Travel Traumas

A Look Back at 2015

Posted on Jan 1, 2016 in Adulthood Stole My Cool, It's the Navy Life, My Kid Stole My Cool, The Kids Are Actually Cute, Travel Traumas

A Look Back at 2015 1

Hello, Friends.

This blog has not seen much action this year.  Mainly, because of this rascal:

IMG_7948

I’d love to write more, and hopefully will in the upcoming months. In the meantime, this post is my attempt to recap everything I would have blogged about this past year had I had the mental capacity to do so. Here it is, 2015 in one blog post:

January: The stressful end of 2014 – unending remodel, constantly sick kids, overworked husband, extreme lack of sleep, etc. – continued on into January, but things slowly turned up. The remodel wrapped up, we sort-of sleep-trained James (though it didn’t quite take), we began to settle into a routine. Now that James is a walking, running, climbing little boy, it’s hard to imagine that just a year ago he was still a baby, but it’s true, and this month saw him teething and cruising (or, the beginning of the end for me.)

January's first snow. James' first snow, too!

January’s first snow. James’ first snow, too!

February: Snow, snow, snow. School closures, school closures, school closures. I don’t know if Elisabeth saw the inside of her classroom that month. Instead, she watched a lot of Frozen. I’m a good parent.  I also had an unfortunate incident in a Trader Joe’s parking lot involving my Toyota Highlander, a pole, and a personal injury lawyer’s BMW. Can we talk for a second about how it’s like a requirement that every Trader Joe’s has the worst parking lot in the city? Seriously. Every. Single. One. Anyway, moral of the story is don’t go to a Trader Joe’s on a holiday the day before a massive snowstorm.

Sweethearts

Sweethearts

 

Great-Grandma Dottie and Pop-Pop

Great-Grandma Dottie and Pop-Pop

 

More snow!

More snow!

Oh, we did have an exceptionally beautifully warm and sunny day in the early month that happened to coincide with our wildly successful housewarming party. Win!

March: March was a good month. Mainly because I stopped nursing James. If you read my blog last year, you may remember I basically ate birdseed for the majority of his infancy due to his allergic colitis. Well, that sucked, and he and I were both hungry all the time. So I began eating cheese again and he began drinking outrageously expensive hypoallergenic formula, and we were both the happier for it.

Pizzzzzza!

Pizzzzzza!

Other good things in March? My thirtieth birthday and a ski trip to Sunday River, Maine. I don’t ski, but Elisabeth does now!

IMG_0864

IMG_1065

IMG_1067

We even met some distant cousins - It's too bad Elisabeth didn't care for them.

We even met some distant cousins – It’s too bad Elisabeth didn’t care for them.

April: My dad has been coming to D.C. frequently for work, so we have been lucky enough to see my parents on a monthly basis, at least. April was no different, and my mom joined us for Easter. We hosted all our local family for Easter dinner, which I only did because my mom was here to cook.  My mom, Elisabeth, and I saw the live action Cinderella in theaters, and Elisabeth has not taken off her Cinderella costume since then.  My dad came in a few days later and caught the end of Cherry Blossom season. The kids also enjoyed their first baseball game: Nats-Phillies. The Nats crushed it, but Elisabeth was too busy enjoying her snacks to notice.

IMG_1221

IMG_1319

IMG_1569

IMG_1731

These two took up gardening together.

These two took up gardening together.

May: The ‘rents were back at the beginning of the month, and my dad and I took the kids to the Museum of Natural History to get educated.  Damon celebrated another year on Earth with his family and mine all present.

IMG_1959

I got my first weekend away from both kids – what!? – and flew out to California for my friend Jessica’s bachelorette party. We spent a fantastic weekend in Santa Barbara drinking copious amounts of wine. Elisabeth had her last day of preschool, kicking off the longest summer break in the history of the world (Four months. FOUR!) and sadly had to say goodbye to her best friend, Anna, whose family moved to Florida. We still miss them, but such is the military life.

IMG_2240

*Tears*

*Tears*

First day of preschool vs. last day of preschool. Whoa.

First day of preschool vs. last day of preschool. Whoa.

Of course, I can’t write about May without mentioning James’ first birthday! I tried to do a cute cake smash photo shoot and dress him up in one of those Pinterest-inspired outfits, and it was a complete failure. James, who is usually all smiles, refused to crack a grin and later erupted into full on tears when faced with his cake. Probably because he was dressed like a Chippendales dancer, as Damon pointed out. My bad. We had a laid-back BBQ to celebrate, and even my California-based brother made it out to attend.

