Plans, Travel, Kids + Blessings

13 Feb

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The plan had been to return to Hawaii last year to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. But I was due to deliver our second child in June. Then we thought, OK, Paris in the spring next year to celebrate TEN years. But we have two weddings to attend in May. And then a third, big, big one that I’m IN in October for one of my absolute best friends — I’m her matron of honor. It was shaping up to be kind of a busy year on the wedding front so we knew we’d have to scrap Paris before we even rang in 2018.

As I was reflecting on all of this earlier tonight and hating myself for how ungrateful I was sounding in my head, lamenting all these wonderful invitations to celebrate with our friends, I started to think about my daughter. I’m finally feeling a little better after weeks of sickness in our house, so we hit the road for the mall earlier today. Exciting, I know, but I had never attempted a solo excursion to a bigger mall with both the girls, but wanted to bring E to The Disney Store, so it was an excursion with a capital “E” if you know what I mean.

Emilia was so well behaved and Caroline, well… second babies. She’s a dream. Sooner than I’d planned, I found myself steering the rig stroller toward the Disney Store as a reward for all this excellent behavior. Emilia lept from the stroller at my insistence and RAN — hair streaming behind her, little arms pumping, straight to the mouse ears, a girl on a mission. I just wish I’d filmed it. It went something like this as she arrived breathless through the door: WOW MAMA! LOOKIT! FROZEN! ELENA OF AVALOR! ALL MY FAVORITE THINGS!

I was practically dead from the adorableness of it all.

She tore through the store hugging dolls, rolling a suitcase beside her, and even lying on the floor at one point to get a better look at a selection of “figures” as she calls them, of all the Disney princesses.  In that moment, I probably fell in love with my little girl a hundred times over, which I’m sure many other parents can relate to. One moment, you’re fit to tear your hair out because they’re throwing a tantrum over one thing or another and the next, the unabashed enthusiasm they show for a set of figurines causes your heart to swell up to the point that you think you might choke with adoration and devotion to this little person who is propped up on her elbows, belly down on the floor, inspecting the wares at the Disney Store.

It was a whopping reminder to me that they’re not going to be this little forever, and while the days are very long and hard a lot of the time, this period of our lives together is so brief in the grand scheme of things. The fact that strangers stop me when I’m out with the girls and say: Gosh, I miss that age so much. Mine are grown! should tell you something.

It also made me realize that the Disney trip I’d been envisioning happening when the girls are older and will appreciate it — something said to me repeatedly as far as kids and travel are concerned — should happen far sooner than even I had realized. The time is now! I never realized how brief the window is for Disney magic through an almost-three year old’s eyes until today. How many Disney trips can we squeeze in before she grows out of this phase? It was a total perspective shift, I’m telling you.

All this to say, as much as I’d love to sneak away for an adults-only vacation soon and check some locales off my “Dream Travel” bucket list, (I’m looking at you, Denmark), what I’m doing right now is pretty great too. It may not be the kind of adventure you see pinned to travel boards on Pinterest or Instagrammed all over a friends’ feed, but it’s messy and beautiful and fun all on it’s own, so maybe it’s best to count my blessings.

And maybe start to think about planning our first family trip — to Disney.

 

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Garden Update: Spring/Summer To Do List

11 Feb

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The minute our Christmas tree is down in early January (usually late January most years, ahem) my mind turns to our yard and garden. Lately, my obsession is winter gardens, but that’s a post for another day. Garden planning is a pull that has existed for as long as I can remember, long before we bought this house and my imagination finally had the room to run wild. I just love to dream up what could be as far as making a space beautiful, both indoors and out.

That said, summer bodies are made in winter — or something like that. For now, I’m trying to set aside my stack of books and seed catalogs and focus instead on the nitty gritty of planning out our landscape overhaul starting with an update of what we have left to accomplish, what we will abandon, and what we’ll need to add to from our spring/summer 2017 garden to do list.

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1. Stump and tree removal in the backyard

This was partially addressed last spring when we had the massive, gnarly stump just off our patio ground. Since grass wouldn’t grow over the shallow-rooted area, the area surrounding our table and chairs was a perpetual mud pit.

2. Deal with the chipmunks

I struggle with this one because I know the damage they can do to the foundation of a house and I’m nearly certain ours have burrowed up against the entire perimeter of our house and garage. Many recommended something called a “death bucket” which is apparently the most humane way to kill chipmunks, but I’m holding out for a better solution, like catch and release. I’ll share more information once I find something.

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3. Remove two shrubs under kitchen window

Done! Brian tackled this one in early spring last year and it really opened up the whole patio area. I just wish we’d done it sooner.

4. Level the backyard

We’re really dragging our feet on this one but it’s probably my number one priority since the uneveness all over drives me bonkers. It just feels like SUCH a massive undertaking since we’ll have to totally reseed the lawn which isn’t something I relish after weathering a winter indoors. It might be something we just learn to live without because I can’t see a good time to tackle it.

