Tag Archives: family time

I am Woman, Hear Me Roar: the most extreme road trip I’ve ever been on

24 Feb

I don’t know which makes me feel more accomplished as a person: giving birth twice without any drugs, or road-tripping up to Cleveland, OH for a long weekend with my husband, 4 year old, and 6 week old in an RV.

We left Wednesday night around 9pm. I tried to sleep, as the boys, our most precious cargo, were both asleep, but somehow the back of an RV in the dark feels like a plane about to take off. And I don’t really like planes that much, so every time I was about to drift away, I would suddenly wake up fearful we were going to crash into something or drive off the road.

img_20170215_230745543

One of Dave’s best friends, a former Marine like himself, was getting married. We’ve been friends with the couple for a long time, so we knew we wanted to all attend, especially since Dave was asked to be a groomsman and W was asked to be the ring bearer. And there was no way I wanted to leave young Rex with grandparents for the weekend. After Rex’s birth I became unsure if I would attend, and this uncertainty stayed with me until I got into the RV to leave. I was even texting Jason, who was staying at our house with the animals, thirty minutes into the trip that I was insane and I should have stayed at home.

But I didn’t.

16825806_10210772477620499_6963079539986373144_o

I won’t lie, it was rough. It was a long trip for an already tired woman, but honestly I did it for Dave. He wanted his boys there, and his wife, to be with him as he celebrated this grand event with some of his dearest friends. There were other Marines there with their wives and kids whom we get together with every couple of years. We are scattered across the United States, but these people are very important to us, so we all make the effort to see each other when we can.

img_20170216_214150540

Wednesday night we stopped at an RV park in Knoxville, TN. We figured the only way we could sanely make the 10+ hour drive was to not have to do it all in one day. We didn’t buy plane tickets because of the expense, for one, and also because we could never be sure who would go, given that Rex’s birth was so close to the wedding.

The first night was a bit of a disaster. We got in around midnight and tried as quick as we could to set up the RV for sleeping. Walter woke up and asked questions as we moved stuff around, and I got Rex fed. Then we all settled down for the night’s sleep (or what was left of it)… and the heat in the RV didn’t work properly. It was also 34° outside. The furnace would turn on briefly, get nowhere near the temperature we set the thermostat to, then turn off for good. If we wanted it back on, we’d have to restart the heat ourselves by getting out of bed and flipping the switch.

Walter seemed cuddled in his comforter (thank goodness I had brought a million blankets), but I was super worried about the baby. My face and hair were freezing to the touch. I bundled the baby up (which made me worry about him sleeping with loose blankets and a hat on in bed), and I climbed in with Walter in his twin — I abandoned Dave in the double bed because it was too cold on his side near all the windows. Eventually we just turned the RV on and ran the heater. I was having visions of all of us dying from exhaust fumes when I finally passed out around 3am. Soon enough I woke again because the inside was too hot, and I immediately ripped the blankets off the baby, worried about him overheating, and turned the engine off, worried that we were going to run out of gas. Falling back asleep, this cold/warm cycle continued until we all, rather tiredly, woke up later in the morning.

img_20170216_091557_648The boys were completely unfazed, of course.

img_20170216_091251_283First time in an RV park. Made me think of this romance novel I once read where they traveled around the country in an RV.

img_20170216_101413Keep both hands on the wheel, little man.

Thursday we drove the rest of the way, and I have to say, I love traveling in an RV. Dave has lots of experience driving large military vehicles, so during the day he seemed very at ease, plus the front seats are more like recliners than regular car seats. Walter got to watch TV, sleep, or draw on his clipboard. Rex slept for the most part. We had food, cold drinks, and a toilet at our convenience, and a comfy and easy place to nurse Rex when we stopped. And best of all, I got to buckle myself in to the couch and rest and read books when I wasn’t tending to other things. That’s the way to do it if you’re going to spend that much time traveling!

img_20170216_142006You know you’re redneck enough for an RV when your food prep area is the same as your diaper changing area.

Around 7pm we pulled into the hotel parking lot in Cleveland, unloaded our stuff, and parked by the trees. We quickly took showers to wash off the drive and headed into the chilly night to meet up with our friends for dinner.

img_20170216_221850046

After a wonderful meal with the group, I actually asked Dave if we could hurry and go, which is very unlike me. I’m usually literally the last to leave any type of party, but I was about to fall asleep on my feet. Another night passed uneventfully. I had been very worried about all four of us sleeping together in the same space, but Rex only woke me during the night when he wanted to nurse. Walter, thankfully, is as deep a sleeper as his daddy!