IMG_2760

I'm really sorry about this, James.

I’m really sorry about this, James.

IMG_3038

Oh, and James began walking this month. Game over.

June: Welp, summer. Kids all day, every day. And our local pool has a five-and-a-half year waiting list (not an exaggeration.) Luckily the monotony of summer break was broken up with a trip to California for Jessica’s wedding. Damon was unable to attend, so I braved a cross-country flight with both kids on my own. AND I LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT. The wedding, in Sonoma, was lovely. Elisabeth was the flower girl and kinda sorta stole the show. I mean, Miss Thing had a job to do and after that job was done, she needed to par-tay. My mom graciously traveled up to help me take care of the kids, so I also got to do partying of my own.

Guess who's the boss?

Guess who’s the boss?

IMG_3342

IMG_3431

Also notable in June: James also got ear tubes put in and Damon and I sat down to watch a show together (True Detective, Season 1, in case you were wondering.) This may not seem notable to you, except that it was the first time we had done so since February 2014, possibly earlier. (What the Hell is Netflix and Chill?)

Summer hike at Great Falls

Summer hike at Great Falls

July: Still summer. Still a five-and-a-half year waiting list to get into our pool. July seemed interminable until it was time to pack for our summer vacation (an Alaskan cruise), when suddenly there were not enough hours in the day to get ready. It was our first vacation as a family of four, and a bucket list trip for Damon. I was just stoked to not have to fly by myself with two kids again.  Before we had even boarded, our car seat got stuck in the security scanner and Elisabeth pooped in her pants (I had forgotten an extra pair of underwear, of course.) I now understand why my parents always took vacations by themselves.

Not-So-Happy Fourth of July

Not-So-Happy Fourth of July

We made it to Alaska and onto the ship, where we joined my parents. We traveled on a small ship with excellent service. Elisabeth befriended the entire ship’s staff, but especially Gede on the housekeeping staff, whom she called, “Mr. Ga-DAY!” and still talks about to this day. Alaska was beautiful, if a bit chilly, and we kept busy hiking, dog sledding, ziplining… you know, normal things. James and Elisabeth particularly enjoyed the cookies and ice cream that the staff spoiled them with on a daily (hourly?) basis.

IMG_4208

IMG_4241

IMG_4623

Damon, James, and I stayed in Vancouver a few extra days and Elisabeth went home to California with my parents. Damon and I had a great time exploring Vancouver and Victoria with only one child.

IMG_5012

IMG_5183

Beer tasting on Granville Island.

Beer tasting on Granville Island.

August: I hopped down to California with James for another three weeks or so and discovered that James is a swimming prodigy just like his older sister. Check him out. 15 months old, people.

IMG_5804

IMG_5780

James got his first hair cut in California.

James got his first hair cut in California.

Upon returning to Virginia, Damon and I celebrated our fifth anniversary – and our first together since our first.

Most notably for me, I got my Fit4Mom certification. I’ve been a Stroller Strides devotee since Elisabeth was born, and I’d long considered becoming an instructor. Well, the stars finally aligned (somewhat suddenly!) and I had the opportunity to get certified at the end of this month. I’m thrilled to be teaching for this great organization.

September: Stilllll summer. We spent a fun-filled Labor Day weekend in Philadelphia with Damon’s extended family. I love, love, love that Elisabeth and James have this awesomely big family to grow up with.

Summer, Baby!

Summer, Baby!

 

Elisabeth started ballet.

Elisabeth started ballet.

IMG_6227

Cousins

IMG_6316

I took my fourth trip in five months out to California for a college friend’s wedding. Lauren got married outside of Lake Tahoe. There were forest fires raging not too far away, but the wedding was rustic and beautiful and I appreciated the chance to catch up with old friends.

Damon couldn't make it, so my college friend Brett was my date!

Damon couldn’t make it, so my college friend Brett was my date!

Then… PRESCHOOL STARTED! HALLELUJAH! I even put James in the nursery classroom at Elisabeth’s school for two mornings a week. While Elisabeth mentally exhausts me, James physically exhausts me. I was hesitant at first to put him in “school” while I’m at home, but I quickly realized the six hours a week he’s in the nursery helps keep me sane for the other 162 hours I have to deal with his shenanigans.

Elisabeth's first day.

Elisabeth’s first day.

 

James' first day.

James’ first day.

Oh, and our kitchen exploded. Okay, not really. But we had a slow leak that caused lots and lots of floor damage that we didn’t realize thanks to a large rubber mat in the kitchen. Hello, unexpected and unwelcome kitchen renovation. Buh-bye dishwasher, kitchen floor, cabinets, and countertops.

