28 December 2016
As I suspected, having June born in January was such a treat for my logical brain, as demonstrated so beautifully by this post. What a treat to watch her grow from a nugget in my belly to the cheerful, funny, sweet little girl she is today in just a few months!
There will never be another year like this one, the year in which we welcomed our first child, and though sometimes that makes me feel like the sobbing emoji… it’s okay. The best is yet to come! Here are a few highlights of this very special year on Em for Marvelous and in our lives.
Well, pretty much the first thing we did in the new year was have a baby!! (Oh yes, I did share my 2016 guideposts and vision board first.) June was born on January 7th, leading me to share “notes” from my hospital stay as well as the meaning of her name. John and I also celebrated our 11th dativersary, and I posted the first of many Marvelous Mama interviews!
I celebrated a very sweet birthday with friends and chocolate raspberry cake in February. June also met her cousin Tegan and the rest of my family – such a wonderful week!! As we rounded out our first six weeks, I shared two more posts with newborn tips and tricks.
The best part of March was celebrating Easter as a family of three! June also got to spend some time wearing matching headbands with her buddy Milly :) Even once John went back to work, I enjoyed every bit of maternity leave, especially our daily afternoon walks around a local lake!
In April, we headed to Charleston for a last hurrah of my leave. We had the best time staying downtown, walking the city, and eating delicious food, all with Junebug in tow! My Mom came to stay with us for three weeks as I transitioned back to work, and we all took a work trip to Atlanta. We also planted our vegetable garden and picked strawberries! I wrote about thanking our postpartum nurses and our baby favorites from the first six weeks.
May brought more work road trips with my Mom and June, including to the fabulous Greenbrier in West Virginia. We also had several visits from family, and we celebrated my first Mother’s Day! I shared my pregnancy book recommendations.
Good golly, look at those rolls!!! June’s first June was more of the same — visitors and road trips, for work and for play. We had the best time in the mountains with the Henrys and clocked a new family record of six trips to our local u-pick blueberry farm in just a few short weeks — one of the best things we made time for all year. You can see much more from this month in the first installment of June’s video series, June in June! :) On EFM, I shared our five month baby favorites and our summer fun list, of which I’m happy to say we accomplished much!
July! What a month! We spent the week of the Fourth on our beloved Island, and despite June’s first terrible cold, it was wonderful. We made another New England road trip just a few weeks later, this time for a friend’s wedding and a week with John’s family in Connecticut. In between, we celebrated that great Southern holiday: Cow Appreciation Day!!
What a treat to spend a week in our hometown in the summer, showing June all of our favorite activities and places from growing up! We had the best, best time. On the blog, I told you about Lisa’s baby shower and a fun date night idea.
The most exciting event in September was our first family camping trip!! We are already itching for the next one! We also enjoyed lots of al fresco meals, neighborhood walks, and playground swings. I shared our eight month baby favorites, all of the articles we’ve read in Articles Club, wisdom from four years of marriage, and we chatted about signature family dishes.
In October, we marveled at the flooding from Hurricane Matthew (June from inside foul weather gear), had lots of family singalongs, spent the weekend in Asheville with my sister and her boyfriend, and donned the foul weather gear again to dress as a lobster, lobsterman, and seaweed for Halloween! Some of my favorite posts were written this month, including three posts on how to slow down time, a favorite home improvement, and the best cooking playlist.
So many celebrations in November, including the magazine launch party, Thanksgiving with family and then again with friends, birthday parties, and more. You all helped me vote on a Christmas card, I shared how we plan our yearly budget, and we talked about Christmas traditions.
And finally, December. We drove overnight to spend ten days in Connecticut with our beloved family, and it was as sweet (and crazy – three cousins under three!) as we could have hoped for.
Friends, thank you for reading. I just love y’all – sharing with you, hearing from you, getting your opinions, and seeing what you’re up to. It is a joy to write here, and I can’t wait to see all the adventures 2017 will hold!
