Thursday, August 17, 2017

Birthday Trip to New York City

I recently celebrated a big birthday, so I wanted to do something big for it. Which meant I had to plan to do something big for it 'cause ain't no one going to do it if I don't. (Which is fine because i love planning--you should see the short trip I planned to Cape May!) We dropped the boys off with our friends Thursday morning after a short run and opening presents. Then Chuck and I headed to the bus. We chose the bus over driving because (1) no gas, (2) no tolls, (3) no traffic, (4) no parking in NYC, and (5) we could hang out and watch stuff together. It was the right call. We chose to watch "Annie Hall" because it came out the year I was born and it was filmed in New York. So obviously.

Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel which had the worst view ever but we didn't care. We dropped the bag and headed out. We did a little shopping (see the picture below of Swatch, the dog of Mood, the fabric store for "Project Runway"). I picked out a cool carafe and serving platter with Charley Harper artwork on it (and I love Charley Harper). We grabbed a quick dinner (we ran out of time to go to where I really wanted, but that's okay). After dinner we headed to the Upright Citizens Brigade where we laughed for hours, or at least, 90 minutes. After that it was to the top of the Rockefeller Building to see the city at night. Then it was bed. Remember, I had turned old, I was tired.

Because I am physically incapable of sleeping in, I woke early to go running only to find it lightning and the morning. Weird. But after a quick trip back to the room, it stopped. So I was able to enjoy a lovely run on the High Line trail. I love the High Line very much. I may have listened to Hamilton while running and I may have cried some because everything was just perfect. But that's just a maybe. After getting cleaned up, Chuck and I went to brunch, which was right near the High Line so we walked on it together for a bit. Breakfast was delicious, although I was disappointed their housemade pop tarts weren't ready. Then we went to Trinity Church to see where Alexander Hamilton (and his wife and son) was buried, but even more exciting than that was walking right by Mikey (from "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt") on the sidewalk! WHAT!? Then we headed to the Tenement Museum. Depressing, but interesting. After that we slowly made our way to the bus stop, stopping to grab a small bite before the bus. This time we went to Chipotle. Before you say, "Um, Erin, you went all the way to New York to eat at...Chipotle," let me explain: this was Chipotle's test kitchen which means they have stuff there that exists nowhere else. So we tried the queso (good) and cinnamon bunuelos (good too). Then back on the bus where we watched a bunch of Unbreakable Kimmy's because you know, we were now bff's with Mikey.

Our babysitters were amazing in that they kept the boys that night too (we had planned on picking them up when we got back), so that we got to sleep in our house...alone. It meant for a nice, quiet Saturday morning. It really was a great trip.

For documentation here are the things we saw not on purpose:
The Flatiron Building
Wall Street
Times Square (I loathe Times Square)
Statue of Liberty (from my run)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Happy Birthday Oliver!

(Yes, he asked that we call him Oliver. I really prefer Ollie, so it's hard.) ANYWAY, the little dude had a birthday! As it's not a party year, he got to choose a fun activity for him and a friend. He invited his friend Leila over for a playdate and then all of us went to the pool and had pizza dinner. After swimming it was back home for cake and fighting. Sweet. Turns out five hours is a bit too long for a birthday playdate, at least for Oliver.

Present-wise, he got a reading pillow in the shape of a pig, Star Wars legos, a nightlight (some weird thing from Ikea that he pined for on our last Ikea trip), a watch, and money.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


Among the week in California, two days in New York City, and three days in Cape May, New Jersey, we're filling our days with work (me) and play (everyone else). Every year I forget how horrible it is to go to work every day. Blah.

But the boys don't forget how wonderful 11 weeks of free time is. They've been filling their days with the swimming, playing, reading, screen time, and Six Flags. They've got a pretty good life.

