florida vacation

In mid July David and I were able to fly down to Florida to visit with his brother, sister-in-law, and their littles. Each year around the fourth of July we make our trek down for a long weekend of fun and sun. This year we met our newest little nephew only 14 days old. When we arrived a tropical storm was trailing us, promising to keep us indoors during the visit.  Somehow though, it broke up allowing us all to enjoy the outdoors. We had a picnic at the beach at sunset, went to a cookout in a local park to honor the Navy Reserve, took walks around the block, had a massive water balloon fight, and just soaked up as much time together as possible. It is always so hard to leave on Monday.  I wish I could pick up Florida and place it right next to Massachusetts so that we are only a short drive from one another.

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Uncle David meets our newest nephew. They are both rocking the same hairdo.IMG_4329

Just a little beach nap at sunset.

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Setting up our camp site. We packed blankets & fried chicken and sat in the sand between sea turtle nests.

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Nothing beats this view

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Did not done a bathing suit this time, but still had to put my feet in.

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The little guy woke up right before it was time to head home. First visit to the beach at just a few days old not to shabby.

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Our niece and nephew splashing around in the waves. They are fearless, beautiful, little fish.

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A little family portrait?  Gosh do I want us to start a family. Holding little boy really made that desire apparent. Maybe someday…

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While we were there, I was reintroduced to ramen noodles and fell in love with that salty, noodle soup

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Kid races at the cookout. About to launch off for the potato sack race.

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David and his littles

chicago + besties

It had been one year since I last saw my bestie, Kaelin. When I heard that the BlogHer ’13 Conference was in Chicago, I knew it was going to be great to fly in early and spend some much needed time with her before heading into the blogging sessions. And….it was! Laura and I left for Chicago on Tuesday morning and landed in the Windy City. It was like we had just seen Kaelin yesterday. We immediately caught up on life, loves, work, and the everyday. We ate lavishly each day and explored extensively. Kaelin treated us to the best of Chicago and hosted us in her poshly decorated apartment. I was so impressed and had such a good time that it was terribly hard to say goodbye after six days.

There were so many highlights from our Bestie Fest 2013.  We sunburned at the lake, danced on a boat cruise, watched fireworks cascade over the city, took a Segway tour (despite our better judgement), ate multiple desserts per night, drank champagne, listened to free outdoor music, put our feet in a fountain, shopped for random things, laughed, cried, talked all day and night, and just had a smashingly good time.

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I went to Chicago envisioning a certain type of conference experience. As a newbie to blogging, I desperately sought new tips and techniques for enhancing my blog’s look, function, and readership. Days prior to the flight, I read through all of the BlogHer Conference materials, highlighted which sessions I wanted to attend, and looked through the attendee list for bloggers I wanted to meet. The plan, goal and purpose was clear and prepared.

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Once at McCormick Place, however, all of these shifted. Walking through the doors of the convention center, I assumed I was flying solo throughout the sessions. Of course, I would mingle, smile, and small talk, but was I really going to build strong connections? I was skeptical and kept my expectations low and my priorities straight a head of me.  Then I walked into the newbie breakfast. It was immediately obvious that the women at this event were vibrant, intelligent, passionate women who were here in fact to make real connections to similarly competent and confident female bloggers. Excitement overtook my previous desires for skills like: search engine optimization and monetizing your email list. I decided then to go with my gut from session to session. Ending up in completely different places then expected, I had a blast. From Instagram Style, to Girls Coding, to how to use social media tools without being a tool, I got a smattering if blogging ideas and along the way connected with some pretty awesome gals.

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The session that left the largest impression though was Sheryl Sandberg’s interview on Lean In and the LeanIn.org. In the morning prior to my cup of coffee, I rode the escalator up to the main floor of the convention center. Ahead of me was a woman in a crisp white suit jacket. In my hazy brain I thought, “Gosh that woman is quite peppy for this early and dressed immaculately,” as she leaned over to strike up conversations with those around her. As we disembarked the escalator and made our way to Starbucks, I realized that this friendly woman was Sheryl. She listened with great intention to the women around her and seemed genuinely interested in their personal anecdotes. In the later session, she maintained this presence which was captivating. While some find her message contentious, I found it inspiring. As a young female teacher, I am often confronted with gender bias about my career choice and I see this bias playing out in the halls of the school. Sheryl is accurate when she notes that the major corporations and government positions are filled by men. Case in point, Massachusetts recently elected its first female senator, Elizabeth Warren. While women represent an ever growing number of college graduates, women are still confronted with “or” statements.  Do you want to be a successful business executive OR do you want to be a successful mom? “And” statements seem reserved for men. Society and the media do not often question a man’s ability to run a company and be a father. And here, I am reminded of the documentary MissRepresentation which focuses on “how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.”