Friday was reception-prep and rehearsal day. We were late to the reception venue to help everyone and drove the RV there (what else could we do?), and unfortunately a Pyrex dish fell during a turn-around-pothole-miscalculation and shattered all over the tile floor. Consequently we learned where the RV vacuum was and how to use it.

Later that evening we piled into our friend’s van, rather awkwardly but gratefully, to get to the church. I sat there nursing while the big boys practiced their roles. Because of my annual Christmas card mailings, I was approached by the best man’s wife, Dina. She said our card was on her fridge, and she loved the book list I put on the back. It was nice to make another friend, and we chatted during the rehearsal and sat together during dinner as well. She was a very lovely Jordanian woman who is a performance aviation engineer for GE. I find it very interesting to learn about the different, highly specific engineering jobs out there.

img_20170218_095822_584Walter knows how to dress sharp.

Saturday was the big day. It turns out that David had many hours of obligations as a groomsman, so for most of the day I was on my own. This brought out a few tears as I was exhausted and hadn’t made this big a trip so quickly postpartum to be on my own. It was made worse when Walter, after having come to sit with me mid-ceremony when his ring-bearing duties were over, saw Daddy walking down the aisle with a bridesmaid and asked, “Mommy, did Daddy just marry that other woman!?!” I kinda laughed and said “No, honey, he’s only married to me” and Walter replied, “But that was David.”

img_20170218_123409175_hdr#handsomemen #idontliketoshare

img_20170218_175051767We had several hours to kill in between the ceremony and reception while Daddy took pictures around town with the newlyweds. We played in the RV since we had checked out of the hotel earlier that day. Plans were to leave that night and repeat the driving procedure we had followed on the way up.

img_20170218_175129152#cutebaby #cutebabyjeans

img_20170220_095637After watching the first dance, finally in the same room together, Dave bee-lined for us. We ate a delicious dinner — one of the best wedding menus we’ve had — drank some tasty beer, took photos in the photo booth, danced (me with the baby at the breast, Dave holding an almost sleeping Walter, who had run around the dance floor with the other kids all night), and left early around 9:30pm. I didn’t want to go, but we knew we had to get out of there if we wanted to get to Cincinnati at a decent time.

img_20170219_032826631We rolled in around 2am and the blackout shades in the brand new hotel room proved to be very effective. We all slept until 9:30am, ate our last breakfast in the RV, and drove home. We even got to enjoy an extra hour and a half of driving time due to Sunday night road construction. Thank you, Georgia.

img_20170217_121004Thank goodness he loves his car seat. He probably thought we were going to leave him in there permanently.

48 hours of travel, 48 hours of partying. Totally worth it.

Advertisements

Baby #2 is a sweet little brother for our W

26 Aug

After too many months of crying and waiting and testing and trying, there’s nothing but joy here to say we’re expecting another baby January 2017. Just after health insurance deductibles switch to the new year!

BABY JOHNSTON!_0035

Already looking pretty stinkin’ cute

We had our 20 week ultrasound this morning and everything looks great! He was moving around and even sucked his thumb while we were looking. Walter enjoyed watching the ultrasound tech take pictures for a few minutes, then spent the rest of the time asking when she’d be done and talking about his cinnamon roll breakfast.

W seems just as excited for his brother as we are. He says, “My baby will be here after Christmas, and I want to keep him forever.” I’ll remind him of that sentiment when little boy #2 is old enough to mess up his Lego and magnatile creations.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point, including a first trimester that was hellish to survive, but as I feel baby moving around in there, it’s just an incredible feeling that I’m so glad I get to experience again. This procreation stuff really is a miracle.

A Bit Untethered, but Happy and Excited

22 Apr

While living in the gloriously big house that Walter now doesn’t want to leave with my awesome, frequently jet-setting in-laws has been fantastic, it’s not easy for me to not have my home base. When I want to settle down or escape, I don’t really have anywhere to go that is mine, except maybe my car. I was even having difficulties living in the small room with our cat, who I am allergic to — long story –, until my brilliant husband suggested I take a Claritin, which thankfully worked. So at least I have that space too again.

The good news is, the finish line is within sight. We sold our house! It went under contract the first day of showings, and the buyers were great. I’m jealous of our old neighbors.

We also bought a house! I feel ridiculously lucky to have found the house we did. It’s a 1965 ranch-style that has previously had one owner, sitting on half an acre of gorgeous landscape.

