On the Road: Ireland (Part 2)

After our two days in Dublin, we packed up the world’s tiniest rental car and hit the road. Our first stop was Powerscourt Estate, which is set against the backdrop of the Wicklow mountains and is known for acres upon acres of landscaped gardens. The house on the grounds was originally a 13th century castle and was renovated throughout the centuries. The most recent renovations took place in the mid-1990s, after the house had been destroyed by a fire 20 years earlier.

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Incidentally, Powerscourt had probably the best cafe of any tourist attraction that I have ever visited. Make sure to stop for lunch if you ever visit.

After that, it was off to Lisnavagh, another estate. I was totally confused when we first arrived because the place was completely deserted. Turns out, this is actually still a family’s home and Chester explained that we were here to visit the tree that he had planted for our 5th anniversary! William, one of the owners/managers of the estate was kind enough to show us the tree and share a bit of the estate’s history with us. In the 1800s, it was one of the most advanced and efficient farms in the country. As the estate system fell away, and Lisnavagh was downsized quite a bit and William and his family developed other ways to sustain what remained, including hosting weddings and making cutting boards out of the timber that naturally falls on the property. The tree planting program also generates a bit of revenue and helps to maintain and repopulate the surrounding woodlands.

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Official owners of an oak tree!

In true Chester fashion, it was truly a memorable and thoughtful way to mark this milestone. I’m glad B got to be there with us, and maybe we’ll all return someday to visit our tree when it’s a bit bigger!

After that, we headed to Cork, which would be our home base for the next two nights. Although it might have been more fun to stay in one of the cute little towns that we passed through along the way, we decided to stick to the big cities with easy access to things like grocery stores and medical care, just in case those things were needed for B. Plus, it was centrally located for the next two major sights on our itinerary: Blarney Castle and our drive through the Ring of Kerry. More on that next time!

Summer Fun

 

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Happy first (official) day of summer!

If you are in and around Philly, like we are, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the warm, long days ahead. We have a few things that we want to check off our list, such as:

1. Hit up the spray parks, since we have a little water-lover on our hands. Although, I also will not refuse a run through a cool sprinkler on a hot day.

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2. Eat lots of ice cream. We’ll have to stop by our old favorites like Bassett’s in the Reading Terminal and Franklin Fountain, but there are a few new spots, like Big Gay Ice Cream and the new Passyunk Avenue location of Philly Flavors, to check out. When we get tired of ice cream, there’s always water ice at Pop’s!

3. Spend an afternoon at Franklin Square Park. We had such fun when we went last year that we want to make this a little birthday tradition for B. Hopefully, she won’t mind posing on the carousel for photos each year so we can see how much she has changed!

4. Visit as many of the cool outdoor spaces as possible, especially since some of them are only around for a limited time. Spruce Street Harbor Park was a lot of fun last year and definitely worth a re-visit (although I wish B was old enough for the roller skating rink!), but the Oval, the PHS pop-up gardens and Sister Cities Park also look like fun.

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5. Spend a day at the beach. Chester and I aren’t really beach people, but we do like to dip our toes in the water and eat junk food on the boardwalk. A great time was had by all last year, and I’m sure B will be even more into it this time around.

6. Check out the Tall Ships Challenge, mostly so that we can see the World’s Largest Rubber Duck.

7. See some fireworks. We skipped this last year because B was still so little, but I think she might be into them this year. We don’t have to travel far for them, as we can see them from our house when they have them at Citizens Bank Park after a Phillies’ game.

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8. Speaking of the Phillies–go to a baseball game. Yes, the team is terrible, but that means the tickets are cheap. Plus, Chester will want to see the Cubs when they are in town later in the summer.

9. Go to the zoo. We have a membership here, so making at least one visit is pretty much a given. It’s just a matter of finding a day that’s not blazing hot. The zoo is so not enjoyable on those kinds of days.

10. Escape to the ‘burbs. I know, I know. I’ve just been going on about all of the fun things to do in the city, but we are just a short ride from some great places to spend a summer day, like Longwood Gardens, New Hope and Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey.

11. Check out museum exhibitions. These might not be the most B-friendly activities, but Chester and I would like to check out the Genghis Kahn exhibition at the Franklin institute and Discovering the Impressionists at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Hopefully Granny won’t mind hanging with B while we have a couple of date days!

