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My sister and me at ages six months and four years old.

I just want to start by saying we’re not quite ready for a second baby. I mean, I’m really not sure how people do it — pregnant a second time with a four-month-old or a seven-month-old? Even now as Adelaide hits the home stretch toward two years old, I can’t imagine the exhaustion of pregnancy on top of keeping up with her. And, how do people afford to have two kids in daycare?

This week, a second friend with a toddler around Adelaide’s age announced she is expecting baby number two. Their kids will be almost exactly two years apart. I have lots of friends my age with siblings two years older or younger — it’s a perfectly normal thing. My sister and I are three-and-a-half years apart and four years apart in school. I’ve always thought that was the perfect spread. We were never in high school together at the same time. We were never competing against each other in school or extra curriculars. Still, we played together a lot growing up (as the oldest, I was the bossy one in charge — maybe that’s why I’ve always thought it worked so well.) But even now, living on opposite ends of the country, my sister and I still talk on the phone at least once a week and we consider each other close friends.

I read this blog entry on papercoterie.com a few months ago, and it made me think about having kids even closer together. We’ve obviously missed the boat for having them two years apart (and I’m PERFECTLY okay with that that), but I just hope that when we are ready for a second child, that they will also have a close relationship and special friendship. I know the number of years between siblings doesn’t make or break for close siblings. As much as I like to think three-and-a-half years was the perfect spread for my sister and me, I have a girlfriend whose younger sister is the same distance apart in age and they are not particularly close. It all depends on the individual personalities (And maybe some on the parenting? Ah, no pressure there).

Tim and I have always agreed on having two kids and I’m excited for Adelaide to one day have a little brother or sister. The baby fever isn’t in full force yet, but one of these days we will know that there will never be the perfect time and we will close our eyes and leap. And, if anyone has any tips on putting two kids in daycare, I’m all ears.

 

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Bruce Ely Photography | nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Bruce Ely

Tomorrow is our five-year wedding anniversary. Before I sat down to write this post, I reviewed the posts I wrote for our four-year anniversary and three-year anniversary. Man, those were pretty good. I mean, as this blog gets older I realize I’m not going to be able to top the previous year’s post every year. I’m not going to be able to summarize my feelings and say something new about the effects of motherhood every Mother’s Day or recognize my sister’s birthday and show how much she means to me in a new way every year.

I’ve written a few posts that express those feelings pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Tomorrow is our five-year wedding anniversary and tonight I’m thinking about spending this night five years ago at our rehearsal dinner. How I got a flat tire on the way to the airport to pick up my aunt that afternoon. I think about how after dinner a few girlfriends and I set up camp in the hotel bar and used archival glue and a bone folder to attach the hand-letterpressed covers onto the accordion-folded wedding programs.

I think about being exhausted and excited and nervous, but so happy that so many family members and friends had flown in just for us.

In the five years since that day, a lot has happened. Tim and I have moved twice. We adopted our dog Hugo. Adelaide was born. We’ve taken classes, gone on vacation, argued, cried, laughed. It’s been a good five years. It’s gone by fast. I know I don’t have to one-up each and every holiday or anniversary post on this blog. But, I think it’s good to pause and remember, to acknowledge where we are in life’s journey and remember how we got here and why. Trying to define or explain love can be a challenging writing exercise. I know it when I see it. I know it when I feel it. This is love.

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My friend Helen posted a link to this article yesterday: “Six Words You Should Say Today” by Rachel Macy Stafford.

Read it. Then, come back here.

 

Did you read it? Seriously, what I’m about to say will make so much more sense if you read the article.

Well if not, you should, but she basically writes about how a sentence at the beginning of another article (“What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent and What Makes a Great One“) was life changing for her. The words were: “I love to watch you play.”

She wrote:

“The next time you feel the need to guide, instruct, or criticize after a ball game, performance, or extracurricular activity, instead consider six simple words: ‘I love to watch you play.’

Furthermore, if you become emotional simply by watching someone you love in action, consider these six words, ‘I love to watch you _______.'”

 

So, on this Father’s Day weekend, I’m away from and missing my husband, but I’m celebrating in person with my father and grandfather, and after reading this article I’m reflecting on all the ways I’ve witnessed love in action.

As Adelaide gets older and involved in extra curricular activities, “I love to watch you…” sounds like a good mantra to adopt. But I agree that it can apply to others and other situations as well.

I love to watch my dad play with Adelaide, to see him dance with her.

I love to watch Tim read her a story, give her a bath, hold her hand.

I love to watch my family experience the joy she brings when she enters a room.

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Happy Father’s Day!

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First Week  |  http://nextlifechapter.com

Adelaide’s first week at home.

