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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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One Year

As of a few days ago, we’ve been back in D.C. for one year now.  In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been a year.  In other ways, it feels as if we’d never left.  I expected this.

In some ways, it’s strange to be back.  We don’t fit into the life we left behind here.  There are new people living in our house (our beautiful house!) and after the first time driving through my old neighborhood, I have not been able to bring myself to go back there – although we have been back to Mount Vernon many times, and to the garden center near our old place.  There are new babies that weren’t here when we left – which is a joyful change! – and new friends that we’ve met through Peanut’s school.

We’re different, too.  While we were away, our family grew by one person.  When we left, Peanut was just a little baby; now we’re home with a big kid and a toddler, and it’s a whole different experience, living here with little ones.  It’s almost as if we are learning the city again, finding the activities and experiences that we can do with them.  I hope they know how lucky they are to be growing up in the nation’s capital.

As the one-year mark ticks past, we’re content.  It hasn’t been a perfect year – there’ve been bumps, and stressful days, and some tough moments.  But neither Steve nor I have ever regretted the decision to come home.  And it’s nice to finally exhale.  We have a multiple-year lease on our townhouse, so we will be here at least two more years – if not longer – before the moving boxes come out again.  It’s nice not to be planning a move, to have some breathing room and a chance to really think about what we want, instead of buying in a hurry and then regretting it.  And it’s wonderful to be able to relax and know that we will be here for a little while, and that when we do leave this place, it will be for a local move.  No more leaving – this is home.

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I can’t believe that 2017 is (more than) halfway over.  It’s certainly been an eventful year in the world – overwhelming, actually.  When I travel out of town, people invariably ask me, “What’s it like in D.C. right now?”  I usually reply that it’s exhausting.  Honestly, we’ve become so on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop, that I think most of the city is just burnt out.  On a more personal note, I’m feeling burnt out, as well, from the daily grind of parenting and lawyering, day in and day out.  I’ve been coping with the first half of 2017 the way I cope with everything else in life – by diving into comfort reads wherever possible, and hitting the trails on weekends.  What I have not been doing is focusing much attention on the goals I set at the beginning of the year.

Get with the program.  At the beginning of the year, I told you all my intention to get and stay super-organized.  I do think that the more I have a handle on the routines of daily living, the easier daily living will be.  The problem is that getting a handle on those routines initially requires a process of trial and error, and I think I’m still in that process.  We made a financial decision that will have the ancillary effect of making my mornings a bit easier (while saving us money – yay!) and some other unexpected but welcomed shakeups are already providing some relief.  But I have a lot more work to do on this, if only I could find the time and energy to do that work.

Make room for me.  I’m sorry to report that I’m pretty much failing at this one.  Other than evenings with a book (when I don’t have to work) and the occasional sneak-off-for-a-workout-during-nap, I’m still so overwhelmed with my responsibilities as a parent and an attorney that I don’t know which end is up most of the time.  My main complaint is not having enough time to work out.  I am not good at “putting Mom first” even though I know that I can take better care of my family (and my clients, for that matter) when I take care of me.  The things that don’t take much time – like drinking lots of water – I am baller at.  The other stuff is still falling by the wayside.

Get my confidence back.  Another one that – tied to the above – is not going super-great.  I do a decent job of eating healthfully (most of the time) but workouts just seem impossible to schedule.  I know all of the conventional wisdom – you have to exercise for you; put it on the schedule and treat it like any other important meeting – blah blah.  It’s just not as easy as those platitudes make it sound.

Trust in abundance.  I think I am actually doing a decent job of this!  I’ve been consistently donating things all year long – whether to Goodwill, or by passing baby hand-me-downs along to friends – and every time I open up a little more space in my home, it feels even better.  I’m also making an effort to use up the stuff that I have rather than “saving” it until it goes bad.  We’re drinking our nice California wine instead of continuing to store it in boxes and never even look at the bottles.  I’m working on cooking through the pantry and fridge more consistently (this is a process).  And I’m weirdly most proud of the fact that I’ve gathered up all of my bath and body products in one spot in the bathroom – right down to hotel toiletries that I’ve snagged on trips – and am diligently using them up before I buy anything new for myself.  There might be a more metaphysical component to this goal that I’ll think about in the second half of the year, but for now I’m pretty much focused on minimizing clutter and saving my pennies.