IMG_20160414_171304306_HDRDay of closing: happiness.

It was very well-maintained, but dated. But that’s the best part! We get to do what we want with the space! No one else has done some costly, generic updating. Mostly it is painting the walls, changing light fixtures, and refinishing floors, but we also get to redo the kitchen from scratch!

IMG_20160418_162936242_HDRYep, that’s our kitchen. Walter thought it left the house on its own.

I already feel like it is my house, even more so than our old house, not just because I’m on the deed of this one, but because I picked it out knowing that I want to live here for the next 30+ years. We have only three weeks until the movers bring our stuff, but oh what needs to be done before then!

IMG_20160422_094949Our wonderful helper!

 

IMG_20160418_205801862_HDRWallpaper was clearly invented by the devil.

IMG_20160421_170823349I needed to paint by myself, and when I was ready to go, I found him like this!

It’ll be more than great to be home again, which is why we’re working round the clock to get things done. We have been blessed by the help of Dave’s dad, who has spent several days doing electrical work at our house and puts Walt to bed so we can go work in the evenings, and my mom who has kept Walt while we get stuff done. I worry about him. In the end it’ll have been a 3 month move, and moves are not easy. Sometimes he isn’t really clear about what’s going on, but he’s a trooper. I’m real proud of him.

We’re living like it’s Downton Abbey

4 Mar

This is multi-family household living at its best, just without Nanny. Or Carson & Mrs. Hughes.

Here’s what happened: my husband bought an expensive house during the real estate bubble of ’07/’08, right before he graduated college in 2009, during the recession. A + B = C, and C hasn’t been good for us financially.

College had delayed his transition from the Marine Corps to his career in his late twenties. I graduated college at the same time as him (but mid twenties) with my second degree, didn’t find a full-time job, didn’t get in to graduate school, and then became a stay-at-home-mama, which was my dream anyway. Meanwhile, my husband worked hard to pay the mortgage, while we watched many others get rewarded by buying foreclosed or cheap houses because of the recession and at one point getting huge checks from the government for being first-time homeowners. We have been the definition of “house poor” for the last 7 years, even though we lead really, really good lives. No denying that fact.

So in order to sell our house, we have moved in with my in-laws near Chastain Park. Oh how terrible! No, not really. It’s pretty awesome.

At our house, the floor needed a good sand and refinish. Our realtor recommended it. Our cousin, who’s the best real estate agent in Birmingham, said to do it before it goes on market. It’s not the most expensive reno job, it must be done by a professional, and it can totally change the look of the house.

I’ve been wanting to change the color for years anyway.

So I finally spent the last of our savings, touched up the paint (again), cleaned it up real nice, positioned the furniture just right… and now we pray we get some money back from the money pit that has been home ownership for us so far.

We moved in with parents so we can stage the house — and not live in the poly smell immediately post-floor refinish. I won’t have to battle the dog hair, kitty litter box, Walter messes, and my type-A cleaning personality all while keeping a house show-ready. We can also take our time to find the right house for us when it comes time to do that.

I have never been more excited to go shopping in my life. I’ve never had the opportunity to pick a house before. My husband bought our current one a year before we met.

So we’re in our thirties acting a bit like we’re in our twenties… but hey, we’re Millennials, so we’re allowed to do that, right?

IMG_20160224_192426Perks: Pop reading bedtime stories to his grandboy in what used to be The Serious Business Room for twenty years but has recently been changed by Walt to The Crossword Room (note WSJ crossword on end table).

Ladies Night Out 2-2016Perks: Ladies Night Out with the Sistas of the Pour at Terra Terroir

 

Thanksgiving in pictures

6 Dec

IMG_20151120_224915360My brother came into town from Brussels via a giant company party in Mexico. The Paris attacks occurred right before he left, and then Brussels was on lockdown most of the time he was in Atlanta and my sister-in-law and nephew were back at home.

IMG_20151120_234111619I’m glad this chick loves me.

IMG_20151204_212325Retiring Dikembe Mutombo’s number.

IMG_20151126_091819597_HDRMy happy little kitchen helpers to help me make the pumpkin pie.

IMG_20151126_114906And it turned out yummy — Julia Child’s recipe.

DSC_0246-2My family.

DSC_0261Walter and his cousins.

DSC_0251
My youngest cousin and his new GF.

IMG_20151126_153856561Of course there was croquet on the lawn before dessert.

