Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

2018 Goals

Well, here we are again at the start of a new year.  2017 sure was a doozy, and while I am certainly hoping for better things for our country and the world in this coming year, it’s hard to be optimistic.  But from a personal perspective, I am optimistic.  I am hopeful for good things for me and for my family in 2018.  This is going to be a big year for us – Nugget will start preschool (sniff) and Peanut will be in kindergarten (double sniff!) and Steve and I will, I hope, continue to grow professionally, personally, and in our marriage.  I’m sure there will be travel, adventures closer to home, and lots of time with family and friends.  And for me individually, there are a few things I would like to do, and this year, I have found it helpful to break the goals into categories (as I sometimes do).


  • Another 12 Month Hiking Project.  There are still plenty of parks and trails around here to explore, and I want to experience them all.  In Buffalo, I ran out of fresh hikes to do and was only able to do this once.  Back in northern Virginia, we have a wealth of hiking opportunities – hurray!
  • Complete the 52 Hike Challenge!  An Instagram friend did this last year, and I found it completely inspiring, so I signed up for 2018.  I have no illusions that this is going to be an easy goal to achieve, but I will feel incredibly proud if I do finish the challenge.
  • Get into a workout routine that I can sustain with my current schedule and pace of life, and that makes room for all of the things that I enjoy most – running, yoga, barre3 and hiking.  I think I’m fairly close to figuring this one out, and I’d love to reap the benefits of it all year long.


  • Be a “yes mom.”  I’d like to be someone who mostly says yes to things and doesn’t say no without good reason.  I have to stand by my decisions either way and it’s nicer to go through life saying yes to the kids than saying no to them.  (Within reason, of course.)
  • Related: try to chill out overall.  I tend to be a high-stress person and I think that mostly, I am pretty good at not bringing stress home and taking it out on my family.  But I can always do better at this.  I’d like to end 2018 feeling like we created a lot of happy memories as a family, and not feeling like I was an anxious and cranky person all the time.
  • Go on dates!  In 2017 Steve and I started focusing on getting out for more date nights now that the kids are older (and our nanny told us she was looking for extra babysitting opportunities) and I want to keep that rolling.  We do miss the little rugrats when we are out and about without them, but having time for the two of us is important, too.


  • Pack my lunches.  I got out of the habit of packing lunches in Buffalo, and never quite got back in the habit in D.C.  Since it’s expensive to buy lunch, this is definitely something that I want to change as soon as possible.
  • Step away from the screen.  I am already pretty good at this – I don’t watch TV much – but I can get lost in Twitter and Facebook.  Instead of scrolling mindlessly, I’d like to use that time for reading, doing projects, moving, or being productive around the house.
  • Explore natural healing and wellness options.  There are some areas of my life (hydration, for instance) where I feel like I am on a roll, but in other areas, I need help.  I would love to find some natural remedies that could help me improve my digestive health and also my focus, attention, and calm.  I think these things are tied to one another, at least a little bit, and I’d like to delve into essential oils, supplements, movement and dietary changes so that I can feel my best, both emotionally and physically, this year.


  • Read fewer books.  Yes, you read that right!  In a normal year, I seem to clock in around 100 books no matter what I do – but this year, I want to read 52.  I’ll be happy to read more than that, of course, but I want to create some space for another goal…
  • Check off some of the classics on my TBR.  I have a lot of Trollope, Gaskell, Dickens and others on my shelves, and they are calling my name.  But I want to take it slow and give them the attention they deserve – plus they are long, and often written in a different style than the more modern books I can crush in a day – hence the goal to read fewer books.
  • Continue to make diverse reading a priority.  Diversity is something that is important to me and I find that my reading list is overwhelmingly white unless I pay it specific attention.  So for the past few years I have paid attention and exceeded my goal of 33% “diverse” authors (writers of color, LGBTQ+, underrepresented religious groups, etc.).  I’d like to continue paying attention and making the effort to seek out writers of color and LGBTQ+ authors in 2018, although I am not going to set a particular number or percentage goal this year.

One Word

What word should guide me through 2018?  This is a question that has been nagging at me since last November, and it took a long time to find something.  There are quite a few words that I’ve considered, but have really jumped out as the right word for this year.

Breathe.  Be.  Calm.  Focus.  Soft.  Thrive.  Attention.

I briefly considered the word “leap.”  I’ve been needing to make a change in an area of my life (more on this if it happens) and have struggled with taking control and setting the steps in motion to address a situation that is not quite working for me.  I took a big step forward and was met with a positive reception, which scared me – a very silly thing, since I’m not committed to anything yet, and getting a good reaction should not be a frightening thing.  The thought occurred to me that “I’m just going to have to leap,” and then I considered that leap might be a good word for 2018.  But on reflection, it doesn’t feel quite right, because I might not leap.  I might make a smaller change or no change at all.  I simply haven’t decided yet, and I am still giving myself space for consideration.