Rhett finally lost his top two front teeth. One came out in California, and the other one Chuck barely touched and it fell out. Ollie threw a hard baseball at Rhett's face (sigh) which almost knocked out another tooth, but not quite. I used to joke that Rhett was going to be the only middle-schooler with no front teeth, but I guess not. We're just late bloomers over here. He's also learning how to solve one side of a Rubik's cube. It's one more side than I can do.

Ollie is excited to celebrate his birthday this week. He's also doing this annoying thing where he pouts like crazy when he gets in trouble. I hate it because it makes me look like I'm the one doing something wrong, but NO. I'M NOT.

Chuck and I (no little boys!) are going to NYC for my birthday. I'm so excited for this I can barely handle it.

Hmm....what else has been going on?

  • We got Assateague reservations for next year. Man, was that an ordeal, but with four computers trying for it, we got it. So excited...for something that is happening in 365 days.
  • Chuck and I both got new callings: YM President and Stake Girls Camp Director. Pretty sure you can figure out which of us got which calling.
  • Last weekend we got about 6 inches of rain. We turned it into a craft day. Which meant we also got to teach the boys about Pinterest fails. (We also got to hear Ollie give a perfectly-timed, "Nailed it.")
  • Ollie's school is getting close to being finished! Although sometimes it seems like it'll never be ready in time (teachers will be in there in three weeks).
  • I HATE cooking dinner in summer. It's too hot for hot foods, plus after working all day, I don't have the energy to fight the boys. Based on input from the boys, we developed a menu that is the same every.single.week. And guess what? The boys are still complaining. Tacos? Again??
  • I found a triathlon for me to do! It is next June, but that'll give me time to psych myself into doing the lake swim. Best thing about it: it's in the neighborhood where I went to elementary school!
I go back to part-time the week of the 21st, and then school starts September 5th. I'm counting down the days.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

San Diego: Tuesday - End

Tuesday: SURF LESSONS! The five middle-aged people (me, my sis, my bro, and the two husbands) took a surf lessons from these guys. Yep, for reals. But they were amazing. All five of us were easily getting up on our own at the end of the two hours. My brother and BIL loved it so much, they stayed at the beach while the three others went to retrieve the kids. It really was so fun. Chuck and I were much better at surfing that the only other time we did it. Of course, we all couldn't move the next day. Ha. We brought the kids back down to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Even though the Willis Brothers were teaching another class, one of the brothers helped all six grandkids surf a bit. Seriously so fun. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this day. Fortunately, my sister does. I'm just waiting for her to get them to me. (No rush, Emily!)

Wednesday: We split up on this day, and so our small group of four headed to the Mission Beach area. That beach was GORGEOUS, but we are so glad we arrived early. It was definitely a crowded beach. Once we were done with the beach, we went to the amusement park located on their "boardwalk." (In quotes because my boys didn't think a non-wooden boardwalk could be called a boardwalk.) We stopped by the San Diego temple on the way back to the house. Once there, we were lucky to be joined by my Aunt Karen (my mom's sister) for dinner. She lives in L.A. and made the trek down. It was so good to see her. We were sad that her husband wasn't able to join us, however. I am also sad that we didn't get a group shot with her.

Thursday: KAYAKING! Everyone except for my dad got to enjoy this trip. We went out of La Jolla so we got to see (and hear) the sea lions and go in and out of caves. It was a really excellent trip. But again, no camera. (We don't have good luck with cameras and kayaks.) Oh well. After that, me and my three boys stayed in town to enjoy some of the downtown sites. We stopped first at Fort Rosecrans Cemetery (the Arlington of the west), then to Cabrillo National Monument (where my boys did the junior ranger program and had the best ranger EVER pass them off). Then we met the rest of the crew for dinner at Coronado. Such a lovely little town.

Friday: As it was our last full day, we opted for another beach day, this time at San Elijo beach. It was lovely! We brought boogie boards and one surf board that were at the house, and even my dad joined us for a bit (beaches are not really his thing). After barbecuing at home, we went to this crazy ice cream sandwich place for dessert. The next morning we were up and early to catch our cross-country flight.