That’s all I can think of for now, although I’m sure we will add more adventures along the way. Summer has a way of getting pretty busy!

What’s on your summer bucket list this year?

All photos in this post from a run through the sprinklers last week at the Camden Children’s Garden.

On the Road: Ireland (Part 1)

I wrote a little bit in a previous post about our adventures in Ireland, but I am just getting around the organizing the photos from the trip. With the slow pace that I work on this kind of thing lately, that should take me all summer. But, as the summer heats up around here, I’ll be happy to relive memories of the much cooler climate of the Emerald Isle, starting with this post about our time in Dublin.

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Pre-flight selfie at PHL

The first day of our trip felt like the Longest. Day. Ever. We left Philly at 8 a.m. and flew to Boston, where we had an eight hour layover. We met Bridget and Bill for a quick lunch and then headed back to the airport for our 6 p.m. flight to Dublin. B was great on the flight. She was easily entertained by the goings-on of airplane travel and distracted by an endless supply of cheese crackers. She ended up passing out right around her normal 8:00 bedtime and slept until we arrived in Dublin, very early the next morning.

Our hotel was very centrally located near the historic St. Stephen’s Green, Grafton Street (one of the main shopping thoroughfares) and the lively Temple Bar. We made our way there from the airport in a taxi at the crack of dawn, but could see that there were still plenty of people that were still happily partying it up at the pubs, even at 6 a.m.!

Since it was ridiculously early, there was not a room ready for us. B made sure we all knew how displeased she was about being awake at such an early hour. Chester and I tried to keep her calm and eventually, the hotel manager even resorted to bribery, giving her milk, a banana, an orange and a Kit Kat (all of which I’m pretty sure were from his own lunchbox) in an attempt to get her to shut up.

Finally, to keep from waking up everyone at the hotel, we went down the street to a cute little café to have breakfast while we waited for our room. Trying to keep a jet lagged toddler from a full meltdown while in a restaurant is an experience I will be happy never to repeat again. If it was just Chester and I, I’m sure we would have pushed through the exhaustion, loaded up on coffee and just wandered the neighborhood for a bit. But, with B in tow, the only thing I wanted to do was park myself in chair and hope she would fall asleep. So, we returned to the waiting area of the hotel to do just that and thankfully, our room was ready by mid-morning.

We all felt much better after long naps and headed out to explore in the early afternoon. Dublin is an eclectic mix of medieval and modern (there’s even a 24-hour Starbucks!). As you stroll through the main streets you feel like you could be in an U.S. city. But, then you round the corner and you catch a glimpse of Dublin castle or an old church and you remember all of the history contained within the winding streets.

Our first stop was Dublin Castle, which was originally built as a Viking fortress during the 13th century. It was destroyed and rebuilt throughout the centuries and served as the center for British rule in Ireland until 1922.

4The tower at the right is the only surviving remnant of the medieval castle
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Riding in style

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A pretty empty courtyard on this particular day, but the following week it would be packed with people as the announcement was made that Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage after a popular vote

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Old + new

Then, it was down the street to visit Christ Church, the he oldest building in Dublin, dating from 1028. The exterior is probably quite impressive, but unfortunately, much of it was covered in scaffolding for renovations at the time of our visit. Still, the stained glass and wall-to-wall mosaic tile floors inside made the visit worthwhile.

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Further on down the road is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It’s a bit younger (dating from 1191), but it ultimately won out in the race for supremacy with Christ Church, and serves as the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland. Fun fact: Johnathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels and former cathedral Dean, is buried here.

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We ended the day enjoying some Irish music and pub fare at the Old Storehouse, one of the more family-friendly pubs in Temple Bar (i.e. one of the few places not overrun with the bachelorette party crowd).

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The next day, we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells (tip: purchase your tickets in advance, and skip the line at the door). There is an interesting exhibition that explains the symbolism behind and the process of creating the lavishly decorated 9th century manuscript of the four Gospels. Pages from two volumes of the manuscript are on display. Just as impressive is the Old Library, which houses more than 200,000 books.

