My Little Road Warrier AKA Road Trip 2010!

As usual I have not updated in quite some time and as usual I accept the fact that I have very few, if any readers and this documentation is more for me than anything.

We just got home after an 11 day road trip with an almost 2 year old. I have heard the comments already, especially from the people who, before we left, told us point blank that we were crazy. I am so pleased to say that crazy or not, Andrew is a total trooper and born traveler.

Day 1: It started on Thursday the 15th of July. We spent the early morning packing and loading the car, A’s Prius, with all our stuff. We stopped at my mom’s house for Andrew’s swimming lesson and then we were on our way. Our first stop was Gainesville to go to the ever important Starbucks but then it was back on the road, headed north to the town of Moultrie, GA. Why Moultrie you ask? Well, don’t worry, I was asking the same thing. A’s company works with another company that is based there. While A had a meeting, Andrew and I checked out the Dollar Store and Walmart. Our trip was off to a blazing start :-/ Just when we had worn out our welcome in the toy department I got the text that the meeting was over. Can I just say that the Disney Pixar marking team has done a thorough job of placing Buzz and Woody on every single item known to man. Yes, thanks for that.

In typical A fashion the meeting was not entirely over so we killed 45 more minutes playing in the conference room before hitting the road again. By that time it was close to dinner time. I’d packed a cooler of fruit and sandwiches so we could avoid nasty fast food which we no longer eat. It was actually nice to keep moving and not have to really stop and since we were in the Prius, we really did not have to stop very frequently. That night we stayed in Savannah, GA.

Day 2: With the intention of spending some time sight seeing, we woke early the next morning and headed straight for the historic district of Savannah.

A and I visited there about 5 years ago when we were on our way home from the “Rescue Mission” (A getting out of the Air Force and moving home). We loved the city, especially a rather large candy store right along the river. We enjoyed chocolate covered marshmallows while Andrew had his first taste of chocolate anything besides cake. He got a chocolate covered graham cracker which is where I realized that traveling is a time for spoiling children and while it may not have been the best precedent to set, we sure loved watching him eat that chocolate with the biggest grin on his face!

Savanna is a beautiful city but it is definitely not stroller friendly, especially the historic part. There are no ramps, and many doorways were too narrow to push our not that big umbrella stroller. Plus, pushing a stroller over cobbled streets is next to impossible so we did not stay long in the historic area. After reading some less than stellar reviews, we decided not to wait for a table at Paula Deens restaurant. Instead we found a small cafe a few blocks away and had a delicious and much less expensive lunch. Then it was off to Charleston.

Trying on hats at a shop in Savannah (I didn’t have the heart to tell him these were not intended for little boys!)

In Charleston we drove around for a while looking for a place we’d been 5 years before. Turns out the art show we were looking for is only 2 weeks a year and we’d missed it. We ended up not doing too much sight seeing because it seemed that most shops carried the same merchandise. Dinner at Bubba Gumps and then we hit the road again. Although we did not travel many miles that second day, it felt like we were in the car forever. Andrew ran around for a while in the park along the river which is where I took these pictures. We stopped for the night in Lumberton, NC.

Day 3: We got up early again but this time, with the intent of driving straight until we reached Alexandria, VA. Having driven from Florida up the east coast now more times than I can count, I must say that Virginia and North Carolina are annoyingly long states.

(Side Story) One time while A was still living in NJ, I went up to visit him after Christmas for a week. We left very early in the morning and hit a huge amount of traffic on the way. It was pretty slow going but somewhere in the northern part of South Carolina traffic came to a complete stop. After going only a mile in 1 hour, we decided to get off I-95. We pulled off at a gas station where we were informed that the accident was in VIRGINIA. That’s right, traffic was backed up for about 30 miles in SC, ALL OF NC, and 12 miles into VA. Insane or what?

So back to the story…. that day was an Elmo day. Thank goodness we were armed with 6 DVDs of Elmo’s World which if you’re not a parent yet I highly suggest you invest in these DVDs. They create total silence in a child and that’s a relief considering that Andrew literally talked THE ENTIRE DRIVE (except for when Elmo was on). He’s really progressed in his language skills and speaks in complete sentences a majority of the time. He is also understandable about 90% of the time so it’s fun but quite exhausting since he does not seem to appreciate quiet quite as much as his mommy and daddy do.

We finally arrived in Alexandria in the early evening after traveling over 1100 miles and watching 18 episodes of Elmo. We got the keys to the apartment and unloaded. It was a very nice place with 2 bedrooms and 2 large bathrooms. The only problem is– no TV! Now we’re not huge TV watchers but I do like to keep up with current events. Plus, we’d brought very few toys and I was hoping to get some relief letting Andrew watch a little TV but that was not to be found. We stopped by Target to pick up a few essentials and then found a great shopping/dining area within walking distance of the apartment. We ate at this fantastic restaurant called Delias. We’ll definitely be going back there next time– I highly recommend it!

Day 4: Was a very exciting day!! See, I have been part of 2 mom’s groups for quite some time now. The first was a TTC group (Trying to Conceive for you male readers) and the second was a Due Date group. I’ve become very close to several people on both groups and had the opportunity to meet one of the lovely ladies that I have gotten to know so well over the last few years. We were honored to be invited to her daughter’s baby naming ceremony. I was very excited to meet my friend in person but also to experience something new and different. The ceremony was absolutely beautiful.

