A Sixth Birthday

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When you were born, I could not believe how tiny you were.  You were not tiny, mind you, at 8lbs, 1oz, but compared to your older brother, who weighed in at 2 lbs more, you were itsy bitsy.  I held you and cried and marveled at your tiny, skinny legs.  You were my easiest birth, which is approximately the last time you were my easiest child at just about anything.

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Your determination and persistence and unwillingness to bend was evident early on.  The things you liked to do you did with great concentration and attention.  The things you did not like to do you simply didn’t do, and nothing I could do or say could coerce you.  Not much has changed.

Little O

You weaned yourself at five months old because you liked the bottle better.  You climbed out of your crib at fifteen months and never stayed in it again.  You realized at eighteen months that there was nothing keeping you in your twin bed and for the next year we battled nightly as you got up over and over.

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But your determination also enabled you to ice skate on your own at 2.5 years old.  To swim 25m across a pool—in a swim meet—the day before your 4th birthday.  To read at 4 years and 3 months old.  To ride a two-wheel bike at 4.5 years old.  To ski and snowboard at 5 years old.

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Once you decide you want to be able to do something, your focus and intensity is humbling to see.  You are not deterred by failure, only spurred to try again.  Your frustration never makes you give up; it only makes you push harder to master whatever it is you want to do.

Based on what you’ve showed us so far, I can only imagine what amazing things lie in store.

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You are the child who can most easily make me lose my mind, it is true.  But you are also a child who I know can handle anything–anything–that you’re faced with.  You don’t need encouragement or positive reinforcement or approval from me, your father, your peers.  You know your own mind and that’s all you need.

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You are my most shy and reserved child–you absolutely do not speak unless you are comfortable with the people around you and the situation you’re in.  Some people probably think you’re mute.  Your family knows better though, because at home, you never shut up.  Honestly.  There are days when I think my ears will bleed if you ask me one more thing.  But the questions are usually pretty interesting and well thought-out, so it makes it easier to endure the incessant talking.

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You love little babies and children, and I am always amazed by your gentleness and attentiveness around the little ones.  When you first met your youngest cousin and held her, you told me that you loved her so much you might pop.  You held her and fed her a bottle and kissed her over and over and would never have given her up if Auntie hadn’t needed her back.

O loves CEJ

You are a loving, sweet, shy, determined, persistent, fiercely competitive little boy.  You make me want to rip out my hair and you make me want to sing with joy, all depending on your mood.  I love you as much as outer space, because as you once told me, outer space never stops and I will never stop loving you.

O sweet hair

Happy 6th Birthday to you, my little blonde boy.  Happy Birthday to you!

Home is Where…

IMG_9382No matter how long I live in DC, every time we drive to Massachusetts, I’m going home.

Home, where I can relax my speech patterns and drop my Rs and not be unconsciously conscious of over-pronouncing every word I say so people don’t constantly comment on my accent.

Home, where I can order a “medium regulah” at a Dunkin Donuts and that’s all I have to say to get the coffee just the way I want.

Home, where the smell of salt water and low tide flashes me back to pretty much my entire childhood.

Where I bring a sweatshirt to the beach, or anywhere really, if I’ll be out after dark, because even in August it gets chilly at night.

Where my sisters and my parents and just about every last one of my childhood friends still live within thirty minutes of one another.

Where I know all the back roads and the main roads, and how to get everywhere I want to go without ever checking Google.  Where the city is mine because I spent childhood and adulthood strolling the streets and picnicking in the parks.

When we head back south, even if I’m happy to be heading to my own house and my own routine and a life that Matt and I have built that I really do love, I am physically sad to be leaving.  I can feel the good-bye in my bones.

It’s worst in the summer though.

It’s this time of year when I know the available real estate on the South Shore of Massachusetts like the back of my hand.  When I spend hours perusing the listings and imagining my life if I lived up there still.  When I see all the Facebook photos of my friends and family on the beach and at the lake and having cookouts that I can’t go to and I feel homesickness settle in my stomach like a stone.

I know it’s hard for Matt when I get like this because he feels like I’m unhappy here.  I’m not.  I love my house and my neighborhood is better than any I’ve ever lived in anywhere.  The schools are great and my children have wonderful friends and we live in an amazing community full of people I genuinely love and enjoy.  Thinking about leaving any of what we’ve created here makes me sad.  I love it here, too.

I just miss home.

Lunch Time

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Lunch buffet with pita bread, two types of cheese, organic turkey breast and roast beef, and three types of fruit.

During the last school year, I was packing 15 lunches and 17 snacks per week.  With four kids each with their own favorites, I could make myself crazy honoring individual requests.