I used to never cry at movies (My Girl being the one exception). I prided myself on it – I just didn’t get that emotionally attached. Then, I met Tim and fell in love and it all changed. I remember crying during The Pianist so much that I couldn’t finish it. I literally could not watch it. I made Tim send it back. Over the years, Tim has learned that there are certain movies he can watch without me.

And it’s gotten worse since my friend Amy died of cancer and since Adelaide’s been born. I don’t want to watch movies about children dying or a parent dying and leaving the child alone. I don’t like to watch movies about spouses cheating, or children missing, or really anything about death in general. (I did not do well with The Descendants.) I like comedies and action movies. And that’s about all I can handle right now.

In some ways, the issue I have with sad movies makes me feel totally lame. When we were in LA on vacation last month, I had brunch with old friend from college who was an acting major. He had recently moved to LA after a successful acting career in another large city out west. He said he had done about as much as he could do acting-wise in that city – that the people there produced good plays but took out anything that would be controversial or make anyone feel anything. I got the sense that he moved to LA to take risks and make artful productions again.

Now when I have a hard time watching a movie, or just avoid it in the first place, I hear his voice in the back of my mind. What? You can’t feel anything? You don’t want to watch anything that makes you have an emotional reaction? It’s art. What’s wrong with you?

Motherhood has changed me in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I think differently about family now. I think differently about the world – I think more about what’s in the food I eat, what’s going on with our public school system, gun control, bullying, the environment. The list goes on and on. With the birth of my little girl, I became a mother (and some might even argue before that). My heart has spilled open. My insides ache with love. I cry tears of joy and tears of fear and worry. I am vulnerable to the world and all the things that are out of my control. I have so much to lose. I think the reason I don’t enjoy such highs and lows when watching movies is because I am already feeling so much.

I am still discovering the ways motherhood has changed me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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My sister’s birthday is today. This birthday photo of her is now 30 years old. You do the math. (Although, I can never make fun of her age because I’ll always be older.)

Happy Birthday to Aunt G, who is doing her thing in L.A. She is following her passion and tackling challenges with strength and perseverance. As we all work to figure out who we are and what makes us most happy, I’m lucky to call her my sister and proud to call her my friend. I sure do wish we lived closer together, but even through the thousands of miles that separate us, I know she is only a phone call away if ever I need an understanding ear or just a good laugh.

Looking at this photo, I see mischievousness in those eyes — a mischievousness that is still there. I also see a touch of Adelaide in that face, and I can’t believe my baby girl will be two years old in less than six months.

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Gina, only another five weeks until we get to come see you! And yeah sorry, your birthday present still isn’t finished, so this will have to suffice for now.

Happy birthday, Aunt G. Love ya, sis.

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I’m blaming it on Downton Abbey. The weekend of the Season 3 premiere, Downton Abbey was all the buzz. My Facebook feed was filled with friends updating their status in anticipation. Friends mentioned it in person, too. “Do you watch Downton Abbey? Oh, you really should. You’d love it.” I had to admit that while I had yet to see an episode, I had heard good things. It was on my list.

Season 1 is available on Netflix Instant, and on more than one occasion I asked Tim if he wanted to start it.

“We can’t start another series,” he said flatly.

True, we had started The Wire, Breaking Bad and Mad Men and weren’t anywhere near making it all the way through their multitude of seasons.

“But this one is different,” I pleaded. “Only two seasons have passed. We can catch up and watch the new episodes.”

It wasn’t working. Then, Tim gave me permission to go ahead and start watching it without him. I was kind of bummed that it didn’t want to see it with me, but I was willing to forge out on my own. I figured I’d probably enjoy it more than him anyway – it was a soap opera period piece after all. But, unlike the spring, summer and fall months when Tim works on Saturdays and I have the house to myself (with Adelaide) for most of the day, he’s home all weekend in the winter. When was I supposed to watch it without him?

One Sunday in early January I sent Tim upstairs (he had work to do anyway), and I started Downton Abbey by myself, with a cup of coffee and my knitting. And yes, I was hooked. I spent the next couple of weekends watching an episode here and there, and now I have just one episode left in the first season.

So, after being out of town for two weeks for the holidays (read about our 16-hour drive from Philadelphia to Tallahassee with a 16-month-old and a dog here), I spent my weekend blogging time catching up on the first season of Downton Abbey, instead of updating the blog. Guilty as charged.

If I had been blogging, I might have written about how Adelaide loved the Christmas tree at her grandparents’ house. How she learned to say “Santa” and loved to point out all the animal ornaments on the tree.

I might have written about visiting with good friends, going to the playground to play with their kids, and then having Mommy and Daddy nights out to the movies (what a luxury!) and out to dinner with friends.