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And, after that, we just wandered a bit more, taking in all the sites. I’m pretty sure that B’s favorite part of Dublin was meeting a real live leprechaun!

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52Ha’penny Bridge, the first pedestrian bridge to cross the Liffey River

We barely scratched the surface of what Dublin has to offer in our two days there. There were a few museums that we would have liked to check out, but we’ll save them for next time when B will appreciate them a bit more. I can’t wait to go back!

#tbt: Wedding Edition

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This is a big year for Chester and me–ten years together, and five years married, as of today! In honor of this milestone, I put together a little #tbt post about our wedding.

I’m kind of glad that we got married in the dark ages, before Pinterest was a thing. I didn’t feel the pressure to DIY everything or incorporate certain elements just because the Internet told me that they were on trend. I didn’t really have a theme or a color scheme. I just picked out things that I liked and that reflected our style.

There was a ton of pink, the best bridal party that anyone could ask for, family and friends to share in our joy, a dress that made me feel like a princess and a delicious cake (I’m told that the rest of the food was delicious too, but I was too excited to eat anything!). Glen Foerd, a Victorian era mansion located along the Delaware River, provided an amazing backdrop and the rain held out long enough for us to have our outdoor ceremony.

Although the event itself flew by, I remember nearly ever single minute of it like it was yesterday. I wouldn’t change a thing…especially not the person to whom I said “I do!”

Here are a few ton of my favorite photos of the day, as captured by the fabulous Kamila Harris.

chicken dance 2The traditional chicken dance to kick off the festivities.

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spanxA true friend will crawl under your wedding dress to fix your Spanx.

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My mom has never really been into parties, but she got more into planning the wedding than I expected she would. It would not have been as much fun to put everything together without her…

and my aunt

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L and M 2 He would never admit it, but my brother teared up while walking me down the aisle. I waited until we got until the end to lose it.

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L and C cordWe incorporated a variety of Filipino traditions into the wedding, including the veil and cord ceremony.

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bridal partyThere was a small ditch in the front lawn of the mansion. Chester found it!

dinnerOne of the few moments we sat down all night!

cake smashI promised Chester that I wouldn’t smash cake in his face. I lied.

danceOur first dance was to Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” We took dance lessons to prepare, and its safe to say that we were the worst students that Arthur Miller had ever seen. I think we dropped out halfway through the classes, actually.

RFkOn the other hand, there was our friend Richard, who I’m pretty sure has never taken a dance lesson to perfect his moves. Insane doesn’t even begin to describe his performance. When people talk about our wedding, he never fails to come up in conversation.

carSneaking away at the end of the night

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Happy Anniversary, Checkter! Thank you for making sure that B and I have everything we could possibly want and/or need, supporting all of my crazy ideas/hopes/dreams, sharing your ice cream (and seeing through me when I pretend that I don’t want any), putting up with six seasons of Glee (especially towards the end when it was really a hot mess), being the numbers guy because I suck at math and just generally putting up with me day in, day out (for ten years. I really don’t know how you do it. I get tired of me sometimes.). You are my other half and everything is more fun with you by my side. I can’t wait to see what the next five years have in store for us!

Little B: 21 Months

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The only decent photo of her sitting in her chair this month. Poor Glo Worm.

I am pleased to report that we all survived B’s first international trip and had a fabulous time in Ireland! Yes, there was jet lag, a few tears and a refusal to eat anything but cheese crackers for the first several days (some of those things applied to all three of us), but I am so glad that we made the trip. This was definitely the highlight of our month, and I have plenty more to share about our experience in this and a few future posts!

Milestones

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This is pretty much how the rest of the shoot went.

Aside from her first passport stamp, B also cut one more tooth (a bottom incisor) and judging from the amount of time she spends chewing on her hands lately, I’m pretty sure she is starting to work on her two year molars.

She is now also a forward facing baby in the car. We turned her seat around in our little rental car in Ireland, because her legs would have been tremendously squished otherwise. She seemed to love being able to see what was going on out the front window, so we just re-installed facing front when we got home.

Personality

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I asked her to wink at me.

B is still pretty wary around unfamiliar people, but she also seems genuinely curious about them. She tends to stare down people (and, especially, other little kids), and she’ll wave at them if they aren’t looking. But, the minute they acknowledge her, she’ll revert to shyness. It seems that just wants to engage with people on her own terms—I suppose she’s a bit like her mama in that way.