So I don’t.

Every day, I pack everyone the same lunch–whether that means turkey sandwiches, hummus & pita, or peanut butter and jelly.  The kids each get the same snacks, too–everyone has an apple, or carrots, or tortilla chips and salsa, or yogurt.  The kids know that some days they get their favorites, and other days they get someone else’s favorite, but it all comes out pretty even in the end.  No one complains because they know that this is the way I do it and it’s not going to change.

During the summer, I basically do the same thing, but buffet style.  If I asked each kid what they wanted for lunch every day, I’d be making 4 different meals every day.  Not happening.  So instead, I don’t ask.  I put out a whole bunch of stuff—good, healthy stuff—and the kids can take what they like as long as they take a little bit of each type of food (i.e., everyone has to take fruit and/or veggies, but there are several options available to choose from).  It’s actually a fun way to eat lunch and it saves me a ton of time and headache.

I started doing this last summer and this year the kids actually asked on the first day of summer break if we’d be doing “buffet lunch” all together again.  I think that’s a good sign.

What are your favorite lunches?  Any great ideas you want to share would be welcome–I’m always looking for new ones!

Celebrating the Red, White & Blue

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The perfect beginning to a holiday weekend.

This weekend is going to be full of celebration: fireworks and neighborhood block parties and 3-year old birthday parties and playing at the pool. We have a swim meet too, although I don’t know if I can really count that as a celebration.  They can be pretty fun though, so why not?

And we also have an anniversary.

Matt and I have two–one for our marriage, when we eloped, and one for our wedding a year and a half later, when we had a huge party and danced all night and celebrated with our family and friends.  Today is our WEDDING anniversary.

Oh my god, do we look like babies.

Oh my god, we look like babies.  Who let these children get married?!?!

We cleverly (unintentionally) got married in December and July, so we basically have an anniversary every six months.  It’s fun that way, but it makes it hard to keep track of the dates and the years.  (We’ve been married ten and a half years, but this is the ninth anniversary of our wedding.  Makes perfect sense, right?)

The country club by our house thoughtfully hosts a huge fireworks display on our anniversary every year (that’s today) but Hurricane Arthur seems to have a different plan, so we’ll be watching the fireworks on the 5th this year.  Fine by me, just spreads out the party even more.

I plan to eat, drink, and be merry all weekend with my favorite people.  This is one of my favorite weeks of the year, and it starts now.

Happy 4th of July (and 3rd of July, and 5th of July, and 6th of July, because we are celebrating all weekend)!

A Wedding in Bodrum

IMG_1632The whole purpose of our trip to Turkey was to celebrate a wedding.  And oh, man, did we.  It was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve been to, and that’s saying a lot.

It would have been hard, considering our setting, to have anything less-than-gorgeous.  But it wasn’t even the scenery that made the wedding so beautiful–it was the palpable love and the well-thought-out ceremony and the dual-language/dual-cultures coming together.  When the gorgeous bride walked down the aisle, the expression on the groom’s face left not a dry-eye in the audience.  It was a privilege to witness that kind of love.

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Everything sparkled that night, but nothing more than the bride and groom.

And then, to make the magic more complete, the wedding included a story I think I may tell forever.

Toward the end of the reception, fireworks further down the beach drew guests away from the dance floor and out onto the sand.  The groomsmen took this opportunity to scoop the groom up, carry him down the dock, and throw him, fully clothed, into the sea.  You would almost expect nothing less.  But then, as the groom swam to the ladder to climb out of the water, his wedding band—three hours on his finger—slipped off and fell to the sand in ten feet of water.

He refused to get out.  He shouted for a light, and a dozen cell phones were produced and shone on the water, inky black in the night.  He dove down again and again, searching for the ring.  Matt, standing on the dock, stripped off his suit and dove in to help.  My friend Allison‘s husband sprinted back to his room in the hotel, where he had snorkel gear packed in his suitcase, and, dashing back with it, jumped in to help search as well.

Minutes dragged by as the three of them dove down over and over, trying to search the sea floor without disturbing anything, lest they bury the ring in the sand.  The bride sighed and said it was alright.  The groom still refused to get out of the water.  Guests gathered on the dock, hoping against hope.  But it was so dark and the water was so deep and the ring was so small.

And then, suddenly, the groom emerged from the water, fist held high, clutching the ring in absolute triumph to the cheers of everyone there.  It was nothing short of miraculous, and a sign, I think, of something that was meant-to-be.