I might have written about going to see a light display with Adelaide in her PJs, or the Christmas Eve service, or my sister flying to Illinois on a red-eye from LA and arriving on Dec 22 only to drive to Florida with my parents on Christmas Eve. They arrived at my in-law’s house shortly before dinner on Christmas evening.

I might have written about opening presents Christmas morning and how Adelaide was still too young to really understand the concept and that it was okay to rip up the paper. How she got tired very quickly and we saved a few presents for her to open later in the week. I might have said that we opened presents from my parents at their hotel room the next day, and that Elmo likes to Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I might have written about touring the Goodwin Plantation with my parents (the site where Adelaide’s aunt and uncle were married when she was still in Mommy’s tummy). Or, about touring the Tallahassee Museum with the entire clan.

I might have written about how special it was to see both sides of our families for the holiday, including Adelaide’s 90-year-old great-grandmother and how hard it was to say goodbye knowing that it will be several months until we see them all again. I might have written a lot had I not been watching Downton Abbey.

Here are a bunch of photos from our Florida trip…

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“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.”

-Paul Sweeney

 

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Forty years ago today these two young lovebirds said “I do” and made a promise to each other.

When I look at this photo I can’t help but think how young they look. One day Adelaide will surely look at photos of Tim and me and think the same thing.

Sometimes the passing of time just blows my mind. I clearly remember my parents’ 13th wedding anniversary. I remember it because it was the day of the Challenger explosion. I was in 3rd grade, and I remember thinking it particularly spooky that it was unlucky 13. Really? That was their 13th wedding anniversary? That was 27 years ago?

I’m sure the 40 years have gone by even more quickly for my parents. It hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve made family a top priority and I thank them for everything they’ve sacrificed to give me the life I’ve had. Happy 40th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad! Congratulations and thanks for everything.

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We enjoyed a nearly two-week vacation to Florida for the holidays.

Since Tim and I have been married, we’ve been taking turns and spending every other Christmas with each other’s families. Last year we went to Illinois to visit my side of the family. This year it was the Florida family’s turn. Adelaide was only four months old last Christmas, so knowing she would be a lot more fun to watch this year, and knowing that she is the first grandchild on both sides, Tim’s parents graciously invited my parents and my sister to come to Tallahassee and spend Christmas with us this year.

My parents were already considering driving to Philly to see us after we got back from our Florida trip, so they decided to take Tim’s parents up on their generous offer. Florida, even north Florida, is warmer than Philly this time of year.

We decided to drive to Florida so we could bring our dog and save the cost of boarding him for two weeks. We traded the cost of airfare for the cost of gas and a night’s hotel stay there and back. We stayed at a dog-friendly Ramada at the “half-way point” in Florence, South Carolina.  I was nervous about driving 1,000 miles with a 16-month-old and a dog. I bought several small new toys for Adelaide and planned to slowly introduce them in the car — a magnetic doodle board, an Elmo sticker book, other stickers and notebooks, new books from the library. These were helpful, but food was perhaps the best distraction.  Instead of sitting in the passenger seat, Tim and I took turns sitting next to Adelaide in the back. Since she’s still rear-facing, it worked out well that we could see each other and play together. Hugo spread out on the bench seat in the far back.

When it was Tim’s turn to drive, I was constantly trying to keep Adelaide entertained. I fed her peas and then raisins. We looked at her sticker book. We played with the See-n-Say. We ate blueberries and crackers. She didn’t sleep as much as I would have liked, but she could have done much worse. The last hour or so of driving each day was a bit rough, but the smart phone and YouTube videos of Elmo helped keep her calm in those crunch moments. I was tired of being in the car too, so I understood where she was coming from.

I think Adelaide did better when Tim was next to her. It seemed that once we switched places and it was my turn to drive, Adelaide would always fall asleep. It seemed unfair. I wanted her to nap on my watch so I could nap too. I began to think that I was trying too hard to keep her stimulated and entertained. I knew she was tired. Maybe if I would just ignore her a bit and lean back and shut my eyes, she would sleep.  It didn’t really work for me. When I was sitting next to her, Adelaide wanted my attention. She wanted to nurse, or for me to hold her. It wasn’t an awful drive — I mean, it could have been worse — but I wouldn’t want to do it again any time soon.

Unfortunately, we did have to make the drive back home 12 days later. On day 2 of our return drive we hit a lot of traffic, so the trip took a lot longer than we expected. On the positive front, Adelaide slept from Washington D.C. to home (about 4 hours). I was driving (of course), and although I thought I might pee myself, we decided to press through with no stops because we really just wanted her to sleep and for us to get home as fast as possible.

Here’s a photo montage of our return trip:

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Adelaide ate to stay busy and keep happy in the car.