After we left the ceremony, we headed back into DC. Now I’ll go off again on a little bit of a tangent but if you know me you know that I love living here in FL. This is my home and where I grew up and where I have always wanted to raise my family. But if I had to move anywhere else in the country and be okay with it, even happy to live there– it would be Washington DC. I developed a love for the city (and I know this is going to sound weird) because of my love for the TV show The West Wing. That show, so beloved we still watch it on DVD, made the city and the job of working in politics seem glamorous, romantic even. What was wonderful about driving directly through the city on a bright Sunday morning was that I felt we got to see it for what it truly is without all the people and hustle and bustle and there are few places in this country as rich in history and significance and beauty as Washington DC. So there we were, driving right to the middle part where all the monuments are and we stopped and parked and went to the Smithsonian where we met up with A’s childhood friend and his wife. I am always nervous about meeting new people but these two were totally awesome and I enjoyed their company instantly. The friend is from the area and guided us through the National Museum of Natural History like our own private tour guide. Andrew LOVED the museum from the start. What more could a little boy ask for than giant animals and dinosaur bones, plus, lots of opportunities to touch. And I felt this overwhelming sense of joy in watching him experience all of that for the first time. I see now how terribly important it is for a child to travel and see different parts of the world and I am certain, absolutely certain, that there is no better age to start than when they are young toddlers. Sure, it’s more work for you as a parent but my goodness watching him learn and absorb everything brought tears to my eyes.

Something strange happened while we were there though. Two separate people came up to us, said nothing but pointed their camera directly at Andrew and took his picture. The first time I thought the person was taking a picture of an exhibit but when I turned around it was just a door way. The second time there was no mistaking that the person photographed Andrew. Both of the photographers were Asian. After talking it over with my mom we thought that perhaps they just wanted a picture of an American looking boy and you can’t get much more American looking than my little guy. I guess I was just a little more shocked than anything, I mean, here’s this whole museum and you choose to take a picture of my child? I figure, they COULD have asked first… but maybe didn’t speak English.

After walking the whole museum we walked across the Mall to the Air and Space Museum. I have a memory of visiting DC when I was 13 and I thought I went to this particular museum but when we got there I realized I had been remembering something else. I still don’t know what we saw but we did enjoy the museum very much. We ate dinner at a lovely restaurant which, sadly, I do not remember the name. I’d recommend it, even though they did mess up my order– the food was still excellent.

Day 5: First day on my own. A met up with some of his business associates and they drove him where he needed to be that morning. With no toys and no TV, I loaded Andrew in the car and drove out to Reston, VA where a friend from my mom’s group lives. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to get together but I figured it was as good a place as any to bring Andrew. We started at the Barnes and Noble where he played with the trains in the kids section while I figured out how we would spend the rest of the day. Then we went and ate lunch together and I realized that he’s very good company and will be even more so when he’s just a little bit older. After lunch we went to visit my friend and her two beautiful sons, the oldest is only a few days older than Andrew. When we arrived he was sleeping but Andrew sure enjoyed playing with his toys. Later when he woke up, the boys were introduced and they seemed to hit it off pretty quickly. We went to another Air and Space Museum out near Dulles International that was much less crowded and provided plenty of space for the boys to run around and imitate each other which was hilarious to watch! Both mommies tried in vain to get a picture of them together but these two are very active little boys and did not stop or slow down for even a second.

Around 5 it was time for us to head back and I got my first true taste of Beltway traffic and quickly reconsidered my desire to live in the area. If it weren’t bad enough that it was my first time driving there, AND it being on the Beltway, AND most of the lanes being under construction and the GPS not being quite so clear with the directions but there was also a torrential downpour that made it next to impossible to see out the window. The whole time I prayed, “Please don’t let me die, Please don’t let me kill Andrew”. It was white knuckle all the way. I’m sure it took a few years off my life. We finally made it to where we were picking A up from work… all the way from Reston, VA to Clinton, MD took us nearly 2 hours. It probably should have taken about 45 minutes but what time of day that would be possible exactly I am not sure. Maybe 2am? Dinner that night was at a place called PotBellies which had pretty good sandwiches but nothing to write home about. The chocolate chip cookie however was AWESOME.

Day 6: Was a day I was most looking forward to. The plan was to visit a place called At Play Cafe with four other August Mommies. I was so excited!! Up to that point I had been nervous about meeting so many people I’d never met before. There is always that fear that the person you expect to meet will be totally different but my fears had been eased the day before after meeting E who turned out to be every bit as sweet and awesome as she comes across on our board. E and three other mommies were there and they were all just the sweetest people. Their children are SUPER cute too! It was SO neat to see Andrew interact with all his age mates. They played at this little cafe while the moms had coffee and watched them play. Andrew has never experienced anything like it but he did wonderfully well, checking about every 15 minutes to see that I was still there and then running off the play like a kid in a giant toy store.

August 08 Mommies

After the kids were worn out, 3 moms and 3 little ones went out for a pizza lunch. It was hard to leave that day because it was simply so enjoyable. Thankfully, we left a little earlier and the traffic was not as bad as we made our way across the Beltway again to Andrews AFB. Dinner Tuesday night was at the apartment because A had a business dinner to attend. Andrew and I read books and ate PBJ sandwiches and after he went to bed I had my first crack at a computer in 6 days and it was, well, like crack. Ahhh computer!

Day 7: Wednesday A needed the car so Andrew and I decided to brave the metro. I had studied up on everything the night before and planned our route. I felt fairly confident we could find it. The plan was to meet J, who’s baby naming we’d attended the Sunday prior. I packed the backpack with everything we could need, loaded Andrew in the stroller and set off for the Metro station. I hate feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing but worse, I hate LOOKING like it. I’m afraid it makes me an easy target and it made me even more nervous having Andrew with me so I went slowly and tried to make it look like I knew what I was doing. Thankfully, A did a good job of describing the ticket machines so I figured it out without looking too clueless. On to the train and we were on our way.