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Underwater Ring Recovery Team

Later Matt said he had no idea, honestly, how the ring was found in the deep and the dark.  It was impossible to see anything.  I asked him why he jumped in, why he stayed in, and he replied, “Did you see his face when she walked down the aisle?  If you said we had to swim to that far island over there in the dark to find that ring, we’d have jumped in.  You don’t give up on that kind of thing.”

You don’t give up on that kind of thing.  And that kind of love, it endures.

Happy wedding, Lexi & Cengizhan.  Thank you for sharing it with us.

First Day of Summer Break

G finally lost a very  wiggly front tooth

G finally lost a very wiggly front tooth

This was officially the longest school year evaaaaaah.  School just ended this week, and since we go back fairly early this Fall (Labor Day falls on the earliest possible day in September), we have a short summer break.

We made the most of our first day of summer–card games, baking, playing in the yard, a long-awaited lost tooth, and a swim meet.

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Welcome to the lazy-hazy-crazy days of summer

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Lunch buffet–discussing our Summer To-Do List

And despite it’s brevity, we have big plans for this summer (don’t we always?).

summer to do listThe kids worked together to make this Summer To-Do List, and we’re going to try to check off every item in the next eight weeks.  We make one every year, and check items off with varying degrees of success, but I’m determined that this summer we will leave no fun un-had.  I have a few other ideas I plan to add on there, as well as a House Project To-Do list for myself, so we should be keeping pretty busy.

We’ll squeeze every last ounce of fun and daylight out of this summer to make up for it’s abbreviated length.  And if we all collapse into bed exhausted and dirty and happy every night, well, I’ll consider that a victory.

Here’s to summer!  What are your plans?

Logistics: Packing for a Three-Part, Eight-Day, Fashion-Show of a Trip

This trip was a bit of a fashion show--getting dressed up all the time was one of my favorite parts!

This trip was a bit of a fashion show–getting dressed up all the time was one of my favorite parts!

Our trip to Turkey happened in three parts: first we spent two nights in Istanbul, then we flew 500km south to Bodrum and spent two nights there in an amazing hotel to celebrate my friend’s wedding, then we boarded a chartered sail boat for three days and sailed around the Aegean.

Each portion of the trip was amazing in and of itself and spectacular combined, but all together it made for an interesting packing list.  Walking/touring the city of Istanbul required very different clothes and shoes than getting all dressed up and celebrating at a wedding which required very different clothes and shoes than lying on a boat and sailing around (which, to be honest, mostly required bathing suits and sun block).

I also knew this trip was going to be a total fashion show–everyone on the trip loves getting dressed up and going all out, so there would be no room for khaki shorts and sneakers.

In preparation for the trip, I made about a hundred lists.  But the list that was the most helpful basically broke down our planned activities for each day and evening along with the outfit I planned to wear for that activity (I made Matt make one of these too).  Before we packed, I tried on every outfit, along with shoes and accessories, to make sure it looked good and felt comfortable.  Once I knew an outfit was acceptable, I added it to the list and packed it.  I brought the list with me on the trip too–just in case.

The list looked something like this:

  • Wed night: dinner and drinks out (green skirt/black and white cami/black gladiator sandals)
  • Thurs day: tour Istanbul (black maxi/brown belt/printed scarf/platform sandals)
  • Thurs night: dinner and drinks out (romper/espadrilles)
blu mosque outfit

I wore this maxi dress with a scarf because I knew we’d be visiting the Blue Mosque that day and I would have to be covered up. I didn’t want to wear the borrowed robe and scarf the Mosque provides (and I suspect don’t get washed every day) so I made sure my outfit could cover me appropriately.

I definitely over packed–I ended up coming home with 4 or 5 outfits I never wore–but that was always my intention.  I would much rather be on a trip and have several options for clothing than be on a trip wishing I had a certain item that’s 5000 miles away and settling for wearing something that isn’t quite right for the occasion.  Especially with a trip like this, which I knew would be HEAVILY photographed (we took over 800 photos!).  And since it’s summer and most of the clothes packed up nice and small, having 4 extra outfits didn’t actually take up much suitcase space.

This was my favorite outfit of the whole trip--I may be obsessed with rompers now.

This was my favorite outfit of the whole trip–I may be obsessed with rompers now.

I think this is the best packing/planning method I’ve come up with, and it would work well for any long trip.  I know it seems kind of over-planned and maybe a bit anal-retentive, but um…I am an anal-retentive over-planner, so that makes sense.

The only thing I’d do differently would be to pack less densely in a larger suitcase so I had more room to bring home gifts and souvenirs.  I made it work, but it was a tight squeeze packing up to get back home.

What are your best packing tips and tricks?