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Meet Emily
31. Floridian. Teacher. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mommy of Two. Gator. Reader. Writer. Photographer. Dreamer. Blogger.

Perfecting the art of wearing many hats...

Family

Life With Two

Andrew started 5 day a week full day preschool when Allison was 8 days old. I don’t remember all that much about those first 7 days but I know I wasn’t on my own—A took off work the first couple weeks. Most of his holidays were days that A also took half days and then last week we were at the beach. So what this boils down to is this- I have just experienced my first week with two kids all day long with no help.

I guess the fact that I didn’t think about it until now explains what a non-issue it turned out to be. But I did make a few observations.

 

1)   Kids will only start sleeping in until 10am if they have a little sister who negates this awesomeness by waking up at 6am.

2)   Having two children at home at the same time means this house will, without a doubt, never be straightened up ever again. I have hopes for the new house with playroom but this one is a lost cause.

3)   The clean up song only works in preschool classrooms.

4)   I had better find paints in bulk since Andrew already used up his entire paint set in just 4 days.

5)   Big brother is about 1000 times more entertaining to little sister than mommy or daddy.

6)   “Mommy, let’s make cookies” needs to be followed by “Andrew let’s go for a walk” otherwise I’m going to get extremely fat.

7)   I will never be caught up on laundry simply because a certain little person doesn’t believe that you can return to the same clothes after swimming that you were wearing before swimming.

8)   It’s a lot easier to simply turn off the TV than I thought it would be.

9)   Trying to exhaust an almost 4 year old is along the same lines as me trying to out drink a frat boy—it’s an impossible endeavor that might make me die trying.

10)                   Never underestimate the entertainment value of a 5-cent bouncy ball.

Finally….

11)                  I am exceedingly blessed to have two kids who make me love my days and miss them when they go to bed at night. Who keep me company when we’re out and about and who never fail to make me laugh.

The Double Standard

Most if not all of my readers probably know that I just got back from a 9-day trip to Italy. It was without a doubt one of the most amazing and spiritual experiences of my life, right up there with the birth of my children. But I missed my children with intensity so great I had to force myself not to think about it for fear of completely falling to pieces. Leaving them was not easy. I missed them and I missed my husband and I gather that I was missed quite a bit as well. But I knew they were in capable hands.

Now that I’ve been home a couple days I’ve started getting caught up on the things I missed while I was gone.

“I got a free oil change.”

“Really? Cool! How did you manage that?”

“Oh they took a little longer than usual and when they saw that I was by myself with two kids they gave me the oil change and car wash for free. Oh yeah and I also got a voucher for a free oil change next time, too.”

“Wow, okay that’s great!”

It got better.

“So apparently I was the first parent to turn in preschool registration for next year.”

“Good! Glad that’s taken care of!”

“Yeah they were so impressed that I did it by myself that they gave me a giant sticker. It says ‘Great Job!’”

“Wow what did they think you are three or something? Sheesh!”

The stories kept coming. One day that Hubby was late picking Andrew up from school because of a long line of traffic behind a fatal traffic accident. But instead of being annoyed at having to wait for him, the teachers at the school assumed it was because of the stress he was under from being by himself with the kids.

“Oh you poor thing! Don’t worry about being late at all. We understand.”

Wow, that’s not the response I get when I’m late to pick Andrew up.

I was starting to get annoyed, not at A but at the other people whose actions and tone suggested they were astonished he could be alone with two children without accidently forgetting to feed them or throwing himself off a bridge.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad he had people who were willing to step in. I’m glad he had people practically lined up to babysit while I was gone. I’m glad that the manager at Chic-Fil-A personally delivered his food to the table, checked back 4 times to make sure he was doing okay and offered to hold Allison while he ate.

No wait, I’m not. Because the double standard is so glaring that I can’t help but wonder if I slipped through a time warp back into 1950.

Add this on top of the scathing looks and judgmental criticism I took for going on the trip in the first place and I find myself downright shocked. We’ve come so far we’ve started going backwards.