On a related note, separation anxiety seems to be at an all time high this month. Some days, it’s so bad that even me sitting right next to her isn’t enough to keep her from completely freaking out! It’s a good thing I don’t remember who it was that told me that separation anxiety gets a bit better after 18 months. I would probably punch them in the throat for lying to me.

Saying

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She cracks herself up quite a bit these days.

Aside from picking up new words left and right, she is getting more expressive, in general. “Wow”, “Yay!” and Uh-oh!” are some of her new favorite phrases.

Favorite things

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She loved the experience of riding in elevators and on the airplane during our travels. While on the plane, she said “Airplane! Wowwwww!” over and over again as she viewed the activity taking place outside the airport windows and on the runway. Fortunately, she was so, so good while we were in the air as well. She slept most of the way there and part of the way back, much to the relief and delight of all passengers involved. The airplane obsession continues now that we have arrived back home. She’ll point at the sky and shout “airplane!”at random, and she has been favoring picture books and stories in which they are a prominent feature.

Sunglasses are her new favorite accessory. She sported her sparkly pink shades everywhere that we went and was the talk of the town!

Blowing bubbles, coloring and playing with stickers continue to be favorite activities. She continues to love the swings at the park and is getting to be a pro on the “big kid” slide This past month, my mom and aunt have started introducing her to Disney movies and she is a huge fan of Winnie the Pooh.

Favorite songs

“The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers”

Eating

Still pretty picky. Although, while we were on the trip she did try a few new things, including muesli (which I’m surprised that she loved!), scones and Nutella (not surprised that she loved either of those things).

Least favorite things

Being “redirected” from a particular activity before she is ready to let it go never fails to induce a meltdown; when the smoke detector in the kitchen goes off.

Fun experiences

Ireland, obviously! This was the perfect choice for our vacation because the flight was short and the destination offered activities that all of us could enjoy. We kept the itinerary light on the museums and tours and spent most of our time wandering through small towns and driving through the countryside.

Fortunately, B loves being outside, looking at the water and seeing live animals and there were plenty of opportunities for her to do just that. The other nice thing about Ireland is that the people are just so lovely. They never once gave us the side eye when we brought B into a restaurant or shop. Instead, they made a fuss over her and went out of their way to make sure we had a high chair and a place to store the stroller while we ate.

As I said, there was a adjustment period for all of us during the first few days of the trip. B was out of sorts because of the time change, unfamiliar foods and new routine, in general. And, Chester and I had to let go of the way that we usually travel, which involves packing as much as possible into a day (conversely, we packed more than ever in our luggage. Between the clothes, car seat, stroller, snacks and items to keep B occupied, we ended up with seven bags on this trip!), in favor of making sure that B was well fed and that there was time for her to nap in the car between stops. But, we all a bit more settled within a few days…by which point it was almost time to pack up and go home, of course!

I am glad that we had the opportunity (made possible in part by the frequent flyer and favorable exchange rate gods) to take this trip now. I don’t think that if a second kid comes along we will want to deal with all of the extra stress (and, probably, extra baggage) that would come with a big trip like this. Of course, I also said that I wouldn’t travel with a kid until it could drag its own suitcase through the airport and we all know that I broke that rule before B turned one!

It was definitely nice for all of us to have a change of scenery and I will carry such fond memories with me forever of what it was like to experience the world through B’s eyes on this trip. Seeing her face light up as she chased the ducks at a park, watched tour busses roll down the highway, tasted sticky toffee pudding for the first time, strolled down the street while proudly carrying a balloon in one hand and enjoyed countless other new experiences for the first time was absolutely priceless to me. I hope that she’ll always have a desire to see the world and that doing so will always bring her the same kind of joy.

Until I get a chance to sort through the photos I took on the trip using my real camera, enjoy some of these favorites from my Instagram feed.

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Jet-lagged at Dublin Castle on the first day of our trip.

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At Blarney Castle, where only one of us kissed the stone.

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Rollin’ with her homies

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Our final stop, in Galway

Little B: 20 Months

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20 months in, and I’m continuing with my trend of being fashionably late with B’s monthly updates. Work has been getting in the way of the rest of my life lately. Luckily, vacation is on the horizon!

