Oh Hi. Life Lately.

It’s been awhile. 43 days to be exact.

I was in middle school when Jagged Little Pill dominated the airwaves. My favorite song on the album then and now is Head Over Feet and my least favorite is {ironically} Ironic. I admit that I was by no means considered brilliant in 7th grade but even I side-eyed Ms. Morissette’s lyrics, which detailed bad luck and not irony. Because of this, I’m always hesitant to declare something ironic because I always feel the need to take a step back and ask myself, “Is this really ironic?” So – with trepidation, I am writing that I found it ironic that I woke up sick on the day I took off from work in effort to collect and recenter myself. Of course.

I’m feeling better today and I have another day at home thanks to the kids not having school due to Election Day and the fact that my hourly rate barely covers child care. The house is scrubbed clean, our winter clothes sorted, and our guest bed is now home to a mountain of items to be donated. So now I write. The past couple of months have been a whirlwind of new normals, uncertainty surrounding our future, and the everyday life that occurs when raising two children in the DC suburbs.

Soccer season has come and gone. Our Saturdays will become a little more open because both decided not to play a team sport this winter. We took advantage of the reduced military rate for the Epic Pass so we hope to spend most of our weekends this winter on the slopes and finally have the kids learn to ski. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t learn to ski until I was in middle school and living in Pennsylvania and even then, it was during a ski trip with the French club. My parents don’t downhill ski so my siblings and I never learned as kids. Clay and I would like to take ski vacations with the kids when they get a bit older so we’d like them to learn sooner rather than later. We’ll start with the Poconos and who knows – maybe in a few years we’ll be skiing in the Alps?

We leaned into fall and visited Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia. I’m not a huge fan of the organized fun that occurs at such places – I’d much rather wander through fall foliage without the ‘farm’ experience. However, the kids really enjoy going and we found ourselves in fits of laughter while getting lost in the corn maze.

We cheered on the Nationals as they won their last regular season game – we did not attend any of the playoff games or World Series games. We briefly considered dropping the cash because the opportunity doesn’t come along often to see your team play in the World Series but it was either pay for four tickets or have the funds to take another epic trip next summer – we chose travel. It was the first World Series were neither team won any home games so one could argue that it worked out to our advantage. But boy, it sure was fun watching the Nats – even if it was on television. They finished the fight. Go Nats!

We went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, which is the second largest Renaissance festival in the country. While we enjoyed the jousting tournament, we quickly learned that we’re not really Renaissance Festival people. We inadvertently went on Pirate Weekend, which made for some interesting people watching but the grounds were ridiculously busy and we found it to be very expensive. But yeah – not our cup of tea.

Clay and I saw The Head and the Heart at the Anthem, which is one of my favorite venues in the area to see concerts. The Head and the Heart put on a fantastic show and their set list was a good mix of old and new songs. Does it really get any better than Charity Rose Thielen’s voice?

We bought a new car – a 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT Edition. We’ve been wanting to trade in Clay’s car for quite some time because neither one of us particularly liked it but there was nothing on the market that we wanted to buy. That is – until Subaru announced the new Onyx XT package on the Outback. I plan on reviewing this car on the blog in the future because it is so much fun to drive and we’re so happy that we waited instead of settling.

The broken mini-blinds really make the picture, don’t they? I’m a sucker for my husband in his Mess Dress so I was thrilled to accompany him to the Marshall Dinner last month. While there was no dancing at the event, we did get to hear former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, belt out Theme from New York, New York among other songs. His speech really resonated with us and covered many of the topics that have monopolized our own discussions about what we want the next 5, 10, 20 years to look like in regards to Clay’s military service.

Clay’s parents come up to visit and help us celebrate the little guy’s 10th birthday. They were able to attend both soccer games, which the kids really appreciated. The following weekend, my mom flew in for a quick visit. She was able to also see both soccer games and afterward, we took her to our favorite place to get blue crabs in the Annapolis, Maryland area (The Point Crab House).