Revive the 12 Months’ Hiking Project.  This goal was my gift to myself – an easy goal to achieve, because I love hiking and I love exploring new trails.  June was actually a bit of a challenge; it was such a busy month that I squeaked in just under the wire.  But we never let a month go by without hiking at least once, and our kids are growing up on the trails.  I’m even more excited that this is a project I’ll be able to keep going for quite some time, since the DC/MD/VA area is rich with hiking opportunities.

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.  This hasn’t happened – still relying on my iPhone for almost all of my pictures.  I’m determined to dust off the dSLR before our big summer vacation, though.

  • Plant another container garden with Peanut – and try not to kill it this time.  In progress – and things are actually growing!  This surprises me daily.  We’re definitely learning some good lessons this year, but we’ve eaten six little red tomatoes and four green beans, which already makes this the biggest success we’ve ever had.
  • Hang a birdfeeder and start learning to identify our neighborhood birds.  (Do we have neighborhood birds?)  In progress!  Bird feeder is up and the birds have finally discovered it after a few weeks of ignoring it.  I haven’t gotten any good pictures yet, but I hope that soon we will start identifying the birds as they come to the feeder.
  • Get back to the yoga studio, and take up barre3.
  • Run a longer distance race (I’m already registered!).  I was planning to run the GW Parkway Classic in April, but I ended up not running.  I just wasn’t properly trained for it.  Something this fall might be possible, but I think it’s more likely that I will just be a 5K and 10K runner until Nugget is a little bigger.

 

  • Spend more time in Barsetshire (both Trollope’s version and Thirkell’s version).  Check and check!  I’ve read several more Thirkells, and finally made time for Barchester Towers, all of which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  I wish Barsetshire was real…
  • Bag another ADK peak.  (I’m thinking Giant of the Valley, but haven’t made up my mind…)  Stay tuned…
  • Clean out our basement until we aren’t storing anything except holiday decorations and furniture.  I was hoping this would be a winter project, but it took so long to get the living areas of the house habitable (and they have an annoying habit of not staying that way…) that it hasn’t happened yet.  Soon, I hope.  I can’t wait to get some stuff out of the basement and have more space to move around in there.  It would be so nice to have a pleasant path to the laundry machines and even – dare I hope – a little workout corner.

  • Read diversely again – at least 33% underrepresented voices.  I am trying, although I’ve fallen off the wagon a little bit (with all of the stress lately – personal and political – I’m craving mid-century British middlebrow more than anything else, and that’s not a particularly diverse area of fiction).  I’ve read some really wonderful books by authors of color this year, and hope to add plenty more before the year is done.
  • Incorporate memory-keeping into new areas of my home.  Working on this.  I love being surrounded by stuff that means something to me (the flip side of minimizing – the stuff you keep has real emotional value) and over the course of the year I’ve added a handmade pillow with Outer Banks landmarks, as well as a little candle screen in the shape of Mount Vernon – both places that have great personal meaning for me.  What I have not done is print and swap out family photos, so that’s next on the agenda.
  • Travel.  Someplace amazing.  Maybe a few someplaces.  I’m just returned from back-to-back weekend getaways (first to Virginia Beach, and then to upstate New York and the Adirondacks for an extended Fourth of July visit).  Both trips were wonderful and refreshing!  Now we’re on to a stretch of quite a few weeks and weekends spent at home, which is fine by me, before our big trip later in the summer.

One Little Word

Just a few little words about my word for the year, gather.  At the beginning of the year, I didn’t know what it was going to mean, but it seemed fitting for a full year spent back in the place where so many of our friends live.  And it’s been wonderful so far.  In the spirit of gathering together with family and friends we love, we have:

  • Had a zoo playdate with my dear friend Carly and her family.
  • Hosted a raucous party for Nugget’s second birthday.  (There were seven kids there, including Nugget and Peanut, and it was chaotic and delightful.)
  • Met up with a new school friend of Peanut’s for many playdates, including excursions to parks and paint-your-own studios, and a Moana-viewing brunch party in my living room.
  • Sent Peanut off to multiple birthday parties and a “just because” movie night at a friend’s house.  She has her own social life now!  Hold me.
  • Been lucky enough to get another visit from Zan and Paul – who are moving back to D.C. this fall!
  • Visited Rebecca and Eric for a weekend on Virginia Beach, just a few weekends ago.  The next time we see them will be for THEIR WEDDING!