Milestones

Nothing really from a developmental  perspective, but I spent my first full weekend away from home since B was born, which I would consider a pretty big deal for all of us. I missed her like crazy, but she got to spend some quality time with her Daddy! When they picked me up from the airport, B refused to look at me when I got in the car. But, after a few moments and some smooches, she was all smiles again.

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Hanging out at the park during Daddy-Daughter weekend

Doing

In general, B likes to be busy, but has a nice balance between being active and quiet. Sometimes, she is all over the place, climbing on chairs and running through the house. But, she also seems equally happy coloring or reading a book.

Saying

She calls me “mommy” on occasion and it melts my heart. She has started to say short phrases, like “under there” when her ball or a crayon rolls under the couch and “I got it!” on the occasions that she saves the item from slipping away. Although the pronunciation isn’t totally clear, we know what she means! I’m still anxious for her to really start talking because the whining—oh my god, the whining—gets under my skin in the worst way sometimes!

Personality

She can be sassy—we’ve had more than a few eye rolls at the dinner table in recent weeks! She gets embarrassed if she gets in trouble for something, though, often hiding her face or running into a corner when she gets corrected for something.

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Looking a bit too much like a teenager!

Favorite Things

Shopping—she loves picking out clothes; looking out the window; being outside; taking selfies; her jumperoo (yes, still); flash cards (she has a set of alphabet and number flash cards at my mom’s that she really likes to look at. She always pulls out the card that features a cat with a blue balloon for some reason); stickers; yoga poses–we say “yoga baby” to her and she goes into downward dog; putting her laundry in the basket; waving to cars and trucks as they go by.

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All jumped out…for now.

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We love a morning selfie session

Favorite Songs

Still singing and dancing up a storm! She loves the Wild Kratts theme song and The Hot Dog Dance from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She loves saying “bye-bye” to her favorite TV shows when the credits start to roll.

Favorite Books

Nothing really new this month!

Least Favorite Things

Still doesn’t like to have her hair done. Unfortunately for her, we have recently discovered that she looks absolutely adorable in pigtails, so there is no escaping the hair brush and barrettes!

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The pigtails kill me!

Eating

She is a big fan of spaghetti and meatballs lately, and any little toddler-friendly treats like cheese crackers and puffs.

Fun Experiences

Easter festivities were fun this year! B enjoyed her Easter basket immensely. I painstakingly picked out the coloring books and other items included in it, and at the last minute added a bubble wand that cost less than a $1 at Target, which of course, ended up being her favorite item in the basket.

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In the dress she picked out herself

She also had a date day with Jack at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden. I hadn’t been to the aquarium since an 8th grade class trip and was actually pretty cool! We all enjoyed the shark tank and the hippos.

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Do you see this, guys?!”

When I update you next, B will have added her first stamp to her passport—we are packing our bags and leaving for Ireland at the end of the week. I am curious/anxious to see how she does on her first international flight and how she copes with jet lag. Wish us all luck!

Little B: 19 Months

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I feel like I don’t have a ton of major updates to share this month, but I do know that our Little B seems to wake up cuter—and bigger—than the day before!

Milestones

Two more teeth, her top canines, appeared this month. They looked like little vampire fangs as they were coming in, and it was adorable, of course!

Doing

She loves carrying things up and down the stairs and thinks it’s hysterical to throw things down from the top of the steps. She really likes to “help” around the house lately, whether it’s by putting her toys away or handing her plate over when she is all done with her food.

Saying

Her newest word this month is “wuv” (love). She also loves saying “choo-choo” and “beep-beep” when she sees trains or cars. She babbles constantly. The way she strings sounds together makes me think that she is on her way to putting actual words together.

Personality

Strong-willed! If she doesn’t want to do something, like put on her shoes or a jacket, it can become quite the battle.

Favorite Things

Play food; stack rings; shape sorter; flash cards; baby doll and stroller; shoes; washing her hands at the sink; being tickled.

Favorite Songs

You’re a Grand Old Flag. She has a Duplo playset that is circus themed and she is obsessed with the two flags that came with it. So, I started singing this song to her and now she waves the flags around whenever she wants me to sing it. If I leave the words out, she’ll fill in the blanks (She is very dramatic about it when she says “brave!”)