2015 year in review
31 October 2016
2014 year in review
2013 year in review
2012 year in review
When people found out we were still going camping this year — with two under two in tow — the reaction was usually some combination of shock and awe. John and I weren’t entirely sure what we were getting into, either, but figured our general parenting strategy of keeping our expectations low would serve us well. And it did! We had the best time with the Rays and our little ladies, and can’t wait for the next trip. (We’re even considering upping our frequency to twice a year!) Here are a few thoughts from our experience camping with an eight-month-old and a 1.5 year old, along with a few photos from Nancy! (Except the ones at the end, which are obviously by me :))
— Had we not camped recently and been familiar with our gear, I think bringing the babies would have been much more overwhelming. Since we were, the only new aspect was the girls.
— We upgraded from our ultralight backpacking tent to the REI Kingdom 6 thanks to a generous Christmas present. It felt like a palace! It zips down the middle to create two separate rooms, which made coming and going while June was sleeping much easier.
— Milly’s and June’s ages both had pluses and minuses. Milly, at 1.5, could walk, so she could more easily explore the campsite, whereas June would sometimes get frustrated because she wanted to move but it was uncomfortable to crawl over the rough terrain (pinecones, stones, etc.). She was mostly confined to the big blanket we spread out.
— Milly being older, however, made sleep a little harder to come by in the Ray’s tent. She was more aware that she was IN a tent (and thought it was a bit weird), and that her parents were sleeping an arm’s length away (party!), whereas June just went down in her pack and play and had a normal night’s sleep.
— Make sure you allow even more time than you think you’ll need to set up camp and get everyone fed before the sun goes down. Previously, John and I would have set up our tent together, but since someone was on June duty the whole time this time, set-up took longer that it used to.
— We were not confident that the kiddos would nap in the tents during the day, so instead of trying to put them down, we opted to drive to a hike that was about 45 minutes away. They both slept on the way there and on the way back, so although they didn’t nap as long as they might have on a normal day at home, they did have a chance to sleep.
— Packing in big, clear, plastic Rubbermaid tubs is the best! They’re easy to stack, don’t rip like paper bags, and make it easy to see what’s stored where.
— As you’re considering campgrounds, weigh nicer bathrooms pretty heavily in the equation. The ones at Blue Bear are clean, well-appointed, and single-stall, which just makes everything much more pleasant. We also opted for one of sites closer to the bathrooms (though still half a football field away) because we knew we’d be making more frequent trips.
I hope these observations and tips encourage you to give camping a try, whether or not you have kids! I look forward to our camping weekends all year, and I imagine they’ll be even more fun as our crew gets older. I would love to answer any questions you might have or try to allay any concerns, so feel free to ask away!
P.S. Me and camping and our camping essentials.
P.P.S. I love our conversations here. Last week I added a reply button in the comments section to make it easier to respond more directly to individual contributions, so feel free to try it out!
22 August 2016
Usually when we go home to Connecticut, it’s for a major holiday or a big occasion, like a family wedding. Every trip is fun, but on those occasions our schedule is often hectic and largely dictated for us. So to have a full week where we could simply enjoy some of our favorite restaurants, activities, and places in our hometown was a rare treat – and we took full advantage of it! Here are a few photos, if you’d like to see. At the bottom of the post I’m also sharing a list of our shoreline/southeastern Connecticut favorites, if you should find yourself in the area!
The view from Abbott’s.
The magnificent Ocean House. We went for lunch and it was as wonderful as you’d expect!
June loved the penguins at the Mystic Aquarium! Everything else pretty much went over her head, but the penguins were a hit :)
All dressed up for a high school friend’s wedding!
Taking an evening walk to see my house.
Favorite places to eat:
Caffe NV and NV Market
Sift Bake Shop
The Ocean House
Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream and Buttonwood Farm
S&P Oyster Company
Clyde’s Cider Mill
Favorite things to do:
Picnic at Harkness Memorial State Park and Avery Point
Hike at Haley Farm and Bluff Point
Beach day at Napatree in Watch Hill
Walk through downtown Mystic
Walk through Stonington Borough
Walk through downtown Madison
Kayak on the Mystic River
Pick berries, pumpkins, apples, or Christmas trees at Maple Lane or Holmberg’s
Connecticut peeps, did I miss any of your favorites?