We had an amazing time and were so happy to spend it with family. A million thanks to my parents for funding and making great our trip!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

San Diego: Start - Monday

After months and months of planning and anticipation, we finally got to go to San Diego! To be honest, my boys would have been happy to go anywhere with (1) a pool and (2) cousins, but San Diego it was.

Saturday: We actually flew out Friday night, which was really nice as it helped us adjust a tiny bit to pacific time before everyone else arrived Saturday. Saturday morning I ran on the beach before taking the whole family back. It was lovely and the boys loved it. Emily and her family were on a first flight out of Colorado, so by the time we were done with the beach, we met them at a trailhead to hike up a slot canyon. I really wanted to go because my boys have never experienced this kind of hike and if we end up in Utah next spring, Moab is on my list. So I wanted to show them rocks. Of course they loved it! They loved being with cousins (yep, the theme) and hiking in rocks. Of course there was some complaining at the beginning, but it turned into gratitude when we were done. After that, it was time to head to our "mansion" to meet everyone else. That night we chilled and ordered pizza.

Sunday: Most of us went to church, and then some of us (cough cough) left after sacrament meeting. After lunch, we all headed to the Mormon Battalion.

Monday: Early that morning was family picture time! Seeing as though it was my parents' 50th anniversary and all, AND the fact that the last time we had pictures taken, Ollie and Lucy weren't even born, we figured it was time. It wasn't too painful. When that was done, we headed to the Maritime Museum (recommended to us by the photographer). After that, we went to Torrey Pines State Park and hiked to the beach. It was super cool, even if (1) the water was filled with seaweed and (2) we didn't get close enough to the nude bathers. Ha.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Making Plans

I know I need to post about our lovely week in San Diego. But that is too overwhelming. What isn't overwhelming is planning the 26 hours in New York City we'll be spending over my birthday. I have the best trip planned! Some shopping, dinner, a show (if the universe is kind, Hamilton; if the universe is not kind, an improv comedy), and going to the top of the Rockefeller Center at night. The next morning is a run on the High Line, a visit to see Trinity Church (I told you I was slightly Hamilton obsessed), a tour at the Tenement Museum, and then lunch.

How is it still more than two weeks away?!

P.S. I am also planning Ollie's birthday next year. We want to camp at Assateague, but getting a spot with electricity is a bit challenging. I've figured out how to game the system, so next Friday morning at 12:01 a.m., I'll be at my computer hoping to get a spot. The things we do for our kids.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Updated Family Room

I got tired of beige. So tired. We've been in the house for nine years and so I thought I "earned" a new paint job. We still had wallpaper on the bottom half of the walls. It was time. So we painted the kitchen and living room grey. And then, because the beige couch no longer looked good with grey walls, we HAD to get a new couch and chair. Which was okay because the chair was seriously dead, comfortable but dead. The arms were so destroyed by the boys that it was fully justified.

This is what it looks like now:

And yes, that's our family motto sign you see there. And next to it is where a new family picture will go. Until then, we have SpongeBob. Because that's part of living in a house with small boys. (I requested a hand-drawn family picture, but that didn't happen. Obviously.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

That Time I was SUCH A FUN MOM

Because Rhett moved up in age divisions at the pool, he's not swimming in A meets this year (or maybe he's just not as fast). Either way, we haven't had to spend four hours at the pool every Saturday morning (just Wednesday evenings). It's been a welcome surprise. This past Saturday we were all so tired we really didn't do anything. Which normally is VERY hard for me, but because the boys were on such good behavior, it was kind of amazing. Rhett made a big chocolate chip cookie, which was delicious. Then, because he was still in cooking mode, he asked if he could "make something" with "anything/everything" in the kitchen. Because the boys had been so great all day, I said yes. This is not my normal response. I limited the amounts (3 T from the big stuff, much less from spices) but the boys LOVED it. They had the best time and I got to sit by and watch (and read the paper and do a crossword puzzle). It was glorious.