Anyway, with leap out of the question, I found I kept coming back to the same word.  I’ve been listening on repeat to a Forlorn Strangers song, “Down in the Trenches,” the chorus of which goes:

When the thunder’s rolling in
And your heart is feeling thin,
Shed off your old skin
And begin, and begin, and begin.

It’s funny.  Usually a word either strikes me like a bolt from the blue (see: home) or whispers gently in my ear that the moment is right (see: gather).  This time, neither of those things happened, and I was a bit at a loss, until I realized that the word begin was making a quiet drumbeat in the background of my days.  Waiting, maybe, for me to come around to it rather than the other way.

I have been hoping that 2018 would be a year of new beginnings.  Beginning habits that will carry me through to a better life; beginning new projects and seeking out new trailheads; beginning the post-baby phase of our parenting lives as a family with (relatively) older children; beginning new opportunities that will help me to grow professionally and personally and in my community.  I feel as though I am standing at about a dozen starting lines.  More than that, I am craving new beginnings, more so even than I do on a typical New Year’s.  In 2018, it’s more important to me than ever to slough off old habits and selves and to begin anew.

So – I think that’s it.  My word for 2018 will be begin.  It’s been elusive up to this point, so I’m a little more hesitant to adopt it than I am when a word chooses me.  But it feels like the right word for starting fresh, and for a year that I hope will bring a few changes and adjustments and some new things.

Have you chosen a word for 2018?  What are your goals for the year?


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2017 Resolutions Recap


Well, here we are at the end of another year.  2017 has not been an easy one – not from the global perspective, and not from the personal perspective either, actually.  Much of the year has felt like a long uphill slog, and I’m not entirely sure when I’ll get to the payoff – such is life with small children and a demanding job.  But I’m doing my best – at work, in parenting, and as a family member, I’m doing my best.  As I look back over the year that is ending, that is what stands out.


Major Goals

Get with the program.  At the beginning of the year, I expressed the opinion that success in all of the things that I have to juggle would depend on getting and staying organized.  I wanted to devote some significant thought to routines and to creating for myself a personal program that would help me keep up with everything I have to do.  That didn’t really happen – or at least, not quite to the extent I’d hoped for.  I still feel like I’m surviving, instead of thriving.  Such is life with small children.  But I am trying.

Make room for me.  I’m happy to report that, while I thought I was failing at this goal back in July, I have done a better job with this in the latter half of the year.  I joined a yoga studio and have been going to classes there a few times per week, and I finally checked out barre3 as I’d been wanting to do.  I’ve also been making a point to read while the kids play, instead of mindlessly scrolling my phone – far better that they should see me with a book in my hand (and of course, I put the book down to read to them or play with them).  It’s still hard for me to carve out time for myself while the kids are awake, but I’m working on it.  The older and more independent they get, of course, the easier it will be.


Get my confidence back.  Hasn’t really happened.  I did get back to my running shoes and ran a few races this year – a couple of 5Ks, a five-miler and a 10K, not bad – did a couple of Whole30s and got into the group fitness scene.  But I’m still not where I want to be.  I’d like to be more toned, feel stronger, and just have more confidence than I do.  This will be a continued focus in 2018.

Trust in abundance.  I have made a point of working on this, this year, and I think it’s going well.  This goal has meant both small and big actions on my part.  On the small side, I have been working on using up what I have – cooking through our pantry and using up bath and body products – because I want more breathing space in my home, and those things will always be available to me.  And of course, I have been using my library and gifting through my buy-nothing group.  More metaphysically, I have been trying to trust in the abundance all around me – the abundance of family love, of resources, and of time – all of which seem scarce sometimes.  Some days, I am good at this, and some days, not so much.

Revive the 12 Months’ Hiking Project.  With our December hike on the books, I can call this one – DONE!  This is an easy goal to commit to, and an easy goal to achieve, because Steve and I both love hiking so much that it takes no motivation at all to get us on the trails.  In fact, if we go too long between hikes, we both start to get antsy and need some outdoors time.  The only thing about this goal that can be a challenge is finding new places to hike each month.  (And that’s why I was only able to do this one year in Buffalo – I ran out of trails!)  This year, we managed a good combination of hikes close to home (like Riverbend Park), hikes a little farther afield (such as Shenandoah), and hikes in other states while traveling for vacation (Giant Mountain; Joshua Tree National Park).  We also didn’t only hike twelve times – there were plenty of days on the trail that I recapped for you here but didn’t include in my hiking project (either because I already had a hike for the month, or because it wasn’t a new-to-me trail and so didn’t count) and plenty of hikes that I didn’t blog at all.  We just love hiking and nature so much – they’ll always be part of our lives.

Things To Do This Year

  • Use my dSLR camera more (like, lots more). And along the same lines, improve my photography skills – particularly outdoor photography.  I did use my dSLR camera more, toting it along to the sunflower field and around California.  Would love to use it even more than that; it’s always a goal.

