March 21, 2011


In the almost 10 years we've been married, about 97% of our time off and vacation days have been spent visiting family or going to big events for friends and family (weddings, graduations). Sometimes those "vacations" have included a few fun, just-for-us times, but usually not. Obviously, family is very important to us and we want to show everyone how much we care about them by being present for events or just spending time together. Especially when family lives in another state. It's easy for a year to go by without seeing someone when you live hundreds of miles away, which is really hard when those someones are your immediate family!

After living with both my husband's and my families for extended times in the last three years, it became more evident how much we need our own time as a nuclear family. When it was no longer available on even a daily basis, we wanted it much, much more. Add a kid, and then another, and we realized how much we need to preserve and protect our time, allowing for new memories to be made for our kids that illustrate and enforce who and what we are as a unit.

Now that we are finally living in our own home again (and enjoying it immensely) we still were noticing how much of our limited free time was being given (and sometimes taken) by others. We sat down to talk about it and decided it was time to really stake a claim on our autonomy as a family of four. And to make decisions about what we do with our free time that reflect what we love and care about, above and beyond our family members.

August of 2009 marked our first real family vacation. K was 3 and we decided to go camping for two nights in Michigan. It was wonderful! Despite some early pregnancy nausea, caused by a pregnancy I was not yet certain was a reality, we had a great time. K loved the adventure, sleeping outside in a tent and with us, cooking over a fire, playing in the woods and at the beach-all of it. We adults liked the low key pace and unplugged atmosphere of it all.

Our second family vacation happened last week. We made plans to visit an old college friend and her family in Wisconsin, a two hour drive from us. Not wanting to waste too much of our time on driving, and keeping with the spirit of preserving and creating special family time, we decided to stay over one night.

We planned to spend the morning and afternoon with our friends, which we did. We enjoyed a lovely service at their very charmingly decorated and welcoming church, had lunch and did some shopping in Lake Geneva. I've heard a lot about Lake Geneva but had never been there. It was fun to cruise around the shops on main street, exploring some of the more unique wares and eats they had to offer. The three kids we were toting did really well and seemed to enjoy the outing a lot, too!

Right around dinner time we parted ways and headed to our hotel. I found a place called Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark in Lake Geneva that we decided to stay at. It was amazing! For a very reasonable rate, we got a one room suite that allowed Jim and I to have our own room, had a full kitchen (fridge, stove, sink, dishwasher, dishes, cabinets), big bathroom with whirlpool tub, balcony, fireplace, pull-out couch for K, dining area, lots of closet space, 2 TVs, DVD player-the works! The place has a huge indoor waterpark, arcade, workout facilities, restaurant, convenience store, and area for special events that are held pretty much every day (movie nights, crafts, etc). Next door is a stable and small petting zoo. Nearby is also a skiing area that you can pay for separately when the weather permits that activity.

When you book the room, you get 4 passes to the waterpark for each day. So, the first night after checking in, we spent a couple of hours in the waterpark. K was SO excited to go that he could barely contain himself to wait while we all got our bathing suits on! Then when we got there, he ended up being scared of doing almost anything by himself. The second day he finally warmed up, and we found out we could use life vests that the park provided. That made him feel more at ease. By a couple of hours before we left, he was sliding down the biggest kid water slide into 4 feet of water (as long as we caught him)!

We got a late check out, but it was still kind of a pain to have to pack up in the middle of our day. Especially with a baby who still takes two naps a day. But, we had lots of fun nonetheless. It was great that we were even allowed to stay all day at the waterpark. Our prayers were answered and the time moved very slowly, so we felt we made the most of it. I can definitely see going back again someday, hopefully for longer!

Our next vacation is Jim's family reunion in Maine this August! We're super excited about that one, too. Partially for the location, and partially because it will be a nice long trip-at least a week. The reunion and family part will be about half of it, then we plan to break off and do some sightseeing and traveling around on our own. Can't wait!

March 11, 2011

Little people

I have to say that age four has been, overall, a very enjoyable age. Might be my favorite, or at least tied with age one ( the first 7 or 8 months of age one, before terrible twos started). K is so interested in everything, gaining so much independence, learning and retaining so much, going through another language boom. He's funny and creative and able to communicate on a deeper level with us. I feel like this year has contained the most change for him in terms of who he is and what he looks like. The first year probably holds the title for most change in a twelve month period, but 4 to 5 seems like it is the most.

K is cracking us up all the time with the stuff he comes up with. The latest ones involve how he "measures" things like sickness, distance, time, etc. Both the boys got bacterial pinkeye this week, which is totally disgusting, by the way. K was talking about being sick and his eyes hurting and we had this gem of a conversation:

"I think I'm, like, 3 guinea pigs sick today," he said.

"Guinea pigs?" I replied.


"I said, 'guinea pigs?' You are three guinea pigs sick?"

"Yes. And Daddy's probably 5 guinea pigs sick."

"Well, actually, Daddy's feeling better," I couldn't help but say.

"Oh, then he's 1/2 a guinea pig sick."

"Why guinea pigs?"

"What?" (Kids can be very dense sometimes.)

"Why are you using guinea pigs to explain how sick you are? What do guinea pigs have to do with how you feel?" I said slowly and loudly.

"I don't know. They are kind of small. And I feel like a guinea pig."

That was the best I could get. And it was still hilarious.

The other thing K uses to gauge things is the number 167. "Will it take 167 to get there?" "I want 167 books tonight." "I'm 167 angry." "I think there are a lot of stars, like 167." It seems to be his favorite number, and also the go-to representative for anything big or that takes a lot of time.