Favorite Books

Lately, she really likes looking at photo books. Her particular favorite is a collection of all of the photos from her first birthday. She likes to look at the photos that feature the presents that she received and then she runs around the room pointing them out to us.

Least Favorite Things

When I wear glasses or pull my hair back; when I leave the room—I can’t even get away for a solo trip to the bathroom; bedtime—as soon as we finish our stories and shut out the lights, her lip starts to quiver and sometimes a few silent tears fall. She usually goes down with minimal fuss, but I think she just gets sad that the fun is over for the day; headbands or barrettes of any kind.

Eating

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She will never refuse a sweet treat. Here she is, scarfing a Termini’s cupcake at my mom and aunt’s birthday celebration

She is picky, picky, picky. Even the things that used to be favorites, like sweet potatoes and bananas, get tossed to the floor lately. Her current obsessions are grilled cheese and peanut butter. She is an absolute fiend, when it comes to the latter—and we all know where she gets that from, right? She knows the exact cabinet where it is kept at both our house and my mom’s and often gets the jar out herself. She loves it on toast, crackers and straight from the spoon. I’m so proud!

Fun Experiences

We did a Saint Patrick’s Day photo shoot. She was really into throwing the coins around!

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Now that Spring is finally here, there’s much more fun to be had! We can’t wait to go out exploring with our little adventurer!

Ten Years.

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Our very first picture together

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day that Chester and I first met. TEN years, people. That calls for a little trip down memory lane, yes?

Let’s look back to March of 2005, when I had just ended the relationship that I was in through half of high school and all of college. I quickly realized that spending all of those years with the same person had left me with virtually NO idea of how to date. Prospects in my circle of friends were slim and I was absolutely not the type to hang out in a bar, hoping that the love of my life would walk in.

So, I decided to take my search online. After several horrible experiences with guys from Match, I decided to move over to Yahoo! Personals (which has since been purchased by Match). I had no reason to believe that this would yield better results, but it was cheaper and you all know how I love a bargain.

I had been on for about three days when this cute guy (that would be Chester) sent me an “icebreaker”—a short, little message to say that he had liked my profile. Thankfully, I had chosen a photo taken before my despair over being single led me into the poor decision of letting my mom cut my hair.

I sat on the icebreaker for several days, not really sure if I wanted to be disappointed again. But, late one night, just before I was about to go to bed, I just felt like I had to answer him. Something was telling me that he was different.

And, the rest, as they say is history.

For the next month, we e-mailed and IMed (those were the days, right?) and agreed to meet in person. On April 23rd, I showed up to our agreed upon meeting, on the corner of 3rd and Chestnut Streets.

And, I waited. And, waited.And, waited.

It started to rain. I became annoyed that I had bothered to spend the money to have my hair professionally blow dried so that the mullet was less obvious.

When random guys riding by on bicycles started whistling at me, I mentally gave Chester five more minutes to show up before heading home.

Luckily for him, he careened around the corner in his silver car, just in time. Which was actually a full 45 minutes past the appointed time. So, it was also lucky for him that he was just as cute in person as he was photos.

And, I was hungry, so I figured the least he could do was buy me dinner. So, we headed to Continental.

I kept up the charade of being annoyed for awhile. But, he was so nice and easy to talk to that it was hard to stay mad. And, he didn’t seem to mind that my hair was reminiscent of David Bowie’s, circa 1972.

We ended the night with coffee at Cosi and a walk on Penn’s Landing. By then, I knew that he was the “The One.”

I cancelled my Yahoo! membership that night. By that summer, we had moved in together.

In 2009, we got engaged—which is also a good story, but one that I’ll save that for another day.

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Returning to where it all began, for our engagement photo shoot

We got married the next year.

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Three years later, B came along.

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We had NO idea what we were doing.

So, ten years, one apartment, one house, two cats, one dog, one kid, several job changes, thousands of miles traveled together by plane, train and automobile, hundreds of fights, millions of laughs later, there is still no one else that I would rather be with.

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One of my favorite photos of us, in Toledo, Spain on our honeymoon

Every day has been THE BEST.