  • Plant another container garden with Peanut – and try not to kill it this time.  Done!  We planted our garden last spring and kept it alive(ish) until the first frost.  I’m nowhere near my friend Jenny, whose extensive garden is a thing of beauty, but I tried, I learned stuff, I had fun with the kids and I rarely bought herbs or cherry tomatoes all year.  A few of my heartier herbs are still going strong, and I’m going to try to keep them alive through the winter.
  • Hang a birdfeeder and start learning to identify our neighborhood birds. (Do we have neighborhood birds?)  We did hang the birdfeeder and are now the most popular hangout spot for the neighborhood birds.  It’s a lot of fun to watch them!  We get a lot of sparrows (I think?) and the occasional cardinal – as you can see, the learning to identify part is taking longer.  Googling “little brown birds northern Virginia” isn’t actually all that informative.
  • Get back to the yoga studio, and take up barre3.  I definitely did this, and I am so glad that I did.  Even if I did get attached to a particular yoga instructor, only to have her move to Africa (I swear it had nothing to do with me!).  I’m definitely in the habit of carving out a few mornings a week for yoga, and I’m working on getting there with barre3 – I did find a class I really like at a time I can go, so it’s just a matter of making myself do it, and it still seems to be the first thing that drops off the agenda on busy weeks.

  • Run a longer distance race (I’m already registered!).  The race I had in mind was the George Washington Parkway Classic (a 10-miler) and I didn’t end up running that.  But I did run the MCM 10K in October, and after several years of running only 5Ks, if that, I think a 10K is a good distance to aspire to.  And I ran a five-mile turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning, as well.  I think I’m finally starting to get my running legs back and I’m so happy.


  • Spend more time in Barsetshire (both Trollope’s version and Thirkell’s version).  Check and check!  I read Barchester Towers this year – the second in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire, and quite a fewThirkells.  I have more to read in 2018 and I’m looking forward to them with great anticipation.

  • Bag another ADK peak. (I’m thinking Giant of the Valley, but haven’t made up my mind…)  Giant it was!  Steve and I had such a great time on the mountain in July.  We both agreed that although it’s supposed to be a “more challenging” mountain (they’re all challenging) we both preferred Giant to Cascade.  We liked the trails better, and it was more scenic – especially the Giant’s Washbowl halfway up, and the better views on the way to the peak.
  • Clean out our basement until we aren’t storing anything except holiday decorations and furniture.  Well, this didn’t happen at all.  Maybe in 2018?

  • Read diversely again – at least 33% underrepresented voices.  I haven’t done my final tallies for this year, since we still have another week to go, so I can’t say for sure, but I expect to not only meet, but exceed this goal again this year.  Making the effort to read diversely has been really personally rewarding and I am hoping it’s also making me a better citizen of the world.
  • Incorporate memory-keeping into new areas of my home.  Well, I tried, although life is so busy that it’s hard to put much thought into a goal like this.  I added new memories to my Christmas tree, with ornaments I collected at the national parks we visited this year (although the ornament I bought at Channel Islands seems to have vanished – grrrrrr; it’ll turn up as soon as I take the tree down and pack away the decorations) and photo ornaments I made using pictures of the kids.  I also hung up my grandmother’s paintings, putting some in rooms that I wouldn’t normally consider for them (I have a big one in the kitchen).  Other things I wanted to do – a shell jar to display our collection; framing the kids’ Christening outfits – didn’t happen.

  • Travel. Someplace amazing. Maybe a few someplaces.  Done!  Didn’t get to travel as much as I’d have liked to, but that’s the case every year.  (I could travel eight months out of the year and still think it wasn’t enough.)  We made it up to the mountains over the Fourth of July; to California for a fabulous family vacation with my parents, brother and SIL, and aunt, uncle and cousin; to New York City to see Hamilton in October; and out to Little Washington with my parents for a quick getaway after Thanksgiving.  I haven’t turned my attention to 2018 travel yet, but I’m sure it will be another year of wonderful experiences.

One Word

I have to be honest, I completely forgot about my word in the second half of the year.  But it sure didn’t forget about me.  The word I chose – or, to be more accurate, the word that chose me – was gather.  At the beginning of my first year back home in D.C. after three long, cold, and lonely years away, I really wanted to be with people again.  Steve and I spent a lot of time feeling isolated and cut off when we lived in Buffalo – as my friend Zan has eloquently mused, it’s not easy to make friends there.  And so one of the main reasons we moved home was that our people are here.

In some ways, gather has worked out just as I had hoped it would.  There are two new baby boys in the world, and I’ve held them and rocked them and covered their sweet little man faces with auntie kisses.  I have hosted birthday parties with old friends, met former colleagues for lunches around town, and joyfully wandered zoo paths and trails with people as dear to me as family.

There have also been pleasant surprises that my word has brought to my life – surprises I should, perhaps, have anticipated – but I didn’t.  Peanut started a new school, which has meant new friends for me, and we’ve forged close bonds with a few families.  She has a talent for finding the kids with the coolest moms, and we’re having the best time as a result.  We’ve filled the past year with playdates – picking blueberries, riding carousels, jumping in bounce houses (just the kids!) and watching parades.  There’s so much more good to come – we’re planning to camp this coming summer with Peanut’s BFF, S, who has the coolest parents, and we have playdates in the works with new friends.  I’ve made friends at work and through my Buy Nothing group, and – it’s just surprising.  I moved home because I wanted to be with my old friends, and I didn’t realize how many new friends would be in my life in such a short time.  It’s been a 180 degree flip from Buffalo – where I was lonely and bored – to home again, with so many old and new friends that I almost feel over-social.