We have even more gathering in our future.  There are friends here that we haven’t even had time to see yet, since moving back almost a year ago now, and I hope to correct those omissions as soon as possible – although summer is busy for everyone, so I may have to wait a bit longer.  We also have planned trips on which we will see my parents (multiple times), dear Albany friends, and my brother and sister-in-law.

Actively seeking out people and opportunities to socialize is not something that comes naturally to me.  I am a homebody and an introvert, and my first impulse is usually to decline invitations.  But the fact is – after I’ve actually done the socializing, I’m always glad that I did.  I never come home thinking, “I wish I hadn’t agreed to meet so-and-so for lunch,” or “I should have never agreed to that playdate.”  We moved back to D.C. because we missed being surrounded by so many people we loved, and I definitely don’t think we have squandered that opportunity.

Did you set goals or intentions for 2017?  How’s it going?

 

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Happy Monday to my friends, and happy birthday, America!  I hope my American readers are enjoying a glorious holiday weekend and that my Canadian and overseas friends are rested and ready for a wonderful week.  As for me, I’m taking this Monday off from both working and blogging, and instead will be soaking up time with loved ones and spending quite a few hours outside – hopefully in the sunshine.  Regular posting resumes on Wednesday with my June reading round-up, so do check in with me then!

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Five For Friday

It’s been awhile since I did a brain dump on here – or have I ever? – but today seems like as good of a day as any, and there are lots of things that I’d like to tell you, but that aren’t major enough to warrant their own post.  Here we go…

  1. I just realized that it’s vacation season.  I was talking to a co-worker who said that she was “in vacation mode” for her fourth of July travel, and I replied, “Yeah, but that’s not for, like, a month,” and was shocked to hear that it’s only a little more than two weeks away.  Seriously, where is the summer going?
  2. There will be a bigger update next week, but I’m surprised every single day that my garden is actually growing.  It hasn’t been without its hiccups (aphids – ugh) but I have a few little green beans, lots of tiny tomatoes and buds, and one red tomato already.
  3. Nugget has developed an intense fear/hatred of “fluff.”  In his little mind, “fluff” is not only actual fluff – dust bunnies or bits of fluff from the dryer clinging to his clothes – but also stray pieces of hair, dirt, crumbs, you name it.  (Hair “fluff” is a particular problem, because Peanut has long hair and both she and I shed regularly.  And if his nanny’s ponytail gets in his face, he admonishes her, “Kelly, your fluff!”)  He comes running up to me or to Steve at least twenty times a day, crying, “Get the fluff!  GET THE FLUUUUUFF!” and we have to then find whatever piece of “fluff” is bothering him and eradicate it.  On Wednesday night, he even had to be convinced to sit down in the bathtub – usually he sits immediately and starts splashing happily.  When I asked him what was wrong he pointed at the tub and said, in real distress, “There’s a fluff down there!”  Poor little guy (also it’s kind of funny).  But he has to learn to live in a fluffy world.
  4. I have a new hobby: shopping for white tulle dresses and for toddler bowtie-and-suspenders sets.  Did I tell you that Peanut is going to be a flower girl in September?  She’s beyond excited – she talks about her dress and her “flower headband” constantly, and every time we walk down King Street, we have to stop and look in the window of the bridal boutique and speculate about Aunt Rebecca’s dress.   (Well, I know what it looks like, but I’m not going to spoil Peanut’s fun.)  At four-and-a-half, she’s plenty old enough to know exactly what’s going on when a wedding takes place (and she’s already been to two weddings – her Uncle Dan and Aunt Danielle’s, and my college friend Betsy’s) and to actually be in the wedding is a major thrill.
  5. Steve couldn’t believe this when I told him, but I have no books checked out from the library right now – not even any picture books for the kids.  I’m down to Inbox Zero and loving it.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen many of my own books that I am enjoying having the freedom to read from my own shelves without library deadlines bearing down on me.  But that’s about to change, because I just got a notice that Lincoln in the Bardo is waiting for me on the holds shelf.

