Tag Archives: friends & family

She Says… Vacay 2014

Ahhh, home. It’s good to be home.

No matter how much fun we have while we’re away… it’s always good to be home.

We skedaddled for a little vacay last week! I went from full throttle work to full throttle “closing the computer and leaving the phone turned off”. Didn’t think once about blogging or checking Facebook or anything more than a cursory glance at my personal inbox. Barely even Instagrammed or Tweeted, which is kind of unlike me.

It was, in a word, freeing. And relaxing. And fun. (Ok, that was 3 words). Not that my vacation couldn’t have been all of those things WITH the computer/phone connection, of course. I’m not one of the “you have to get rid of your phone in order to enjoy life” types of people; there’s a time and a place for all types of social interaction. But it did remove an element of “oh, I have to just do this one thing” from my day, and it felt good.

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The boys’ school is closed every year for the week of July 4th, so it has become our annual family vacation week. Since we’re still very much in the throes of scheduling our days around kids’ needs (naps, meals, snacks, bedtimes), I find it more comfortable to “vacation” somewhere that feels like home rather than an exotic locale where we’ll all be sleeping in the same hotel room or something equally as inconvenient.

And nothing feels more like home than… my sister’s home! As I’ve mentioned in the past, my 3 siblings and mom all live in the Delaware/Philly area, and my Dad still lives in Baltimore, where I grew up. I’m the only one who flew the coop to come up north, so all it takes for a real family reunion is for me to say, “We’re coming to visit!”. And that’s exactly what happened.

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It was a COUSIN PARTY.

- 6 kids under the age of 7
- 5 days
- under 1 roof

To say that we need a vacation from our vacation is an understatement. But it was a blast!

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The last time the bigger cousins saw Emmett, he was only 2 months old or so (for my little sister’s wedding last summer). This time they kept saying, “Can I hold him in my lap on the couch?” and I’d have to remind them that he’s in charge now. And he doesn’t sit for very long in anyone’s lap. He’s toddling and cruising everywhere… even despite all of the cousins picking him up, knocking him down and otherwise impeding his wobbly steps.

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Our week was chock full of playtime, playtime and more playtime. We took 1 field trip to a nearby potato chip factory (fun!), and 1 day trip down to Baltimore to see one of my dearest friends, but other than that we stuck around my sister’s house and ate and played and ate and played and ate and played some more. It takes a lot of carseats to get a group of this many people out the door!

Biggest perk of vacationing there? THE POOL.

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Benjamin took an underwater camera and captured some awesome footage of our little fishies. I’ll share that once it is edited.

Thanks to following his big cousins around, Owen learned how to hold his breath underwater and REALLY SWIM! We just started swim lessons before vacation and when we went back on Monday his teacher said we need to move him up a level or two because he can actually swim. What a difference a week makes! Perhaps he WILL be the next Michael Phelps.

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This year marked the very 1st 4th of July when we let Owen stay awake for the firework festivities. I was nervous about how he would react to a bedtime several hours later than normal, and the loud noises and unpredictability of the fireworks themselves (as one gets after having a “spirited” child for nearly 4 years!), but as it turned out, he impressed me yet again.

He stayed awake, acted like an angel waiting for fireworks, was mesmerized by the display of lights (and shielded from the noise by Aunt Kim’s magical headphones — GENIUS) and went right to bed when we got home.

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Thankfully my sister’s husband offered to stay home so Emmett could sleep right through the excitement. Hallelujah.

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As if staying up for fireworks wasn’t enough for one day, we also went to a parade! Again, the headphones were key for the sensory sensitive.

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It was also the first year I felt comfortable with handing my wild child a lit, burning stick.

Once again, it went fine. Better than fine. It was fantastic.

Pajamas + glow sticks + sparklers + fireworks = best night ever.

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We capped off the almost week-long festivities with our annual crab feast to honor our Baltimore roots. If you’ve never had Baltimore crabs… you’re missing out.

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Even Emmett thinks so.

