Thursday, May 21, 2015

I’m a Virginian



A little over 12 years ago I moved to Northern Virginia.  I had been living and working in the Boston area when an opportunity opened up to move here and work for a Senator from Wyoming.  My plan was to move down here and stay for a year or 2, then get a good job in Colorado and move back out west.  That way I could marry a good western man, have western kids, and live a western life.

1 ½ years after moving here my colleague asked if she could set me up on a blind date.  I agreed, and 2 weeks later I was introduced to Joe.  After a whirlwind romance we were engaged and planning a wedding.  Choosing where to have the wedding was a no-brainer for me.  I wanted to get married here, in Virginia.  And so it was.

Fast forward 12 years and we have established roots.  Virginia is not only where we were married, it is where both of our children were born.  It is where we bought our first home (or rather, where the bank owns our first home).  It is where we have built a life together.  While there are days that I get annoyed with the traffic, or get frustrated with the high cost of everything…at the end of the day, living in Northern Virginia just feels right.  A lot of people don’t understand it.  Most of my own family members don’t understand it.  But it all comes down to one thing…after 12 years, Virginia is home.

Recently there have been 2 events that happened that proved to me that it is official…I am a Virginian.

1) A woman and I were talking.  During the conversation she asked me, “Where’s home?”  My first thought…HERE!  When I responded she looked confused, “So you grew up in Virginia?”  My response, “I grew up in Wyoming, but Virginia is my home.”

2) I was talking to a family that is living here temporarily.  In our conversation they mentioned that they haven’t really enjoyed living in Northern Virginia.  I tried to be understanding and hear where they were coming from, but inside I was completely offended.  How could you NOT love it here?  What’s not to love?  Look at all the awesome things around you!  Of course I didn’t say any of that, those were just the thoughts in my head.  But it was another sign that Virginia is where my heart is.  Of course a piece of me will always love the west, but I know that Virginia is where we are supposed to be.

12 years is a long time.  Our townhouse is exactly 2 miles from the apartment I lived in when I first moved to the area.  We are 1 mile from the apartment we lived in when we got married and 2 blocks from the townhouse we rented when Ella was born.  Everything I need is within a 3 mile radius.  I can get to the mall, grocery store, favorite restaurants, doctor and church all in under 10 minutes.  Ella attends the neighborhood school just 3 blocks from our house.  I love our street and know all of our neighbors.  I can tell you the best place for Mexican food, Hibachi, Chinese food, Italian food and hamburgers.  I know the quickest route to the movie theatre and can tell you where to avoid during rush hour.  This is my neighborhood.  My home.  Virginia.

Friday, May 8, 2015

CAKE!!!



There is something you need to know about me…I love cake.  I pretty much have a sweet tooth in general (I’ve never met a dessert that I didn’t like), but for me, cake is taken to a whole new level.  I love it!  While I definitely have my favorite flavors (strawberry, red velvet, plain white, and this awesome coconut cake that my friend makes), I will pretty much eat any cake set in front of me.  If you ever think something is a bit off and you wonder if my body has been overtaken by aliens, set a piece of cake in front of me and see how I respond.  If it’s eaten within 3 minutes, you know everything is ok.

My love isn't just with the cake, though.  I love...I mean LOVE frosting.  Joe's mom has this fantastic frosting recipe and she used to always bring me a big container of it whenever she would come visit.  Finally she just gave me the recipe, so now I always keep a container of it in the freezer.  If I'm having a rough day and need a little pick-me-up I scoop some frosting into a bowl and eat it with a spoon spread it on graham crackers.

Several months ago, long before our Christmas trip to Disney World, I read an article about must have foods in Disney World.  On the list was a Cake Cup from the Cheshire Cat Café.  The second I saw the picture I knew I had to have this cake.  Thus began my quest…eat this, and any other cake I happen to find while visiting the Disney World Theme parks.

The list begins with our first cake in Magic Kingdom…The Be Our Guest Restaurant cupcake topped with “the gray stuff.”


 When planning our trip, lunch at this restaurant was at the top of Ella’s list of “must-do’s.”  We waited in line for nearly 2 hours to finally get in for lunch, so we were definitely going to make the most of it.  We ate in the Castle Gallery.  The cupcake was divine and as Ella says, "Mom, the gray stuff really IS delicious!"

Next we hit up the Cheshire Cat Café.  I want to be very clear about something.  This is NOT a cupcake.  It is a cake cup.  A large plastic cup filled with alternating layers of cake and icing.  To make this cake cup even better…it had strawberry icing and strawberry gel filling.  Please note that strawberry is my absolute favorite kind of cake.  Heaven. In. A. Cup.  I gave Ella a couple of bites, but other than that I ate the entire thing.  Even the fondant rose on top.  Sometimes I find myself dreaming of this cake cup.  I will definitely hit up this Cafe the next time we head to Magic Kingdom.  And next time I'll get the chocolate flavor too, just for good measure.