Do you know how old Andrew was the first time A left us to go to weekend unit training with the National Guard? Five days. That’s right, DAYS. His first over night trip was before Andrew hit the one-month mark. And I spent the entire first trimester of my pregnancy with Allison with a 2 year old who was not fully potty trained, debilitating nausea, a full time a job and a husband who was only home on weekends. Too bad no one offered me any free oil changes. Must be because I’m a mom. No one expects a man to be able to do the job but a woman? Well why should she need any help. That’s what she does. And if she can’t she must be inferior and weak. If she asks for help she must not be able to handle the job. It’s a secret world of judgment when you’re a mom and I’ve gotta tell you, I’m over it.

Turns out A didn’t need much help at all. He accepted a babysitter for 45 minutes while he went to get his hair cut. Other than that he did it on his own. Both kids were clean, dressed, fed, entertained, happy and healthy while I was gone. He also worked to earn a living for our family, kept the house clean, the laundry washed and oh in his spare time he re-tiled the shower.

But I wasn’t surprised by any of this. I wouldn’t have married him if I thought he would make a crappy father. I wouldn’t have fathomed leaving my kids to go across the ocean to another country if I thought there was the slightest chance he couldn’t handle it. We believe in an equal partnership. We have always shared the task of raising our kids. Why should now be any different? I’m offended by the insinuation that I should have expected any less of him just as I would be appalled if anyone would have expected less of me. What an insult to his character to suggest he couldn’t do the job and do it well. Why do we as a culture think men can’t handle it? Maybe it’s because we spend so much time expecting them not to that they figure they can’t, or shouldn’t even try. Well enough of that. This is 2012 people! Time to move past the double standard and raise our expectations. Time to put an end to the sexist rhetoric that suggests dads can’t be just as good at parenting as moms or at the very least realize that gender has no impact on whether or not someone might like an extra hand when they are raising children alone.

All in all it was good for both of us. I learned how hard it is to be away traveling when you miss your kids back home and he realized just how exhausting it is when you are on alert at all times, knowing you are solely responsible for the safety and well being of those entrusted to your care. But the greater lesson to be learned is this: women have broken through gender barriers to be CEOs, doctors, judges, astronauts, all manner of careers. It’s time to believe that men can make perfectly wonderful fathers as well and stop accepting any less.

Who Am I Now?

Before I was a mother, I was a teacher. Technically, before I was a wife, I was a teacher too. For the last 7 years a huge part of my life has been my career. I spent 3 of those years and a large sum of money earning my Master’s degree in the field of education. I devoted most of my waking thoughts and sometimes my dreams to teaching. I used to resent it when people would say things like, “Wow, you’re a special education teacher, that takes a special person.” I wondered if they were mocking me. Now I realize that the sentiment I once resented is actually true. I learned this after spending years around other teachers. I realized that yeah, it’s true, it takes a person with a lot more patience than most of the human population can muster– and sadly, quite a few other teachers too. So I’m far from perfect as a teacher. I make mistakes, I worry about them. I go home and lay awake at night and think of ways to fix my methods. I have been told that’s what makes me good at what I do. I feel connected to my job and my students. I feel a sense of duty to give them the best I’ve got. I feel a sense of devotion to the Lord for guiding me to teaching. It’s not something I could ever just give up.

So next year when I’m not a teacher anymore I have to wonder a little bit about what will happen.

Oh it will start the same. Friday is the last day of school and I’ll finish cleaning up my classroom and spend a good 4-5 hours working on files and paperwork. Then I’ll tackle the remaining to-dos on my seven page list. And I’ll pack up my stuff and I’ll go home. I’ll spend the summer taking Andrew to swimming lessons, and gymnastics, and art class, and violin. I’ll keep on tutoring my very favorite student of all time and life will seem pretty normal.

Until August that is.