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We may have been pushing our luck on this one, but we closed out the crab feast with post-dinner swimming (when it’s usually bath time), s’mores and setting off fireworks of our own right in the back yard (aka another very late night). Once again, I was thankful to be able to put Emmett to sleep so he never knew what he was missing, and I could enjoy the fun without a squirmy baby in my arms.

 

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It was a week of firsts, especially for Owen.

  • First time swimming underwater and coming up for air in between
  • First time staying up super late and partying with the big kids
  • First time having s’mores (we found gluten free graham crackers!)
  • First time seeing fireworks
  • First time doing sparklers
  • First time LIGHTING fireworks
  • And many, many more memories

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It was a very happy and full week. But nothing like a trip away to make you appreciate being home.

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Weekend Adventure: Part Deux

Our spontaneous Newport trip two weeks ago was so much fun that we couldn’t resist another friend’s impromptu invitation to join her family on the Cape last Saturday.

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Emily is a friend I met in mom group when our babies were just 6 weeks old. These two have been playing together for nearly 4 years already!

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The drive there was… slow. It took about 2.5 hours when we were expecting 1.5-2, thanks to a couple of accidents and general Cape traffic. I think I’ve figured out our happy car ride limit for the moment, and it’s just about 1.5 hours — that last hour wasn’t the highlight of the trip, that’s for sure!

But the second we arrived to a perfect, blue sky day, all was forgiven.

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Even Emmett had a buddy to play with, and we noticed them noticing each other for the first time. We handed them some plastic measuring cups to bang around and they were happy as clams. Happy, easygoing Baby #2′s.

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As a baby, Owen’s beach experiences have been hit or miss. He doesn’t like the feeling of sand, or the way it gets all over his body (I can relate). Even last summer the crash of the waves was too loud and the sun was too hot. He just wasn’t comfortable.

But this year? This year he couldn’t get enough. The water! The sand! The rocks! The crabs! The seashells! He was all over it.

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Emmett, however, took to the beach like a fish to water. He got right down in the sand and squished it in his chubby fists and licked it off his fingers and splashed in the shallow water. He was in heaven.

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The drive home was better than the drive there, as the kids fell asleep as soon as we closed the car doors (after a quick stop for ice cream, of course!). Post-beach naps are the best.

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Despite how much fun we’ve had with our little weekend adventures, Benjamin and I are both shooting for less driving this weekend. Time to explore some of our local summertime faves.

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Summahtime, my friends. Looks like this.

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She Says… Weekending

This weekend was like a breath of fresh air.

It was pure, summer fun.

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Generally our weekends are booked up with playdates and playground trips and sometimes errands that need to be run. We have an activity for most morning and afternoon blocks, and spend the rest of our time hanging out in our pj’s, going for walks/scooter rides or swinging on the swingset at home as a family. But miraculously, when a college friend of mine asked if we could come down to his parents’ house in Newport, RI for a visit last Friday, we had a completely open day to do so.

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When Owen was a baby, the thought of driving anywhere over 30 minutes made my stomach clench up — he was not very flexible with his schedule and car rides almost always ended in puking. But, thankfully, Emmett tends to go with the flow quite easily and doesn’t mind riding in the car at all (and even sleeps!) and Owen has grown to be much more tolerant of car rides and adventures, so we were able to easily drive down during Emmett’s morning nap.

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We arrived to a beautiful home right on the cliff walk, a positively elegant spread of mimosas and quiche, and a small group of friends with no agenda other than enjoying the weather and the view. Aside from my friend and his husband (who have a 4 month old), no one had kids. Which meant we were automatically “those people” with the rowdy kids. No matter, though. Everyone seemed entertained by to tolerate Owen’s antics and a great time was had by all.

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Owen relaxed just like a little big person, lounging in the hot tub and strolling the cliff walk.

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NOT! He splashed and “swam” in the hot tub and hitched a ride on my friend’s shoulders and whined the rest of the way on the walk. But it was cute anyway.

