Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why Yes, I Am Alive. Thanks for Asking.

I just haven't had much chance to sit down and blog. I have some ideas and thoughts that I'd like to turn into drafts, and maybe, eventually even hit publish. *Gasp!*

Charles had nights last week, and I made the decision not to try to blog during those evenings. I am a morning person, so when I try to write at night, it turns into mostly web surfing and, if I do write, it is pretty much not something worth reading or writing. I decided instead to just relax. I watched a little TV and read, and overall, it was just so.much.better. 

Otherwise, things have been pleasantly quiet here. Fall -- real fall -- is coming at the end of the week, and I'm excited. There's bread rising on the counter. Sweaters to pull out. New recipes to try.

Chalking. Helping in the kitchen. Eating apples. Blowing on "hot" food.

Life is good.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bike Trip

We went. We saw. We survived another Bike Trip with 2 kids.

Don't get me wrong. Bike Trip is an awesome experience, and the scenery/weather/location cannot be beat. I mean, come on: the Colorado mountains in early fall with changing leaves and 70 degree weather. Yep. Heaven.

But the trip is not exactly designed for kids. It ideally features days filled with Colorado adventures -- hiking 14ers (mountains of 14,000 feet elevation for the flat-landers), ridiculous bike rides (that, let's be honest, I'd never be able to do, given my extremely poor biking skills), and other such adventures. For those of us with kids (and there are plenty of us!), it's a lot of walking around town. Going to the marina or the playground or nap time.

Then, nights are filled with a) lingering dinners and time with friends or b) taking cranky and/or sleeping babies to bed and immediately crashing yourself or c) both.

We stay at condos, which is great -- fridges and food and snacks and a wee bit more space. 

Yep. Ugly.

Peter used the opportunity of us unpacking to gather up all of the remote controls, as he will.

Blurry because baby on the run.

Clare got to play with a view until Peter tried to start throwing toys off the balcony.

Sunny. Green. Gorgeous.

We did a little hiking. Clare did a great job of getting up . . . and a very, very whiny job of getting down. But she did it, and got a lot of praise for it.

Yes, I used Clare's backpack as as day pack. How else were were going to have snacks at the top?

The absolute best part of the trip was probably Mass on Sunday morning -- there was a big group of us at the early service, and then a few of us went to breakfast after. It just felt good to worship and fellowship with friends in a way we haven't lately.

The highlight/lowlight (as you will) of Bike Trip each year is the Sunday night dinner. It is a nice affair with dresses and courses and menus. It would be a lovely date night, but with kids, it's just hard. It is a bit much for them, and a runs more than a bit late. This year, the dinner was at this restaurant with a gorgeous setting in Vail, right on the creek (pics are, of course, on Charles' phone). There was lots of baby walking (walk alllllll the babies!) happening on the patio we strategically seated ourselves beside. Then, mid-way through the apps, Clare laid her head down on the table and just peacefully fell asleep . . . and basically slept all night. Peter pushed through entrees, but both were out by dessert. I should have taken a picture of Clare asleep, but was too busy keeping Peter calm/quiet/asleep.

Monday, we did some wandering around Breckenridge, complete with a pre-dinner visit to Breckenridge Brewery. 

Clare was really, really fascinated by the ducks.

Peter was going to town on his water.

Then, at the closing dinner, they have an "awards ceremony" with silly/fun awards. Thanks to her performance on Sunday, Clare won the "Sleeping Beauty" award, complete with a new blanket.

She has slept with it every night since.

Some other friends gave her their headband and star-glasses set, so that pretty much made her trip. "This (the headband) makes me a princess, and these (glasses) make me a rock star!"

Post-trip photo essay. No glow-in-the-dark action.

We made it home Tuesday evening after the windiest drive ev-er, and are happily getting back to the day to day. It was a good trip, but there's no place like home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Taking a Risk {or Reflections on Doing God's Will}

Are you a risk taker?

I am SO not. I'm so far from being a risk taker that I could reasonably be called risk averse. I get too comfortable with the status quo and don't step outside of my comfort zone. 

If you are anything like me, your blog reader and Instagram feed seem to be full of people stepping out and doing something BIG. And possibly something agrarian.

Cari and Dwija and now Rosie are moving out of the 'burbs and into the country. 