Another aspect of gather that I wanted was to gather my home around me and create a sanctuary, a safe space from the craziness of life outside.  I think that’s happened, too.  We’re unpacked – although the basement is still horrifying – and just living, for the first time in three years.  We’re not going anywhere; we’re not looking ahead to the next move.  There will be another move, at some point.  But I’m not thinking about it.  I’m not worried or anticipating it.  I’m just shoring up the borders of my current space, gathering the walls and setting my burden down a bit.  I know – that doesn’t make much sense.  It makes sense in my head, though, and that’s the best I can tell you.  I needed some time to sit and exhale and be, and this year has provided that.  We’re starting to look ahead to the end of our lease – it’s still more than a year and a half away, but time is flying – and I think we might renew, rather than jumping into the market again.  I just don’t feel ready.  I’ve gathered these borders around me and my family, and I’m not ready to drop them yet.

Gather was the right word for 2017.  It was the right word for the first full year back at home, back where we belonged and among the friends that love us and support us and want us near them.  I don’t have a word for 2018 yet.  It’s a big undertaking, choosing a word – or allowing myself to be chosen.  I have a few possibilities and I want to sit with them, but I expect that if I do end up with another word of the year, it will happen the way my previous words have happened – like home, hitting me like a bolt of lightening as I dodged icy puddles in a parking garage, or gather, touching my shoulder and saying here I am and this year you will feel loved again as I drove across the Potomac on my way to hold a friend’s baby boy.  Something will come again, I think.  Or it won’t, and that will be okay, too.

Did you make resolutions for 2017?  How’d they go?

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It’s 2018!

Happy New Year, my friends! I hope you all had a safe and festive night last night and maybe some mimosas this morning. This is just a quick wave hello for the new year, via my phone, from somewhere in New Jersey. We’re heading home from five days at my parents’ house in upstate New York, which we filled with family and friend visits and even some skiing in western Massachusetts. I’ll be back on Wednesday with my December reading round-up, so for now – toss one back for me!

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2017: A Year in Review

Well!  What a year it’s been.  Laying aside the state of the world – which is completely horrifying – for us personally, it wasn’t too bad.  Our first full year back at home in northern Virginia, and we packed it full of friends, family, and lots and lots of fun.  Highlights of the year included trips to California (for a dear friend’s wedding and a family reunion on my mom’s side) and Florida (for another dear friend’s wedding, in which Peanut and I both participated as Maid of Honor and flower girl, respectively), and our fabulous friends Zan and Paul’s return home to the D.C. area.  But beyond those top three things, there was so much joy and fun in every month.

In January… we spent a quiet month recovering from the holidays and chipping away at lots of chores and tasks around the house.  I shared my two-part reading retrospective for 2016 and spent a lot of time thinking about how to deal with the new national reality we found ourselves in after the Inauguration.  We did make it out to the zoo once, meeting up with my friend Carly and her family, and we hit the trails at Riverbend Park – Steve’s favorite Great Falls trail.

In February… there was some unseasonably warm weather – like, in the 70*s!  We felt a bit guilty about enjoying it (because: climate change) but we made the most of it, hopping from playground to playground and spending a beautiful sunny morning on the trail at Lake Accotink Park in Fairfax County.  Later in the month, we had to drive up north for a wedding.  It was a looooooooong and pretty painful drive, but we were able to squeeze in a visit to my parents, which brightened us up!

In March… we celebrated TWO YEARS of Nugget!  Seriously, how is he two?  (Actually, how is he almost three?  I’m about to start planning his third birthday party.  What is that about?)  Having a March baby is so much fun – before Nugget came along, March was my least favorite month of the year, because it always seemed so long and blah.  But now March is all about my sweet little boy and all the joy and fun he brings to our world.  In addition to celebrating our favorite small guy, we started our patio garden for the season, watched the restoration of the Apollo 11 command module out at Dulles, and explored the trails at the National Arboretum.

In April… we did All The Spring Things.  Our hike for the month was the Bluebell Trail at Bull Run Regional Park, and it was a magical fairyland of blue blooms to which my camera did no justice at all.  We also visited the baby animals at Mount Vernon, where the gardens were a riot of color, and we spent a morning out in Haymarket, gathering up armloads of the brightest tulips ever at Burnside Farms.  Spring has always been my fourth favorite season, because it’s bleak and cold in New York, and my allergies run wild in Virginia.  But in 2017, for some reason, my allergies really weren’t bad (even though the pollen was as prevalent as ever) and I was able to enjoy the season for the first time ever.  I can see why people love it.