IMG_20151126_153900853Rafa enjoying frustrating Walt.

IMG_20151127_095003024More Krispy Kreme. We live too close.

Jolly July

22 Jul

Because of the stair refinishing at our house, we’ve been at my in-laws for a week. It is kind of like a vacation because they have a very nice house with a pool. We’ve never stayed this long with them before, as we live in the same city, so it was a treat to be with family for an extended period of time. And the house was full! Walt’s great-granny and cousin were also with us for most of the time.

IMG_20150710_205738338-3
Amazing woman.

IMG_20150716_183626815_HDR-2
They love their Mimi!

IMG_20150717_125921234-2
Lego peace treaty negotiations.

All of a sudden, everyone left. Granny and the cousin went back home, and Walt’s grandparents went up to their annual airshow in Oshkosh (Mimi is a pilot). But we haven’t been too sad. Last night Dave got home early so we all went swimming in the spa, which brought back my early memories of learning to swim in my parents’ spa in California when I was three. The night before, as the sun was setting and a summer storm was brewing in the distance, we played catch with the dog amid fireflies. And luckily they get their yard sprayed so there were no mosquitoes to contend with. Both were beautiful moments in time. And the boys have been playing the piano every night, which I love. I am becoming more aware that Walter’s first memories could happen any day now, and I want them to be good!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMLWdMebTQM&feature=em-upload_owner-smbtn
He told us he wanted to sing the song by himself. I love his independence.

An extra pair of hands

4 May

For the past 2 1/2 years, Walter has actively taken away the use of at least one of my hands on a regular basis. A mom pretty much learns how to live life with one functioning hand (and I usually use my dominant one to hold him).

The other day was the first time [of hopefully many] where he has provided me with an extra set of hands. It was glorious.

Since Christmas, we’ve gotten in to Magnatiles. One of my pet peeves of Magnatiles, however, as an OCD/math-oriented person, is that if you take all your long triangle pieces and put them together on the floor, they will not form a circle. What?? How can that be?

But then I figured it out. No matter how many triangles you use, if you make it an upright cone, all the bottoms of the triangles will rest on the floor. I easily put together 3, 4, and 5 pieces. I tried seven and eight, and then, of course, 9. However, the cone was so wide that when I attempted to add the last triangle, it would collapse to the ground and I’d have to start over. I did this several times, even propping it up with support, but it turns out I needed something more dynamic. Like another pair of hands.

Enter Walter!

Usually he is more destructive than helpful when I try to play Magnatiles or Legos with him. But today, of all glorious days, he did what I asked, pushed in when I instructed, and we got the cone standing!

IMG_20150311_163917618 - Copy
He was pretty pleased about it too!

Living in a staged house isn’t quite like Arrested Development, but close.

22 Jan

IMG_20150110_175909877

The house is certainly the prettiest it’s ever looked, but all my books are packed away and most of my crafts placed inconveniently in the back of the guest room closet. There are barely any personal photos to find around the house and the garage is about to burst with “extra” furniture.

I left my sewing machine out but I either have to use my knee or one of my hands to press the foot pedal since it’s on an end table (that used to be Dave’s craft table when he was Walt’s age). I wanted to make some place mats for us to use at the kitchen table (to tie the room together!), and I must say that my little ones were quite helpful.

IMG_20150116_110127196
Sensing that I needed to accomplish something…

IMG_20150116_110134512
…Petra pre-warmed my fabric. While there was a sewing needle in it.

IMG_20150116_110137784_HDR
And Walt tried out the pedal for himself.

But yeah, the place mats did turn out great, and I got some chuckles in the process!

And they lived happily ever after

5 Jan

A couple months ago we had the pleasure of celebrating my in-laws 40th wedding anniversary. They are truly an inspiration for all married couples out there. They are happy and they work hard and spend their time traveling around the world. It seems like nothing will stop them on their adventures! I was able to participate in the most fun ways I know… graphic design and scrapbooking. Jan and I made a photo guestbook for the party at Piedmont Driving Club (in the same room where Dave and I had our rehearsal dinner!). Jan gathered the pictures, organized them by year, and labeled them. I spent about 24 hours straight, only stopping to eat and sleep, making the book because there was a Shutterfly coupon expiring the next day and the party was only about 3 weeks away at that point. So time was of the essence. It turned out beautifully, and so many people signed it, it was wonderful. It is truly a treasure to look through.

guest book sign for 40th
The cute little sign I made.

wine labels for 40th I also made personalized wine label stickers, since everyone likes getting wine and this adds an intimate touch to an easy gift. That’s them on their honeymoon trip to Jamaica. So cute!