At first Andrew was in complete awe of this new experience. While walking up he immediately exclaimed “Monorail! See Mickey Mouse!” Well that’s a Florida child for ya, always thinking trains lead to Mickey Mouse. I explained we were not headed to see The Mouse but to see Pandas at the zoo instead. He did well on the metro but then came the tricky transfer which made me so nervous I was sweating and shaking. I grabbed the bag, the stroller and his hand so tightly I’m surprised he didn’t resist. There we were on this dark platform surrounded by gobs of people (isn’t that city EVER quiet?) and going up escalators, down stairs, all over the place until we found our next train. It was such a relief to get on and know we were headed the right direction only Andrew disagreed. He was not thrilled to be back on the train and started to yell “Get off train!” Thankfully we didn’t have very far to go. Little did I realize the zoo was another half mile walk uphill! Ha! We did make it and we met up with J and her tiny precious daughter. We explored the zoo and chatted about all types of things. Andrew had a ball looking at all the different animals. His favorite was the tiger who we found sleeping in total cat style on its back with its paws in the air. Andrew shouted “Wake up Tiger! Go swimming!” expressing his desire to see the tiger swim in the moat. I couldn’t stop cracking up over this. Needless to say, the tiger did not oblige.

On our way out we stopped at the store and I decided it was time to find Andrew something else to play with. I found some pretty nice quality little plastic animals and picked out the three he’d expressed as being his favorite animals– the tiger, the panda and the elephant. The entire way back– from the exit of the zoo all the way to the apartment, while walking and riding and transferring and riding some more and walking again he held that tiger so tightly in his hand you would have had to use some real effort to pry the thing out. I don’t think $4.99 has ever made him so happy!

When we got back we showered off the disgustingness of the metro and waited for A to get back so we could have dinner with K and M, two great friends from UF! Unfortunately, our plans went awry when the traffic was so bad that A had to cut through the city and took nearly 2 hours to make a drive that even at that time of day usually only takes 15 minutes. K and M drove over to us from Rockville and we ate dinner at a Tapas restaurant in Old Town. It was my first experience with Tapas and it was very good!

Day 8: Another day to meet new people! This time we headed out to Woodbridge, VA to spend some time with two mom friends from earlier in the week and a new mom friend who we had not met in person yet. K and her 5 amazing children including her youngest who was only 10 days old at the time, met us at IKEA and we enjoyed lunch. I was particularly excited to meet K because she is from FL and is a Gator fan! Plus, her daughter is named the exact same name that I hope to someday give to a daughter should I ever be blessed to have more children. I feel a bit like a broken record to continue saying we had a wonderful time but it was true. I so rarely feel such complete satisfaction when doing anything at all but it was a truly enjoyable afternoon.

That afternoon Andrew finally took a nap. Yes, if you’re counting this was the first real nap that was not in a carseat or stroller since we left Tampa the week before. Poor guy! We went that evening to pick up A and I took some pictures of Andrew in front of the sign that reads “Welcome to Andrews AFB”. It was there that I got the idea of doing Andrew’s future big kid bedroom with an airplane theme. The picture came out pretty cute too! I think I’ll use it πŸ™‚

That evening we went back down to Old Town and had dinner at a little deli called Bittersweet. They had GREAT sandwiches and sweets and gigantic cups of lemonade! I’ll admit though that by that point, I was really dragging and nearing complete exhaustion.

Day 9: Last day in the city! We took the train again this time meeting the 11th and final friend on this visit. D and I met years and years ago but this was the first time we got to meet and I’m so glad that we did! She is super sweet and helped me brave the metro with Andrew for a second time that week. We did not have as much luck the second time though as we missed our stop on the train and ended up having to walk an extra couple of blocks which in the long run wasn’t that big of a deal except DC was having a MAJOR heat wave and I’m sure the temp was over 100 degrees! We ended up eating lunch at a place appropriately named The West Wing Cafe which was fun because we both share a love of the TV show. The place had deli sandwiches just the way I like them! We ate and made our way to the National Museum of American History. I’m sad to say Andrew did not enjoy this one as much as he did the others but I sure enjoyed it and I’m pretty sure D did too! Seeing things like Lincolns top hat and Michelle Obama’s Inaugural gown, along with Kermet the Frog and thousands of other things that make up our history was pretty darn cool!

An Original Dumbo

Andrew fell asleep in the stroller while we were walking around.

I guess I was not the only one who was complete exhausted! Finally, we finished up at the museum and headed back to Alexandria. I’d packed, washed everything in the apartment to get it ready for its next occupants, and then showered us both. We loaded the cooler with more fruit and sandwiches and loaded the car with everything. The we headed north to Annapolis where we drove around the Naval Academy and took some cute pictures of Andrew at the place he’s “not allowed to go”.

Then we ate the most amazing dinner at a place called Chart House. I guess at this point there can be no denying that we had eaten out quite a bit. Back at home we don’t eat out nearly as much as we used to be having had several meals out during the course of the week we approached the host stand and Andrew starts his list… “Crayons? Paper? Highchair? Chicken? Broccoli? Apple Juice?” He had both of us as well as all 5 hosts cracking up as he placed his entire order right then and there. The restaurant was hands down the best meal we ate while we were there. The ambiance was delightful and the food incredible. A got the salad bar and gave Andrew his first taste of caviar which I think is probably another bad precedent to set but oh well! They also had this amazing desert that puts the Chili’s Molten Chocolate Cake (a former favorite) to absolute shame! It was SO GOOD! That evening we drove late into the night, making it to Hershey, PA right around midnight.