There you have it – five random things that were bumping around in my brain.  What’s been on your mind lately?  Do you also hate fluff?

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Ready or not, it’s summer!  Longtime readers may recall that summer and fall are pretty much neck-and-neck for my favorite season, so while I’m never jumping with joy at the passage of time, I’m usually at my most chipper when the calendar changes from spring to summer.  Let’s get the fun underway!  With Memorial Day Weekend behind us, summer is officially upon us and it’s time to take one last look at the old spring list before turning attention to sunshine and sand and messing about in boats.  Here’s how the spring shook out.

  • Take the kids to see the cherry blossoms in bloom by the Potomac.  We didn’t actually do this, but I’m going to call it done, because we made it out for several other local flower events – including tulip picking on Easter Sunday and a hike through the Virginia Bluebells on another weekend.  I’d have loved to get them to the cherry blossoms too, but they definitely experienced the glory of spring flowers in northern Virginia.

  • Plant a container garden with Peanut.  (I want to grow tomatoes, herbs and salad greens.  She wants to grow roses.  We’ll probably grow both.)  Check!  Patio garden is underway, things are actually growing, and I’ve only snorted cayenne pepper once.  (#blackthumb #teachablemoment)

  • Get our back patio set up and start grilling and eating outdoors regularly.  This is half done.  The back patio is set up – complete with container garden, sand box, grill and dining table – and we’ve been hanging out and enjoying it plenty.  But we haven’t gotten the grill cleaned up just yet.  It’s on the agenda, and soon, because I refuse to go another warm season without regular al fresco dinners.

  • Re-read Anne of Green Gables (my beautiful new Folio Society edition!).  Done!  This one’s not difficult – I’m always glad to visit with Anne, and especially when I get to do so through the vehicle of a beautiful new clothbound hardcover from Folio Society.  Yes, please!
  • Take at least one adults-only hike – either the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland, or possibly an Adirondack hike?  Didn’t happen, but I have high hopes for the summer!
  • Spring cleaning!  Get the house in order and feeling fresh.  Well, this was never going to get completely done, but I’m crossing it off because we did get the house in order.  The living spaces are all unpacked – finally! – and I’ve deep-cleaned the front porch and done a ton of airing out the house and dusting away the winter.
  • Do another Whole 30 (I’ve already started this).  Done!  I wasn’t as disciplined as I usually am, but it was still a good thing to do.  I’d love to squeeze one more round in before summer wedding season – we’ll see.

  • Go rock-climbing.  Done!  I took a belay certification course at Earth Treks Crystal City in March and had a wonderful time.  I’ve decided to push off the actual test until I have more time to practice the knots, but I’m hoping to get back to the gym for some bouldering in the meantime.  It’s hard to make the time, but I’m always happy when I go.

  • Finally unpack and organize my books.  Done!  Reunited and it feels so GOOD!  It was a family effort, but Steve got my books out from the dusty corner of the basement where the movers inexplicably decided they belonged (grrrrr) and I spent a weekend sorting through them, making a huge pile for donation to the library (since completed) and organizing and shelving the keepers.  I am like that hearts-for-eyes emoji every time I look at my shelves now.
  • Take a weekend getaway somewhere – Chincoteague, maybe?  Or Annapolis?  Or Little Washington again?  Didn’t happen.  A busy spring at work, coupled with a lot of travel on the agenda for summer and fall, had us sticking closer to home.  We’ll make up for it the rest of the year!

All-in-all, I’m really pleased with the way the spring went.  Considering how busy things were at work, and how stressed out we were about some outside-work situations, I’m impressed that we were able to do anything.  We stuck close to home for the most part – the travel that I was hoping for didn’t happen – but around the house and our home base in NoVA, we got a lot done and had a delightful time with all of it.  Spring is usually one of our crazier seasons, between heavy workloads and – in recent years – wrapping up the school year.  So I’m looking forward to a nice long summer full of fun and adventure.