Haley and fam didn't just give up the corporate gig to give farming a try, but made a road trip of it before they got there. What the what?!?

Here I am, happily ensconced in that suburban life with the minivan, the ballet class, the preschool. The family dinners and the commute. It looks so common and so boring. Their lives look so interesting. It's easy to start thinking that to be a good, Catholic mom, you gotta get your homestead on. But no. No no no.

Just no.

God wants us to do his will for our lives, not theirs. He's asking us, like he asked his disciples to leave everything and follow Him. 

I look again at how I'm living God's will for my life. I do a little reframing, to try to see my life how God does. You know, the life where I moved halfway across the country with my husband and two kids under two to a small Midwestern city far from family where we barely knew a soul, to set up shop for three years, so my husband could work a million hours a week, receive amazing training, and not have to worry about (or be alone in) not prescribing contraception or referring for abortion?!?

That one. My boring little life.

Yeah, I'm living my own brand of stepping out. But you know what? It didn't feel like that. It just felt like living. It felt like prayer and response. I think that that's the key: a life of prayer, so that when we hear God's voice, we can respond. 

Maybe it was a risk, but it didn't feel like one. I trusted that God is guiding our path. 

How is God asking you to step outside of your comfort zone? Maybe He's asking you to be Abraham, to move your tribe across the desert on his promise of something great to follow. Maybe he's asking you to be Mary, to simply give your fiat. "Be it done to me according to thy word." But know that by making the radical choice to give your life over to Him, you, like me, are becoming that risk taker.

Friday, September 11, 2015

My 7 Tips for Surviving Long Drives with Little Kids (7QT 09.11.15)

Today, we're on our way to Colorado! Woo to the Hoo!

While we're no Haley & Co., we're pretty experienced with the long-haul drive. We've reached the point where 8 hours in the car "isn't that far at all" and do it several times a year. We've done it at all ages from 4th trimester to newly potty trained. I've done it pregnant (but admittedly not 3rd trimester). Here are some of the things that help us get through it. Admittedly, nothing is going to stop the whining or the meltdowns (from kids or adults!) entirely, but this certainly helps:

1. Accept that it's going to take longer than Google Maps says. We add about 20 minutes for every 2 hours, plus an extra 15 minutes for lunch if we're stopping to eat. Today's drive will be 10 hours door to door. When that's the expectation, stopping feels like it's a low-pressure situation. We usually start early, but only start really, really, really early when we're doing crazy drives, like 12 hours of drive time in one day crazy, which we do en route to and from Arizona.

2. Speaking of stopping, we do it frequently. We plan on stopping every 2 to 2.5 hours, though we'll sometimes manage a 3+ hour stretch with napping kids after lunch (never wake a sleeping baby!). When we stop, we almost always do it at a gas station/truck stop/similar. We top off the tank, everyone potties (or gets a fresh diaper), we grab drinks, and most importantly, everyone who's mobile moves around, even if it is just laps around the convenience store. When the kids were still nursing, I'd nurse every stop (pretty much the only time I ever nurse in the car) while Charles filled up and walked Clare. Then we'd take turns hitting the restroom. We switch drivers every stop, too, so that we all stay fresh. 

3. We keep a potty chair in the trunk. Anyone who has a newly potty trained little one knows that you can take them to the bathroom as frequently as you'd like, but when they have to go they have to go. And if you've driven across Kansas as many times as we have, you know that places to stop aren't frequent. Solution: potty chair in the trunk. My dad has memories of tiny me going on the side of I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson with semis roaring past. We're just keeping the tradition alive!

4. Have food and a plan. We have plenty of food in the car with us. Clare knows that there will be fishy crackers and little boxes of raisins for the taking. Now, she's also figured that I have a secret stash of M&M-infused trail mix. Part of our goal is to minimize buying expensive and bad-quality convenience store food. Part of our goal is to placate whiny kids with more snacks than they normally get (see: fishy crackers). The first day of driving, we often take sandwiches and fruit for the car -- for economy of time (eager to get to our destination) and money ($25+ on fast food = yuck). Plus, when you're away from home, you eat out more, so having one more healthy lunch is just the mom thing to do. I also make sure to have pasta and sauce waiting for an easy dinner when we get home. It prevents a desperate pizza order we don't want to make after a long day, and usually having something semi-homemade tastes pretty good by then. 