Day 10: I suppose after 9 fantastic days, something has to go wrong right? Well we slept in pretty late that morning before heading over to Hershey. It was much too hot for the theme park but that was okay because really what we most wanted to do was Hershey Chocolate World (another place we’d visited once before and liked).

Andrew loved the ride with the singing cows so much so that he is now the owner of his very own Hershey cow (in line with the spoiling of the child).

But we noticed he was starting to get sniffly. We really wanted to drive over to New Hope, PA which was another favorite place of mine but on our way back to the car, (in the 108 degree heat) we got a call from my sister in law that while she was at our house feeding the cats she noticed that the ceiling in our office was leaking and the dry wall was falling down. Panicked and exactly 1,078 miles from home we got in the car and all thoughts of New Hope vanished. We were headed home. Not the nicest ending to what had been a very nice trip. Turns out the cleaning service turned down our thermostat from 78 to 68 (who does that?!). It over worked the AC unit since it’s quite hot here as well. The coils froze over with enough ice that it filled the bathtub when they defrosted it. The ice melted and caused the leak. The water was splashing down on my desk and actually ruined one whole side of it as well as all my magazines that I kept under the desk. It also did damage to our world map of places we’ve visited which is not so much an expensive thing to replace as it is a tough thing to duplicate– A has been to so many places it’s really our only record. So anyway my sister in law and brother and mom worked to clear everything away from the leak and assess the damage and even clean up a lot of the mess for which we are so very grateful. My brother also waited for the AC repair guy who defrosted the AC and got it running smoothly again. By that point we’d calmed down but were too far south to really turn around and go back. We drove 12 straight hours that day and completely and utterly killed the portable DVD player (no more Elmo). Despite his cold Andrew still did far better than anyone could have expected him to do and I found myself thinking again and again how proud I was of him and how much I had enjoyed the entire experience despite the abrupt ending. We stopped again in Savannah for the night.

Day 11: Our desire to get an early start was sidetracked by the fact we arrived at the hotel at nearly 1am. I guess when you check in REALLY late they are more likely to give you the handicapped room which is pretty nice because we got it 2 our of 4 hotel nights and that room is substantially larger than a normal room. In any case we were not there very long. We slept and then hit the road again around 9am. We stopped for lunch at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Augustine which is kinda amusing because the original Columbia Restaurant is in Tampa. In fact my great grandfather who was a brick mason, built the bread ovens at the original restaurant. But we actually go to the one in St. Augustine more frequently. Another delicious meal and it was finally time for the last stretch home. We got in around 6:30 after driving over 19 hours in two days. Hundreds of pictures, piles of laundry, a hole in the ceiling, stacks of mail, grateful cats and tired parents sums up the end of our trip but the most important things I can’t leave out– the amazing memories, and an incredible learning experience for our little road warrier, all before his second birthday.

Transitions Part 2

So this is the continuation of my graduation story which begins in the post below. Even if you don’t feel like reading all of it there are some cute pictures– scroll down.

Before I start on the next part of the story, I saved one other picture because I didn’t want it to get buried down at the bottom. Every now and then I get a picture of him (in this case, A took the picture) that I just adore beyond measure. This is one of them

Okay is that not too cute for words? I’m going to get this blown up big and hang it on his wall, lest he ever start to think about attending another University.

And on with the story…

Well it’s now nearly 11pm May 1st and I haven’t really slept since, oh, I guess it was Thursday night. Yeah, I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I remember listening to Andrew breathe in the pack n play a few feet away. And I watched the clock as it turned 1am, 2am, 3am, 4am… well you get the picture. I may have dozed off slightly between 5 and 6 but then it was time to get up, dress, repack the room and reload the car. We did in fact manage to get 4 people, one of whom being a 20 month old, completed dressed in nice clothes, with everything loaded by 7:08 am which I think is pretty damn impressive. A even got pulled over on the way back north but managed to squeak by with a warning. I had just finished getting my cap situated on my head and my hair looking okay when the FHP guy stops us. He takes a look at us and goes, “Y’all headin’ to a weddin’?” Umm… it’s the new look. Mortarboards instead of veils. It’s all the rage. Eh, I guess that’s being pretty rich of me to joke considering he let us go without writing what would have undoubtedly been a very hefty ticket.

We made it there in time and then began the nerve wracking “radio silence”. Okay so not really but in the instructions for graduates which I read no less than 10 times, it said not to bring anything and not wanting to lose my phone I figured it was safer in the car. So we picked a meeting place (the giant oak tree outside the O Dome) and I hopped out of the car. Now here’s the insanely stupid part, one I’m almost afraid to admit. I go to pull on the gown and didn’t realize it had these funky sleeves with deep pointy pockets (like, picture Death minus the hood and the scythe). I went to stick my hands in and realized it was stitched and thought, “Oh crap, they forgot to put holes in mine!” (Yeah remember how I hadn’t had any sleep πŸ™‚ ) I quickly realized of course it had holes and THEN what a perfect place those sleeves would have been to put my phone! Sheesh!

Well I wandered around for a while and then it hit me that I didn’t know a damn person in the place. Wow talk about lonely– sit through God knows how many hours without talking to anyone? I started looking around for someone who looked friendly, determined not to be completely boring the whole time. But everyone seemed to be in a huddle with their friends. I wandered over to the basketball practice courts and found my spot next to the other light blue hooded people with the College of Education. I was standing near a woman, someone who looked outside the traditional college age range. She was alone, too. Then she offered to fix my hood for me. I told her I was so thankful because I didn’t know anyone. She said she didn’t either, that she’d done her whole degree online. Well long story short (ha who am I kidding?) She was not only my classmate from my final course but also my PARTNER in the final section. Talk about small world and random chances!