We only managed to visit two breweries over the past 43 days – Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton and Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont. Pictured is the Pineapple Tart Ale, which is described as “A simple grain bill of Pilsner and Wheat malts with just a touch of Perle hops. Lactobacillus is added to the wort before boiling to achieve a tart flavor. Pineapple puree added post fermentation for a hint floral aromas and a citrus finish.” I highly recommend if you like tart ales and/or wheat beer with a hint of fruit.

The kids’ costumes for the Book Character Parade at school were quite different than what they wore later that night for Trick-or-Treating.

And finally, while we haven’t decorated for Christmas yet, we do have an undecorated Christmas tree in the corner of our living room. Over the weekend, we bought a new tree with a smaller footprint because our 10+ year-old tree has just been too big for our last few homes. We took the tree out of the box to make sure the lights worked and it just seemed silly to put it back in the box so up it went! I’m sure we will decorate the tree and the rest of the house sooner rather than later – when do you traditionally decorate for Christmas?

So there you have it – a glimpse into my life over the past 43 days. I didn’t write near as much as I wanted due to other professional obligations but the next few months will look quite different than the previous few. And for that, I am thankful.

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Let Me Clear My Throat

Taps microphone.

In 1996, DJ Kool gave us the jam, “Let Me Clear My Throat.” Professional sports haven’t been the same since and it’s impossible for me to sit down to write without thinking of the title lyric, which is uttered throughout the song. Thank you, DJ Kool for sponsoring this long-overdue post.

An alternative title of this post could be Reasons Why I Haven’t Blogged in 30+ Days. Shortly after my last post detailing our time in Munich this summer, I started a new position at the district office for our school system. Over the years, I’ve written a lot about my desire to find the right balance between my professional goals, Clay’s professional goals, and what we want our family life to look like – all while living within the constraints that the Army puts upon us. I currently work 20 hours/week and only go to the office during the hours my kids are in school and I feel like that is the perfect amount of time. I’m still able to be heavily involved in our kids’ school, be a Girl Scout Leader, shuttle the kids to sports, music lessons, and other activities throughout the week, but I also have a place to go that values my input and allows me to actually use some things that I learned in graduate school. Unfortunately, I’m still figuring out the best way to organize my time so as a result, the majority of the writing I’ve been doing hasn’t made its way to this space.

I still have yet to write about our trip to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg earlier this summer and my recaps about our time in Salzburg and Garmish-NAME are sitting in the draft folder. We had a little getaway to Shenandoah National Park (we saw two bears!) and Charlottesville, Virginia. We also went to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina this summer – but I never wrote about it. I haven’t talked about how difficult I’m finding it to lose the ten pounds I’ve put on over the last two years. I wrote a post about my insecurities surrounding my skin but never published it. I don’t write about how terrified I am that I am failing at something/anything at any given moment. And I haven’t mentioned a word about how our (rental) home is seemingly falling apart around us.

It’s not that I have a shortage of things to write about. I could write about how we went camping this past weekend and ended up spending the night next to the snake who lived in the tree beside our campsite. I could write about the one lady who glares at me whenever I see her on the playground. I could write about how I’m not really crazy about the list of places the Army could send us next. And I could write about the plans I have for And Then We Laughed.

I spent last year throwing a bunch of ideas and experiences at the proverbial wall – just to see what would stick. I tried a couple of different things in the professional realm and I experimented with a few things in this space. Perhaps that most important lessons I learned were that the type of blogger I want to be doesn’t really have a label yet and teaching elementary school isn’t for me. I also learned that there are certain things that I am not willing to give up – even if it means making professional sacrifices. Example? Walking my children to school. Sorry, not sorry.

Shenandoah National Park

I had someone recently ask me what I was truly passionate about. Like really truly deeply within my bones passionate about. I’ve been giving it some thought – admittedly, probably not as much as I should. Expect some positive changes in this space in the coming weeks. I’m slowly getting my groove back and man, does it ever feel good.