5. Even more important, I have a beverage plan. Seriously. I've (finally!) got a beverage plan that keeps me going. When we started the long drives, I frequently found myself feeling badly dehydrated on the road, so I started working to combat that feeling. The problem is a tendency to drink too much caffeine (gotta keep going!) and not enough water (don't want to have to go to the bathroom!). When you accept that you're going to stop, you don't worry as much about beverage intake -- even pregnant. I start with coffee, because starting early requires coffee. I have water with me, and make sure to finish the bottle by the time we reach our final destination. Additionally, at our first stop, I get Gatorade, which I rarely drink, but helps a ton on long-haul drives. At lunch, I drink water. If we stop to eat, I'll drink water with my food and then get a Coke. Otherwise, it's just water. At our third stop, I play it by ear, but usually end up with soda or coffee. If we have a 4th or 5th stop, I continue alternating water and caffeine as best as I can. And let's be honest, by the time we reach our destination, a beer is sounding pretty dang good. ;-) 

6. Load up on in-car entertainment. Who hasn't had this experience? You're on the road. You've already listened to your awesome road trip playlist. Twice. You're starting to feel a little road weary, but you still have 6 hours of drive time to go. And those 6 hours are straight across I-70 through Kansas and eastern Colorado (read: boring), so staying focused is key. What I've found many times over is that the spoken word is much more engaging than music. I love to listen to audiobooks or podcasts on the road. And Clare has discovered Glory Stories, so I'm sure we'll be listening to those, too. In fact, I have two new CDs for her on today's drive, because you can only hear about Bl. Imelda's First Communion so many times. I mean, I love that that's the thing that she wants to fill her little head with while in the car, but . . . a girl can only take so much. (Side note: Dad, I'd like to formally apologize for the drive to San Diego listening to "The Count Counts a Party." I get it now. I do.) 

7. Accept that sleep might be unpredictable. I can't sleep in the car. Charles sometimes can. You might get a magic 3 hour nap from the kids. You might be singing and dancing like a lunatic in the 3rd row to keep kids awake 15 minutes before lunch (not that I have any personal experience with that one . . . and no, passing cars did not gawk and stare, thankyouverymuch). Don't worry about schedules and just roll with it. You can get schedules back when you get to your destination or when you get home. Kids are more flexible than we schedule-freaks give them credit for.

Happy(ish) Driving, y'all! 

(And it wouldn't be a September 11 without prayers for peace in a world still rocked by violence, all these years later.)

{Linking up with Kelly, because it's Friday, and I haven't in forever long.}

Monday, September 7, 2015

Currently (Daybook 09.07.2015)

My semi-regular update about life in these parts.

Excited for the annual residency trip to Colorado next weekend!! The first and second years get to go -- which is pretty much the biggest perk to being a first or second year resident. The weather looks about as perfect as can be, and a nice little getaway will be lovely. At the very least, there will be no pager and no time at the hospital.

Unrelated, but too cute not to share

Thinking about the close of summer. It feels a little surreal that Labor Day is today -- it's so late! It has been September for a week already! In some ways, my mind is already turned to fall. In others (weather, I'm looking at you), it still feels like summer. We enjoyed our last family trip to the (outdoor) pool yesterday, and have a BBQ with some friends today. 

Reading book after book after book after book. Peter has reached that stage where he brings one book after another for reading. If you sit down, you will be handed a book. He's also started climbing into your lap, just in case you didn't get the memo. It's gotten so bad that we have given it a name: to book (v. to be forcefully given a book to read by a young child. As in, "Honey, Peter just booked me again!") Then, Clare sees you reading and wants to listen, so she climbs on the other side. Then she starts bringing books and before you know it, you've read 5 books -- and only one of them was a short little board book!

My kids are book worms, and Charles says it's my fault.

Wearing glasses, at least part of the time. I've known that I had some astigmatism for awhile now, and I finally got around to getting my eyes checked, because night driving just didn't feel quite right. The optometrist rightly predicted that wearing glasses part (or even most) of the time would also help with headaches. I'm trying to wear them most of the time at home, but stick to regular sunglasses outside, so I haven't bothered with the on and off game for errands and such. Definitely something I'm still getting used to.