The ceremony started and we processed out. The pictures aren’t much to see… I’m just a little dot. They did all the Doctorate degrees first (which took forever) and then started on the Master’s degree candidates.
Here’s me walking across the stage followed by a zoomed in version of the same picture.

Have you ever tried so hard to remember something that it made the memory slip out of your mind even faster? That was kinda how it was for me. It felt a little like slow motion walking across the stage. Now I realize at this point I’ve been typing these posts for nearly an hour and you’re like, geeze lady all you did was get a Master’s degree. But it was kinda more than that. And this is where I’ll tell the other part of the story in the most cryptic way possible.

See, I’ll get back to the graduation stuff (there’s not much more to tell really) but first I want to head down a different path for a minute. See back in 2004, I found out that there was a job available at my school but I lived in NJ. I had been married just around a year and things were going well in that aspect of my life but I was lonely and depressed about not having a real job or purpose in life and A was TDY almost constantly so I was completely by myself most of the time in a strange state with nothing to do besides work at Pottery Barn. So when the job opened I knew in my heart that I had to have it and A was nothing but 100% supportive, willing to live away from me to make it work. So from the very first moment I started at my school I took a leap of faith to get there.

And in many ways every single aspect of my career and this path that I’ve been on with getting my degree has all been about faith. And those times that I wasn’t sure I could do it, it was all about faith. So this past week, when my boss approached me with, I don’t even know what to call it– a proposal of sorts, I felt again that I was being led by the Holy Spirit. Now those of you who know me, even those who know me really really well, know that I don’t get outwardly religious often. It’s a very private thing for me. But this particular moment felt so strong that I’m certain my prayers for guidance were being answered on the spot. You see, not knowing who exactly reads this and having promised secrecy I will not go into the details of this proposal but suffice to say it requires yet another leap of faith.

So as I turn back to my graduation story, understand that this isn’t about graduation much at all as it is about the closure of one life chapter, the transition to the next chapter and the faith involved in the whole process. Because as I look back on every major life milestone I’m finally starting to see how everything pieces together and that may very well be a miracle in and of itself.

So I walked across the stage and believe me when I say I’m not exaggerating this or trying to be dramatic but I felt like everything slowed down and got quiet.

I had told myself, “listen to where the shouts are coming from, then you’ll know where they’re sitting” but I didn’t hear anything at all. I shook hands 4 times and said thank you to each person. I was smiling. I didn’t trip and fall. The rest is a haze. I do know that I felt what I did not feel the other 2 times I have taken part in the grand tradition of graduation. I know that THIS time was different because the chapter really did end and I really do feel done and truthfully that is the most I could have possibly asked for.

The rest of the ceremony felt long. It was terribly hot under the gown and I was tired, no, exhausted, but happy. After I found everyone and we walked back to the car. While they were waiting, A took a few more pictures of Andrew in front of the Bull Gator. He had been so excited last night when I told him that today we’d see more Gators. In fact he woke up asking about them.


And of course more Chomp (Can’t wait to bring him to his first game!)

Then we went and took a few more pictures after. This was a neat drive by photo. I jumped out of the car and A took the picture from the window as he was driving. Impressive! And here’s where I’ve gotta say he did everything in his power to make today absolutely the best! He definitely succeeded beyond my wildest expectations!

I also have a picture here after my undergrad graduation. I need to find it at some point.

Sign on campus

And one last one of me πŸ™‚

This evening, A surprised me. We went out to dinner and instead of it just being us I showed up to find my whole family was there– EVERYONE! This is what I never got the first two times around. I got everyone together all in one place plus two very dear friends. I couldn’t ask for more than this.

They say nothing’s perfect. But today was. And I can only hope and continue to pray that the start of this next story, this next journey of faith, will be as wonderful and as filled with hope and promise as today.


Well it has been the type of day you never forget and I mean that in a really good way.

This promises to be a long entry, mostly because this is for me and I don’t want to forget it.

I guess you could say it kinda all started back in 1999. It was the day before my high school graduation and though it was not altogether unexpected, I received the news that my grandmother had passed away. She had been sick and it was not so much a terrible shock as it was a sense of emptiness of losing someone close to me. We went to her funeral 2 days after I graduated. By that point I had decided I was done with everything related to high school and I didn’t want to think about them anymore. I didn’t even bring my yearbook to get signed– not a single signature in my senior year yearbook. I thought about my grandmother and her funeral and heading off to college and graduation itself was a blur.

Fast forward 3 1/2 years. After what remains to be 3 1/2 of the most amazing years of my life spent in Gainesville I graduated on December 21, 2002 in what proved to be a bittersweet (mostly bitter) cold and windy but crystal clear winter day. I recall the exact outfit I was wearing, and the friends I was sitting next to. I remember the stress of moving my remaining possessions home with me after the ceremony ended and I remember many family arguments. I don’t even remember at this point, what they were about. All I know was that after 3 of the happiest years of my life living in a place where I finally felt like I discovered the who I really was, I just remember the stress and the arguing and the going home and feeling completely empty. It felt like I’d just spent all this time finding the true me and then losing it all over again. Every time I went home during college for Christmas or the summer it was always a transition period, a limbo between happiness for being home and longing desperately to go back. It’s not so much that I was a different person in each city. I certainly was not. But just that there is an irreplaceable feeling of pulling off I-75 on Archer Road and driving into town and feeling like anything is possible. That’s the magic, the pull, the addiction of being a college student.