Go Navy!

Go Navy!

 

Ed Sheeran concert. Sometimes we do grown-up things.

Ed Sheeran concert. Sometimes we do grown-up things.

October: Fall was in full swing! We had a great day at the famed (at least in Northern VA) Cox Farms, Damon completed the Army 10-Miler AND the Marine Corps Marathon, we had a GLORIOUS long weekend in Freeport, Maine, and of course, Halloween. Elisabeth wanted to be Tinkerbell, which I fully supported since it was easy to find on Amazon. James was obviously Peter Pan. I’m going to milk the sibling costumes for as long as I can.

Cox Farms hay ride.

Cox Farms hay ride.

 

Cox Farms

Cox Farms

 

Apple picking with Great-Aunt Fran.

Apple picking with Great-Aunt Fran.

 

Beautiful Maine

Beautiful Maine

 

Freezing in her costume, but refusing to ruin her outfit.

Freezing in her costume, but refusing to ruin her outfit with a jacket.

 

IMG_7684

After co-teaching Stroller Strides throughout September, I started instructing on my own. I’ve been told I’m bossy, so getting to tell people what to do and how to do it – in a kind and encouraging way, of course – is right up my ally. Kidding. Sort of.

November: The birthday month. Elisabeth turned four on the 21st. FOUR. It’s kind of a big deal. She’ll tell everyone who asks (and even those who don’t) that she had three parties. THREE. Not really, but I’ll let her believe it. She had a little celebration in class, we went downtown with a couple of friends to see Cinderella – the Musical, and she had her princess-themed party. OK, it was kind of a lot. But as the world got a little darker this month, it was somewhat comforting to be surrounded by a throng of glittering, giggling, carefree princesses.

IMG_8264

IMG_8301

IMG_8320

We celebrated Thanksgiving with Damon’s cousins, before heading back up to Philly for his family’s annual Turkey Bowl.

IMG_8546

And perhaps most importantly, our kitchen remodel finished! It was an obnoxious inconvenience to be without a kitchen for two-and-a-half months (#firstworldproblems), but we did get a brand new floor and new countertops with insurance picking up the tab. Since our kitchen/living room floors looked so new and shiny and pretty, we decided we had to update the floors in our family room. And the outdated built-ins, while we were at it. And a couple other things, because why not? Thus began: Remodel, Phase 2.

New-ish kitchen

New-ish kitchen

 

Also got a West Wing tour in this month!

Also got a West Wing tour in this month!

 

And got to read to Elisabeth's class. Elisabeth's face is priceless.

And I got to read to Elisabeth’s class. Elisabeth’s face is priceless.

December: We got some good news this month. For the past several months, James has had several hearing tests, all showing him to have some hearing loss. The audiologist finally suggested he undergo a sedated ABR to determine the significance of the loss. Well, the test showed his hearing is actually fine! That was a completely unexpected result, but an incredible relief.

We then got wrapped up in the usual holiday busyness. Damon and I attended a gala (for what, I still don’t know…), we hosted a small Christmas party, Elisabeth’s preschool put on a sweet Christmas musical, we visited the National Christmas Tree, etc., etc. All topped off by our family trip to California. We had a wonderful, semi-relaxing time with my family, and Santa was very generous to everyone. I guess we were good this year.

IMG_8889

IMG_9056

IMG_9245

IMG_9790

The kids and I returned home Wednesday evening, and Remodel: Phase 2 officially ended yesterday. Meaning we entered 2016 without any outstanding home projects! AMEN! Damon and I had big plans to celebrate NYE drinking champagne and watching The Holiday – and maybe even Love Actually, if we were feeling crazy – but much like last year, James had different plans for us. We ended up ringing in the New Year trying to coax a very awake toddler back to sleep. Oh, well. Everyone’s healthy, everyone’s home.

That brings me to today, January 1st.  I noticed as I was reflecting on this past year that everything seemed so very normal. Which was kind of weird for us. The past several years were full of BIG things for our family – New jobs, new babies, new homes, crazy fun travel experiences…All amazing things.  But it’s also kind of amazing to have a little calm (as calm as life can be with a preschooler and toddler) and consistency, a rare thing for a military family. So even if it was only for 2015, I’m going to appreciate it, and look forward to whatever exciting things 2016 will bring.

Happy New Year, Friends!