The Art of Knowing Very Little

The other night after dinner, the four of us were playing a game at the table when I was struck with one of those moments of disbelief – the type when it feels like you’re floating above the room keenly observing the people and events. If we were in a Nancy Meyers film, the screen would’ve given way to a gorgeous and unnecessary oversized kitchen as Summer Samba (So Nice) floated in the air. I stared at my hard-working husband and curious children and the Ticket to Ride: First Journey game board and thought to myself, “I am here.” The three of them were laughing about a mispronunciation of a train station as I looked on with reverence. I was reflecting on our path that lead to that precise moment in time when my son called out, “It’s your turn, Mom!” – which sent me crashing down from my ethereal birds-eye perspective.

the great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been

madeleine l'engle quote

I’m getting older. The laugh lines on my face are more pronounced than they were five years ago. When I stare at my hands, I’m struck by how much older they appear than the years my birth certificate indicates. The sands of time seem to be falling at feverish pace and I know they will continue to do so with each year. And while I am more confident than ever and grateful for what I’ve been able to experience thus far, I am continuously reminded that I know very little about this world.

Grand Canyon family sunset

We’ve been lucky to travel to some pretty amazing places that will be forever etched in our hearts. But there is a reason why I am quick to recommend the Grand Canyon as a must-do family vacation – being able to participate in the transformative experience of soaking in the indescribable view with our children is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. Sitting on that ledge, we were reminded of just how small we were in the most overwhelmingly way possible. And what is perhaps most astonishing is that if were were to sit in that same exact spot right now, the view would not be the same because the canyon is ever-changing. Just like life.

Sometimes I wonder if I deserve the life that I’ve cultivated over the years. I’ll look down on the events taking place around me and think, “How did I ever get here?” and confuse perception with reality. I wonder if I express enough gratitude. And I question whether I’m seizing the moment enough to maximize the experience. But when I float back down, I’m reminded that the beauty of life lies with understanding just how little we understand of it. I am lucky that I’ve had the time that I’ve had and I can only hope that there are many more years ahead of me. After all, I still know very little.

The Art of Being Bored

How can it already by the second week of July? School starts back up next month. Next month. How is that even possible? My elementary school summers were spent in Phoenix, Arizona. Perhaps it was the unrelenting heat, but the almost three month break from school seemed to last for.ev.ver (said like Michael “Squints” Palledorous from The Sandlot).

Me – circo 1990 in Glen Arbor, Michigan

Back then, my summer days involved countless hours in our swimming pool, one massive road trip to Michigan, and day trips down to Mexico. I had very relaxed summers growing up. My mom stayed home and we didn’t do day camps, classes, or any other scheduled events that seem to dominate kids’ schedules nowadays. We’d go to the library and Video Showcase, where each of us kids were able to rent a movie on $1 Tuesdays – discovering such films as Mac & Me, He Said/She Said, and my beloved Three Men and a Little Lady. And yes, I was bored – some days more than others.

Thank goodness.

The art of boredom is dying – especially among children. It is alarming the amount of children who are rarely given the opportunity to fully use their imagination and fill empty time with self-created adventures. Perhaps I am more cognizant of this trend living in Northern Virginia – the pace of family life in this part of the country really can feel relentless at times.

I purposely do not fill up our summer days with activities and outings. Yes – we still do quite a bit and my children experience plenty but they also have quite a bit of days with absolutely nothing scheduled and they’re left to their own imaginations for entertainment. Yes – they use the iPad and watch plenty of television but they’ve built an entire city out of LEGOs in the basement, they created a vending machine out of a giant cardboard box, they worked together and wrote a book, they designed a scavenger hunt, and they play outside plenty. Most importantly – they’re learning how to self-motivate and work together as a team.

The internet has no shortage of articles about why bored is good for the soul. Study after study have demonstrated why unstructured time is crucial for childhood development and psychological well-being. I admit there are times when I doubt my instincts and wonder if I am doing enough for my children this summer. But then I am reassured when I’m called down to the basement to marvel at their newest invention made out of BBQ skewers and Play-Doh.

We have plenty of family adventures planned for the rest of summer but there will also be a lot of down time where they will harness their boredom and transform it into independent creative play. They will draw. They will paint. They will make a mess. And they will clean up after themselves. I will not comb Pinterest for activities to keep them occupied day in and day out. They will have time to think. Time to plan their own day. They will play outside unsupervised. They will build forts. They will fight. They will be sent to their rooms. They will read. They will be bored at times. And they will have a fantastic summer because of it.