And when I left I knew I wasn’t done. I knew one day I’d go back and that it would undoubtedly be at Florida because even though I nearly went to U of Maryland, somehow I always knew I could only be a Gator. And I knew I needed another shot at graduation and having real closure on that chapter of my life. So when I applied for my Master’s degree program, in the back of my mind I knew from the split second I got my acceptance letter that I would attend the final ceremony. I would understand it more fully and appreciate it more deeply.

So when the time finally came to graduate I knew this was my last shot at getting it right.

And I’ve gotta say that’s a lot of pressure to put on one single event but it was perfect in every way.

Yesterday we left on our drive to Gainesville. This was to be Andrew’s first visit. I knew when I had him that one day he’d get to visit my former home and I knew that graduation would be the perfect first time. We started at the bookstore. Oh how I wish the new bookstore had been around when I was there on campus. There is an undeniable feeling of academia everywhere on campus but nowhere else do you feel it as much as when you’re surrounded by BOOKS.

I had had these anxiety ridden dreams that I would get there and they would have no record of me. I guess that’s part of doing an online degree program. I knew the people really did exist somewhere and it certainly helped that I could recall the buildings and places as well as the basic policies and procedures but the fact remains, until yesterday I never once spoke to a person face to face and so I was a little worried I had somehow made a mistake. There was even a dream once where I imagined it all. It’s not like there is more proof when you physically attend class. No actually I’ve left a digital trail 10 miles long from this program. But sometimes when you don’t deal with people in person you start to disassociate yourself from the whole process. I guess I’m not really explaining this too well. It’s pretty hard to describe. I wonder if any one else who has done this felt this way. I tend to think they have.

But worries were needless (as they often are for me). And my cap and gown (and hood!) were ready and waiting. I got my portrait taken and I also had one taken with Andrew and A. Afterall, they were such a huge part of this whole thing. I know all my children will be special and God willing that I have more, I know that Andrew, aside from being my first precious child, will always hold the unique place of being my graduate school baby. He went through this whole thing with me. And in some ways, suffered my stress, my anxiety, my workload right along with me by missing time he could have spent with me had I not been preoccupied with finishing. Today was every bit as much about him as it was me, at least in my mind. So anyway, I got the pictures done and picked up a cap and gown and off we went to visit Century Tower, for those who didn’t know me then, A proposed under Century Tower, on a cold rainy Saturday in February in front of all my friends. It was and remains to be the most amazing surprise, no, the most amazing ANYTHING anyone has ever done for me.

So naturally, we had to go there!
Here’s A showing Andrew where it happened:

Then taking a seat on the bench along the side.

Then we walked through UMA to the area where the band used to warm up on Game Day before the march to the stadium. We had to wait for 3 girls to get done with their “photo shoot”. I definitely felt a little self-conscious when we were standing there waiting for them because I don’t really look older to most people without any points of comparison but I felt 29 when I’m standing there next to these 22 year olds in cocktail dresses who were most definitely without children. Actually, I guess self-conscious is the wrong word because I felt more proud than anything.

Finally it was our turn to take pictures. At first Andrew was very tentative around the ah-gee-ya (alligator). It had not occurred to me that he would not understand it was fake. He didn’t cry or fuss like he was scared but he was not in a hurry to touch it either.

“Mommy! Ah-gee-ya!”

“Are you sure about this?”

Finally, I convinced him it was okay to touch it and we sat on the Gator which is a pretty generic picture but hey, we needed to have one.

So then I wanted to get a picture of him hugging the gator. Now I can’t really explain why I thought this would be so cute but I wanted the picture. So A decided to show him it was okay to hug the gator.

STILL not convinced he gives it a shot…

The hilarious part (at least for me) was when he finally stood up, satisfied that it was indeed safe to hug (and on his own accord, kiss) the gator, and he turns to me and say, “ok Mommy, Ah-gee-ya sleeping”

OOooooohhhh my dear child!! He now thinks the gator was safe to touch because it was sleeping. My dear God in heaven, please do not let my child ever come across a living Gator. He will undoubtedly rush up to give it a kiss on the snout!

Of course he did some Chomp too…

We finished with the pictures, walked back to the car and then went out to dinner. I have got to say, Gainesville has so many more restaurants than it did when I was there. I don’t think I would have been able to survive with that many good places to eat. I was so dirt poor as it was the first time around. We ate at Fridays or Chili’s a lot because that was pretty much all there was. Now there is every restaurant I’ve ever heard of and plenty I haven’t. We picked Carrabba’s for pre-Graduation dinner. Andrew was getting very tired though so we ate fairly quickly and headed back south to Ocala because I waited too long to get a hotel room and they were completely booked solid anywhere near the city.

Just as we arrived at the hotel it started to POUR down rain and I do mean pour. We got soaked carrying everything up to the room but when all was said and done the 4 of us (my mom was with us too) got in bed for the evening and I had the sense that I was mere inches away, after having come miles, for this final event.

To Be Continued….

Our First Trip to the Pediatric ER

Well the title says it all. Yesterday, January 30, 2010 marks our first trip to the hospital for an Andrew injury. He made it exactly 1 year, 5 months 1 week and 6 days. Which isn’t a record overall but sure is for our family. I can only imagine that a) this will be the first of many trips and b) that mommy and daddy can only do better from here on out.