How was your spring?

 

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Happy new week, friends.  How was everyone’s weekend?  Mine was a bit of a roller coaster.  Steve has been gone since Thursday for a boys’ weekend (a very looooooooong weekend) so it’s been me all alone, juggling school and nanny drop-offs and pick-ups, running to and from work, and managing the kids without another adult to help (or sympathize) in the evenings and all weekend.  We had a fun Saturday – I might be insane, but I took them to the zoo, and they had a blast.  We visited all of our friends – lions, tigers, great apes, pandas, elephants, seals and sea lions, you name it – and they had a fabulous time running around in the splash pad near the pinnipeds, now that the water is on for the season (yay!).  To pay me back for that fun day, the universe thought it would be amusing to throw me a curve, and I spent Sunday going insane at home, trying to care for a sick preschooler and a toddler who was climbing the walls.  My strategy with Nugget is to keep him on the go as much as possible; it’s the only way he can get his energy out in a small living space without driving everyone else nuts.  On a normal weekend, if Peanut was under the weather I’d leave her home with Steve and take Nugget out to the playground or the pool to work off his antsies.  But since I was all alone, he couldn’t go out and he had to be a little bit patient, and, well, he’s two.  I did a lot of deep breathing.  Anyway, Steve is getting home today and we sure will be glad to have his help around the house again.

   

Reading.  With all that going on, you’ll not be surprised to hear it has been a slow reading week.  I finished A Traveller in Time on the last day of May, and it was a lot of fun.  (You know I have a weakness for time travel books!)  Over the weekend I also finished Hope in the Dark, which I’ve been reading on my phone in fits and starts for a couple of months now.  Reading on my phone gives me terrible headaches, so I rarely do it, but it happened that iBooks had the best price on Hope, and my library didn’t have a copy.  I never enjoy books I read on my phone as much as books I read in other formats – physical book or kindle – probably because I have to read them in such tiny, choppy reading sessions thanks to my headaches.  Anyway, I finished it.  The rest of my reading time this week, which hasn’t exactly been ample, has been devoted to Commonwealth.  It’s due back to the library tomorrow and has a months-long waiting list (I know, because I waited months for it) so I have to churn it out.  I’m close to being done; one more evening should set me up.  So I think I’ll get it returned on time.  Whew.

Listening.  Since I’ve been car-commuting for a few days, and have had headaches which kept me from reading on the metro other days, I’ve been spending a lot of quality time with my earbuds.  I’m listening to Alyssa Mastromonaco’s memoir of her time in the White House, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?, on Audible.  The audiobook is read by the author and has been fascinating.  Although I live in northern Virginia and work in Washington, D.C., I’m about as far from a political insider as you can get.  Mastromonaco’s memoir – so far – has been unspeakably cool.

Watching.  Before Steve left for Texas, he and I finished up the 2015 season of The Great British Baking Show and moved on to the first episode of the 2016 season.  We’re still totally obsessed.  But I’m kind of ready to be done with the Netflix seasons, so I can go back to reading every evening.  I haven’t turned the TV on in the last five days – I never watch it if Steve isn’t home – and it’s been nice to spend time reading and chatting on the phone to friends.

Moving.  It’s been another dud of a week, with the exception of Saturday.  Spending the morning dragging a large wagon with sixty combined pounds of child riding inside is challenging on flat terrain, and the National Zoo has hills, man.  It’s a serious workout.  With gorillas.

Blogging.  I am big into my seasonal lists this week – wrapping up spring on Wednesday, and sharing my summer list on Friday.  Spoiler: I actually checked off most of the items from my spring list.  I’m delighted!

Reflecting.  Like the rest of the world, I was saddened and horrified by the events in London.  I always find myself silent after world tragedies – afraid that anything I say will seem trite, or like politicizing a horrible event.  I just can’t find the right words.  But I am sending thoughts and prayers and hugs to a city that I love dearly – a city that has survived the worst time and time again and today is vibrant and teeming with life and joy.  London, you are loved and the world stands with you.

Asking.  What are you reading?

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