In May… we kept up the spring fun.  Almost every Saturday morning found us walking to the farmers’ market and coming home with a big bouquet of fresh flowers from my favorite vendor, who always presents Peanut with a rose and often tells me to grab another bouquet for free (love him).  We could feel summer’s approach in gradually hotter temperatures, and we cooled off on the trails.  On Mother’s Day I requested a hike at Mason Neck State Park, which was gorgeous and wonderful, and I mused about raising kids on the hiking trail.  We spent our weekends bouncing between the waterfront and the garden center.  Peanut and I marveled at the green sprouts shooting up in our little patio garden, and I had a painful incident with some cayenne pepper in an attempt to repulse squirrels right before I left for an overnight business trip to Philadelphia.  Whoops.  We finished the month with a Memorial Day weekend packed end-to-end with fun – including a visit to a lavender farm and exploring Jones Point Park for the first time.

In June… summer began in earnest.  The big event of the month was a weekend visit to my best friend, Rebecca, in Virginia Beach; we also squeezed in our June hike that same weekend – just under the wire – at First Landing State Park.  Those visits to the beach are moments of true peace.  Peanut enjoyed playing mermaids with Aunt Rebecca (who loves merfolk as much as her niecelette does), and Nugget had a blast driving the golf cart, cheering Uncle Eric in the tuna fishing competition, and wandering around with his hand buried in his belly button all weekend (what a weirdo).  My other travel for the month was a business trip to Chicago (for an all-hands meeting of my practice group at our firm’s headquarters), but I squeezed in a little fun while I was there, in the form of a sightseeing run around Chicago’s biggest tourist attractions.  We spent Father’s Day enjoying a recent discovery – the splash pad – and put in some quality time at the neighborhood pool, which opened mid-month.  And I celebrated the beginning of summer in the best way I know – by talking about BOOKS.

In July… we basically lived outside.  We started off strong with a Fourth of July visit to my parents in Albany, which was everything a weekend should be.  We enjoyed a cookout with some of our dearest friends, a hike at Grafton Lakes State Park with Christine, two days of fun at the lake (kayaking, sailing, blowing bubbles, pretending to fish, and splashing in the baby pool) and – to top it all off, quite literally – a climb up our third Adirondack high peak, Giant Mountain.  Back home in D.C., we still didn’t go inside, like, at all.  We continued to tend our garden and splash at the pool and splash pad; spent a morning picking blueberries with Peanut’s friend C and her mom; and cruised the mighty Potomac in kayaks.  July was everything I love about summer – long, hot days, starry nights, and a life lived out-of-doors.

In August… our adventures took us clear across the country!  We packed up the little ones and jetted off to California for the wedding of a dear friend in Huntington Beach, followed by a family reunion two hours up the coast in Santa Barbara.  It was an epic trip – one for the ages.  We hiked in Joshua Tree National Park, Channel Islands National Park, and Carpinteria Nature Preserve; kayaked the sea caves at Channel Islands National Park; and enjoyed an incredible day out whale-watching with my parents.  We also celebrated twelve years of marriage, five years of Peanut, and one year back home in northern Virginia.  We bid goodbye to August, and hello to September, from the sunflower fields at Burnside Farms.  A busy month, indeed.

In September… we turned our attention to fall and fall things.  Peanut headed back to school, and Nugget to another year with his nanny (we adore her, and are already breaking out in cold sweats about his leaving her and starting preschool next year).  We dove right into fall fun at the apple orchard, hiked at Piscataway Park, and continued to tend our garden all through September.  The best part of the month was the last weekend, when we headed down to Florida for a wedding on the beach!  My best friend, Rebecca, married her longtime love in a beautiful sunset ceremony, and Peanut and I were proud to be by her side as flower girl and Maid (not Matron!) of Honor, respectively.

In October… we were in The Room Where It Happens!  My mom flew down to D.C. for a weekend so that Steve and I could slip away for one night to see Hamilton on Broadway!  The show was every bit as spectacular as you’d think – more, even – and we also squeezed in visits to the NYPL and Morgan Library, and a night at the Library Hotel.  Lucky us!  It was a Hamilton-heavy month for us, because Peanut and Nugget dressed as Eliza and Alexander Hamilton for Halloween – and most of the rest of our weekends were devoted to carting our miniature Treasury Secretary and his Mrs. around to various children’s Halloween parties.  We also trick-or-treated – and Peanut visited her first haunted house, hosted by our Senator, Mark Warner – and picked pumpkins out in Loudoun County.  I celebrated my birthday on the trails at Sky Meadows, and we hosted my parents and friends for a flying weekend visit that included a swing by the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (of course!) and wine touring.  October, you were good to us.

In November… we ended up on top of a mountain!  My parents came down for Thanksgiving, and after spending a cozy day at home on the day itself, and decorating our Christmas tree on the Friday after, we all headed out for a weekend in Little Washington.  The main purpose of the weekend was for Steve and me to use a gift certificate to the Inn at Little Washington that his sweet and generous mom had given us the previous Christmas – we did, and it was one of the most fabulous meals we’d ever tasted.  The next day, we worked it off with a climb up Stony Man Mountain in Shenandoah National Park, and drank in the views from on top of the world.  We also celebrated Steve’s 40th birthday with a trip to the Kennedy Center to see The Book of Mormon, and I participated in Naomi and Sarah‘s readalong of The Blue Castle, musing on the power of names in LMM’s work.