What I Read: February/March

As you might have surmised from the looooong stretches of time that go between postings, I don’t have a lot of time to blog these days. Work is busier than ever lately and the weekends are full of fun with B and Chester and/or errands. Most of the time, I’m going, going, going from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Don’t get me wrong. I (mostly) love my job and I (totally and completely) love my family. But, writing used to be a much bigger part of what I did in my free time and I miss it. I have lots of ideas, but by the time I finally sit down at night my brain is completely fried. and the last thing I can do is string a sentence together.

Luckily, reading is my other favorite thing and that’s the level of activity I’m able to manage lately. So, here’s what I’ve gotten into during the past few weeks:

Us

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I have been meaning to read more of David Nicholls’ work ever since I read One Day a few years ago (I refuse to see the movie because I know it will spoil the magic for me). Like that work, Us, which was short listed for the Man Booker Prize before it was even published last year, is a story about a relationship between two people who seem completely ill-suited for each other.

Connie was a free-spirited artist before settling down with uptight biochemist Douglas. At the outset of the novel, Connie tells Douglas that she plans to leave him, after nearly two decades of marriage. The news comes shortly before they are about to embark on a “grand tour” of Europe with their son. The rest of the novel alternates between that less-than-relaxing tour and flashbacks to the earlier days of their courtship and marriage.

Although the characters are not terribly original (Douglas, for example, reminded me of the equally clueless, but strangely likable ,protagonist of The Rosie Project), the story is well crafted, humorous and poignant.

Orphan Train 

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In this novel by Christian Baker Kline, Molly is a troubled girl, who has spent much of her life being bounced around between foster homes in modern-day Maine; elderly widow Vivian lost her parents shortly after her family immigrated from Ireland to New York and was transported to a new life in the Midwest via an “orphan train.” Their lives intersect when Molly is made to work with VIvian as part of a community service requirement and the two discover just how much they have in common.

Based on the synopsis of the book, I thought I would love it but was ultimately disappointed. The writing style was overly simplistic, and that made it kind of boring. Halfway through I did a Google search to see if it was a young adult novel because that’s how it reads. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t!

I didn’t find myself caring about Molly at all, and skimmed the portions of the book that were told from her point of view. Vivian’s background was much more interesting and the novel could have been far more compelling had the story just focused on her. I wasn’t familiar with the orphan train movement, and it did make me want to learn more, so I might have to seek out some other books on the subject.

The One and Only

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I’m not ashamed to admit that I love me some “chick lit.” Sometimes, you just want an easy read with a predictable plot, right? Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors in this genre, but I don’t think that this is her best work.

Giffin’s main character, Shea Rigsby, has spent her entire life in the small college town of Walker, Texas. She loves all things football—especially the Walker College football team (so much so that she started working in college’s sports information department as a student and never left) Her best friend, Lucy, is the daughter of legendary Walker coach, Clive Carr. When a tragedy strikes close to home, Shea begins to question everything about her life and decides to make some big changes in the process.

The main ingredients are there—Tragedy! Best friends! True love!—but something was missing. Maybe I was disappointed because I can’t relate—at all—to football as a religion? Or, maybe I was slightly creeped out by Shea’s love interest (I don’t want to give anything away, but you might be able to figure it out from the brief description above)? Either way, I would get your chick lit fix elsewhere.

So, that’s all I’ve got this month, but I’m always on the lookout for recommendations for the next thing to pick up. Any suggestions?!

Little B: 18 Months

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Happy half-birthday Little B!  At 18 months, I feel like B has definitely left the baby stage behind and is firmly in toddler territory.

Milestones

She cut another molar this month and at her 18 month doctor’s appointment she weighed in at 21 pounds, 13 ounces and was 2 feet, 7 inches tall. She is mostly in 18 months size clothes now, although she still has a few 12 months size shirts that fit her.

Doing

She has been into jumping, climbing on the furniture and running (on her tiptoes, which is completely adorable. But, I’m hoping that she doesn’t take after me and still run like that at 32). She also loves to spin around, to make herself dizzy, and can occupy a decent chunk of time chasing and stepping on her shadow. I love watching her play lately, because she is starting to pretend a bit. She likes to “get ready to go to Target” by putting on her plastic bracelet and grabbing her purse. She “cooks supper” for her stuffed animals using her play kitchen and then feeds them and gives them water from her cup.

