An Unremarkable Weekend

There was nothing remarkable about our weekend. We didn’t go cliff diving in the Ord River, we didn’t hike within Glacier National Park, and we didn’t run with the bulls in Pamplona. Instead we slept in, binged on Disney+, and indulged in fondue. We threw around a baseball, went to church, and braved Tysons Corner to get a jump start on Christmas shopping. We talked about our future and began to plan our Walt Disney World trip (yep, we’re finally going). We jumped started Clay’s car and we had a Latin dance party in our son’s room to the only station that his radio would pick up. We lounged on the couch in comfy socks and ate hot fudge sundaes. We were completely unscheduled for the first time in months. By Instagram standards, it was a weekend of big ol’ nothing. Some people may even call it boring. But it was exactly what our little family of four needed.

I admit that I sometimes fall victim to the fear of missing out – unsure if I am really living life to the fullest. Occasionally I find myself peering at my life like its contained within a snow globe – various vignettes, sometimes with snow. Thoughts like, “Is my life boring? Am I taking enough risks? fall through my head like little snowflakes as we skate around the town square inside the globe. But then we experience a weekend like the one we just did and I’m reminded of the beauty found within the most simple of experiences.

We want our children to balance the moments of quiet and introspection with ones of risk and adventure. We don’t feel the need to entertain our children constantly and fill their days with activities and schedules – they do a fine job creating spectacular worlds themselves. Yes – our plan is to continue exploring the world with them throughout their childhood and into adulthood. But we also plan to make plenty of time to squeeze on the same couch and savor the occasional lazy day together.

This weekend was the reminder I needed that only boring people are bored. And our seemingly unremarkable weekend emphasized that not only is there much to be discovered about the world, but also there is a lot we can learn about ourselves and how we relate to the ones we love most. After all, adventure isn’t always standing on top of a mountain or sailing the great seas; adventure is attitude to experience the seemingly unremarkable and most simple aspects of life.

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.

We Fell in Love with Salzburg, Austria

When I wrote my post about how we chose our summer vacation this year, Salzburg wasn’t on our radar. Our original plan involved squeezing in a trip to Berlin but we eventually decided that we’d rather spend our time in Bavaria this time around. To be honest, I can’t quite remember how we decided on Salzburg, Austria but I’m so incredibly happy we did!

Salzburg is amazing. It’s the fourth-largest city in Austria and known for it’s Baroque architecture, being the birthplace of Mozart, home of the Salzburg Festival, and the setting for The Sound of Music. We stayed in a family suite at Das Grune zur Post, which was a quick bus ride into Old Town (a bus stop is literally outside the hotel). Our room was spacious, clean, and comfortable. Our time in Salzburg coincided with a record-breaking heat wave so while our room had no air-conditioning, the hotel had set up couple of free-standing fans that helped. And how can you not appreciate the …interesting…artwork above the bed?

Public transportation system in Salzburg consists of a network of buses that are clean, reliable, and extremely easy to navigate. We purchased a family pass each day we were in town and had no trouble hopping on and off to get to wherever we wanted to go.

So what did we do in Salzburg?

We walked. And we walked. And we walked. Salzburg’s Old Town (Altstadt) has stunning mountain views, gorgeous baroque architecture, narrow alleys, and winding roads lined with green moss. And it even has a castle!

Known for having one of the most-preserved city centers in the Bavarian region, Salzburg’s Old Town has cobblestone streets and buildings dating back to the Middle Ages that emerged from World War II relatively unscathed – at least compared to other towns of the era. The town’s bridges and the dome of the cathedral were destroyed by Allied bombing but a majority of the baroque architecture remained intact.

The Salzburg Cathedral (still contains the baptismal font in which Mozart was baptized!) dates back to the 700s, eventually being rebuilt in the 17th century, which is as we see it today.

The kids absolutely loved the “Gurken” art installation in Furtwänglerpark by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. We’ve had a handful of people criticize our decision to travel to Europe two summers in a row with our kids (“Why don’t wait until they’re older?”) – wondering if our itineraries are ‘too boring’ or ‘too adult’ for our elementary-aged children. Perhaps we’re lucky but both our kids enjoy exploring cities, hiking, and learning about history (Stonehenge being the exception – ha!). Our goal as parents is to have them leave the nest with a sense of adventure and an appreciation for the stories of our past and present. Fingers-crossed that we can make it three summers in a row.

Seriously – how can you not love Salzburg?

Residenzplatz is the square in the heart of Old Town Salzburg. Surrounded by the archiepiscopal residences, Residenzplatz is bordered by the New Residence, the Cathedral, the Old Residence and lots of townhomes. In the center of the square is Residenzbrunnen, a 17th century fountain that is considered the largest Baroque fountain in Central Europe. You’ve probably seen it before – Julie Andrews splashes the fountain while singing ‘I Have Confidence’ in The Sound of Music.

Speaking of The Sound of Music, easily one of the highlights of our almost two-week trip was our Fraulein Maria Bicycle Tour throughout Old Town and the countryside. The tour had us biking to famous sights of the film and locations relevant to the real Maria and Captain von Trapp, who were from Salzburg, Austria.

All of the external scenes for the movie were filmed in Salzburg and the surrounding region, and interior scenes were filmed at the 20th Century Fox studios in California.

If you find yourselves in Salzburg with time to only do one thing, I recommend The Sound of Music bike tour. It was schmalzy, incredibly fun, and absolutely beautiful.

Our time in Salzburg also included a visit to Hohensalzburg Fortress, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Refurbished in the 19th century, it has been a tourist attraction ever since – complete with a funicular railway up to the top. Visitors can either walk up to the castle or take the funicular railway for a small fee. The kids enjoyed seeing the exhibits scattered throughout the castle and the views are incredible!

Our time in Salzburg happened to be the week before the start of the famed Salzburg Festival so we were able to witness bustle in preparation. While we did a lot of things in Salzburg, we were not able to visit a salt mine – we ran out of time! Salzburg literally means Salt Fortress – there are artistic references to salt scattered throughout the city and almost everyone we met recommended at salt mine tour. Next time, for sure. Because we will the magnificently beautiful Salzburg again.

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.