So here’s what happened, and it’s so mundane it’s hard to imagine how it could possibly have been prevented. It was around Andrew’s afternoon snack time. He gets a cup of milk and usually a few apple slices or Cheerios. So A. handed him his sippy cup of milk and an apple slice, not unlike what he or I do on a regular basis. He walked into the other room, slipped on the floor the way babies do and fell forward. What he did amounted to biting his lip. Only, he bit the hell out of it. There was so much blood that at first I was sure all his teeth had fallen out and been swallowed. There were several minutes of “oh my God, check his mouth again, are you sure he has all his teeth still?” But then we realized that yes, he did in fact have his teeth and that the blood (and OH the blood) was coming from the holes he’d made in the space between his lower lip and his chin– really right below his lip line. He’d bitten right through. We knew his teeth were sharp but this is clear proof. I’m considering putting a sign on my door that says “Beware of the Child”. Thankfully he’s not a biter!

So anyway, he calmed down and I wiped him off and as an aside, yes I did manage to wash all the blood out of his clothing thankyouverymuch, I must be what is that word again? Oh yes, domestic. I thought he was going to be okay but the pediatrician on call told us to take him to the After Hours Emergency clinic. Well now I for one didn’t think we should go. He was perfectly calm at that point and the bleeding had stopped but A. thought he should go. He told me to stay home and get some rest (which I desperately needed). So I did, I stayed home and fell asleep thinking he’d be back 20 minutes later with some derma-bond on his lip. Instead I get a semi-frantic call which led to me getting in the car and racing down there for what I wasn’t sure. That’s when I finally hear the word “stitches”. Yup, my baby got his first stitches. Two of them.

I’m proud to say he’s handling it like a champ. Better than his blubbering parents. I mean, who can handle seeing their child strapped down to a board in a straight jacket like contraption while their child’s face is stitched up? Well if you can you’re a stronger person than we are. I have to give daddy a lot of credit because he was actually there for all of it and I got there as they were finishing up. It pains me to think that I wasn’t there for him but I honestly thought it wasn’t that bad. Just goes to show what I know. And since he didn’t even make it to age 1 1/2 before needing his first stitches I cringe as I say, next time I’ll do better as a mommy. I just hope next time is a LONG time from now.

Mr. Potato Head Massacre

Several years ago, we went to Downtown Disney around Christmas time which is one of my favorite things to do. This is before we had Andrew and really before we were even thinking about kids but we went into the giant toy store anyway. They had this humongous display of Mr. Potato head parts. You could buy a box for about 20 bucks and stuff it with as many parts at it would hold from the giant potato head buffet.

Naturally I wanted to get my money worth so my brother and I spent 30 minutes off in the corner of the store packing the box to the point where it may well have been close to spontaneous combustion. The woman gave me an annoyed look at the check out– sweet vindication from getting my money’s worth out of Disney! Haha!

Well of course I got it home and dressed up the potato head and thought, “now what”? Yeah, that’s what happens when adults buy toys. I put all the pieces in a basket on the shelf in our bedroom which is where it sat until now.


I love the layout of our home. Except now that we’ve lived here 4.5 years I’ve started to notice some of the quirks. For example, I’m certain that whoever designed the master bathroom did not have children. This is because there is no door on the master bathroom. Yes, the room for the toilet has a door but the shower and bathtub are open to the bedroom. When Andrew was tiny he sat in his bouncy seat while we showered or got dressed. Then as he outgrew the bouncy seat we moved the jumper into the bathroom. But now that he’s 15 months old and weighs 25 pounds he has outgrown all his containment devices. We are left to allow him to roam free or scream his head off in the crib. We baby proofed the room and went for the scream free option.


So you may see where I’m going with this excessively and inappropriately long story.

Andrew discovered the Mr. Potato Head basket and all the parts. He waltzes over to the basket as though it was put there for him. And maybe on some level it was, even though I didn’t know that several years ago.

He has his favorite parts. Noses and eyes, various hats, arms, lips and glasses. He carries them around the house and they have slowly infiltrated every room, every crevice, every drawer or cabinet. Only it is just a part or two here or there. I find eyeballs on the stair case and an arm in my bedside table. It is like a twisted toy massacre as I find body parts all over my house. I doubt we’ll ever find where he’s hidden them all until we move out and even then we very well may leave a part or two behind. It’s just a good thing that all those years ago, I spent that quality time ensuring that I fit every single possible piece in that box so that I could now provide endless hours of entertainment for my son πŸ™‚

What I Have Learned This Past Year

Since this year has been both the greatest and most exhausting year of my life, I thought I’d take a few minutes to write about the things I have learned about motherhood. In no particular order….

1. Eat something before you head to the hospital. They really don’t let you eat or drink anything there. It’s tough to summon the energy to push a baby out when you haven’t eaten in 24+ hours.

2. Spending 9 months worrying about delivery is a big waste of worrying. Labor Amnesia kicks in before you can feel your legs again.

3. Epidurals are every bit as wonderful as I expected them to be.

4. Baby boys have no control over where they pee and will not stop even if they are hitting themselves in the face.

5. Cats and babies are okay together as long as the cat has a good 6-9 months to get used to it being there before the baby is mobile. At that point they realize they’re stuck with the thing. I must also add that cats are passive aggressive little creatures who will make their feelings known even if in subtle ways such as chewing the nipples off bottles or destroying teethers.

6. Milestones come when you least expect them. Worrying about when a baby will sit up or crawl or walk is silly. Just when you think it will never happen, they get up and walk across the room. Just because I know this doesn’t mean I won’t worry anyway.

7. Just because the parents are small doesn’t mean the baby will be.

8. You should never underestimate the strength of a baby who doesn’t want to be changed. Things that you never imagined you’d let your baby chew on become great toys when you need a distraction for this particular occasion.

9. Bath time can be considered an aerobic workout.

10. Travel systems are not necessary. Get the stroller frame and the bucket seat. Then switch to an umbrella stroller (I recommend the Maclaren)

11. All the stuff you get at your baby shower is awesome for the first few months when you realize you need a whole new set of stuff.