In December… we have been feeling festive!  We started the season with the Scottish Walk – Old Town’s answer to the Christmas parade – a trip out to Little Washington for the annual Christmas parade there, and a snowy walk around Old Town after we got a surprise dusting.  We did lots of Advent reading, Peanut made her first visit to the Kennedy Center to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and we celebrated Christmas by watching the big guy in red fly down the Potomac on waterskis, then opening presents the following morning – Santa was good to those little rugrats.  And now we are warm and cozy, getting ready to ring in the new year with our family around us, and feeling grateful for the blessings of friendship and love that we enjoy every day.

Happy New Year, friends!  I hope you’re ringing it in somewhere fabulous, and I wish you a happy, healthy and joyful 2018!

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It’s Christmas!

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king:
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A child, a child, shivers in the cold,
Let us bring him silver and gold.
Let us bring him silver and gold.

If you’re celebrating today, have a warm and wonderful Christmas!  And on Earth, peace.

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A Day in the Life: November, 2017

It’s been a long time – years, maybe? – since I’ve done a day-in-the-life style post.  I can’t even remember the last time, to be honest.  But now seems as good a time as any, and as luck would have it, #OneDayHH 2017 just took place.  So what better day to feature?  (For those not familiar, #OneDayHH is an annual social media event, hosted by Laura Tremaine of The Hollywood Housewife, in which participants are challenged to capture and share snapshots of an entire day’s activities.  It’s always in early November, and always on a weekday, because the idea is to encourage people to look for the little moments that are worth preserving in their everyday lives – not just the big events or particularly photogenic shots.)

Anyway, #OneDayHH took place on November 9 this year – a regular Thursday for me.  Here’s what I was up to.

6:20 a.m. Nugget is up and therefore so am I.  It’s a workout off day, so I try to maximize my sleep, since it has been so crummy lately, thanks to a bad cold going around the house (anytime anyone has a cold, it means less sleep for Mom).  I didn’t set my alarm, so I just wake up whenever my human alarm clock goes off, which is 6:20 today.  I get him out of his crib, change his diaper and let him play for a few minutes while I get ready for my day, until Peanut gets up and we go downstairs.  I set them up at the kitchen table with their breakfast and “Doc McStuffins” on the iPad, then make Nugget’s lunch.  He is getting soup, green beans, cheese, a blueberry breakfast bar, and homemade plum applesauce, plus a yogurt for his “second breakfast” once he gets to the nanny share.

7:15-7:30 a.m.  Back upstairs and it’s time for Nugget to get dressed for the day, which he does not want to do.  Peanut is already dressed and ready to go – as is the rest of the family.  I chase the lone holdout around his room until I finally catch him and wrestle him into sweatpants and a cozy long-sleeved t-shirt.  Then we’re all out the door together.

7:45 a.m.  Steve, Peanut and Nugget drop me off at the Metro station – I’m the first stop in the morning circuit.  They head onward to Peanut’s school and then Nugget’s nanny, and then Steve will go back home to work (he works remotely from home).  Meanwhile, I wait on the platform for my train into D.C.

8:15 a.m.  I’m off the Metro and back above-ground at Gallery Place.  Normally I would go straight to work, but I need to make a stop first.  In the hustle of getting everyone ready this morning, I forgot to eat.  So I head for Bakers & Baristas, the neighborhood indie coffee shop, to grab a quick breakfast to bring to my desk.

8:20 a.m.  In line at Bakers & Baristas.  I order a London Fog (half vanilla steamer, half Earl Grey) and a pastry to take to my desk.

8:25 a.m.  Tea in hand, walking to the office past a row of Capitol Bikeshare bikes.

Still 8:25 a.m.  On my other side, the National Portrait Gallery is looking lovely under the grey morning sky.

8:30-11:45 a.m.  I’m at my desk.  This is my favorite corner, which I decorated with some of my favorite pictures and mementos – Instagram prints, birthday party invitations, and Adirondack 46 mountain patches from the peaks I’ve bagged.  I can’t show you the rest of my desk, as it is (neatly) piled with confidential client documents.  Anyway!  I fire up my computer, read news alerts and emails, and then look over the pleadings in a case that I’ve just been pulled into – getting up to speed on the issues so I have a better sense of what documents are going to be relevant.  Three hours go by in a flash.

11:45 a.m.  I am starting to get a headache (something is going on with the generator, and it’s making our whole hallway smell electric).  I decide a pick-me-up is in order, and use my favorite teapot to brew some “Earl on the Beach,” a loose tea my BFF, Rebecca, sent me from her local tea shop in Virginia Beach.  (Later, I will be dismayed to discover that the brand-new replacement basket I ordered for my tea leaves has a hole in the mesh.  Grrrr!)  Back to my desk, and my reading.