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5. Redo and build-out the patio

Hopefully this spring we’ll finally make some progress on this. I have a much better idea of what we need thanks to an entire summer/fall and now winter to ponder our wants and needs and one of the greatest shockers is that I now want to KEEP the flagstone. I’ve always been interested in recycling and reusing, but as I’ve studied landscape design and sustainability, it’s become clear that the best designs make use of existing raw materials, so I want to follow suit. Plus, I always liked the color that the flagstone provided, so I’d like to see what can be done to perk it up a bit.

6 Build-up berms along the back perimeter

This might be yet another we adapt or abandon. I loved the idea once upon a time, but the fact is, berms will probably damage the fence so it may be best to just let this one go and start to visualize something new.

7. Seed the lawn

See #4. If we grade, then we’ll seed then. Although, I guess it can’t hurt to see over the bare spots? Something to look into.

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8. Start our vegetable garden

Check! It wasn’t at ALL where I’d thought it would be and I was so uncomfortably pregnant by the time planting time came around in the early spring that it didn’t feel like a full effort to get it off the ground ever really happened, but we did technically start it and the tomato output along made it worthwhile. We also managed to establish a patch of 25 raspberry bushes that actually produced berries, much to E’s delight.

I do need to rethink how we approach it though because we don’t have the full sun required to grow what I’d hoped we could, so I may need to look into alternative spots to throw some plants — front yard gardening anyone?

9. Plant privacy trees and shrubs on back perimeter

No progress here. I did purchase one arborvitae but the list of trees we would like to add is long and expensive, starting with: pear trees, a blue spruce and finally, I’m absolutely drooling over specimen trees. I really, really want a Japanese maple to stare at adoringly as I sip my morning coffee this summer.

10. Install side yard arbor and gate; plant clematis and roses

This is a great example of a To Do that I’m glad we never got to. With young kids, I don’t think more fence opening makes sense, now that I’ve had more time to live in our home, particularly one to a very busy main road. Sure, a rose-covered arbor would be charming and lovely and it would be so nice to have a cut-through to the front yard from the side, but nothing is worth the risk of endangering our children.

11. Purchase lounge chair seating

This one is very high on my list for this spring/summer. I’ve wanted to find really great quality steamer chairs for years. I love Adirondack chairs as much as the rest of the population, but after I sat in a steamer chair on the Vineyard with Brian about 6 years ago, on my first trip there actually, just before our wedding, I was basically spoiled for life. Picture an adirondack lounge chair. I’ve kept my eye out for them online and even on Craigslist, but I think it’s the kind of thing I may need to “know a guy” for because  everything I’ve found online so far looks too cheap to be the quality I’m looking for. I’m holding out for a truly sturdy teak chair. The search continues.

12. Find the perfect hammock

This should be a priority since lounging in the afternoon shade with a lemonade and a book sounds like absolute heaven to me, but the fact is, we don’t have a spot to hang one yet! I’d hoped to have planted some trees this past fall, but we didn’t end up doing it so this one may be on hold indefinitely, much as it saddens me.

13. Find a swing set for Emilia

Done! After an exhaustive search, I think I found the set that will blow our daughter’s mind and it was shockingly affordable. We went with a Sportspower Mountain View metal swing set. Beyond its amazing price, the features that sold me were the flying saucer and a trampoline. Sometimes a bargain price raises a red flag, but after pouring over hundreds of rave reviews, I was persuaded to take a chance. I know the cedar swing sets look really beautiful in a backyard and I was incredibly tempted, but I think the most important aspect of a swing set is the variety of ride-on/play features and I’m just not convinced those playhouse towers on most of the wood sets really get used enough to justify having them. In addition to the saucer and trampoline I mentioned, our  also has two swings and a glider — that means it can accommodate up to eight children at a time. Now, the big project is going to be preparing the space for play set installation. This involves jackhammering up a cement slab once used for a fireplace, leveling the most irregular slope of our yard, and finding an alternate way to source/DIY woodchips or playground safety fiber. You know, something two parents can do on their own some weekend.

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14. Install front window boxes

Done! Although we only managed to install, but not fill our window boxes until the second week of August last year, we were able to enjoy them in both fall AND winter and now they’re installed on all windows on the front of the house and we have one on the yard-facing window of the garage. For fall, I transplanted some of the ivy we have growing in our yard and then filled in with mini mums. For winter, I smooshed chicken wire into the boxes, then filled in with various evergreens, including some of the cut branches from our (and our neighbors’) Christmas trees. Smooshed is a recognized gardening term right? I filled in with some faux red berry branches for some interest.