Sheryl’s message isn’t that new.  She believes in women and she is proud of where women are and she shed light on real inequalities that exist between the genders.  And, in this post-feminist world, she is merely asking women to reflect on where they are and to ask themselves, “What would you do if you were not afraid?”  It is quite a difficult question. I might answer it in the following ways:

(1) Live a little. Stop being so worried about what other people will think or how something might be perceived and just do it.

(2) Take more risks at work. Speak up about myself more and believe in my potential.

(3) Engage more authentically with those in power and not shy away from the opportunities to do so.

Sheryl noted in her interview that young girls are often described by parents, teachers, friends, etc. as bossy.  When she asked the crowd, “Who here has ever been called bossy as a young girl?” 90% of the audience raised their hands. Instead she said we need to change our language and mindsets.  Those little girls are not aggressive they are demonstrating “strong executive leadership skills.” Bias runs deep and starts early and what is most important is finding your voice, believing in it, and using it.

When I walked into BlogHer ’13 I thought I would get a quick dirty list of to-dos for my blog, but straying from this goal led me to more deeply reflect on what it means to be a woman and to lean in.

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what i read, what i thought

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Each year David and I take a road trip from Boston to Ohio for Christmas and every other year we drive from Boston to Florida for Thanksgiving. While I am not a fan of driving long distances, I seem to always have such a great time with David on these epic trails. We listen to music, play with the pups in the back seat, make stops here and there, eat tons of junk food, and just watch the landscape fly by. Beyond these trips it never dawned on me to take a cross country road trip. To be honest the idea seemed a bit repulsive.  One or two days in the car was fine but did I really want to spend more then that just driving and driving and driving?

After reading Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, I absolutely do!!  The story is told beautifully. Amy and Roger, two relative strangers, need to drive Amy’s family car from California to Connecticut. We learn early on that Amy’s father has died and the remaining family members are transplanting to start fresh out on the East Coast. Throughout the road trip, chapters are interwoven of life three months earlier right before the “accident” that took Amy’s father’s life and changed her family.  Overcome by grief yet overwhelmed by the move, Amy has not had time to process the loss really. This road trip which was planned out by her mother to be quick turns into an adventure as Roger and Amy take a variety of detours. Each brings with them a series of walls that surround them from the outside world. Yet as the trip takes on its twists and turns and lack of gas and crazy times, both Roger and Amy begin to break down these walls, live life, love, and move forward. What makes the book even more appealing are the personal touches sprinkled throughout.  Amy keeps a scrapbook on the trip collecting receipts, playlists, doodles, state mottos, and anecdotes that are hand drawn in the book. It made me feel as though I had somehow joined them by getting a glimpse into their collection of artifacts along the way. You later find out in the author’s notes that Matson had done this exact road trip herself stopping along the way at the characters’ rest stops.

What I liked most about this novel is its touching portrayal of loss. I read this book on the flight down and back from West Palm Beach where David and I visited with his family. And, as I read this on the plane, so many lines truly resonated:

“Tomorrow will be better.”
“But what if it’s not?” I asked.
“Then you say it again tomorrow. Because it might be. You never know, right? At some point, tomorrow will be better.”

I blinked them back, hard. I had a feeling that if I let myself start crying, there was a very real possibility I would never stop again.”

“A man on a quest. A Don Quixote searching for his Dulcinea. But keep in mind my good friend, Don Quixote never found his Dulcinea, did he? He did not. There sometimes isn’t much difference between a knight’s quest and a fool’s errand.”

“I’d found out that when you’re never going to see someone again, it’s not the good-bye that matters. What matters is that you’re never going to be able to say anything else to them, and you’re left with an eternal unfinished conversation.”

This last quote about goodbyes resonated with me the most. I dog-eared the page and sat there thinking about why this line about loss was having such an impact. I closed the book not knowing why but liking that it did nonetheless. The next morning, I found out that my grandmother passed away. I did not have the opportunity to say goodbye to her. And I felt the sentiments of this quote rush over me. The loss of my grandmother is painful and raw. Being left with our eternal unfinished conversation is making me feel as though there are not enough tears to express this deepest loss.

ormond & orlando

The perk of being a school teacher = summer vacation!

No sooner did the school year come to a conclusion then I hopped onto a flight to Florida to spend a long weekend visiting with my family in Florida. After a long, tiring, eventful, amazing, challenging, and exciting school year, I was able to decompress on the beach for three days. Ah….such luxury.

We spent most of our time lapping up the sun. It was so much fun watching Avery and Smith experience a number of firsts.  First time in a swimming pool, first time on the beach, and for Avery first time splashing in the waves.  On the first day, she would not even walk on the wet sand as clearly trusting such a thing was scary.  But, by the last day of our vacation, we could not keep her out of the ocean.  She let the waves crash over her legs, sat in a little wading pool, and played and played in the sun. It was precious. Mr. Smith enjoyed himself too and fearlessly floated (with assistance) in the “big” pool.