Before the 40th anniversary party at PDC Walter looked handsome.

IMG_1221 So did my husband.

IMG_20141025_131016560_HDR And cousins got to play together!

It was a great weekend spent with family and friends. Thank you to my in-laws for being such generous, kind-hearted people!

Dec 2013-Nov 2014 040-2 We dress up nice!

A Forget-Me-Not Thanksgiving Weekend.

5 Dec

We’re breezing in to December and I bet Christmas will be over with before we know it. I hope it’s as good as our long Thanksgiving holiday was. Thanksgiving is by far my favorite big one of the year. It doesn’t have quite the same amount of pressure that Christmas does, and all obligations are over by Thursday evening. Then you have a full 3 day weekend to enjoy yourself. And this year the weather was perfect to choose between being out and about and sitting inside relaxing.

IMG_20141127_241120871

My brother came in town. He lives in Europe now and his job doesn’t send him to America as often as his old one did. I miss when he and his family lived in Woodstock. It was far but we went out there once a week for family dinner. And now we want to move out that way and live outside of the city. So we’d be close if they ever moved back!

He convinced me to go out to Virginia Highlands for a night on the town with our cousin. I took my first Uber ride, which was interesting. What a great service to provide! Our driver was a very nice man from Aghanistan driving a very nice, clean car. A friend of my cousin’s was a very cool and interesting international woman about to move with her husband and son to 4 acres in Tennessee. Jealous! And she had a friend with her who was a black woman, who after I got to Atkins Park, left in 30 minutes, saying the bar was “too white”. I have to say that I agreed with her.  Also, they still allowed smoking in the bar, which I despise.

A friend of mine and I think we should open up a “bar” where there is a back room with a nanny and a lot of beds. A play area. A very family friendly bar. And taxi cabs with good car seats for children. That should be a standard. You can’t expect a parent to be lugging around a 25lb car seat when they travel. Traveling can be so stressful even without that extra burden to worry about.

Children are the future of the world. Everyone everywhere should be willing to help protect, teach, and raise our children, so they grow up figuring out even more than we know. So there is hope for the future. Some people can have more children than others. We all have to share. That whole “village” aspect of community is important. Let’s go back to the basics.

IMG_20141127_163016515
Here’s all the stuff we brought to Thanksgiving. Camera and tripod and toys and change of clothes and diapers and a booster seat… oh and of course a little boy and his glass of chocolate milk.

The next day was a rather relaxing Thanksgiving. I don’t remember what we did in the morning, but after nap we headed over to my aunt’s house. My mom has three sisters, which I am also jealous of. I grew up with two brothers. I always wanted a sister.

My aunt and my uncle live in a very beautiful house in Brookhaven, and at least 20 people were there for dinner. It was very stuffed at the table (but we all fit!), and they even had people helping us out to clean dishes and get us drinks and dessert. I was very appreciative  and surprised that they elected to work on the holiday. I guess at least in some small way we all do that day though, am I right? And you never know how people are going to define “work” to themselves. Money can make anything worth it, if it’s the right amount.

IMG_20141127_172818499~2Someone is excited about dinner!

IMG_20141127_175457584
He hasn’t been eating as well lately. Just wants bread! And cheese! And oranges!

DSC_0511-2
We had a lot of fun! I’ve been working on my photography skills. I love this group photo.

On Saturday we drove up to Marietta to look at a house for sale. And then we hopped over to Kennesaw Mountain State Park and walked through the Civil War battlefield and monuments. There are lots of trails around and lots of people jogging and horseback riding and such around there. When we got lost trying to even get there we were in a roundabout where people were loading their horses into their trailers. I loved it.

IMG_20141129_140808916~2
A lot of Union soldiers were killed here.

IMG_20141129_143403561_HDR
Duggy was a pain in the butt. He couldn’t stop sniffing at everything and constantly tugging on the leash. And marking. I think the issue is that he really likes to be in familiar territory. I can’t wait to move to a place with a yard!

Sunday our dear friend Kate wanted to throw one of those Friendsgivings, so we did. 12 people came to sit around our table, bringing wine and delicious food — ham, yum — and great conversation. Dave and I only had to make the broccoli casserole and the grasshopper pie. And I gave everyone dishwasher friendly glasses so cleanup was easy!

A beautiful weekend. An exciting week this week. Christmas is coming!