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Gram wrapped little presents for her to open in the car. This was a spoon and fork set. Bonus points for the Elmo wrapping paper. It kept her attention for an extra 3 minutes.

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We have a real artist on our hands. …Okay, so maybe Mommy helped on this one.

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Hugo resting in the sun.

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Peas! More eating. And then, more eating.

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Well, my intentions were good. I intended to end the month of November with a five-day recap of our October and November. It may not have been five days in a row, but it is still the final day of the five-day series. (If you missed it, you can catch up here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4). And Day 5: Thanksgiving.

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m not the chef in the family. I know the basics of cooking and can follow a recipe, but it’s not my most favorite thing to do. I like to make an occasional meal or dish every once in a while, but to me, preparing daily meals is a chore. Sometimes I wonder what I used to eat back in my single days. I was waiting tables then, and I really think I just ate a lot of my meals at the restaurants where I worked. I made a lot of pasta and eggs and quesadillas and ate a lot of cereal and sandwiches.

We’ve hosted a small Thanksgiving gathering at our house the last three years. Two years ago, Tim made a bourbon-glazed ham. Last year he made pork tenderloin. This year, My sister flew in from L.A. for the long weekend, and we hosted Tim’s brother and his wife for the holiday meal, so Tim decided to be more ambitious and roast a 14-pound turkey.

He followed a recipe from Cook’s Country magazine, and it was very moist and delicious. Ben and Adrienne brought craft beers to sample and made an amazing brussel spout dish – I don’t even like brussel spouts and this dish was awesome. It probably had something to do with the bacon and the amount of butter used, but I definitely want to get the recipe. Tim also made his mom’s sweet potato casserole. It was covered in brown sugar, and was so sweet it was almost a dessert.

I took care of the signature cocktail of the evening. It was Smirnoff Kissed Caramel mixed into fresh apple cider (served either hot or cold). We had never tried caramel vodka before, and I must admit, I was surprised by how flavorful it was. I could just breathe in the aroma all day; pure caramely goodness.

I also made a bourbon sabayon and folded it into homemade whipped cream to top the pumpkin pie we purchased from Manna: Pie in the Sky. In the past we’ve ordered pecan pie from Manna, but the pumpkin was great. Plus, by supporting Manna we’re doing a good deed; each Manna pie purchased buys seven meals for families in need.

Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays. I enjoy watching parades, spending time with family or friends, and enjoying a homemade meal that took days to plan. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, to feel sorry for ourselves for this or that, and to wish for things that are still down the road, but Thanksgiving is one day where we can all take the time to pause and remember how blessed we are.

The family before digging in.

The bird.

It isn’t often that Adelaide and her two aunts are in the same place at the same time. (Also, notice Adelaide carrying around paper and pen.)

Adelaide showing off her first day of wearing real piggy tails.

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My sister flew in from L.A. yesterday morning to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. It’s the first time she’s seen Adelaide in person since Easter. It’s strange to think that Adelaide wasn’t even crawling then, and now she’s walking all over the place, dancing and “talking.”

Gina brought a fun book called Big Words for Little People. I’m always skeptical of the trendy books authored by celebrities, but this one by Jamie Lee Curtis is really quite cute. It goes through some long or more difficult vocabulary words and explains the meaning in rhyme.

Persevere is to try and try, even though you might want to give up and cry. When doing a puzzle that puzzles your mind, you persevere till the right piece you find.”

Different means nobody’s ever the same. All bodies are different and so are all brains. Different is what makes this world so great. Different is never something to hate.”

But the part of the book that I like the best comes toward the end. As I heard my sister read it to Adelaide for the first time last night, it made me smile.

“But not all Big words are as long as the rest. There are three – though short – that I love the best.

Family is where we all belong, keeping us safe, making us strong. Family is yours, not matter — whatever! — we are about you forever and ever.

Respect is the way we all treat each other — mother to father, father to mother, brother to sister, sister to brother, and brother and sister and sister and brother…

Love is the biggest BIG word of all. Four little letters that help you walk tall. Love is your family, your siblings, your friends. Love is your ocean without any end.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’m so very grateful for my family. I often wish I could see them more often, and I feel sad that they don’t get to see Adelaide as often as I know they would like; but really I am so very blessed to have their support. Despite the miles that often separate us, I know Adelaide will grow up knowing how much she is loved. And I try to never take for granted the time we get to spend together.

Now, as I revel in the tradition of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, my sister naps on the couch next me (she’s still on west coast time), Tim is in the shower, and Adelaide is upstairs taking her morning nap. Tim’s brother and his wife will be over for dinner in just a few hours — a house filled with family, laughter and good eats. Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and yours, and may we all remember to count our blessings every day of the year.

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