When I should be hitting up the stores for the best deal on bulk school supplies I’ll instead be buying school supplies for just one, my own one. When the first day of school rolls around I’ll be sitting at home, or I don’t know, maybe having a baby since past precedent suggests my kids like to come at the least opportune times . But I won’t be in the classroom. And as freeing and exciting as that feels, it’s also quite scary. Who am I if I’m not a mom wife and teacher? What does it mean to be a mom and a wife? I know people resent the term “just” a mom as much as I once resented the other phrase but I can’t help but seeing it that way. Is this what I want? Yes. I know that it is. After all, it’s only a year and I will get to put my children first. I will get to put my husband first. I will get to truly become good at being a wife and mother, something I’ve felt that despite my best intentions always fell short because I had to balance it with a career. But I am not satisfied to “only” do what’s easy and please don’t hate me my fellow SAHMs but being a working mom is ridiculously difficult, and crap I only have one child! I know plenty of people who have MORE than one and they are running all over the place to soccer practice and whatnot. Yes, it’s harder than staying home in many many different ways. (Not trying to start anything here but think about ALL the things that have to get done during the course of the week. Now remove 40+ hours and try to still get it all done.) What will it feel like to pour all my efforts into my 1 (WOW 2) children? What about the other 20 back at school? Am I letting them down? Have I BEEN letting my own child down? I’ve never been satisfied unless I’m splitting at the seams with stuff on my plate. In high school it was 3 sports and 2 musical ensembles plus being an officer in a club or two. After college it was working 80 hours a week in 2 jobs. When I had a newborn I was also taking graduate classes and then working full time along with it. I’m a glutton for punishment. I don’t know life any other way. I don’t know, maybe it will be a lot harder than I think. But I get a taste of SAHMamma-hood every summer and I don’t really think so. Maybe having 2 will be overwhelmingly difficult. I don’t know.

So these are some of the things I’ve been thinking about the past couple months since I made the decision to stay home. My students still don’t quite understand that I’m not coming back right away. They ask me about the things we’ll do next year (I teach the same kids for 2 years before they move on). It breaks my heart to slide around the true answer. But it melts my heart to tell Andrew I’ll be home for him, that I’LL be the one who he spends his days with now. That I’ll take him to school and pick him up; that I’ll go on field trips with HIM and not 20 others. That I’ll make real dinners for my family instead of whatever is fastest and easiest. That I’ll finally stay on top of the laundry and not drown in piles of clean but unfolded clothes.

I want to grow a garden, and decorate our new house, and try new recipes, and find the creative soul who once resided in my body, who has been shoved aside for lack of time, lack of energy and lack of patience that gets all used up during the school day. I have a vision of the person I want to be. I’ve just never given her a chance to make her way out… at least not for a really long time. And I’m sure that 22 year old and this 30 year old are pretty different people.

So who am I right now? I’m still a teacher, after all that never stops and let’s face it, my kids will never get away from it. I’ll be here teaching Andrew to read, and to speak using grammatically correct sentences, and to write his name and alphabet. I’ll teach our little newbie his/her (it’s a secret!) first words and watch his/her first steps and all the firsts many of which I missed before. Maybe I’m a little afraid of how easy it just may be to forget everything about the career and fall head over heels in love with being “just” a mom. Maybe I’ll discover more about myself than I ever thought possible on this year long journey.

In the mean time, I’m hanging up my career woman hat. I’m pulling out my flip flops, my sunscreen and my mamma bag filled with stickers and bubbles and an extra pair of Buzz Lightyear underwear. I’m packing up a cooler and I’m taking my son on a picnic. Because that’s something moms do and for the first time in my life, that’s what I am. No more, no less.

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 🙂

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.

The Greatest Summer Ever

You know how all teachers make their first writing assignment something like, “My Summer Vacation”? I never thought too much of these assignments when I was younger and usually don’t like assigning it to my students now either. It’s just that I can’t remember a summer that I had this much fun!

I was dreading this break from work. It’s funny how we long for the things that we know and that are familiar to us. When Andrew was born, I was anxious to go back to work. Being a mother is so hard, and at the time it was so new and difficult that I longed for familiarity. Working would provide comfort and a guaranteed 45 minutes of quiet time a day! By and large, by the time I returned last January, I was happy to return and while I missed Andrew, I still felt that working was easier than being a mom.