  
We spent our 3rd day at Hollywood Studios and ate lunch at the Backlot Express Restaurant.  While there I spotted a sign advertising 2 special cupcakes.  A carrot cake cupcake topped with Olaf, and a gingerbread cupcake topped with Mickey ears and a Santa hat.  I couldn’t decide which one I wanted, so I did the only logical thing…I ordered both.  These cupcakes were huge!  Even with 3 of us eating them we still weren’t able to finish.  While I enjoyed the gingerbread cupcake, I was really partial to the carrot cake.  It took me back to my Boston days when I had this awesome roommate who made amazing cakes.  She made a carrot cake that was beyond delicious.


   
There you have it, my Disney vacation in cake.  I’m sure there is more cake out there that I didn’t get to try.  The next time we go I will make it my mission to try every kind of cake in the parks.  It’s my commitment to you to keep you informed.  I’m a giver like that.

I realize that I did not mention any cake from Epcot.  Either I didn’t visit the right places in Epcot, or they do not offer the delectable cake options the other two parks offered.  Also, I have recently seen a commercial that features a Darth Vader cupcake that will be offered during Star Wars week at Disney World.  I am jealous that I don't get to try this cake.  Chocolate and peanut butter...YUMMY!  Our next visit must be during Star Wars week.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Boys will be boys



There are 3 main differences between my days with AJ at 16 months old, and my days when Ella was 16 months old.

1)  Ella has EB and AJ doesn’t.  I know, this is obvious, but the physical limitations of Ella definitely made things different.  She’s more cautious.  AJ has no fear.  To this day Ella refuses to go down the slide at the park.  AJ goes down the slide, climbs up the slide, jumps off the slide, whatever he can get away with.

2)  Ella is a girl.  Despite what a lot of people want to believe, there is a big difference between boys and girls.  And there is a big difference between the first born and the second born.  Ella has always listened and followed the rules.  Even now, if I tell her not to do something, she won’t do it…ever.  In kindergarten her teacher said that Ella never talked in class and she really wanted her to open up.  When I asked Ella why she wouldn’t talk she said, “Because the teacher tells us not to.”  We had a long discussion about how there are times when it’s ok to talk in class, and there are times when it’s not ok to talk in class.  AJ, on the other hand, thinks that the word ‘no’ means to laugh and do it again.  Rules are optional and getting in trouble is no big deal.  With Ella we had 1 baby gate that we rarely used.  With AJ we have 4 baby gates…so far.
 
      3)  When Ella was 16 months old I was still working full time.  This meant that she spent her days at home with a nanny, and much of that time was spent either in the basement (a confined area) or outside playing.  I am home with AJ all day every day, and while I absolutely love it, I also have stuff to do around the house during the day.  As much as I want to, we can’t spend all day in the basement.  Sometimes I need to wash the dishes, or do the laundry, or take a shower.  This means that AJ can’t be confined to the basement and has much more reign of the house.  This leads to toys…everywhere.

AJ is definitely keeping me on my toes.  The other day he and Ella were in the living room and I had to run upstairs really quickly.  Immediately I hear Ella yelling in a panic for me to come quickly.  I raced downstairs to find AJ in the middle of the dining table and Ella desperately holding on to his ankle to keep him from falling.  He had taken it upon himself to push out one of the chairs, climb up on the chair, then climb up on the table.  He thought it was awesome!  Ella and I…not so much.

He also enjoys throwing his food on the floor.  Several months ago I decided that the best way to stop this behavior was to grab his hand and give it a little smack and firmly say “No!”  I wish I could tell you that it worked.  Soon AJ was going up to everyone (including our sweet Sabrina who wouldn’t hurt a fly) and hitting them and yelling “NO!!!”  Then he would laugh and smile as though it was some sort of game.  I’ve tried *redirecting* and that doesn’t work at all.  I’ve tried changing my wordage and instead saying “Stop!” or “That is not ok!”  I’ve even tried grabbing his hand and using a soft petting motion and saying the word “gentle.”  Apparently that isn’t as fun.  I am open to suggestions on how to curb this hitting behavior.

When Ella was 16 months old she was easily speaking in 2-3 word sentences and could sing numerous songs without a hitch.  AJ…I think he maybe has 10 words in his vocabulary.  He loves to read books and listen to music, but the words aren’t sinking in as much as they did with Ella.  He’s much more focused on his physical development.  Although he does have the word ‘ball’ down pat!