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When we got home, the long weekend continued just the way Memorial Day should. Warm sun, a cool breeze and lots of time playing. Just playing. Full of hours of “water slide” with Owen’s new best friend, the 8 year old boy who lives across the street.

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I didn’t open up my computer once over the weekend. It was glorious.

(Which, consequently, is exactly the opposite of what has happened since I went back to work on Tuesday morning. I’ve been buried in work on my computer 24/7 except when spending mornings/evenings with the kids. It’s brutal. Hence the quiet blogspace.)

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Is there any better mark of an awesome day than dirty baby feet?

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I think not.

She Says… Mother’s Day, Times Two

Even though my Mother’s Day started and ended with cleaning up puke with my bare hands, I daresay it was one of the loveliest, sweetest, most special days for me and my little family. If you had asked the pre-kids me if that was even possible, I would have said, “NO WAY”.

But it is.

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First things first, I have these two beautiful baby faces to gaze into all day. And Benjamin’s cute face, of course. And Schnitzel’s cute, furry dog face. It doesn’t get much better than that.

I adore these three (and the dog!) so hard that sometimes it seems that nothing else in the world matters.

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I remember on my first Mother’s Day (with a kid outside of my belly) that I write about how having a baby had changed me. It transformed me. It made me a better “me”. More understanding, more thoughtful, more gentle, more patient, more present, more organized. After that, I kind of thought the transformation was complete. The shift from pre-kids “me” to post-kids “me” was made.

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But now, on my first Mother’s Day with two sweet babies outside of my belly, I can honestly say I have grown into myself in a way I didn’t expect, even three short years ago.

Motherhood has seeped into every nook and cranny of my heart and blown up like a balloon until I thought I might explode from the power of it. I have felt the unmistakable bliss of true, unconditional love. Twice. I have felt the overwhelming (yet futile) motherly urge to protect my boys from unavoidable sadness and the familiar pain of unkind words. I have felt the turn of the sharp knife of guilt in my belly, making me doubt the tough decisions that I have made as a parent. I have felt the impenetrable bubble of my family’s laughter while sitting around our dining room table, laughing until we’ve forgotten which private jokes we were even laughing about in the first place. I have spoken words in what feels like a secret language with my boys, knowing that they know what I mean to say even when I can’t find the words to say it out loud. I have felt the firmness of their little heads under my chin as I cuddle and rock and sway and hold, long after they thought they needed me to. I have locked eyes with my partner, my husband, above the boys’ heads, acknowledging the perfection that we have created and how lucky we are to be able to bask in it every day.

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Motherhood has continued to change me every day since that very first Mother’s Day.

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It has given me the confidence to trust my instincts. To listen to my heart. To NOT listen to those who are not worth listening to. To know that I’m raising my boys to be kind and generous and to give really good hugs. To know that I’m trying my hardest to support them and help them grow while respecting their individuality.

Being a mother has made me grow into the person I always wanted to be, even when I didn’t even know it yet.

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The journey is far from over. And maybe Mother’s Day will be my personal, yearly marker to take stock of how far we’ve come, as a family. How far I’ve come, as a mother. And to look ahead, to the future. To all of the changes yet to come. To all of the joys my family has yet to experience. To the sadness and the pain that we wish we could be spared, but alas, we cannot. It’s all ahead of us. And we’ll move forward as a unit, my three boys and I. And I know that we will continue to change. To grow. To be better.

Every year, I hope to be more “me” than the year before. And I hope the same for my boys.

She Says… Easter Bunny Dreams

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I’ve always been a little bit on the fence about creating and maintaining the myths of things like the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up believing in all of these, and more, and I don’t think that I’m any worse for it. But there is something… strange… to me about telling your kids lie after lie to keep up this farce.

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To Benjamin and I, Santa is worth it. Santa is the pinnacle of the magic of the holiday season. The Tooth Fairy we haven’t decided about yet (we have a few more years before that milestone hits), but I’m thinking we’ll spin that imaginary web as well. But the Easter Bunny? That one just seems downright strange to us. A gigantic bunny hippity hopping into your house and delivering a basket? Perhaps no weirder than a dude in a red suit coming down your chimney, but Benjamin and I agreed that it seems unnecessary to lie about this one too.