Then we baked them. They were not glorious.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Notes Ollie Wrote at Church

My boys are allowed to bring boogie boards to church. It's the only "toy" they're allowed. Now that Ollie can write, he's taken to writing notes to us instead of talking. This was Sunday's (the spelling may be adapted):

Ollie: How many talks are left?
Me: I don't know. It's testimony meeting.
Ollie: That doesn't make sense.
Me: Sorry.
Ollie: That sorry doesn't change anything.
Chuck: What kind of sorry would? A slurpee sorry?
Ollie: Be like that.

Friday, June 30, 2017

I Wish I Brought the Melatonin (or, "My Sister Was Right")

I did it. I survived Girls Camp! (I say, as if people actually thought I wouldn't.) Here are my thoughts on camp and being the assistant stake camp director:

The girls: For the most part, I have no complaints! We had 86 girls from the different wards, and about half that many leaders. As my calling was on a stake level, I didn't have a lot of direct interaction with them, except for the YCLs (youth camp leaders). They are good girls who are (mostly) excited about being there. Sure, there are some issues and some girls that make it really difficult for everyone, but with nearly 90 teenagers, in the woods, with no phones, for a week...they did great. There was the one night I could hear them awake at midnight until I threatened them with a night hike.

My job: I was lucky enough to be assigned the daily hikes. Every day I led a group of girls on a hike. I had YCLs and adults to help corral the girls. The 1st years do three miles, 2nd years do five, and 3rd years do...whatever (which ended up being about 3.5). It was a really great way for me to get to know some of the girls. I also got to know almost every trail in the park. (There are roughly 12 miles of trails, and I hiked 10 of them.) They were pretty standard forest hikes, but it was nice to be moving and with the girls. I liked that job. Outside of that, I just made sure that people knew where they were supposed to be and that they got there.

The food: For the past eight years, two women in our stake have done the food. And when I say, "do the food," I mean they do EVERYTHING. And they do it outside, on stoves or in dutch ovens. They are amazing. We ate breakfast casseroles, asian chicken salad, pulled pork sandwiches, pineapple upside down much good food. And the best thing about it was that I didn't have to make it...or plan for it...or buy it...or hear two boys complain about it. It was maybe the best part of the week.

The location: We went to a state park (one of the two my family hasn't been to) in western Maryland. Like most of Maryland's state parks, it was in a forest and had nice bathrooms (yup, with showers). The very good part about it is that because it's "in the mountains" (re: at an elevation of 2500 feet), the weather was really much better than at home. Our highs were in the 70s. The very bad part about it is that "mountain" weather can change very quickly. We had mostly sun, some clouds, and rain. The worst rain fell at 4 a.m. on our day of departure. Which meant 34 very wet and muddy tents to pack up. Which meant 34 tents to set up, clean, and dry back home.

My sanity: It was hard. It's like parenting in that you're always on. And these were even longer days than my at-home parenting because these girls didn't get in their tents at 7:15 p.m.! So mentally, it was exhausting. I did get some runs in, which helped. But I mostly felt like I was walking around going, "Um, what am I supposed to be doing?" Being tired didn't help. With little to no wind-down time each night, I had a harder time falling asleep there than at home (hence the melatonin, just like Emily said I should bring). This meant later nights than I was used to. Oh, but I did enjoy being in a tent by myself! (Adults can't be in tents with girls.)

The aftermath: I could not stop thinking about camp-related things for about two full days. What went well, what didn't. What changes would I make/suggest next year. Then there was the hour spent online reserving the 40 sites (plus two shelters and a recreation hall) for next year. I'm still working on some other clean up (post-camp surveys, reimbursement, yearly camp project plan, thank yous), but I think I should get a break from it soon. Maybe. Hopefully.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

First Day of Summer Break

The first day of summer break Chuck was still working so I took the boys hiking on the Billy Goat Trail. This particular trail has three sections, and my boys love section A, "the most rockiest hike on the Billy Goat Trail. After we did the hike, we went on a boat ride down the C&O canal." (quoting Ollie) We had to move quickly to make the boat ride, but the boys did great and were tough (and speedy) little hikers.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Last Week of School

The boys also had some stuff going on the last week of school. What? You mean, it's not all about me?! Interesting.