All in all he’s a sweet boy and there’s nothing better than when he stops playing and comes over to wrap his sweet arms around my neck for a hug.  He loves his sister so much and smiles the biggest when she walks in the room.  We are SO thankful to have him in our family.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fun visit and Haircut



I had an entire blog post written about the awesome visit we had with GiGi and Paw Paw.  I filled in every detail about our trips to Bass Pro Shops and the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.  I told all about how GiGi and Paw Paw went to choir with Ella and the choir did a special performance just for them.  I shared details about my cousins wedding that we were able to attend and how much fun we had with that.  The list goes on…I shared and typed, and shared some more and typed some more.

Then…I deleted.

I can’t blame it on the computer, because the computer didn’t do anything wrong.  It was all me.  Our internet started acting up so I needed to shut down the computer.  Without thinking I clicked “turn off computer” and started closing any and all documents that were open…including my lengthy and detailed blog post.  Only after the computer was turned off and the screen was dark, did it finally dawn on me what I had done.  All that work…gone.

And so instead, this is what you get.  Just know that GiGi and Paw Paw came into town for a week and we had a great time and did a lot of fun stuff.

I will leave you with some pretty cute pictures of AJ getting his first haircut.  We went to a place in the mall that specializes in kids haircuts.  The second AJ sat in the chair (and I strapped him down) the barber handed him a train toy and put Mickey Mouse on the TV.  That was all it took.  He did awesome and sat in the chair without a problem.  No tears.  No whining.  No trying to be Evil Knievel and jump off the chair.  He moved a little, but he is only 16 months afterall.  And his hair looks great!  We will definitely go back for his next haircut.

He looks so handsome and very grown up with his new haircut.  Where did my little boy go?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring Break 2015



Some people spend Spring Break at the beach.  Others head to Disney World.  And others head off to visit family, or even send their kids off with the grandparents for the week and spend the week alone.  Not here…we spend the week at home.  I don’t even feel like this week deserves to be called a Staycation because we haven’t even done anything exciting.

Monday we stayed home.  Joe took the car to work and the kids and I stayed in the basement and played all day.  Poor kids.  Ella did start reading a book about Louis Armstrong, so she and I had a good conversation about jazz music.  GiGi told her all about Ella Fitzgerald, so we ended up watching several videos of both singers.  I told Ella all about scat singing.  She has been trying to scat ever since.

Tuesday we went to the store.  I had grand plans to take them to this awesome park nearby and have a picnic, but we had an escaped convict on the loose, so I wasn’t going to take 2 kids out of my little comfort zone that is our neighborhood.

Wednesday was probably the most exciting day.  We headed to Capitol Hill and had a special lunch with daddy in the cafeteria.  Ella was very excited about this!  The idea of going to a place that has so many food choices that you can eat pretty much whatever you want was thrilling.  I even promised her dessert.  She ended up getting pretzel crusted fish and macaroni and cheese, with red velvet cake for dessert.  After lunch we got to go on a tour of the capitol.  I thought Ella would really enjoy the tour and seeing all of the fancy things inside the capitol.  She was very engaged the entire tour and would raise her hand if she had a question.
Today we’re going to the mall.  I figure I can take the kids shoe shopping with me, and let them ride some kiddie rides while we’re there.  Maybe grab a soft pretzel as a treat, and even let Ella head to Bath and Body Works and Claire’s (2 of her favorite stores).  Tonight is the Maundy Thursday service at church, so we will definitely be heading over there later.

I guess the most exciting thing we’ve done this week is cook.  Last Friday I told Ella that we could spend this week cooking anything she wanted to, so I pulled out all of her cookbooks and we went through each recipe and marked the ones she wanted to try.  Monday we had “real” macaroni and cheese (not from a box) with broccoli and chicken, with chocolate fudge cookies for dessert.  Tuesday we had Stone Soup, and peach turnovers for dessert.  Last night we had Rotini pasta with fresh, homemade Pesto, and S’More Nachos for dessert.  I can’t remember what’s on the agenda for tonight, but I assure you it will be delicious.

I also promised Ella that if she read 4 chapter books this week I would take her to Sweet Frog (frozen yogurt) and she could get anything she wanted.  So far she’s read 2 books and is half way through her 3rd.  She’s a good reader and loves books that capture her attention.  She especially loves the Magic Tree House series, but she’s quickly passing that reading level.  I’ve tried to steer her toward other books, but she always comes back to the MTH.

That’s it on our end.  Daddy has tomorrow off, so it will be a fun family day spending time together.