Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Catch All

Think of this post like the Queen of England's annual Christmas broadcast in which she gives a sort of state of the union and shares her thanks for the year's blessings and hope for the New Year. Much less formal mind you, more like a list, and probably much worse grammar. Got to get back into it somehow and there's been so much going on lately that I haven't shared so I just want to dump it all into this post along with a few of my recent favorite pictures.

So here's what's been going on since I last blogged...in no particular order...

1. Tommy is now 16, almost 17, months old and becoming more and more of a full fledged, energetic, rambunctious, tender hearted, neck squeezing, strong-willed toddler. I plan to do a feature length 18 month update in January but for now I'll share just one my favorite things he does lately, which is come up to his mama, or daddy, or Hunley and emphatically lay his head down on us while saying "AWWWWW."  It is melt your heart adorable, I come completely undone, he has me wrapped around his little squishy fingers and it's a good thing because boy keeps me on my toes. So many major milestones have happened in such a short period of time. He is down to one nap a day, and as of last week he is fully weaned. And next week he's heading off on his first date and then I'll be moving him in to his dorm at college the week after that...
2. Speaking of weaning. It is by far the hardest thing I've done so far as a mom. I do not think this emotional rollercoaster/heart break is talked about nearly enough. Yes there are countless sources and posts about how to actually go about weaning and I honestly expected to feel relieved to be done with it. Done with the responsibility and the lack of ownership over my own body. I did not anticipate just how sad I would feel, and still feel, about the end of breastfeeding.  I know there are some real hormones at play here so I'm trying to think of it less as the loss of something so sweet and more like a passage into a new season, but I'm not there yet. It still feels like a loss. Tommy of course handled it like he's handled every transition, totally smooth despite his mom's bumbling about. I think we could have stopped sooner as he was only nursing a few times a day, for less and less time, and it was more for both our comfort, but I am so proud and thankful that we got to breastfeed for these 16 months. It truly was one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life.
3. If it had been just up to me, we might have kept on nursing until he formed the words and literally asked me to stop but T.J. had a work conference (our second trip to Colorado this year) that lined up just right! My mother in law came to stay with him while I tagged along, and thus ended the question of when should we wean. This was now the second time we'd left Tommy for longer than a couple hours and he did great again while mom and dad got to rest and relax in snowy Keystone. Well... mom did most of the resting since T.J. had actual conference obligations, but it was still a fun time away together. T.J. gave me my early Christmas present in the form of an indulgent massage at the spa, and I enjoyed sleeping in, ordering room service, and having no one else's butt to wipe.  Of course, after all the quality time with my husband, my second favorite thing was coming home to a big hug from my sweet boy.
4. Tommy and I also took a solo trip to Fort Worth, Texas where he finally got to meet some of his mama's best friends from college! It was such a sweet girl's weekend, made even sweeter by the addition of the two new baby boys in our little circle. I just loved seeing my friends love on my son and I loved having time to catch up on their lives. We just pick up right where we left off. As the Ben Rector song goes, you can't make old friends.
5. Tommy recently visited Santa and had a slightly different reaction to him than last year. Also... how has he grown so much in just one year!? We are looking forward to our little Christmas at home, just the three of us this year. Our house and halls are decked and Tommy gets excited to turn on the Christmas tree lights every day. We haven't had any ornament casualties yet, though not for lack of trying. This year he's slightly more aware of what's going on so we've introduced him to Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas, showed him the old classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which ended up being mostly just mom and dad watching the Grinch while he ran around as per usual), and we end each night rocking in his bedroom to the glow of his very own little tree. Having a little one definitely rekindles the magic of my own childhood Christmases and I love getting to create special memories for him.

So that about brings us up to date! We have a lot of potentially big changes headed our way in the New Year that I hope to be more diligent about documenting and sharing here. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Bend, Oregon Travel Blog + Vlog

We headed down to Bend, Oregon over the Columbus Day weekend to check off another item from our Pacific Northwest bucket list. It was such a fun getaway and Oregon has officially solidified it's place in my heart as one of my favorite states. T.J. got home from work around 3 on Friday and I had tried to have mostly everything ready to go so all we needed to do was load up the car, change the baby's diaper one more time, and hit the road! It's about a 5 hour trek from our home to Bend and we did it mostly in the rain and in the dark but we made it safely to our little AirBnb cottage and Tommy was a trooper on his first real road-trip. The new Eric Church album helped.