12:30 p.m.  Lunchtime.  Normally I would walk outside to either pick up lunch or just get some fresh air, but today we have a CLE (that’s “Continuing Legal Education,” for my non-lawyer friends) program scheduled – and lunch is provided.  I eat a cheese and veggie wrap while listening to a presentation on best practices for crafting and managing litigation holds.  In my day-to-day world, this is very important and high stakes stuff – mistakes can be very costly, and we are extremely serious about getting it right.  I found the presentation really informative and interesting – good use of my lunch hour!

1:30-2:15 p.m.  I work on some administrative tasks that are not a lot of fun, but have to be done.  My headache is coming back, so I decide it’s time for some fresh air.

2:15-2:45 p.m.  I feel my headache coming back, and I think fresh air would help, so I decide to walk to the courthouse – might as well make productive use of the time – and pick up a form I need for the Virginia Bar.  (I am licensed to practice law in New York and Washington, D.C., but am in the process of applying for a license to practice in Virginia, too.  Virginia requires a huge stack of forms and documents, so I’ve been on a bit of a scavenger hunt to gather everything I need.)  When I get to the courthouse, I put my bag down to be scanned, and tell the security guard, “I’m here for a–” and before I can finish, she interrupts me: “Certificate of Good Standing?”  I laugh and ask how she guessed, and she said, “You were just too poised when you walked in here.  Usually people look nervous.  I though, either she’s here for Good Standing or she’s filing something.”  Ha!

I walk through the metal detector and down to the Attorney Admissions Office, where there is no line – so I am out the door, my Certificate of Good Standing in hand, in less than five minutes.  (For my non-lawyer friends, a Certificate of Good Standing is a piece of paper from the powers-that-be in a jurisdiction, saying that my license to practice law in that jurisdiction is active and current – meaning I haven’t been suspended from the Bar or gotten behind on my dues.  I need them for both of my states in order to submit to the Virginia Bar.  For New York, I have to write a letter and get the Certificate mailed to me, but for D.C. I have the luxury of just walking down the street.)  On my way out the door and back to my office, I look around at the courtyard, which has been improved since I was last here a few months ago.  I particularly like the quote: “All citizens are equal before the law.”  I think of Tuesday’s election results in Virginia and smile.

2:45 p.m.  I am back in my office, and I have a text from our sweet nanny.  Every day, she sends me the pictures she snaps of Nugget and I save them to my camera roll (one reason my phone storage is shot).  Seeing his little face always brightens my day.  Today she sends a bunch of pictures of Nugget with the other kid in the nanny share – they’re such good friends!  So cute.  I spend the rest of the afternoon working on my Virginia Bar application, including making a 30+ minute call to Virginia Bar IT Support.  Oof.  (They’re very helpful, and it turns out I alerted them to a problem with a hyperlink that could have impacted 500 people, so I guess that’s my good deed for the day!)  I spend most of the time drafting answers to the Character & Fitness questionnaire, update my scavenger hunt spreadsheet (where I am tracking the status of all of the documents I have requested) and chat with a partner who stops by my office just to say hello (so nice).

5:15 p.m.  I save and close my Virginia Bar application and head home.  I am not loving how dark it is, but I do like the pretty twinkle lights that the vendors have strung up in the Thursday afternoon farmers’ market that I walk through on my way to the Metro.  I always think I should stop and buy something, but I am always in a hurry to get home – today is no exception.

5:50 p.m.  I’m home!  Peanut and Nugget are finishing their dinner in the kitchen.  Every day when I walk into the house, they scream with joy – it’s the best way to be greeted, EVER.  Today, after they finish shrieking their happiness, Peanut goes back to the lolly she was working on, and Nugget asks for “uppy!”  Of course, at that moment, I get a work email that needs an immediate response, so I jump back on the computer and quickly take care of it.

6:25 p.m.  I take both kids upstairs to get ready for baths.  Peanut plays contentedly in her room, but Nugget – the Pisces – has to be involved in any activity that includes water.  Somehow, I manage to get the bath prepared.  He almost falls in (fully clothed) three times, but this is not my first rodeo, and my bathtub-dive-rescue instincts are sharply honed.  I bathe both of the kids while Steve is downstairs taking care of his own urgent work email.

7:10 p.m.  Both kids are clean and cuddled up in their coziest jammies (our upstairs Thermostat was on the blink yesterday, and it got kind of cold overnight – Steve fixed it, but I still wanted the added insurance of fleece pajamas).  It’s time to start winding down, but Nugget is in hardcore bedtime-avoidance mode – running around, wearing Peanut’s hat, and playing “picnic.”  Eventually I get both the hat and the basket away from him.  He’s not very happy about it.

7:25 p.m.  Ready to read!  Nugget chooses “A-B-C-3PO” for a bedtime story.  Usually, we do two or three – or sometimes more – but he did so much stalling that we only have time for one story tonight.  Fortunately, “A-B-C-3PO” is a long one.