The way kids' brains work is so interesting. I can't even keep track of all the funny and silly things they say and do. I keep a journal for each of my boys, but it's not nearly as complete as I wish it was. I can't keep up with how fun they are thanks to the busy-ness of life, and the fact that the fun and funny things usually happen right smack in the middle of 167 other things (like how I used that magic number there?).

March 10, 2011

Surface level

Over the weekend, I bought an age-defying moisturizer. On purpose.

I've never been one to care overly much about age. I liked looking older when I was a kid, because I felt older. I've also kind of enjoyed the fact that since turning 18, everyone has thought I look younger than I am. Pale skin comes in handy when in comes to age, because staying out of the sun preserves you better than just about anything else! (Though I don't like feeling like people must think I'm more immature if they think I'm younger.)

When I was at the end of my 20s, I wasn't upset or freaked out by turning thirty, like many people seem to be. And when that milestone birthday actually arrived, I was too busy dealing with terrible morning sickness with my second pregnancy to care about something as paltry as my age!

So, thirty came and went without much notice on my part.

I must say, however, that the year after turning thirty and now the first (roughly) half of thirty-one seem to have taken a visible toll. I probably notice it more than anyone else, I'm sure. In so many ways, I think I look better than ever (and my husband agrees, which is nice). I lost some extra weight after S was born and I feel very comfortable with this weight. As women (in particular) age, they also lose some of the "baby fat" in their faces and I like the way my face looks as a result of that. I'm wearing a smaller size in clothes, and since I'm working again and older now I've also started updating my wardrobe and am very happy with that.

On the downside of this phase in life are all the age-related things I'm noticing. My crows' feet and laugh lines are pronounced, especially in certain pictures and bright light. My hands look drier and more wrinkled. Since having K, I've gotten more and more grey hairs all the time (even though I still mostly cover them with hair dye). When putting on eye shadow, my skin moves around since it isn't as firm anymore. All small things, and pretty insignificant overall. But I do notice them.

I've never been a slave to beauty. The opposite, really. I wear make-up, but not much and I always go for a more natural look. And I won't spend much money on it. I've cleansed and moisturized my face twice a day since my acne started as a teenager (and then never went away, like everyone promised it would!). The last few months, or year, have found me slacking in this practice, though. When you've been trying to keep your face clean for over 15 years, in the hope of reducing or eliminating acne and it doesn't seem to work, it is easy to lose hope! But I know I shouldn't give up on good habits now.

I practice good hygiene, try to eat well and stay hydrated, I don't overly product or style my hair, don't take unnecessary medications, stay active in my regular life (take the stairs, go for walks, play with the kids, etc) and (when I'm on my game) I work out.

However, it appears to be the time to take more premeditated action, or risk the compounding effects of the aging process. The timing couldn't be more frustrating, though. I have a baby and a pre-schooler, and I work part time, and everything else that goes along with life. Sitting through a whole meal is difficult. Showers are usually interrupted. I don't sleep through the night. After all that, it doesn't even seem worth it to THINK about how to keep myself looking good. But, there is no denying the fact that life seems a little brighter when you feel good and feel like you look good.

So, a few new pieces of clothing make me feel more professional and put together (and not like a spit, food, and snot covered mama). And the age-defying moisturizer does make my face feel softer and look more "radiant", as they say on the package. I hope the little things I do can make me feel younger and more confident on a basic level, and that they help my body and skin to look and feel healthy in the long term.

March 4, 2011

A Neighborhood Adventure

The old lady probably woke up early, as usual. She got up slowly, as usual. Thankfully she could still get up and get ready on her own. That might not last much longer, at her age.

(Sparing the details of a long, slow routine), Agnes made it to the front door of her third floor apartment, ready to fight the elements. Long, black, quilted coat: on and buttoned to the top. Knitted mittens, layered over knitted gloves (she was a knitting pro): on. She had mastered the art of closing and locking the door with two bulky layers over her knotted hands, because who wants to put gloves on after you've left your warm house? Toasty black boots: yanked into place despite arthritis and almost total inability to reach her toes. And, the icing on the old lady cake, a clear plastic tie cap, with plain white trim: tied neatly in place to provide ultimate protection from wind, precipitation and being mistaken for a younger woman.

The third floor was a necessary evil at 80. High enough to prevent burglars from invading and causing a heart attack, among other things, but not convenient for the ever slower and more pain-ridden old woman.

Agnes hustled to the bus stop outside her building. Passing cars whizzed by her as she walked to the curb, hunched over and bundled against the bitter cold. She seemed to barely notice any of it. Her mission was foremost on her mind, and hidden from the rest of the world.

She stared across the street, over the cars and past all the sights in front of her. The physical was so secondary at this point; only the mind really mattered. At least her mind still functioned and (usually) followed her directions.

The bus arrived and she boarded. It whisked her away from home and forward to the day's necessities.

It was dark when Agnes' journey ended. She slowly descended from the city bus' open door. The driver and other passengers were probably not too happy about the extra time and care she took. Or, if it was one of those rare sympathetic groups, they smiled as they watched her and wished her a good evening.

There she was again, on the curb outside her apartment building, watching the cars rush by on the six-lane thoroughfare. Suddenly, she darted across the street faster than anyone would have expected she was capable of, her tiny legs a blur under her hunched back and bulky coat! Something only she could see was escaping her capture. Once again, she had overcome any physical obstacle to do what needed to be done. She was still in control of herself and her destiny, and she would stay that way (hopefully).

The adrenaline rush lasted only 20 or 30 seconds. She made it through the urban gauntlet and reached the other side, prize in hand. Clutching that $100 bill, she looked over to her side of the street, seeming to see right through the cars and activity, right into her warm and comfortable apartment. She could almost feel her soft, low chair, her slippered feet up on the ottoman and cup of warm tea by her side: her reward for the toil each day exacted from her, required of her, to maintain her existence.