After letting Tommy explore our home-base for the weekend, we quickly set up the pack 'n' play and then all collapsed, ready to get some good sleep so we could explore the next day.  We woke up to a cold, gray and rainy day but being the good Pacific Northwesterners that we've become,  we threw on our rain coats and headed out. We saved the hike for the next day and instead made our way to the High Dessert Museum. It is called a wildlife and living history museum and had so many cool exhibits indoors featuring Native American culture, and a desertarium, plus tons of trails through the woods that lead to the birds of prey exhibit and the cutest otters' habitat, and then winded around to an authentic homestead and sawmill with reenactments. It was super kid-friendly, the grounds were beautiful, and while we joked that the high dessert seemed awfully wet, we enjoyed walking around in the beautiful golden fall colors. Plus! Everything is more fun with an adorable little yellow raincoat-clad toddler in tow!
After that outing we headed back to our cottage so Tommy could nap and so we could watch the Clemson game. It was the perfect cozy afternoon and got us recharged to hit up the downtown area once Tommy was up. Our Airbnb was in walking distance of some of the breweries T.J. wanted to check out which made it so convenient. We also seemed to have chosen the perfect weekend to visit as it was their Fall Festival. There were several blocks closed off and lined with booths, music stages, and yummy food trucks.

Our first stop was Bend Brewing Company which had a fun outdoor area right on the Deschutes River. T.J. grabbed a beer and his first stamp on his Bend Ale Trail passport. There are 16+ breweries in Bend and if you download the app and check in at each one you get a free glass or something. We weren't quite that ambitious but it was fun to cross off a few while in town and the app gives you info on each brewery like their location, a little about their history and what's on tap.
After, we meandered through the Fall Festival and were immediately drawn to the prettiest little food truck I've ever seen for some fresh hot donuts with butterscotch dipping sauce! We decided to do things a bit out of order and have our dessert before dinner. Vacation, right?? 
We walked to Deschutes Brewery and Pub for the next stop on our "progressive dinner" grabbed another stamp, another beer, and a big yummy pretzel with beer cheese. Feeling a little bit fuller we still decided it was time to actually have dinner and we landed at McMenamin's Old St. Francis School. McMenamins are a Washington and Oregon establishment. Each one is uniquely funky. The one we visited happens to be a former Catholic school now converted to a brewery, pub, eclectic hotel, and a movie theater with a mismatched mix of couches and arm chairs. It had several cobble stone courtyards with fire pits to gather around, and inside, the brewpub was cozy and dark and just right for a cool fall evening. We split an appetizer and a burger in a little corner booth and Tommy chewed on crayons and flung coasters and had a grand time. 
The next day was drier but still chilly so we bundled up again and headed to Smith Rock State Park, one of the "7 Wonders of Oregon." We have now checked off 4 out of 7: Smith Rock, Mt.Hood, the Oregon Coast, and the Columbia River. I love how different the landscape is throughout Oregon, and Smith Rock State Park felt more like the high dessert that it is. It was simply stunning. There are tons of trails all with impressive vistas. We chose the easy River trail which had the winding river on one side and neck-craning rock walls on the other side. The park is a mecca for rock climbers from all around the world and it was so crazy to see dozens and dozens of them scattered at different perilous heights along the rock faces.
(can you spot the climbers??)
Even the "easy" trail was quite the workout for mama aka the pack mule but it felt good to at least pretend to be active and outdoorsy and cool like all the climbers we passed. Since we were already out of the city we headed a bit further north to check out something that had caught our eye (mostly T.J.'s eye, but I love him so I was happy to oblige) on the drive in- the Erickson Aircraft Collection. A hanger full of rare and vintage aircraft, most from WW2 and most still in flying condition. T.J. was like a kid pointing out all the different planes he recognized (P-51, F4U Corsair...) and it was truly an impressive little museum. I couldn't believe how pristine some of them looked and can't imagine the upkeep they require to still fly them today! 
After this big outing we went back to the cottage and all took a nap and then that evening we headed to one more brewery for our final dinner in Bend. Crux Fermentation Project was in a different part of Bend, near the Old Mill District, and while it's a little tricky to find they have a great set up! We ambitiously attempted to sit at a table indoors but Tommy was one step away from knocking over all their merchandise so we ordered our drinks and food and meandered out to their awesome lawn space which luckily had a roaring fire going along with corn hole and picnic tables. Their food menu is surprisingly gourmet for a brewery and they had food trucks outside as well. I had their kombucha and a yummy green bean salad and T.J. ordered a brat with sauerkrat from one of the trucks to go with the German beer they had on tap. 
We were sad to leave the next morning as there were so many other cool things to do in Bend. But I'm so thankful we got to go even for just a short visit. It was such a fun little adventure with my boys! I made a point to bring my gopro and document as much as I could to put together a little travel vlog. While T.J. admittedly doesn't love stopping for photos or videos he does love watching the final product so I'm trying to make more because I know that in 5, 10, 20 years, we are going to still watch these home videos of ours and probably cry! 

