Some Things

So! October! It’s ending. (Hooray?)

I may or may not have inadvertently, without proper consideration and apparently ANY foresight, scheduled a few too many autumnal activities for myself and my family this month. October has been nuts, filled with soccer games and festivals and birthdays and family visits and meetings and parties and work possibilities and school volunteering and an overarching feeling of general panic whenever I look at my calendar. I loved every minute of this month but I am WORN OUT. And, we still have Halloween to go! (Even though it feels like we’ve thoroughly celebrated this holiday at multiple events for weeks now, doesn’t it?)

I do this every single year because I simply love October. It’s my favorite month of the year because it’s so… October’ish; full of changing leaves and pumpkins and mums and cooler weather that makes wearing sweatpants and fleece socially acceptable again. To me, the arrival of October signals the official end of summer, when I typically come out of hot-weather hibernation. October always makes me want to do all of the outdoor activities all at once. So, I say yes to a ton of things and then complain incessantly about having to do all of those things. October is always the same story for me and each year, I vow to not repeat the insanity the following October but I can absolutely guarantee that next year, when the first leaf falls to the forest floor, I will be unable to stop myself from cramming our days full of assorted events celebrated while consuming specialty coffee drinks.

In addition to all of the regular life things, because we met the catastrophic out-of-pocket cap on our insurance this year, we’ve also been visiting as many doctors for as many ailments as possible before the calendar year ends. Because: FREE! Everything’s FREE. (But, actually not free because all of the free-ness was preceded by thousands and thousands of dollars we spent in co-pays that were totally not free.) Still, when my dermatologist prescribed a special cream and she looked at me and cautioned, “Just to warn you, it’s very, very expensive,” I was like, “NOT A PROBLEM!” So, there’s been lots of visits to lots of doctors getting eye appointments and dental visits and well-child exams checked off before the end of the year rolls around like some big race to an arbitrary finish line lined with lab coats. I don’t ever wish illness for my children but if they’re going to get hit with some horrible virus, do it before December 31, kids! Also, that hangnail looks red. Should we get that checked out?

My point is, we all feel a little like this around here:

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The other day, at lunchtime, I set Millie’s plate down on the table in front of her, where she was impatiently waiting. While her plate was filled with a delicious variety of her favorite foods, that didn’t stop Millie from passing instant judgement on what I had prepared for her. She started to complain about her sandwich but somewhere between the deep sigh and resigned grumbling, she noticed the bendy straw I had placed in her water glass. She paused, smiled broadly and exclaimed, “OH! A STRAW! Never mind. I’m happy now.” It was the most rapid about-face I’ve witnessed.

Living with a three-year-old girl must be what it’s like to live with a really fun, slightly crazy, super opinionated, elderly aunt. One that’s easily distracted by shiny objects, wears tons of costume jewelry and doesn’t always make it to the potty on time. Millie is all of those things. She is an absolute hoot.

I have no neat way to wrap this up other than to show you Charlie dressed as Davy Crockett. Well, if Davy Crockett took a midday nap with a Pottery Barn duvet. (As I pointed out previously, we’re all very tired around here. October, man.)

To no one’s surprise, Charlie desperately wanted to be the King of the Wild Frontier for Halloween. Bob obliged by finding a pint-sized Davy Crockett costume online. (There’s pretty much nothing that Amazon doesn’t carry.) It came complete with a coonskin cap which was great because for weeks Charlie has been trying to convince us that we need to hunt a raccoon in order to fashion our own cap. We weren’t enthralled with this idea so having the whole outfit shipped to our front door in two days’ time was perfect. He’s been wearing his costume since Tuesday. I’m hoping the fringe holds up through tomorrow.

Arrived

In the fall of 2003, Bob and I flew to Maine over a long weekend to visit with Bob’s sister and her family. (It’s hard to believe we ever had the free time and the free will for a trip of such leisure.) Have you ever been to Maine in early October? It’s absolutely magnificent. I still, over ten years later, have never seen an autumn like that one. Wave after wave of leaves falling on little lanes lined with shingled houses. It looked like a postcard.

At one point during our visit, we attended Bob’s nephew’s soccer game. It was played on this big, wide open field with a backdrop of tall trees in the most vivid shades of orange and red and green. I remember sitting on the sidelines (wearing a sweatshirt in October as God intended, VIRGINIA) and thinking to myself, I wonder if they realize what they’ve got here. If they know how special this place is. All of this… space. This room to live.

At the time, I had only been in the Washington, D.C. area for about a year and city life was proving claustrophobic. Our commute was long, our views very short. I didn’t love it but I did love Bob and I knew we would be living there, together, for a very long time.

But, I never really forgot about that soccer field in Maine; the feeling I had sitting there, surrounded by such beauty. And, after three houses and eleven years, we’ve finally found a field of our own.

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Recently, after posting (yet another) picture to Instagram of our backyard fire pit all aflame, a friend of mine commented, “Your photos of your home/yard/view make me so happy. You have found your perfect spot, and I love to see you enjoying it!”

Reading that made me feel better about posting dozens of pictures of sunrises, sunsets, mountains, fields and dilapidated stone walls. I felt others might be thinking I was laying it on a little thick. But, that’s exactly how it feels; like we have finally found our perfect spot. We love where we live.