7:35 p.m.  See?  Still reading.  It’s a really funny book that we all enjoy.  My favorite parts are the breaks I get every few pages, because whenever Darth Vader appears (quite frequently, as it happens) Nugget must sing the Imperial Death March, shout “Luke, I am your father!” and profess his undying love for the Sith.  After we finish the story, I tuck him in and Steve sings to him while Peanut and I start reading in her room.  We are reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins – a chapter every night – and after we finish our chapter for the evening, she gets to pick out a picture book.  Tonight, it’s “The Princess and the Pea.”

8:00 p.m.  Both kids are in bed, and I am downstairs and STARVING.  I heat up a bowl of homemade vegetable soup with pinto beans, and stir in plain yogurt for extra protein and creaminess.  Meanwhile, Steve shows me the treat he bought for us to enjoy after dinner.  Yum!  He sits at the table while I eat my dinner and we talk about our days.

8:35 p.m.  Couch time!  I cuddle up under my favorite blanket to finish The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou.  I’m almost done, so I wrap it up after only a few more minutes of reading, then turn to Jane Gardam’s The Flight of the Maidens, which is out of renewals at the library.  About an hour and a half of reading and sipping the stout we are sharing, and then it’s time to turn in – I have early morning yoga tomorrow.

10:00 p.m.  Lights out!  All too soon, my alarm will be ringing and it’ll be time to get up and do it all again.


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Summer Spaces

Hello, August!  (Well, it’s been a little over a week, but…)  The other day, an Instagram post popped up in my feed with the caption “August is the Sunday of summer.”  In some ways, here in Virginia, it’s more like the Saturday evening – we’ve got another few months of warm weather and long days (which is just fine by me).  But there’s no denying that August is the last month of high summer.  Back-to-school is only a few weeks away now – and we’re on the later side; we go back after Labor Day.  We’ve still got plenty of summer fun, including our big vacation for the year, ahead of us.  Still, I’m also finding myself nostalgic, looking around me and trying desperately to remember the little things about this season that will escape me, that may be different next year.  (At the very least, the little water shoes and sandals will be another size or two bigger, even if everything else stays the same.)  And because this blog is at least partly about capturing the small things that are mattering to me right now, here are the places that have meant “summer” to me this season.

This back step is where so much of the business of summer happens.  Beach towels and water shoes dry on the mat out here every weekend.  I snapped this picture earlier this summer; all three pairs of water shoes – the kids and mine – are considerably more faded now.  And the back step is covered with a film of sunscreen, since I like to use my Pacifica spray out here on the way to the pool.

Reach out a hand from this spot, and you’ll open the back door.  Just inside is another of my summer spaces.  I call it “the command center.”  It’s actually a key rack, but it’s become the gathering place for all of our summer essentials.  The basket holds three bottles of sunscreen – my Pacifica, mentioned above; Steve’s Coppertone Sport (no chemicals for me, please!); and the kids’ Babyganics.  Hanging from the basket is a little row of hooks where – in addition to our keys – we collect hats (Peanut’s floppy white sun hat, Nugget’s navy bucket hat, and my blue baseball cap), sunglasses (there is always at least one pair of Wayfarers) and Peanut’s camp tote bag, stuffed with beach towel, bathing suit, tie-dye shirt, sunscreen and pine needles.

More often than not, when we head out that back door, lathered up with sunscreen, we’re headed for the neighborhood community pool.  We can walk here, and I cherish our evening strolls to the pool – Steve hand-in-hand with Peanut, me with Nugget.  We have to stop to smell all of the neighbors’ flowers (it’s Black-Eyed Susan season!) but we get here eventually.  The baby pool is the preferred splashing spot.  Peanut has learned all kinds of water skills at camp, and she loves to be independent in the water.  When did she get so big and grown-up?

The pool is only open in the afternoons, so for morning water fun we’ve been loading up the car and driving about fifteen minutes away to our local splash pad.  Splash pads are hugely popular in the D.C. area, and we have found one that we love.  We’ve been here nearly every weekend since it opened.

With the splash pad discovery came the discovery of a new playground.  Of course, the kids love our neighborhood playground most – but the nature and pirate themed playgrounds next to the splash pad have been big hits.  Sea monsters were just made for climbing on, right?

Another summer favorite – we’ve recently discovered Fletcher’s Cove, which is the perfect boating launch point for our family of kayak enthusiasts.  More to come on this soon, but we’ve driven into D.C. twice now, duffers in tow, for serene mornings paddling the Potomac.  Fletcher’s is already becoming one of “our places” – and I look forward to many more summers watching my little paddlers grow into their boating skills.

Further afield, this summer wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Eric in Virginia Beach.  They’re moving soon, so I don’t know if Virginia Beach will be part of the fabric of our summers after they depart for sunny Florida.  But this summer, and last summer – it was.

Of course, at the end of the day, there’s no place like home – right?  I’ve spent quite a few afternoons and evenings relaxing under my big market umbrella, watching the kids dig in their sandbox and the bees buzz around my mint plant.  Living in an area where the summer season is so long, we’ve been able to use our patio as an outdoor living room – and plenty of living has happened on these bricks.

What are your summer spaces this year?

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