Monday, September 24, 2018

don't let me forget

Tommy is so fun these days. He is almost 14 months now and I really love this age. He is so engaging and able to do more and more fun things! He is becoming a full blown toddler before my eyes and sometimes I catch a look at him and see the teenager he's going to be, the handsome young man I'll get to know one day and it simultaneously thrills me and makes me realize how quickly time will pass. It's so easy to just feel like I'm surviving each day but they are filled to the brim with precious, silly moments that make me laugh out loud, or roll my eyes, or want to squeeze the stuffing out of him.
How he head bangs when you tell him to "rock n roll!" The naughty silly smile he gives right before he undoes his own diaper. How he notices every single dog we pass. The way he braces himself for a lick from Hunley. The way he says "uh oh" every time he drops something off the highchair like it's an accident but really he did it on purpose (over and over and over again). 
The way he's started to turn around and back up slowly into my lap to sit and read. How he yells with excitement when daddy comes home. His attempts to say "cheeeeeese!" His fast little walk-run in his moccasins.  The way he sticks his hand in the snack cup and wildly yanks out a fistfull of puffs sending them flying. 
The way he squeezes his eyes closed and shakes his head back and forth when he doesn't want another bite. How he imitates saying "thank you." That he hides behind the kitchen table a safe distance from the Roomba. The way he sings the "do do do do do do" part of the Baby Shark song. 

My sweet wild boy has me chasing him around all day and I definitely fall onto the couch once he's down for the night with a big exhale. But all these little nothing moments make up the sweetness of these long days. So I write it down, capture it, remember it, all his interests, personality quirks, all the funny things he does.  Please oh please, I don't want to ever ever ever ever forget!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

welcome fall + a bucket list

It's not technically fall yet but it sure is feeling like it in the Pacific Northwest and it's after Labor Day which is a much more appropriate time to dive in to all things pumpkin spice (except the lattes-blech) than the end of August like some fall fanatics. I love summer, I love the heat and the sunshine and the long days and I don't even mind the humidity if you've got AC and a lake to jump in. Which is exactly what we did last week when we were home in South Carolina where it still felt very much like summer. I am not one to wish away summer and every year I roll my eyes at the Halloween swag that you start seeing in the grocery stores as soon as the 4th of July is over.  But...I can't deny there's something magical about this time of year.
This tends to be a short season for us here and we don't really get all the beautiful crisp days with an explosion of golden leaves like you have back on the East coast. It's more of a soggy dampness that settles in and doesn't leave until June. So I think I better go ahead and put out my pumpkins, burn my spiced candles, and buy some mums to kill while I'm still in the enchanted phase of fall and not the "sick and tired of wiping off my dogs wet feet every time we come in from a walk" phase that takes over later in the season. 
I made a fall bucket list on our kitchen chalkboard (#basic) and can't wait to check these off with my little family. T.J. asked why Harry Potter was on the list, and while I considered going the standard Hocus Pocus route, Harry Potter just feels right.  Like the perfect rainy day, snuggle in movies for fall. Plus the first book came out 20 years ago, we've grown up together, so I feel like it deserved to be highlighted this year.
I am really excited to do all the fun, classic, memory making things with Tommy this year. It's only his second fall, and last year we started the makings of some fun family traditions with him, but he was only two months old! This year he's older, he's walking, he's into everything, he's exploring and it's just so much fun! He's already a big fan of picking up leaves and pinecones (and trying to eat them). I can't wait to experience it all with him this time around and see him really start to take it all in. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