Just call me 4-eyes! (Also pictured, sleeping baby)

Watching Project Runway, of course. I mean, no it isn't what it used to be, but it is still fun to watch every week.

Making A really long packing list. Packing 2 kids and an adult for 5 days of really varied activities -- everything from hiking to nice dinners -- really forces you to be organized. Especially when your son has decided that he can sleep (for now), so long as he has 3 (specific) stuffed animals and 3 (particular) blankets. I mean, I need a suitcase just for him, but anything for a little sleep, you know. So everything, probably including the kitchen sink will head to Colorado, and we'll likely still have to make a run to the store, because that's just how it goes. Alas, I'll be list-making my little heart out anyway.

Peter and his Sheepie

In Residency Charles is wrapping up a classically terrible -- almost to the point of a stereotype -- residency weekend. Work Friday. 24 hour shift Saturday to Sunday. Back in (not)bright and (very)early this morning -- for a holiday shift, meaning minimal staff. Of course. Thank goodness for rest next weekend. ;-)

Grateful for the gift of baptism. Clare's baptism day is coming up this week, and I'm just so blessed to watch her grow in her faith. St. Clare, pray for us.

Praying for the Syrian refugee situation.

I'm also praying that everyone has a safe, enjoyable holiday (and that it is relaxing, too, if you're blessed to not be working)!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

I'm Officially the Mom of a Kid with Activities!

Last week, Clare had her first day of preschool.

Required backpack pic

She goes two mornings per week at our parish, and so far, so good. Her reporting on her day is still a work in progress, so there's not too much information about what's going on, but the evidence all points to "going well": No tears. Ran into class the second and third days. Came home covered in paint. Reported on Thursday that it was, "just fun." Winning.

A week in, and also I'm loving that preschool is getting me out of bed more consistently each morning. I have to be ready before the kids get up if I want to make drop-off on time without craziness. I mean, the actually getting out of bed is awful (and I know will only get worse when the weather turns), but once I'm up, it's amazing. I can be showered and a cup of coffee in before I serve my first cup of milk. I've sworn my allegiance to me-time in the mornings a million times, and fallen off the bandwagon just as many, but having to get to school is keeping me going. I'm actually excited to be up before the sun. Talk to me in a few days/weeks/months/years. 

On the other hand, I was shocked at how preschool drop-off affected Peter. I actually didn't expect much of a reaction from him at all, thinking instead, "Ooooh, time with Peter!" But Peter had never really been away from Clare in his short little life and was distraught the whole first day. He clung to me in the saddest little way. He did better on Thursday and seemed pretty much over it yesterday, so I think he's figured out that she's coming back, but that first day was pretty darn sweet.

He didn't know what was about to hit him. Poor kid. Also, his face in this picture cracks me up.

Then, yesterday, she had her first ballet class. To say that she was excited would be the understatement of the century. She was thrilled. Thrilled I tell you. She's pretty much lived in ballet slippers since they arrived in the mail (thanks, Amazon!) a couple of weeks ago. There was quite the throng of parents craning in the observation window last night, including so many dads (including Charles!) who somehow managed to make it to their little girl's ballet class. It was pretty heartwarming. Anyway, Clare took the first half of class so seriously that it was almost comical. At one point, there was another girl acting like, well, a three year old, and Clare gave her a look that clearly said, "this is not silly; this is ballet." But again, she was smiling the whole time and is still being a ballerina today, so I think it is another win.

Trying to get a first day of ballet picture.

The best I got of my tiny dancer. (<--When has cheezy ever stopped me?)

So all of that is goodgreatawesomefantastic and all of that, but oh-my-gosh, I am also the mom of a kid in activities. I have a real schedule. Commitments. A night that I have to have dinner going in the CrockPot so that I can feed my exhausted brood the nanosecond we get home from ballet Tuesday night lest they implode. I love it. I thrive on schedules. But I also dread the future day when my life is over-scheduled and over-activitied and over-Crocked, because life. What's great in small doses adds up to a lot if you don't keep it in check, you know?!? I'm trying to take it a day at a time, and just enjoy the now. Because ^^^^^ all that is pretty darn great!