10 August 2016
After seven years in the South, I have come to love SO many things about our sweet, sweet adopted homeland (despite what you may have been thinking after my last post!). Some of the 15 I’m sharing today are about the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill), some are specific to North Carolina, and a few are about the South in general, but I’m grateful for all of them. Here goes!
1. Vibrant churches. I’ll start here because though all of these reasons are fun, this one has been truly life changing. It’s amazing to live in a place where the default is that people are actively engaged in living out their faith, and to have access to earnest, active, flourishing church communities. I have learned and grown SO much by being around the Christians I’ve met since moving here.
2. Biscuits and barbecue. Y’all, the food in the South can’t be beat. Biscuits and (Eastern North Carolina) barbecue are two of my favorite examples, but there’s also fried chicken, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, hushpuppies, red velvet cake… the list goes on, and it’s all finger licking good.
3. Amazing restaurants. The Triangle is overflowing with amazing, innovative restaurants that are constantly striving for excellence. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so: Southern Living named Durham the tastiest town in the South a few years ago!) Between the empires of Ashley Christensen (Poole’s Diner, Chuck’s, Beasley’s, Joule, Fox Liquor Bar, Death & Taxes), Andrea Reusing (Lantern, The Durham), and Matt Kelly (Vin Rouge, Mateo Tapas, Mothers & Sons, Lucky’s Deli), you’ve got more quality spots than most towns can claim.
4. Bluegrass and country. I never listened to either genre before moving South, and now they’re two of my favorites! The Triangle is a great place to listen to bluegrass, especially; I got to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickell play with the Steep Canyon Rangers at Wide-Open Bluegrass a few years ago.
5. Warm ocean. This one’s pretty simple, but worth mentioning: the ocean is C-O-L-D in the north, and W-A-R-M in the South. Makes beach days even more pleasant :)
6. Greenways. The Triangle has miles and miles and miles of greenways, which are perfect for bike riding and evening walks. There’s one in our neighborhood, and we also love the American Tobacco Trail – 22+ miles of trails that wind through three counties.
7. Proximity to mountains. There are plenty of mountains in New England, but they’re all pretty far away from where we lived in Connecticut. Here, we can get to Boone in about two hours and Asheville in four — perfect, since hiking is one of our favorite activities!
8. Weekend trips. The Triangle is a fantastic launching pad for weekend trips! Greenville, Asheville, Charlottesville, Atlanta, Beaufort SC and NC, Charleston, Richmond, Wilmington, and so many more destinations are all options for weekend exploring. (Another one of our favorite activities!)
9. Community events. With three world-class universities, enterprising businesses, and awesome arts organizations in the area, our calendar is stocked with fun and often low-cost activities. Festivals, Durham Bulls games, antique fairs, pop-up shops, outdoor concerts, choral performances, and outdoor movies are a few of my favorites.
10. Duke basketball. Speaking of world-class universities :) John has been a Duke fan since middle school, and it’s a pinch-me kind of thing to live so close to Cameron. Tickets are still hard to come by, but we’ve been to several games since moving here!
11. Swimming holes. I’d never been in an honest-to-goodness swimming hole until I got to NC, but they are delightful — the perfect antidote to blisteringly hot summer days.
12. Warmer winters and springs. I think this is the classic reason to love the South, and definitely the one that most convinces John! We have four solid seasons, but cut out the bitterest cold and the rainiest, most depressing days of “spring” that New England gets in March and April. Instead, we might have a 70 degree day in January, and switch on reliably delightful days in mid-March. John is also very proud of the fact that the sun never goes down before 5pm here.
13. Southern architecture. Creaky farmhouses, gracious front porches, snuggly bungalows, plantation drama… yep, the South sizes up pretty well against New England.
14. Great chains. The mall near my house in Connecticut is sad and the butt of many jokes, so the opportunities that come with living in a more metro area still kind of blow my mind. Pretty much every awesome chain you can think of, including Whole Foods, Anthro, Crate & Barrel, J.Crew, Madewell, West Elm, and Sephora, is an easy drive. And of course, NO list of great Southern brands would be complete without mentioning Chick-fil-a — I could write an entire post about all the reasons I love them!