Read More

The Day I Went Dog Sledding

Posted on Aug 17, 2015 in Travel Traumas

The Day I Went Dog Sledding 0

Normally if you were to ask me if I’d like to vacation in Alaska, I’d tell you, “Hellz no.” I think of Alaska and I think of: Cold. Snow. Bears. Salmon. Sarah Palin.  I don’t think: Vacation! But then if you were tell me that Alaska is actually stunningly beautiful and you can enjoy it from a swanky cruise ship and your parents are going so you won’t even have to really take care of your kids, I’d say, “Let’s leave immediately.” So that actually happened. Damon, the kids, and I had an opportunity to go on an Alaskan cruise with my parents and we obviously took it. While Alaska was never one of my must-sees, it has been on Damon’s bucket list for years. He envisioned bear sightings, salmon fishing, kayaking through fjords… Meanwhile I envisioned enjoying the scenic views while sipping the cruise line’s unlimited free wine. It was a win-win. (In reality, we were traveling with two small children so none of the above happened.) On our first night on the ship, my dad announced he had a surprise for Damon and me. A surprise? My interest was piqued.  What kind of surprise could he possibly have planned on a cruise ship? “I’ve booked you two on the helicopter ride/dog sledding excursion when we’re in Juneau. Mom and I will babysit!” Um… Say what? Damon was excited. I was terrified. And confused.  I’m not a huge fan of heights. Or animals, for that matter. So going up in a winged death-mobile to hang out with hundreds of dogs on a glacier is not really my thing. “Are you excited?” my dad asked. “DAD! DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME?” “Your husband will enjoy it.” “BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER?” “You used to be adventurous,” he said. “I have children now. Children who need their mother not to die in a catastrophic dog sledding accident.” My dad just laughed at me. “It’ll be good for you,” he said. A massage would be good for me. An uninterrupted nap would be good for me.  A treacherous expedition* to the...

Read More

Disneyland During Spring Break: I Went So You Don’t Have To

Posted on May 8, 2014 in My Kid Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

Disneyland During Spring Break: I Went So You Don’t Have To 4

Spring break season is over. As Elisabeth is not yet school-aged, I don’t think in terms of break schedules.  So when Damon visited last March and we decided to take Elisabeth to Disneyland, we didn’t consider that half the state of California (and the entire U.S.) would be on spring break and visiting Disneyland with us. While we lived in Japan, Damon routinely brought up the idea of visiting Tokyo Disney.  I routinely shot down that idea.  It was too crowded, too expensive, and Elisabeth was too young to enjoy or remember it.  I am a cold, heartless woman, I know. But things were different now.*  Despite my efforts at shielding Elisabeth from the more annoying of Disney characters, she is enamored of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  She’s old enough to have fun on rides.  Though she would not remember the trip, she’d enjoy it in the moment.  Plus, this was going to be our last time together as a family of three.  Why not do something special?  Disneyland is magical! It’s the Happiest Place on Earth! What could be more special than that? Well, unless you think “special” entails pushing your way through hoards of tourists and waiting in endless lines while trying to keep your impatient child (or children) entertained, DON’T go to Disneyland during spring break.  Just don’t. Because this is what your visit will be like: -Take 30 minutes to find parking. -Wait 20 minutes for a shuttle to the park, or walk the 20 minutes to the entrance. -Wait another 30 minutes in line for exorbitantly priced tickets. (Note to military spouses – Disneyland does not offer military discounts for single day passes. You have to waste three days of your life there if you want a discount.) -Decide to take your daughter out of line and let her run around the courtyard that separates Disneyland and California Adventure. Marvel at her excitement at recognizing the characters that decorate the flagpoles.  “Hot dog!” she will squeal with glee, because for some inexplicable reason she will think Goofy’s name is “Hot Dog.”  Wonder why you...

Read More

New Zealand, Part 1: Bananagate.