On the last day as we piled 8 people (including 2 carseats) into a rental minivan on our way back to the Orlando airport we got a crazy idea. Why not postpone our return one day more and spend an afternoon at Epcot! After a few phone calls to our various airlines, we did just that.  While it was brutally hot at a humid 93F, we had a great time. The kids went on all of the rides although the Nemo ride was the favorite and we ate and danced in the German Biergarten. A truly excellent way to kick off summer 2013!

 

two years ago today

It is so hard to believe that two years ago was our wedding weekend! After a year of ceaseless planning, imagining, and booking, we spent the Friday before our Memorial Day wedding weekend, relaxing poolside at the Hammock Beach Resort. I vividly remember how warm that weekend was. The sun was such a welcome after a winter in Boston. Splashing in the pool together with friends and family was the best way to decompress, breathe, and truly take in the moment. People always say to relax on your wedding day, to let the professionals do their job, and to just enjoy yourself. Yet, this seems so impossible when the jitters of the year of planning and expectation radiate through your muscles and bones. We had never planned an event like this before, let alone a destination event.

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Everything was perfect (at least to us). In the end, from soup to nuts, David and I  saw only the perfection of that weekend.  Yes, I am sure there were mistakes or faux pas made over that weekend, but I am going to be sappy and say we did not see any of them.  All we saw was each other and the commitment we were making to one another.  We were surrounded by constant love from our friends and families and our own love for one another was enveloping. Sometimes, I wish we could go back to that weekend not because I want to sap up all of the attention but because it was just so magical. We woke at 4AM on our wedding morning because we were just too excited for the events ahead to sleep. We ordered breakfast in bed and just laughed and danced around the hotel room until it was time to go off and get ready. Before we said goodbye, until the ceremony, we took a walk on the beach together. It was so early that we were the only two on the beach as the sun was rising.  Along the way, we gathered some seashells to bring home with us, talked about our future, and were just plain silly running and leaping in the waves. We were married at 5PM on Sunday, May 29, 2011. And this thing that David and I have has just gotten better with each year….

 

weekend trip to philly

It might have been a month delayed but Laura, Becca, and I finally made our way down to Philly this past weekend to visit with Kellyanne. From start to finish, we had a blast catching up with our friend and seeing the city that has adopted her. Yes, we tried to hatch a plan to steal her off back to Boston, but life in Philly is pretty nice and I suppose that means we will just have to visit her more often! In Philly for a little less than 48 hours there was plenty we did (including eating fabulous meals) but, more importantly, there is plenty we left for next time!

it’s a merry norovirus christmas!

Going to Ohio has become synonymous with Christmas. Saturday morning David and I wake up early and pack the car for the 11 hours drive from Boston to my parents’ house. The dogs spread out in the back seat and sleep all the way while David and I drive in 3 to 4 hour shifts. Making minimal spots, we arrive typically around dinner time to celebrate David’s birthday again!

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Once there, everything was going according to plan. We woke up late in the mornings and spent most of the day lounging in our pjs and catching up. In the afternoons, we treated ourselves to lunch out and splurged on desserts. In the evenings, we went to the movie theater to watch this year’s academy award winning hopefuls. Each day followed this general pattern.

Things changed however this year when my brother and sister-in-law arrived with their two littles. We were so excited to celebrate Christmas this year with the littles. We had spent too many years having an adult Christmas, that the littles would return a sense of magic and awe to what was otherwise a typical holiday season. Excitedly we picked them up from the airport and met them at the gate.  We soaked them in, hugging and kissing them from head to toe!  Christmas could finally begin was all I thought about as we drove from the airport and arrived home. The Christmas presents lay beneath the tree waiting to be torn into and following our planned Christmas feast we would do just that.

Within the first few moments it became clear that this Christmas would be VERY different.  Avery was unfortunately ill with the norovirus.  Perhaps she caught it from her cousins, the airport, or touching some contaminated surface but upon arrival she became ill.  We ate a haphazard meal as we swallowed down beef tenderloin and juggled baby Smith and helping Jessie clean Avery up.  We tore through our presents but it was clear that not only were the new arrivals so tired from their travels but also under the weather.

One by one, we all succumbed to the virus. One minute we would be happily playing board games, laughing, drinking wine and making merry and the next minute another one fell ill.  It was an odd waiting game as the numbers of those afflicted increased and those immune decreased. By the end of the visit, no one had been spared. It was definitely not the Christmas present we had expected!  Yet, on the flip side of this disaster, despite the constant trips to the bathroom, the upset bellies, and the queasiness, we enjoyed each other’s company.  We used few of our packed clothes and opted for pajama day after day, we  cuddled, we cared for one another, we laughed and shared the stories of our “battle wounds.” We might have planned to take Avery to the aquarium, to have gotten all of the ladies nails done, and to have given Bryan and Jessie a date night during this trip, but as the old adage goes, “You make plans and God laughs.” It was still a very Merry Christmas and truly relaxing once we had all weathered the storm. And next year we will surely not invite the norovirus again….