So when June rolled around and school got out I braced myself for the tough job ahead. I felt tremendous guilt for not wanting to be a stay at home mom. What was wrong with me? How could I not love my son enough to want to spend every day with him?

The first week was rough. Andrew was irritated that I had taken him from his great grandparents and I was just trying to get myself put together and start a routine. Andrew didn’t nap well and was out of sorts. I kept thinking what a long summer I had ahead of me.

Then something happened. Something unexplainable and wonderful happened. I fell in love with my baby boy all over again. But this time something was different. If before we were held together with scotch tape, now we were welded together– unbreakable.

I tried to understand what made the difference but I think that just might take the magic out of it. I never understood how anyone could love being a stay at home mom and now I do. I am, for the very first time, not looking forward to going back to work. Sure, I’m excited but if I had my way I’d take another few months here with my baby because I’m certain that while I’m gone that first day he’s going to grow up even more and by the end of that first week he’ll be preparing for college.

If I sound all gooshy and mushy I hope you’ll forgive me. And if you’re thinking I’m a nut for not feeling this sooner then I’ll agree but whatever happened it was better late than never and all I can say for it is that I am head over heels in love with my baby.

Next Monday he will turn 1.

Every morning I think of the date and I remember what I was doing this time last year and for whatever I forgot after he was born, I do remember these days leading up to his birth very well. I remember the anticipation and the excitement and fear and nervousness. Most of all I remember the awful pain I was in by that point and the fact that my ankles were so swollen I had to cut the elastic off of A’s socks so I could put something over my feet. I remember the job title I was about to acquire and I remember wondering if I’d be any good at it and if I would love my child the way he deserves to be loved and if I could tell the me of then what the me of now is thinking a year later, I think I would have had a much easier time of those last few days. No it’s not been an easy year but it has been perhaps the greatest year of my entire life. I know this summer has been as much.

So on these last few days of summer, on the last few days before my baby isn’t such a baby anymore, I will be very busy– preparing for work, watching my baby grow, loving being a mom, and enjoying every second of it.

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

As I write this it’s exactly 26 hours and 6 minutes until Christmas.

I haven’t been so excited since I was about 10.

Last year around mid November I was out shopping for Christmas gifts when I got to the people on my list I was dreading buying for– little people. Children of my friends. My nephew. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get them something but it was tough wandering through the aisles of toys and thinking that I might never get to buy a gift for a child of my own. I think that’s why this year I’ve been so excited to buy things for Andrew– because I thought I might never have the opportunity.

I know he’s only 4 months old and won’t remember this first Christmas but I know it’s one I will never forget. And even though he won’t be able to unwrap his gifts I hope someday he is able to realize, even a small bit, just how much of a gift he is to me.

And so before I get totally sappy and pathetic I’ll go back to counting down the hours and minutes until my baby’s first Christmas and hoping that they are all as special as this one.

Christmas Pictures

Remember when you were a kid and your parents took your picture for Christmas cards? Well I do. Of course I was perfect and always smilied beautifully and never gave my parents an ounce of trouble (I’m lying). But my behavior was nothing, nothing compared to how my brothers behaved. Funny enough, even at the age of 23 one brother still acts like a goof when the camera comes out.

Thankfully, Andrew behaves much better than they did which led me to an altogether different problem. My parents would shoot a whole roll of film hoping and praying that one photo would be good enough to send out to all the relatives. Then after seeing the first roll they would make us get dressed up a second time to take a second roll and pray really hard that this time there actually would be a picture that was good enough. A good enough picture was one in which no one was picking their nose, hitting a sibling, puking, blinking, grinning a stupid grin or screaming their head off. So it may be easy to see why I initially had some misgivings about taking Andrew’s Christmas photos. Well back to the problem. I took 90 digital pictures (thank God for digital, if only they had that back in the day). I ended up with nine, yes NINE photos that I loved so much that I could not decide. The people of whom I asked their opinions also were rather mixed. Mom loved one, friends loved another A. loved a different one and then there was my choice which ultimately made the final cut because hell, I took them, edited them and ordered the damn cards so why on earth would I not get the final say? So here it is, my baby’s first Christmas picture!