Recorder and orchestra concerts. Thankfully the recorders went on first so I could duck out and not subject myself to the pain of an elementary school orchestra.

The little girl on Rhett's left is his friend, Vyvyem.

And then there's this guy. This was at the Kindergarten Celebration (he's front row, in the green stripes). What can I say about this child? I love him, but man, he can drive a person crazy.

Not letting people look at him.

Not looking at others.

This was the last day for Rhett at Wheaton Woods! Of course Ollie will still be with the same kids, but they're moving back to the newly-built school in the fall. Rhett, as he's going to the other school, will be right back at this holding school as his new school is undergoing construction. Poor dude.

Miss Pam! This was the boys' morning care provide lo these many years. The new school necessitated a new morning/afternoon care provider and sadly she was not awarded the contract. We love her so much! She especially helped with Ollie's transition to school and all of us will miss her.

Welcome home from the last day of 3rd grade and kindergarten! And welcome to summer!

Are you praying for me whilst I'm away at girls camp? You better be.

Friday, June 16, 2017

School Year Recap

Yesterday, finally, my boys had their last day of school. Obviously I wanted to make sure I spent it being productive: shopping, getting a pedicure, having lunch with Chuck, working on know, the important stuff.

Like I thought ten months ago, having both boys in school all day changed my life. And of course, I'm feeling things, but maybe different things from the start of school. I didn't feel guilty at all. I think I felt that because I thought it would feel like less work having the boys around while I got stuff done. But it didn't; it just felt nice. Nor did I feel embarrassed. I should have been scared, however. Ollie had a rough start but by February, things were better. Not perfect, but better. I don't think he'll ever be one who easily follows rules at school, but I am grateful that he started following some. Amazingly, he never once complained about going to school, even if at the end of the day he'd proclaim that he "HATES school." We're just hoping 1st grade will be a bit better. Ecstatic, yep, it was amazing. Running errands, relaxing, swimming (!), it was all amazing without the boys.

And here's my full disclosure of what I accomplished during the days:
Grocery shopping
Volunteering at the boys' school
Prep meals
Clean the house (like really clean)
Lunch with friends
Church calling stuff
Exercising (run, bike, swim)
Strength train--I do that at night
Work on "scrapbooks"
Plan next year's family reunion (I'm not really planning, just gathering details at this moment)
Shopping (I need new clothes and our craft area needs some re-thinking)
Walking Bruno
Organizing closets
Organizing freezers
Washing cars

But I still feel pretty good about what I got done during the day.

Now, how am I feeling about summer? All the usual feelings. Excited about eight-hour works days, nervous about the heat and humidity, and scared to death about girls camp next week. I went up for one day years ago when I was the ward YW president, but now, to spend a whole week?! So scared. But I'm also exhausted from all the work it takes to put it together. So I'll be one happy lady next Friday at noon as I'm heading home. Just 175 hours or so to go!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I Made More Things

A friend commissioned me to make some bunk bed book holders. She provided the fabric and the inspiration; I was just the work horse. (Oh, don't mind Ollie's note taped to the bedspread tent. I think it says something like, "No mad anyone allowed.")

And, of course, those little girls needed a cute name banner for their room. I've never done a double, but I like how it turned out.

Because my new bag doesn't have as many pockets as my old bag, I had to make a little clutch for the loose stuff (from this tutorial). I'm pretty much in love with it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Happy Mothers Day to Me from Me

I don't require a lot of presents for Mothers Day, which is good karma because I don't give any to my own mom. A bike ride and dinner of my choice is enough for me. But when my old bag started to rip at the seams, I thought it was time for a change. (I was super happy to see the old bag was more than three years old! I think that's pretty good.) I saw this tutorial, liked the challenge of sewing with pleather (new to me), and so I took it on. About a month ago. BUT THEN. The measurements just didn't seem right. The zipper seemed really long, so I just gave up. It sat there, my poor, sad, work in progress, until a friend posted this on Facebook: "There is something you have been meaning/wanting/needing to do for a very long time. What is it? Let's you and I do it. TODAY." UGH. So I decided I'd finish that stupid bag.