15. Innovation. (Almost) nothing ever changes in my corner of Connecticut, which is both a blessing and a curse. The opposite is true in the Triangle, where things are always changing, growing, trying, failing, building, and experimenting. Sometimes it can feel like a whirlwind, but it’s also exciting, exhilarating, and inspiring. One of my favorite examples? The American Tobacco Campus, which was transformed from urban blight to one of my favorite spaces in Durham a few years ago.
I’d love to hear: What’s your favorite part about the South? Did any of my reasons particularly resonate with you?
25 July 2016
June has been on an impressive number of road trips in her short life. Over the last six months, she’s driven to Charleston (4.5 hours), Atlanta (6 hours), Hilton Head (5 hours), Cashiers (5 hours), White Sulphur Springs (4.5 hours), and Maine (14.5 hours!!). And that’s just the straight driving time — all of those trips were longer with stops! We’ve learned a few things along the way about taking a road trip with a three- to six-month-old, and I’d love to share our tips with you today…
1. Don’t take the scenic route. This one pains me, because seeking out interesting and beautiful routes is in my blood! (It’s one of my Dad’s favorite things.) But, our main strategy for a successful road trip at this age is to have June napping for as much of it as possible. If we time it right, she has been known to take a three and a half hour nap in the car! (Gold, people!!) Stopping or even changing the sound in the car by dramatically slowing our speed is something that will wake her up, so we stick to the most direct highway route for long, uninterrupted stretches of road.
2. Consolidate stops. We try to make sure that when we do stop, we take care of everything: feeding June, feeding ourselves, a stretch break, a bathroom break, and a gas fill-up. That way, we don’t have to risk waking her up an hour into a nap because our tank is running low.
3. Dress her lightly. June tends to get very sweaty in her car seat, even with the AC blasting, so I always make sure she’s wearing her lightest outfit – usually a thin bubble. This helps her stay cool and comfy!
4. Picnic for meals. We learned early on that expecting June to sit in our laps or in a high chair when we stopped for meals was not realistic – all she wanted to do was roll! (And I don’t blame her.) So, instead of eating in a restaurant, we always pack a picnic blanket, get food to go (usually from Chick-fil-a!), and eat outside. Even at side-of-the-highway fast food restaurants there’s almost always a little grass and a tree for shade. So far we’ve been lucky to avoid rain on our travel days, but in the case of rain or cold, I’d probably bring our blanket into the kids’ play area and let her roll around in there while we ate.
5. Ride in the back. When June is awake, we try to have one adult riding in the back with her, to help her stay busy and happy. We can read to her, hand her different toys, sing, make funny faces, etc. And on the subject of toys, we’ve found that while she’s still interested in her usual suspects on a road trip, she particularly seems to like “unusual” toys: popular items in the past have included an empty water bottle, her stroller fan (she loves to have it blow on her face!), and a board book (smacking the cover with her palm kept her occupied for a good 45 minutes on our last trip!).
6. Keep your schedule loose. The only time I was stressed on our drive to Maine was when I thought we were going to arrive in time for a cocktail party but the traffic was making that less and less likely. If at all possible, try not to have a time you NEED to arrive — that way, if you have to make extra stops because someone’s screaming or has a diaper issue or just CANNOT be in the car seat anymore, it’s no big deal. It’s just part of the adventure!
7. Plan a really good destination. This especially applies if you’re on a multi-day road trip. On our recent trip to Maine, we stayed with John’s sisters and brothers-in-law halfway through, and seeing them at the end of a long day of travel was the best! Then, on our way home, we stayed at an AMAZING waterfront Airbnb with a tree swing, soaker tub, and several small water craft :) We ate takeout pizza on the dock while the sun set the night we arrived, and took a family canoe trip in the morning before we got back on the road! We loved having something so fun to look forward to even though we were leaving our “real” vacation.
I know road trips with kids of any age can seem intimidating, so I hope these tips help! If you have tips that work for your littles (or even remember a good tip from when you were little!), I’d love to hear!!