Posted on Mar 11, 2014 in Pregnancy Stole My Cool, Travel Traumas

New Zealand, Part 1: Bananagate. 4

New Zealand.  I have to blog about my trip to New Zealand, even though it was two months ago.  My memory seems to be diminishing with each passing day of this pregnancy, so it’s imperative I document this trip now.  You know, so when I make our travel scrapbook 10 years from now I’ll actually have a record of where we went and what we did. You guys, New Zealand is stunning.  Gorgeous beyond belief.  I knew NZ was one of those places Damon and I had to visit while we were living in Japan, but I wasn’t all that sure why.  Because it’s pretty?  Because Lord of the Rings was filmed there?  I mean, a lot of places are pretty, and I don’t really care about Lord of the Rings.  But still, for no particular reason other than vague praise from fellow travelers, NZ was on our travel bucket-list.  And thank goodness it was. Perhaps we didn’t really know what to expect from our trip because it’s probably hard for most people – including myself – to articulate how incredible this place is.  Damon, Elisabeth, and I flew into Christchurch and spent 11 days traveling the South Island by car, spending one or two nights in a town before moving on to our next destination.  Even with 11 days, we only traversed the southern half of the South Island, but every day brought a different experience.  By no means am I a nature girl, yet I was rendered speechless by each beach, lake, mountain, glacier, waterfall, what-have-you we saw.  It was all magnificent. We’d be driving along, admiring one landscape – say,  rolling green hills dotted with sheep – turn a corner and be struck by a completely different, but equally stunning view, perhaps a glassy lake in the most brilliant turquoise color you’ve ever seen, or snow-capped mountains against a perfectly blue sky.  Even when it rained (which it did, a lot) it was still crazy beautiful.     We took our trip in early January, summer in NZ and therefore the tourism high season, yet there...

Read More

Sayonara, Japan

Posted on Feb 27, 2014 in It's the Navy Life, Travel Traumas

Sayonara, Japan 6

A little over a week ago, Elisabeth and I boarded a flight from Narita to LAX.  This was our third NRT –> LAX, but likely our last.  At least for a long while.  Elisabeth and I are officially CONUS residents again, living in California for the next several months until Damon joins us and we move to Washington, DC. I don’t believe I’ve entirely updated this blog on our current situation, so here’s the short version: I’m pregnant (duh).  Damon is currently in Nevada participating in a major training exercise for the next several weeks.  When he returns to Japan, he will be doing work-ups for deployment.  If you don’t know what any of that means, that’s okay, I don’t really either.  Basically, he’ll be really, really busy and gone a lot.  And ultimately, he’ll deploy again.  All before the baby is set to arrive. Given his timeline and my due date, we decided the best decision for me was to move back with my family in California to have the baby and wait out the deployment.  So here I am. It was strange leaving Japan – and the Atsugi community – so many months before I had previously planned.  There were so many things on my bucket list left undone, and time I had counted on with friends that I had to sacrifice.  But ultimately, I was ready to move; I desperately needed an In-N-Out burger.  I lived overseas for 22 months, which hardly sounds like any time at all.  But since graduating college in 2007, that is actually the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere.  Crazy, right? If I’m being honest, I didn’t love Japan.  That’s not to say I disliked it – not at all!  It’s just that I never felt 100% comfortable in the culture.  Part of that is my own fault.  Before moving, I assumed I would fully immerse myself in the Japanese culture, and frankly, I didn’t.  When we moved, Elisabeth was five months old.  I struggled – more than I thought I would – with balancing parenting a baby (and then toddler) and...

Read More

When Touring Goes Wrong

Posted on Oct 24, 2013 in Travel Traumas

When Touring Goes Wrong 0

Let me tell you about my trip to the Cupnoodles Museum today.  It did not go as planned. My mom is visiting again.  This is her third trip to Japan, and in trying to come up with new things for us to do, I came across this: Foreign Visitors Pick the 20 Coolest Places in Japan.  This list reminded me of the Cupnoodles Museum in Yokohama, something I’ve been meaning to check out while living here.  An entire museum devoted to instant ramen?  Obviously a must-see.  Do you know that you can even create your own cup of noodles?  From an amazing 5000 flavor combinations?  Mind. Blown. This was just the kind of fun, quirky Japanese thing to do while my mom is in town. Today was a dreary day.  Overcast, and drizzling by the time we reached Yokohama.  That time, by the way, was around 11:30.  Elisabeth’s lunch time, and getting to be mine.  We made the short walk from the train station to the museum, and my mom handled the ticket purchasing.  We were assigned a time slot to visit the interactive noodle-making factory.  11:30-11:50.  In other words, right then.  No problem, we were all hungry, and what better way to warm up than with a hot cup of ramen? We made our way up to the noodle-making floor, and were handed more tickets.  Then we were directed to vending machines.  Ostensibly, we were supposed to purchase the noodle cups from the vending machines.  This required more money, and as we had already purchased six tickets for who-knows-what, I asked for help from the nearest employee.  Asking for help meant handing him my fistful of tickets and giving him my best confused face.  He magically produced three square bowls (as opposed to the round cups found in the vending machine.) Ohhh, had we unknowingly purchased some fancy cup of noodles?  Perhaps a special edition noodle cup?  Had we won a prize?  I didn’t know, but I did know that I wasn’t about to find out, so I just took the cups and moved on to the drawing...

Read More
Page 1 of 3123