the final countdown

T.J. is already a couple months in to his final year of residency! Can I get a thank God, hallelujah?! It is insane to me that this season, that has felt endless at times, is actually coming to an end. I am so incredibly proud of my hard-working, smartie-pants husband who has officially stepped into the role of chief resident and is killing it. When I stop and think about what his typical day looks like, I am overwhelmed and totally in awe of his skills and knowledge.  I mean it's not Grey's Anatomy (thank goodness) but he is amazing and my real life Dr.McDreamy!
Okay... enough about T.J. This is my blog after all. And while I am definitely excited that residency, and all the fun it entails, is wrapping up, I am more focused on what that means for our time in the Pacific Northwest because in less than a year we will be leaving, moving, PCSing in Army terms. **Disclaimer: because it's the Army, though, nothing's 100% until we get our orders and even then those can change. But in all likelihood we will be packing up and heading out next summer. To where, you ask? We don't know yet. It's wherever the Army sends us but we'll get an idea probably around December and hopefully we'll know for sure where our new home will be by February.
And I have already entered into a sort of frantic state where I want to start purging and organizing and making lists of all the things to do before we move. One year goes by in the blink of eye- just look at our one year old son if you don't believe me! There is so much I need to do and squeeze in to this short remaining time. And yet in the same breath I'm already checking out and pulling back and letting go. How plugged in do I want to be this year, knowing how much harder it makes leaving? It's a delicate balance of being present, "all in," and also looking towards and preparing for the next season.
Before moving to Washington I had a bucket list as long as my arm of places and sites to see. Now I'm scrambling to find any room in our schedule to check off a few more in the time remaining. When we sat down to plan out our calendar for the year, between work obligations, conferences, and a couple very important weddings, the year suddenly evaporated. So we're prioritizing and picking our top must-sees. For T.J. that's Bend, Oregon and for me it's Crater Lake. I'm hoping we'll magically be able to find a free week to do a road trip and visit both.  And in the mean time, we'll make the most of any and all weekends that T.J. is not on call and we're actually in town to soak in as much of this corner of the country while we still call it home.
Speaking of home...We'll be selling our house, our first home that we shared as husband and wife, the one we brought our son home to from the hospital. It is well loved but knowing that we'll be wiping our hands of it in a year has made me a little lax on the upkeep lately. Paint needs to be touched up, carpets deep-cleaned, clutter de-cluttered. There's stuff we haven't touched in four years that I refuse to move with us and that needs to be tossed or sold or donated (like T.J.'s futon that he's stubbornly held on to since undergrad- anyone want it?). There's a lot that will need to be taken care of, repaired and spruced up before we go to sell but in the same breath I am definitely slacking in my housekeeping duties. My attitude has shifted to the "oh well, whatever, we're moving in a year anyway."
Uh... yeah... not sure I can get away with that for the rest of the year so can we just hire a housekeeper already please? Then I can spend my time doing important things like taking more family walks to the water. Because even though I am feeling quite excited about moving, and anxious about squeezing all the fun and memories out of these remaining months, I know that it's these little day to day things, that make up our life here, that I am going to miss the most. And since it's already starting to feel like fall, which is basically winter, which is right before Spring... let the countdown begin!

Monday, August 20, 2018

the mountain is out

And by mountain, I could only be referring to Mt. Rainier. And actually the mountain isn't out today and hasn't been for quite a while thanks to all the haze and smoke from the wildfires in our corner of the country. But when Mt. Rainier is out on on those clear blue sky days, that's what you say. I have loved living with this stunning fixture on our horizon and some of the best unobstructed views are from the Army base. But it's a fickle mountain, and even on sunny days in our neighborhood, the mountain has it's own weather system and is often hidden. So when you hear people comment "the moutain is out", you know the weather is especially good that day! 

(the view from the commissary) 

(the view from our neighborhood) 

Shamefully, even though we've been out here for four years, I have only made the trip to explore the National Park one other time with T.J. and Tommy back in June. It's about an hour and half drive to the park entrance and then another half an hour up the mountain to Paradise and the visitor center so we often talk ourselves out of making the trek. Plus there are those unpredictable weather factors to consider. When we went back in June there were still buckets of snow up there which made hiking with Tommy a bit treacherous and you actually couldn't see the mountain even though we were standing on the mountain... but we ended up winding back down and pulling over at one of the many trailheads along the way instead which was still worth it.
When my parents came out last month we decided to make the trip with them so they could experience it up close and personal and I was excited to go up there again on a clearer day for better look myself. We brought a picnic lunch which we enjoyed at the Paradise visitor center before setting off on our hike.
It was definitely a lot hotter than our visit back in June, and there were quite a bit more mosquitos, but the view of the snow covered peak, and the lush meadow of wildflowers is unrivaled. Weighted down with my one year old, I was aware of just how out of shape I am but we hung in there for a mile or so up the trail before turning around, though my dad carried on a bit further until he reached the snowpack.  
Tommy was my sweaty little trooper and happily hung out on my back, even dozing off on the hike down. But before heading home we made one more stop at Reflection Lake, which, at the right time of day, reflects the image of the mountain. 
Tommy fully zonked out once we were back in the car and we spent the ride home marveling over our day on the mountain and scrolling through pictures that will never be able to fully do justice to the Lord's magnificent creation!