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It has been seven months since our move and from the very first day of living out here, we’ve felt like we were home. The mountains and the farms and the horses and the open space speaks deeply to both Bob and I. We both feel an instant sense of relaxation when we are headed west and the Blue Ridge first come into view.

Bob grew up in the rolling hills and deep valleys just south of the Adirondack Mountains in New York so everything about living out here reminds him of home. I grew up in a 1980s Colonial off of a cul-de-sac in complete suburbia so I can’t quite pinpoint why I like it so much. My mom was raised on a farm so the only explanation is that a love for rural living must be coded somewhere deep in my DNA.

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And, lest I give the impression that we are pioneers tilling the soil for sustenance in the middle of nowhere, let me clarify that western Loudoun County is more like “Country Lite.” That’s what we call it anyway. We feel like we’re far away from it all but we’re still only 15 minutes from a grocery store that carries fancy cheese. Also, the ratio of wineries to people out this way is exceptional. This is probably more important to me than it should be. But, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a selling feature when we were house-hunting.

In fact, once we found our home, the most nerve-wracking part of our move was wondering how taxing Bob’s daily commute to the office would be. Turns out, it might actually be the most relaxing part of his day. He boards a super comfortable bus, sits for an hour in complete peace and quiet, then gets deposited at the front door of his building. Same goes for the way home. He’ll tell anyone that will listen all about the bus. He loves it. So, don’t cry for Bob, Argentina, is what I’m trying to say. In fact, I’m kind of jealous. I would love an hour of complete silence to begin and end my work day.

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After so many years of trying to make so many different living situations work, I am relieved to finally feel settled somewhere that is perfect for us. That after so many years, that box is at last checked off. Our home, this place, is an incredible blessing.

Also, fair warning that peak leaf season is upon us and I’m about to blow up Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with pictures of foliage and decorative gourds (don’t click on that link, Dad). Thanks, in advance, for tolerating the onslaught.

The Birthday Girl, Amelia Claire

Millie turned three years old on Sunday. Bob was in New York with Charlie so our celebration was rather low-key. In fact, when she asked about a party, I successfully convinced Millie that a trip to Lowes and Target WAS her party. She, apparently, hasn’t grown out of that toddler gullibility stage yet.

(An aside about birthday parties: we don’t throw them for our kids. We used to, when we only had one or two kids and I’m sure we will throw them again someday, but right now, I can barely stay on top of my house as it is so the thought of having a dozen kids throw my home into an even greater state of chaos, even if just for a few hours, makes me want to weep. But listen. We definitely make birthdays special around here. There are presents and cake and fun times. Plus, we do other amazing things with our children like how Bob regularly hikes with them on the Appalachian Trail. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t judge our worth as parents by the size of our birthday celebrations. WE’RE GOOD AT OTHER THINGS.)

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Millie at three is much like Millie at two: complete brightness and sunshine and hugs and inquisitiveness and passion for life punctuated by intense sobbing when she doesn’t get exactly what she wants. When anyone denies her wishes, she likes to stomp her foot, scream “LEAVE ME ALONE!” and slam her bedroom door on her way to pout. So, that’s charming.

Millie loves everything pink and purple and princessy. Which is what makes her outbursts extra funny. I just can’t take someone seriously when they’re yelling at me in complete royal court toddler garb right down to the bejeweled necklace, tulle skirt and little tiny plastic heels. Also, she pronounces, “tiara,” “tu-war-a.” Do not ever let me catch you correcting her.

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Millie’s penchant for destruction continues to surprise and impress Bob and I. What’s that verse about ‘idle hands are the devil’s playground?’ Something like that. In deep contrast to the boys, Millie has already discarded her daily nap in favor of forced “Quiet Time” in her room where she basically spends 90 minutes scanning the space for what she can dismantle or destroy or climb on or topple over. She’s colored each of the walls with a crayon, taught herself how to undo the child locks and open her windows, knocked over lamps (more than once) and torn books to shreds. It’s like Millie doesn’t even understand the concept of downtime. She only has two speeds: on or off.

She also loves “writing.” She carries a pen and small notebook almost everywhere she goes. She is always coloring something or taking notes on something or sitting down and completing her “homework” while the boys work on theirs. She has learned her letters and is working on learning how to write them. It’s cute to see her encourage and support Charlie as he reluctantly learns to write his letters for homework. Sometimes, it seems like she’s almost irritated that she doesn’t know how to read yet.

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Millie ADORES her brothers. Well, Henry mostly. They have a special relationship based almost entirely on Henry’s patience for his little sister. Their six-year age difference is bridged by a mutual love of Lego. It is absolutely delightful. Millie and Charlie’s relationship is a bit more tense with more arguing and tattle-telling. She is, by all accounts, the boss of both of them. Well, all of us really.

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Our mornings are quiet now that Charlie is in Kindergarten. Millie and I tend to each go to separate corners of the house. She likes to play with her brothers’ toys unencumbered by their protests and I am always catching up on laundry or dishes or the Internet and relishing the relative quiet. We’ve settled into a nice routine.

She is my absolute sidekick and our lives are so much richer for having this newly minted three-year-old in the house. (Even if we’re a little worried she might steal money from our wallets while we’re sleeping.) Happy birthday, Millie! Go easy on us in year four, okay?