Andrew And the runners up… Andrew Andrew Andrew

And just for the sake of mommy-ness (yes, I made that word up) I’m posting this one because its the one and only occassion where I believe he looks more like me than his daddy. Andrew looks like Mommy

Flying High

My Gator flag had humble beginnings.

I moved into an different apartment for my last semester of college. Such a temporary situation did not warrant my usual homey decorating. I had the bare necessities and a few things to keep the gigantic room from looking so plain. On one mid-day trip to Walmart I found a 3×5 foot Gator flag which seemed to be a good solution for my vast expanse of bare walls.

After graduation the flag came down and was packed up along with the rest of my posessions where it stayed boxed for many months. It made the trip home and then it made the trip to New Jersey and back home again a year later. It wasn’t until we moved into our current home that the flag found its way out into the light of day once again. It hung on a wall in our garage, greeting me with orange and blue every day when I returned home from work.

But then a request came from my world traveling husband: Please send the flag. And so I packed it up, along with a few other important things that are lacking in that particular part of the world namely Quaker Oatmeal. Ten days later my dear Gator flag had traveled the 10,000 miles to the middle east where it was immediately hung in the name of troop morale.

Yet the flag did not know that it had a job to do. The flag had to wave alongside the stars and stripes in the name of the Gator Nation.

And so it did.

On Saturday December 2, 2006, as the Gators were beating Arkansas for the SEC title, my Gator flag flew in their honor over Afghanistan.

Then, on Monday January 8, 2007, as the Gators went down in history as the only school to hold titles in both Football and Basketball at the same time, my flag flew over Iraq.

My Gator flag is now world traveled, too. And while it doesn’t stand for the same as the red white and blue it waves proudly at home once again.

Oh Yeah? You Wanna Support the Troops?

Then don’t be assholes towards their wives. Don’t make us have to send correspondance half way around the globe because you can’t just be a little bit accomodating to us. Don’t Don’t Don’t tell us that unless you have a signed letter and a copy of the “death certificate” that you can’t deal with us.

All I hear is how people support the troops and not the war. I’m first in line to say that myself. I think the war is stupid and pointless and that we were dragged into it under false pretenses. I support the men and women who got stuck leaving their families and homes behind to risk their lives for this worthless cause. I resent the people who say they support the troops but then do nothing, NOTHING to help out the families left behind.

I’ve reached boiling point on the level of frustration that this has caused me. Since day one I’ve had power of attorney which is supposed to be a very powerful document that affords me the right to make any changes necessary while my husband is away. Well so much for that! Most places want you to fax a copy of it to them. Fine. Then they want you to wait 7-10 days for it to process before they can talk to you. I don’t particularly like waiting on hold for 20 minutes but 7-10 DAYS? Are you kidding me? Then some people just talk to me like I’m stupid or something. It has nothing to do with power of attorney or military, it’s just that I’m a woman and that somehow makes me stupid or vulnerable. I have a degree from one of the top universities in the country. I resent that unless the phone call comes from my husband it probably won’t get taken care of. So there he is, 10,000 miles away, making phone calls asking for and receiving the same exact thing that I called for.

So you want to say you support the troops then prove it. Next time a military spouse needs something don’t make them jump through 30 hoops for it. Don’t make it impossible for us to use the document that was put in place to avoid this exact problem and for the love of God, don’t treat us like we’re stupid. We’ve got more brains than you and our backup is certified in shooting the M-16.

Happy Thanksgiving

Well, we made our first Thanksgiving meal today. It was fun. Not fun like shopping with someone else’s credit card fun but more, fun like washing every pot I own 3 times. Okay, it wasn’t that bad. Spending time with family is always great and that I mean sincerely. But forgetting that you need to thaw a turkey is something I will not do next time. I repeat, next year I will not be forced to stay up for 8 hours on a 30 minute water changing rotation. (Don’t ask, it’s what the emergency turkey hotline said to do. Yes, there’s a turkey hotline. Yes, I called it. Stop laughing.)

Wait, next year someone else gets to cook.

Happy Thanksgiving! Now let the shopping fun begin!

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