day and there are some doozies in there with our son waving that gavel proudly.  It was a really memorable day, filled with high-fives, fist bumps, an appearance by his foster family who loved him so deeply, and more tears than I could qualify.

In the days leading up to his adoption, my husband and I were able to sneak away to Savannah and Hilton Head, sans children. It was nice to have a bit of space to process everything that was going on. It had been a stressful few years where infertility blazed the way of all of our stresses and my hormonal rises and crashes. Not fun. Alas, those feelings were largely erased after our little man’s gotcha day.

He had spent ~730 days in foster care prior to that day and it was a relief to know that we could help him to break the cycle. We are quickly approaching our two year anniversary of this special day and I am just beside myself that I get to be his mommy. He has the sweetest little voice and the best personality — he is athletic and shares my love of books; he’s never one to turn down a muffin, even if it means he’s taken it from the trash and attempted to dine al fresca. He is my best little buddy who I take on flights and travel adventures and who never turns down a trip to the zoo or local library.

It’s hard to get through the month without taking a pause to reflect on this special day. We have pictures from the courthouse in our hallway and we always make a deliberate effort to talk about his adoption and remind him how special he is to have so many people love him and want what was best for him.

Of course, adoption and his gotcha day is not made of all sunflowers and applesauce. There is trauma and questions of family history at the forefront of our minds. It is constant. Still, we continue to approach this day with care and love and our best intentions with our family’s light.

 

weekend memories

I moved to DC when I was 21 — fresh out of college with a BS in Professional Writing and Information Systems. What a combo! I had a job just across the street from the White House with a boss who believed in me and my writing. Because of him, I was published by 22. I moved on from that position and entered the marketing world, editing online content for financial advisors and eventually settling in as the marketing department of a start-up.

Things at this time were exciting — I was young, full of energy, and was living in the thick of Georgetown’s social scene. I had a serious boyfriend whose friends rubbed elbows with the likes of the Bush sisters; many a night I spent with them at Smithpoint after whispering the code of the night. As a small town girl from western Pennsylvania, this social scene never registered on my radar as a possibility. Every weekend was filled with excitement (and probably too much alcohol) and fun; followed up with brunch dates with my best friend and a trip the Pour House on Capitol Hill to watch the Steelers play on Sundays.

I eventually moved on from marketing and my boyfriend. I went to graduate school and started teaching in DC; I also moved to northern VA. At this point, I was in another serious relationship. This time, with someone who had a brother in-law in the music industry and a sister who was a creative genius. I had the world at my finger tips and a newly purchased home. I spent my weekend nights with my friends and boyfriend; scream-singing Journey and A-ha with a cocktail or two and a slice of jumbo slice to follow.

Fast forward to nine years ago: I sold my share of the house, moved to Boston with my dog, and eventually met my husband. Friday and Saturday nights were quickly changed from cocktails after work to ordering pizza with the kids; my weekend boozy brunches with friends became at-home brunches with the ‘egg-man’ and Beatles’ songs.

Last night, I’d say I hit the pinnacle of excitement that could take place in my adult life. No longer am I out until 4AM, partying in Georgetown; instead, I was asleep BY 8PM and wide-awake by 2:51AM… Oh, yes. The good life of exhaustion and homemade brunches and in-town festivals and walks for ice cream. This is the Saturday dream (less the exhaustion).

meals, sept 13-19

This weekend is starting off with a surprise little trip for the kids! My husband and the kids are going camping — so fun! I am going to head over during the day but return home each day. I know what you’re thinking: It’s a bummer someone has to stay back to keep the dog company 😉

Honestly, though, I am really looking forward to the weekend. We are going to make s’mores and it’s just going to be a blast. A nice little break in the back-to-school routine. My husband and I packed the kids each a book to read with some downtime, a horse-shoe game, a frisbee, and a football.

Last week’s rogue supermarket trip was really nice. I like the calmness of not having to plan everything. I did have to run to the store a few times this week to pick up a thing or two, but overall, I think I’m going to try to shop like this more often. I typically do my shopping on Thursdays, so that gives me Friday morning to look at my haul and figure out what we are going to eat for the week. It’s been nice cooking off the top of my head without following tons of recipes (though, we did get back to True Roots and Cravings last week).

We are going to keep things super simple for the weekend, since everything will be cooked either over a campfire or at the site (they have charcoal grills).

Friday: Hot dogs, carrots, and fruit. I figured that we’d want something simple while we set up the tent and we want to make sure we have time for a campfire and the s’mores that go along with it.

Saturday: For breakfast, we are going to do sausage, egg & cheese English muffins. We are testing out the dutch oven cooker we bought for camping this weekend and will use it for dinner when we make a batch of vegetable chili with s’mores to follow, of course.

Sunday: Same breakfast as the day before. We will be home by lunch and will do a fun little lineup for Sunday football of chips and salsa, homemade pizza, buffalo chicken dip and spinach-artichoke dip. I can’t wait!