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At our house, Easter baskets are from Mommy and Daddy, and the big bunny who we happened to see last weekend is just a person dressed in a costume for Easter.

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I think the whole “person dressed in a costume” conversation is why Owen insisted that he wear his frog costume after the Easter egg hunt (see below). Perhaps in our effort to keep Easter a little less lie-oriented, we confused Easter and Halloween. Ha!

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Maybe if Owen was a different kid, one who reveled in stories of make-believe or didn’t try to “figure everything out”, we might have been more likely to tell him some tall tales. But this lie just seemed like more work than it was worth.

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Nevertheless, Owen and Emmett were both tickled to come downstairs and find their baskets. We opted not to do an egg hunt at home, since we always go to Grammy and Grampy’s house for the hunt in the afternoon, so we had a nice, quiet morning playing with Easter toys in matching monster pajamas.

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In the afternoon we had a nice early Easter dinner with part of Benjamin’s family and the boys did the annual egg hunt. I think this is the last year Emmett will be placated with “finding” just one egg on his own. Owen is going to have some competition next year!

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Owen loved being just like the adults this year, with his own little pre-dinner mocktail and blazer/tie combination (that he picked out himself, without fussing at all).

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He even asked Grampy to put on a tie so they could match (copycatting again!).

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You know, just like the adults… with a frog suit on.

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Easter Bunny or no Easter Bunny, we had a sweet day celebrating with family.

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And everyone was pooped at the end.

 

Side note: Apparently we’ve really gotten our money’s worth with Owen’s “fancy clothes”. That red tie was featured on Easter 2012 (HOW CUTE IS LITTLE OWEN!) and the blazer on Easter 2013! I think they’ll both need to be replaced for 2015, but perhaps Emmett with be big enough for the tie by then…

She Says… Brotherly Love

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As one of four kids, I know the joy of outnumbering your parents. I know the silliness that ensues when your parents leave you alone long enough to come up with a hilarious (and likely dangerous) new game. I know the late night giggles and inside jokes and choreographing dances together on the back porch.

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I know the yearning to be bigger and do the “big kid things” my older sister and brother could do before me. I know the pride of getting to do those “big kid things” before my little sister. I know the way good news grows exponentially with each sibling that I tell. I know the way each one can comfort me and support me, in their own way, when I need it the most. And I know the way that sibling relationships can blossom into real friendships in adulthood.

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So I always knew that I wanted to have more than one child.

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In fact, anyone who knows me in real life has probably heard me say that I am one of those crazy women who adores being pregnant and loves the baby stage so much that I would have a million kids. Ok, maybe not a million, but certainly a few more than we have now. (Of course there are lots of things that come into play when planning a family, so our family may very well be complete with these 2 wild and crazy, beautiful boys.)

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Watching Owen and Emmett delight in each other and grow up side by side, hand in hand, for the last 9 months, has been even more powerful than loving each of them individually. They are greater than the sum of their parts. They will have each other in a way that neither Benjamin nor I will ever be able to match.

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Emmett is still a few months from saying any intelligible words, but no words are needed for us to know how he feels about his big brother. His adoring gaze says it all. His little chuckle at everything Owen does. The way his eyes dry and his face brightens when Owen makes a silly face, no matter what caused his tears.

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The way he tolerates (and even enjoys, despite me saying, “Emmett doesn’t like that! Please stop”) Owen’s manhandling and bear hugs and not-always-so-gentle-pats on the head. The way he crawls after Owen, his little diaper butt swaying as quickly as it can, to get all up in his brother’s business. He’s the peanut gallery. The sidekick. The wrestling partner.