And guess what? It turned out okay! I think if I did another one, I'd make it less wide but I'm still happy with it. The pleather was easy and yet dramatic. I think it looks fancy (until you see the straps are cotton webbing--ha). And I like the lining.

I do miss the utility of the old bag. The pockets were just so perfect. I'm going to have to figure out how to make this work, but I like it!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


We're in another one of those, "What's new? NOTHING." times in our lives. So my apologies for the unexciting post.

Ollie: He's (thankfully) having a much better go at school. Is it the new teacher? His old(er) age? Who knows. Who cares. He still doesn't love school, but I'm okay with that. He wants to take tennis lessons (he LOVES tennis), but sadly I don't think summer is going to work out. But come fall, I think we should be able to make it work. He's reading like a maniac! Like most parents, I love catching him reading and more often, we're finding him in this situation. It's kind of amazing. As previously mentioned, the boy can bike and hike just as much as his older brother. He can also wear t-shirts, unlike his older brother, so that's good. He's definitely excited for summer (which is still about five weeks away).

Rhett: He's really made great strides in his ice skating! It's kind of amazing to watch. Not that he's great, but considering how long he's been at this (remember, he'd never even been on ice skates when he declared he wanted to play hockey two months ago), Chuck and I are really happy. Plus, he still likes it. School is great. He got accepted to a gifted and talented center for 4th and 5th grade, so he won't be going to the new school after all. (I can brag about him because no one reads this except my sister and parents, and they already know.) But man, sometimes I get nervous about how well he's going to do because he exhibits some, uh, less-than-desirable traits. I think he'll be okay, but I'm betting on a big transition at the beginning of the year. He's also excited for summer, but probably not super excited about swim team. Too bad. I think, however, he has more confidence this year so that's good.

Chuck: I think he's gotten over the Caps loss (to my non-sports readers: hockey playoffs). It's hard being a sports fan in Washington. His work is fine; they're plowing through the online course development. He is also ready for summer.

Me: Sigh. The end-of-the-school-year madness is starting to set in. Most of it isn't due to school stuff, but just everything else. My current calling is assistant to the Stake Camp Director, so that's getting really busy because camp is the week after school is out. My work is lame. I want to paint our main level's interior walls, but am feeling ill-equipped to do it (darn you popcorn ceilings!). So that means we need to hire someone. In my head, this should cost a couple hundred dollars. But I'm sure the estimates will be in the thousands and I'll be depressed because it's just too much. I did get some new curtains though, so... My swimming is going well. I'm still crazy slow, but I can go for a long time. I had visions of doing a triathlon, but they were dashed when I realized how slow I was on the bike. A friend let me borrow her road bike, so maybe that'll make a difference? A backpacking weekend with friends was cancelled by rain, and I'm still angry about it. Last week we had some wicked heat. Not nice. Plans for my birthday trip are starting to congeal; we've obtained childcare!

Okay. That's it.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Take Your Kid to Work Day

A couple of weeks ago I was able to take Rhett to work with me. The Department of Labor put together some activities for kids and I was able to leave Rhett there while I got some work done. But once that was over, I brought him back to my office. I think he was underwhelmed. He liked seeing his artwork on the cubicle walls. He liked looking through my drawers and finding weird office supplies. He liked creating a PowerPoint presentation on Piggie.

But he LOVED creating his own spreadsheet. (You may correctly guess that I created the first three variables, while Rhett created the rest and then filled in the data and did the drawings.) Such a weird dude.

Obviously it's hard work to work so we went to Shake Shack at the end of the day. Obviously it was delicious.