Personality

Sadly, the tantrum phase continues. Sometimes there is a clear trigger (like, it’s a half hour past nap time, and she has clearly reached the overtired stage). In other instances, everything seems to be totally fine and then she goes into meltdown mode. Equally frustrating is the fact that she seems extra prone to separation anxiety lately (like, the “hang on mom’s leg so she can’t even go across the room” variety). Morning and dinner hours have been particularly problematic lately. She recently decided that I am not allowed to put her down to get ready for work in the morning and that she isn’t a fan of sitting in her booster seat at the table. Sometimes, I feel like she just wants to squeeze in some extra snuggles and play time after we have been separated for eight-plus hours. While there is nothing I would love more, it’s just not always possible to do as I rush out the door for work in the morning and get through the limited time we have at night for our dinner/bath/bedtime routine. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to deal with these mood swings. I hate to see her cry and sometimes it is just easier to give her what she wants in the interest of everyone’s time and sanity, even if that means I’m doing my make-up with one hand or eating dinner with her on my lap (while telling myself that this, too, shall pass).

Fortunately, when she isn’t in a blubbering heap on the floor, she loves giving hugs (she is starting to wrap her arms around me to give me a real squeeze, which makes me melt!), kisses and rubbing noses when we ask her to “do nosey-nose.”

Saying

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Best friends

B seems to be picking up words pretty quickly now, so it’s hard to keep track of the new additions to her vocabulary. The funniest thing from the last month is that she has picked up our habit of scolding Poor Tracy. If the dog is barking at the mailman, for instance, Chester and I will often yell “back!” or “bed!” at her. Well, now B does it…sometimes when Tracy isn’t even really acting up. And, she does it in such an authoritative tone of voice while raising her hand or pointing a finger at Tracy, which makes it even funnier.

Favorite Books

Pretty much the same as the last few months, but lately she’s really been all about Madeline, Harold and the Purple Crayon and Ollie’s Easter Eggs lately! She knows a lot of the lines and characters in her favorite stories at this point, and if we mention these things in the course of normal conversation, she will run to her book basket and dig out the story in question.

Favorite Songs

She loves to dance to the The Hokey Pokey and Jingle Bells. The latter has long been a favorite, but lately she loves dancing along to it. We keep some bells on a hook by the back door so that Tracy can ring them to let us know she wants to go out, but more often than not, B steals them to dance with. And, she is still quite the little singer. Although she still can’t actually say most of the words, she is consistently getting better about imitating melodies.

Favorite Things

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We weren’t even going out, but she made me bundle her up over her pajamas

The pink chair that we take her monthly photos on, mostly because she has figured out how to make it rock back and forth; puzzles; crayon and paint-with-water activities; puzzles; stuffed animals (especially Arthur, panda, bunny and the Cat in the Hat); winter hats and her puffy vest; having her photo taken.

Least Favorite Things

Snow hitting her in the face; sitting at the dinner table, as mentioned above; having a wet diaper  or dirty hands.

Eating

I swear that this kid is trying to be a vegetarian. She eats ground turkey and beef inconsistently, and continues to refuse our attempts to get her interested in chicken or turkey in other forms. But, she still rarely turns down a pile of broccoli, sweet potatoes, crackers slathered in hummus or applesauce…and of course she loves sweets of any kind! I feel like we serve the same things all the time, so I definitely need to find some new menu inspiration ASAP.

Fun Experiences

The miserable winter has continued, but there have been some warmer days on occasion, during which we have tried to get in some outside time. One of her favorite places to run around is Rittenhouse Square Park.

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I think she thought she was doing a catalog photo shoot on this particular day. She was really posing it up!

We celebrated Valentine’s Day with a trip to Max Brenner for a chocolatey brunch. We went close to nap time, so B was slightly groggy when we sat down at our table, but after several sips of a chocolate milkshake she was all sugared up and couldn’t stop chatting and flirting with everyone around us. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday in our house without a themed photo-shoot.

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We are looking forward to the arrival of Spring this month and all of the adventures that are on the horizon!