All in all, not a terrible progress update on reflection. I’d thought we hadn’t gotten to much but considering that I was pregnant for the first half of the year and then caring for a newborn for much of the rest, we got a lot down. I’m just going to keep reminding myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day and to take baby steps. A garden should develop over time and with all the careful planning and consideration we’re putting into planning out the design, accounting for our goals as far as usage and function, I think we’re in really good shape to tackle even more of our priority to dos this spring and summer. Stay tuned. 🙂

Initial Thoughts on Tom vs Time

31 Jan

TVT_THUMBNAILI’d planned to write a top ten list of our most-used wedding registry items, but I’ve been completely transfixed the past few days since discovering the Tom vs Time docuseries being released on Facebook Watch.

As a lifelong Massachusetts resident, it was only a matter of time before I fell for the Patriots, or more aptly — Tom Brady. But the purpose of this post isn’t to explain how Tom turned me into a Pats fan, because I’m still not. Not really. Despite ten years with a sports lover in my life, (albeit, a Giants fan), I still don’t really understand football enough to be able to get into it during the regular season. But once we’re SuperBowl-bound, the excitement usually pulls me in.

This year though, this docuseries might be the hook that finally makes a convert out of me. I worked in Chestnut Hill and Brookline for years during my 20s, so it always made me feel weirdly, I don’t know — connected — to Tom when he settled out that way with his supermodel wife and family. And the fact that I also grew up and now live so close to Gillette is another weird connection factor. It’s as though football wants to be in my life but I’ve just been ignoring the signs.

Like everyone else, I raised my eyebrows in surprise when I heard about Tom’s strict diet a few years ago. No night shades? What the hell is a nightshade? I thought. And I garden. I grow a lot of my own food and even I didn’t know that one a few years ago. But I laughed about the avocado ice cream, joked with family friends that I’d probably eat better if I had a fancy chef in my mansion, and chalked it all up to an athlete just overzealously trying to keep in shape. I didn’t think he was quite the total weirdo as some, but I did think: wow, that’s commitment.

When Michael Pollen’s glorious book, Food Rules, came out ten years ago I was so onboard it wasn’t even funny. I was lucky to grow up with parents who not only cooked meals, but grew a lot of our family’s food when I was growing up, so a lot of the “eat unprocessed foods” messaging wasn’t new to me, but when you’re in your 20’s and feeling invincible, it’s a lot easier to enjoy late nights out for cocktails and rich meals and forget about planning an attack strategy for preserving yourself for the future.

But to watch Tom vs. Time, it gives some incredible insight into his philosophy about more than just his life’s work and has inspired me to pause to consider how I operate and live my life everyday. We all have a finite amount of time and time is coming for us all. I might not have the desire to win a SuperBowl and I’ve never felt that relentless drive to achieve or win on a competitive level and am pretty content with my family and life, but it had also never occurred to me to be so much more proactive with my health or fitness. I guess Tom vs Time brought it to my attention that there is another way and that it’s worth trying.

I’m only in my early 30’s but I constantly remind myself to be present because I know how quickly time passes. I’m beginning to feel the effects of two kids on me — the uptick in stress alone — nevermind the lack of sleep with a baby in the house.  I’m not saying I’m going to start the TB12 method tomorrow because I don’t have the same goals that Tom does, but what watching this docuseries has prompted me to start doing is thinking more about how to align what I’m doing as far as my diet and exercise and where I want to be in the future, which is alive and living without pain and chronic illness.

If that means I incorporate blueberry/almond/chia smoothies into my mornings and resistant bands into my workouts, it seems like a worthwhile effort. And his regime, though strict, isn’t all that complicated as outlined in this 2017 article, titled: Here’s what Tom Brady Eats in an ‘average day.” It sounds to me like he drinks a lot of antioxidant-laced smoothies, lots of lean proteins and a TON of vegetables.

Here are some quick rules:

  • Drink water within 20 minutes of waking up
  • Drink a protein shake within 20 minutes of a workout
  • Pay attention to food combining rules, like:

    – Don’t eat proteins with carbs
    – Eat veggies with proteins or veggies with carbs
    – Don’t drink water with meals, but pretty much constntly otherwise
    – Don’t eat fruit with anything else
    – Fight inflammation always: avoid nightshades

  • Enjoy a lunch of lean protein and a lot of veggies
  • Same for dinner
  • Limit alcohol to the very rare cocktail and follow it with an equal amount of water
  • Snack as needed on things like chips and guacamole, hummus, raw vegetables, or a protein shake

All totally doable right? To me if feels like any other restrictive diet, but I’d approach it more like a cleanse. Mindy Kaling once described her love for the latest fad diets, like juicing, because she lives to read up on all the rules and then dive in, which I totally get. I’d approach the above with the same kind of mindset — think of it as a cleanse or a chance to reset and even if I don’t adopt ALL of the principles, more than likely, some will begin to stick with time. Any maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll be able to look back at 30 and realize I’m in much better shape for having made these changes while it still mattered thanks to some inspiration from Tom Brady just before SuperBowl LII.