12. An 8 pound baby can take up more space than 2 grown adults.

13. You will not remember anything about the first month of your child’s life unless you write it down and take pictures. You may still not remember it. Like labor, we forget these things. It’s natures way of ensuring we have more children.

14. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone and if it doesn’t work for you, flipping out about it won’t help the situation. I don’t care what people say, Formula is a nutritionally perfect food. If breastfeeding was nutritionally perfect you wouldn’t have to supplement your baby’s diet with vitamins.

15. Make a point of taking a picture of your baby every single day. I had planned to do this and then didn’t do it and I wish more than anything that I had.

16. You can never take too many pictures.

17. All the things you thought you wouldn’t get done while you were pregnant and killed yourself doing in the last few weeks… waste of time. Life doesn’t cease to exist. Eventually, life continues. You will have time to do things again.

18. Sleep before the baby comes. That’s one thing you won’t be doing after it arrives.

19. You can have a baby and a clean house.

20. Napping while the baby naps is not good advice for someone anal about getting things done like me.

21. Bonding isn’t always instant. It’s okay if it’s not. It will happen.

22. Did I mention that you should take a lot of pictures.

23. People tell you that babies grow up fast and to enjoy every second of it. No truer word was ever spoken. By the time they reach a year old you’ll try to remember what they were like when they were tiny and you just can’t. They grow up before your eyes.

24. Just when you think you’ve kept everything clean and sanitized, you’ll find your baby eating cat fur and sticks.

25. You can never imagine the intensity of the love you will feel for your baby until one day you’re holding them in your arms and you feel like your heart will literally burst with the joy of knowing that you are holding the most precious being in the whole world. You will sit back and marvel at the amazing tiny child that your body created and try to imagine what the world was like before they were in it. Then you’ll realize that that world may never have existed because the only thing important now is the child in your arms and when he is there with you, everything is perfect.

Happy 1st Birthday my dear sweet precious Andrew πŸ™‚

Andrew’s First Word

We had hoped it would be “kitty” and so it was!
Caught him saying it on camera today. You’ll have to turn up your volume though, for whatever reason he was whispering it! Probably trying to sneak up on the “unsuspecting” furballs!

Video number two: Andrew pulls up to standing and tries to break out of his baby jail. You see what I’m in for? πŸ™‚

Baby Proofing

Ah the joys of having children!

The baby proofing adventure has been a fun one because really all baby proofing is, is trying to see which dangerous things attract your child and then removing it or blocking it off. There is also the alternative “baby jail” which would not work in my house because Andrew is not even pleased with his relatively large 3 rooms of confined space.

So I went looking for cabinet latches. For you non parents out there, these are the things that keep cabinets and drawers closed until your baby outsmarts you and figures out how to open them anyway. The price of such a contraption ranges from less than a dollar to close to $10 per latch.

There I was standing in the baby proofing aisle at Baby’s R Us and scratching my head over what to get. Back in the day, my mom had the little plastic things that you push down to open the cabinet. Annoying but you get used to them. Then, my sister in law gave us some of the magnetic (ie: expensive) kind left over from when my nephew was too young not to know he shouldn’t drink windex and stuff like that. I was tempted to buy more magnetic ones but decided in the end that the 7 pack of plastic ones for less than $3 was the way to go for our budget.

Fast forward to this morning when I tripped over a pacifier that one of the cats had taken out of the sink and dragged across the house. I realized that this was not a rare occurrence and that on a daily basis the cats move and hide things (like my glasses, or keys, or items of food left on the counter). Good thing I don’t need a special magnetic key to open my cabinets or I fear all my toilet paper, toothpaste and household bleach would be locked away in a bizzare time capsule for the rest of all eternity.

So when you’re off searching the aisles for ways to latch your doors, toilets, cabinets, and closets shut and out of the grasp of little hands, just think about what little paws can also do to make your life a little more difficult.

Andrew Album

I’ve received a few requests for Andrew pictures to be posted outside of facebook so that everyone can see them. So, thanks to a nifty new feature from Photobucket here is my album, “The Best of Andrew”.

Life’s Simple Pleasures

If you’re looking for my introduction, scroll down to the next post.

I love it when we change the clocks forward an hour. The loss of one hour of sleep is so worth gaining an extra hour of light in the evening. It makes me feel like summer is already here!

I love it when the dishwasher is full enough that I don’t have to wash bottles by hand and I can just stick them in there and run it.

I love it when my cat Rosie jumps in bed with me and remembers not to step ON me but rather walks around me.

I love it when I get to dress Andrew in the morning.

I love it when the weather changes for the first day of a new season, like the first day it goes from being hot to being cold there is usually a rain storm and then you know it’s time to bring out the sweaters. It’s the same in the spring when you wake up in the morning and you don’t need to drag the blanket with you to stay warm.

I love it when Andrew lets me sleep past 7:30 on a Saturday.

I love it when the stores start selling school supplies in August.

I love it when I take a really good picture, the kind that you just want to keep looking at again and again. I especially love it when it’s the last picture I’ve taken, it’s like somehow I knew I just needed that one last shot.

I love it when my house is clean, the laundry is done and folded, and everything is where it’s supposed to be.

I love it when it’s football season.

I love the sound waves make when they hit the shore.

I love the sound of pure silence, something I haven’t heard since I went to the Grand Canyon last March and something I don’t expect to hear again until I go back.

I love Andrew’s smile.

I love going to bed knowing I accomplished something really important. It’s not happening tonight but I know it will soon. I love knowing that the best is yet to come.

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