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.

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Countdown

We’re in the home stretch of summer around here. I ceased being able to form a cogent sentence sometime around August 9.

This summer has been different in many ways from the ones that came before it. Most notably, because Bob has had very little time off from work. We usually pack our summers with trips to the Midwest and trips to the Northeast but this summer, with vacation time devoured by stroke recovery, we’ve had to stick close to home or face traveling without Bob.

(As an aside, can I just complain about health insurance for a minute? We have excellent health insurance that I adore, HOWEVER, we keep getting random bills from the hospital, piecemeal-style, invoicing us line item by line item for instruments and equipment used during Bob’s cardiac procedure. It’s a lot of money, sure, but that’s not my big issue. My issue is that if we’re paying $1,400 for ONE piece of equipment, I’d kind of like to take it home with us, right? I mean, in any other part of our lives, $1,400 would buy us something tangible. Not something that gets discarded in the operating theatre. What if it’s something really cool? Like a tiny little camera on one of those catheters? We could GoPro that sucker in a hundred different applications. Sure, his repaired heart is the big takeaway here but wouldn’t it be amazing if, upon discharge, we got a little to-go bag of all of the items we’ve actually paid real dollars for? Just a thought, medical establishment.)

So, anyway, back to my point. I don’t begrudge any of our situation this summer since Bob’s recovery has gone so well and, as a single-income household, his return to work was so speedy. It’s just meant I’ve had some SUPER concentrated time with the kids for many, many, many days that are endless. The endless days. That are endless.

This summer has been long and different but not necessarily in a bad way because, thanks to some unusually mild weather, the kids have spent most of it out of doors. It has delighted me to no end to see our three children relishing in their new surroundings; Henry on his bike, Charlie on his Gator, Millie on her scooter. This has officially been The Summer of Fresh Air. The kids have had fun. Of that, I’m certain.

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Adult-sized hand-me-down snowmobile helmet? Check. Hand-me-down too-small farm boots? Check. Nerf gun? Check. Shirt on backwards? Check. Neighborhood safe? Check. Check. Check.

Despite our rough summer start, we’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit! We’ve read a ton of books, learned how to tie our shoes, built some quality indoor forts, cooked in the kitchen, spent time with lots of family and friends, discovered new playgrounds, colored more artwork than I have walls to hang it on, avoided napping most days, watched WAY too much television, battled a stomach bug that threatened to take us all down and, most importantly, enjoyed the view.

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Henry looks contemplative here but he’s probably just contemplating whether or not he can recreate this scene out of Lego bricks.

However, do not be mistaken, I will still load two of my three children on to a school bus exactly two weeks from today and DELIGHT in the relative peace and quiet of our home every morning. For a few hours each day, there will be no arguing over Lego pieces, no complaining about lunch selections, no declarations of boredom. If Millie wants to fight with someone, she’ll have to fight with herself. (Which, I’m sure she’ll find a way to actually do.)

Fall better be filled with more naps from this one.

September better be filled with more naps from this one.

Bob and I have talked about working in a family trip later this fall as a kind of do-over for our botched summer plans. A way to recapture some of the time away together that we didn’t have over the past three months. It sounds like fun but, we’ll see. I’m not so sure this summer was botched after all.

Packing Light

I’m in Kentucky with the kids for a week-long visit with my parents. We had to leave Bob behind this trip and since this was the first time I have made the drive to Louisville from our new house, I was worried it would be treacherous on my own with three young children. However, a strategic early departure, some well-timed movies on the Kindle and a couple of naps worked in our favor and we made the trek in nine hours.

I’ve kept a page in my planner for several years titled, “Packing Checklist.” Overwhelmed with the task of traveling with a young baby Henry, I can remember making a detailed list of everything I would need to shove into our Subaru to ensure we forgot nothing. Because when you’re a first time parent and it’s 1:30 in the morning and you’re trying to get a six-month-old to sleep in a pack and play in a Hampton Inn 500 miles from home, YOU BETTER HAVE ENOUGH PACIFIERS!

Every trip our family has taken since, I have run down that list prior to departure, checking items off as they get packed.

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And, every trip since, that list has shrunk a little bit as I erase items that Millie, our youngest, no longer needs.

It started when we were done with bottles for good. No more bottles, bottle liners, formula and burp rags. Soon, Millie outgrew baby food so we could shed all of the baby food jars, baby-specific snacks, special spoons, bibs and booster seat. Once two of our three children were fully potty-trained, the quantity of diapers packed decreased by 1,000 percent. (Incredibly, I can remember one trip where I packed about six different types of diapers between regular diapers, pull-ups, swim diapers and nighttime diapers all in various sizes.) Over time, we’ve stopped needing special baby shampoo or toddler toothpaste and Millie has made the bridge from infant medications to the standard children’s variety so all of the kid toiletries have decreased dramatically, too.

This trip, the pack and play got removed from the list. Millie sleeps in a regular bed now, just like a grown human and everything! She still has a favorite blanket and stuffed animal but I no longer need to remember the portable bed, the sheet for the portable bed, the blankets that provide a better cushion for the portable bed, and on and on.

It struck me, as I prepared for our journey to Kentucky this week, that the list now has a fraction of the number of items it used to have. I am amazed that I am only one potty-trained kid away from no longer needing a diaper bag when we go just about anywhere. I feel like I’ve been waiting for things to get easier forever and very slowly, one item at a time, everything has just gotten so much easier. This is kind of blowing my mind.

I look forward to the road trip we’ll take one day, not too far off in the future now, when I can throw three backpacks at my three kids and tell them to pack themselves. Can you even imagine?