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Owen dotes on his little bro in a way I could not have even imagined. I knew there would be love, but I expected frustration and impatience and jealousy. I knew there would be hand-holding and head-kissing, but I expected hitting and pushing too. I knew there would be times that they would play together, but I didn’t expect Owen to ask for Emmett almost all the time. To call for him when he’s crying, because he wants to give him a hug. To proudly pull his friends over to show Emmett off, even though they’ve met him a hundred times before. To comfort Emmett so sweetly and gently when he is sad.

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It nearly bursts my heart.

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Sure, there are surreptitious elbows to move Emmett out of the way and sneaky toy grabs when he thinks I’m not looking. There are times when Owen will plop himself in my lap simply because he can tell that Emmett is headed in that direction and he wants to claim his turf. There are times when a sweet, brotherly hug stealthily turns into a body slam… and not in a good way.

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But those times are fewer and farther between than I ever thought would be the case, especially with an attention-hog like Owen. And hey, those times build character too, right? For both kids.

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There are many things that Owen got that Emmett didn’t. The classic and unavoidable lot of the second child.

But there’s one thing Owen didn’t have until Emmett came along.

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A brother.

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And I’m pretty sure that is the best gift we’ll ever give either one.

She Says… Olympic Gold

We have Olympic fever up in this hizouse.

But I’m still a stickler for screen time, so Owen hasn’t really gotten to watch much of it. (Benjamin and I, however, have spent most nights clicking away at our laptops while binge-watching any and all events. We sure know how to have a good time, eh?). Nevertheless, Olympic fever is contagious, y’all.

So we’ve come up with some new events to occupy ourselves through all of the unrelenting snowstorms.

She Says… On Being Gone

Back before I became a mother, I remember hearing a new mom friend talking about how she felt like she was carrying all of the weight of taking care of their newborn. How her husband didn’t even get up at night while they nursed. That will never be us. I thought. That is so unfair. Fast forward a few years and two babies and not only have I completely changed my perspective on sharing the midnight feedings, I’ve also come to an entirely new understanding of the words fair and equal as they pertain to marriage. Specifically marriage when you are parents.

The old me thought that fair and equal meant splitting things down the middle. You take one feeding, I’ll take the next one. You take a night “off” to go play poker, I get a night “off” to do whatever I want too. You do the dishes, I fold the laundry. You buy yourself some new clothes, I get to add a few new pieces to my wardrobe too. In little ways, we kept score. Our relationship was built on equality, and that was important to me. We did equal “work” and shared the load. Gender/income didn’t dictate who wore the pants. We both did.

Equality is no less important to me now, but it doesn’t look quite like what I thought it would. Equality, these days, sometimes looks like me “doing it all” instead of “having it all”. Sometimes it looks like me schlepping both kids to and from school AND working full time AND cooking dinner AND remembering to buy a present for the birthday party this weekend AND packing lunches for the next day before falling into bed at night. And the only way that looks like anything resembling equal or fair is that sometimes it is Benjamin doing all of those things.

In the past couple of years Benjamin’s travel has ramped up quite a bit, and I have found myself at home alone more than I would like. Although I travel some for work (previously about once every couple months, usually to relatively close places like New York or Chicago, but once in a while a bigger trip like Paris, London or Munich), when we are apart, he is almost always the one “gone” and I am the one “home”. Sometimes this doesn’t feel fair or equal at all.

But then there are times, like this week, when I traveled to New York for work. I slept in a hotel for three nights and didn’t have to wake up, pulse racing, when I heard a cry from down the hall. I enjoyed dinners at lovely restaurants, sipped wine at a jazz club in the West Village and slurped oysters with old friends. I worked hard during the day and wasn’t constantly thinking about daycare calling or when I had to rush out of the office to pick up the kids or how I only had one earring on since I was holding the baby when I got dressed and didn’t have enough hands to put the other one on. I missed my family, of course, but I relished in the feeling of being the one who was “gone”. Benjamin, on the other hand, woke up to the 5am cries. He fed and bathed and diapered and kissed. He shoveled a foot of snow while still getting the kids to daycare on time and getting himself to work.