Monday: We are back in the grind of life and work and school. I wanted to keep things easy so we are going to do pasta & zucchini with sauce and chicken sausage and salads.

Tuesday: Taco night with crunchy tacos, ground beef, refried beans, and beets. This is probably our favorite dinner of the week, honestly.

Wednesday: My husband is going to make his family favorite and ever so famous buffalo chicken salads (Pittsburgh style, with fries, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs). These are amazing.

Thursday: Black bean tacos with salad.

Having the kids make their own lunches and breakfasts has turned into, to put it ever so lightly, a nightmare. They ‘forget’ to eat breakfast most days and 11 literally packed himself a container of lettuce and nothing else one day; the next day, followed it up with a meat stick and popcorn… only. In an effort to make things super easy on everyone; lunches are going to be largely pre-made or sandwiches until 11 & 13 are better able to get themselves set up — this week, I grabbed meatballs, breakfast sausage (so they can finish the french toast bites), and things to make sunbutter sandwiches. I also grabbed two boxes of cereal bars and a box of applesauce, so there is something for my husband to keep in the car in case they forget breakfast.

My husband is going to try a new breakfast idea for the week with getting bell peppers, slicing them in half, and using the pepper to hold an egg, some quinoa, and ham. Hopefully, he likes this; we are always trying to find things that will work as a post-run breakfast after school drop-off. Lunches will be cauliflower and rice or quinoa bowls with chicken sausage, peppers.

My meals aren’t really planned during the week. I typically eat eggs for breakfast and salads for lunch but sometimes I grab something while out and about with 3, so we don’t really plan anything. This is something that’s nice about being home and not having to think about what we will have because we can always go to the store if we want something specific.

“threenager”

Three has been quite the age for us. We are in a season of life where all 3 does is argue — literally, about everything. Because I am with him all day, each day, I am really worn down by the incessant arguments. Sure, we’ve moved past the spite peeing but now that school is on the horizon, I think that his anxiety is kicking in and EVERYTHING is a battle: Getting dressed, using the bathroom before we go on a long car ride, eating, brushing his teeth.

I know that his anxiety is revving, and I try to talk about what school will look like. He is going three days a week for three hours each day. He starts on Monday and I’m hoping some of these behaviors fall by the wayside when he starts school and adjusts to his new routine.

It can be very challenging to remain patient through the minute-by-minute arguments, followed up by throwing-himself-on-the-ground tantrums. I have been giving myself tons of breaks throughout the day so that I can have some semblance of patience when dealing with these behaviors.

In addition to the anxiety, he has been fighting naps most days. Some days, he’s out so cold that he goes to the bathroom and doesn’t wake; most days, he just fights naps. I recognize that I can’t make him sleep, obviously, so my typical rule is that he do a quiet activity. Most days, he follows this rule and will relax in his bed with a few books. These are the days he tends to have better days; but then there are days when he scales his brother’s furniture (it’s all bolted) and plays with his things — he knows he’s not supposed to; he’s engaging in these behaviors out of spite and sometimes anger.

I can honestly say that there are days where I’ve felt like 3’s behaviors were going to break me. A few weeks ago, I texted my husband and told him needed to come back and work from home; he’s just left. We were in the throws of the third tantrum by 8AM and 11 & 13 were so tired they were just spinning around. (Keep in mind, we maintain pretty strict bedtime schedules, so we recognized everyone was run down — probably because we spent a lot of time at parks and the beach and just running around in the sun.)

So, here we are, the weekend before school starts and 3 is acting helpless — “can’t” put on his clothes or go to the bathroom or drink his water. He is a trooper, though: We’ve traveled a lot this summer and he’s a great flier and a great backseat driver in the car (“Oh, mommy, watch — that car isn’t paying attention … Mommy, there’s a red light”) — his backseat driving skills have only improved since switching him to forward facing — alas, once we return home, his behaviors kick back in.

Part of it, I think, is him exhausting himself trying to keep it all together while we are out and about and traveling to and fro; so, when we are home, he just can’t keep it together. He’s also had more appointments than usual with his care team; he weaned from thick liquids to thin and had several follow-ups as a result. This was a big deal for him and his health but also a big transition.

Regardless, it’s rough and it’s been weighing on me. I like our normal routines and I’m hoping that once school starts, he will feel safe in the environment and some of these behaviors will fall by the wayside. Until then, we will keep doing what we are doing — we give him a lot of choices (he chooses what snacks he wants; toothpaste; clothing). We try to give him as many choices as we can, which we’d hoped would make things easier for him but it sometimes feels that’s not the case. Last week, I took him shopping to pick out a backpack, which was very exciting for him (but again, I think it made his anxiety brew).

So, here we are in 3’s last week of summer break. We are hopeful that we can reel things back in and alleviate a lot of these behaviors sooner than later. Until then, you can find me sitting in silence in my room after copious hugs are given… happy to receive any positivity…