What the old me didn’t realize is that having a fair or equal relationship isn’t about keeping track of how many travel days each of us logs, or a tally of the chores. It’s about doing whatever needs to be done for as long as it needs doing, and knowing that my husband will be there to do it when the tables are turned. We may not do the same job all of the time, or even come anywhere close to splitting it down the middle, but we are partners.

The “workload” of our life shifts back and forth between us like playing catch with a huge sack of hot potatoes. One of us will inevitably hold that bag longer than the other sometimes, but it’s all fair and equal in the end if we know the other one is there, arms open and ready to catch it when it gets too hot.

She Says… Giving Thanks

I know, I know, Thanksgiving was last week. But I decided to spend my long weekend relishing in my family rather than sitting in front of the computer posting pictures. And then with the excitement of the nursery “reveal” and Uh Oh Pasghettio giveaway (if you haven’t entered, go do it! You have until Sunday night to win a super cute set of wall art prints) I didn’t get to it. So here we are.

As I mentioned last week, I didn’t get to the grocery store until the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving. Thankfully I got everything I needed and didn’t have to fight anybody for the plump little 15 pound turkey I snagged. Win!

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I worked from home all day Wednesday, though, and since work was so crazy I didn’t get a chance to start prepping or cooking until Thursday morning. Thank goodness for family who offered to make some of the dishes. (And thank goodness for having 2 ovens to cook in!).

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We spent the morning hanging out in our pajamas and watching the Macy’s Day parade. It is honestly one of my most favorite things to watch. Ever. Even trumps those darn Kardashians that I seem to end up watching whenever Benjamin is gone. I am pretty sure the parade is where I first fell in love with Broadway/musical theater. And that’s definitely where my love affair with the Rockettes began.

Watching it with Owen and seeing him mesmerized by the choreography and costumes and delight in the floats and the balloons made me get all verklempt.

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We hung out with both sides of Benjamin’s family. Very thankful to have family nearby to celebrate with (and grandparents who will entertain the littles while I cooked away).

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Food was cooked (all gluten free!)…

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wine was drunk (drank? drunken? drinked?)…

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food was devoured…

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bellies were full.

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The boys even got their first taste of Hanukkah (Thanksgivukkah?) as we lit candles with some of the Jewish side of the family.

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Despite the busy-ness of the season, we have a LOT to be thankful for.

 

She Says… Last Minute Lady

It’s not like me to wait until the last minute to do things.

But right now, between crazy work, crazy kids, having a crazy hardworking husband and being crazy enough to say yes to a million other things, I’m struggling.

Little Miss Usually Prepared just found herself at the grocery store at 8am the day before Thanksgiving with a list a mile long (but really mainly I NEED A 15lb TURKEY AND IT HAS TO BE FRESH BECAUSE THERE’S NO TIME TO THAW A FROZEN ONE). Yeah. I’m hosting Turkey Day tomorrow and haven’t had time to give it more than a passing thought.

I had just enough time to run the kids to school, run to the grocery store to spend my whole paycheck on all of the fixins for a delicious Thanksgiving meal, run back home and run my breast pump during an early morning conference call. In all my unshowered, yoga pants-ed glory. Glamorous, eh?

Luck was on my side, though, and I found a perfect, fresh, gluten free turkey who was just the right size. I even scored some deals on Thanksgiving essentials (maybe it pays to be a Last Minute Lady once in a while?). I think we’re going to be fine. I’m thankful that time is the main thing I’m short on right now — first world problems, I know.

And now here I sit, pumping (again) and scrambling to get as much work done as possible before the long weekend. Taking a moment to remember that all of this scrambling is for a good reason. That Thanksgiving isn’t really about the turkey. It’s about taking time away from the running and the scrambling to be thankful for all that we have.

This day will always remind me of the day before Thanksgiving in 2010 when I learned I was pregnant with Owen (who is one of the two greatest things I have to be thankful for this year!). And last year, when I was newly pregnant with Emmett but not yet sharing the news (we finally spilled the beans here).

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Hope you have your turkeys already… the grocery store was already a madhouse at 8am.