Up, Up, and Away!

In 2010 (yes,  three and a half years ago), Brandon and I received a gift certificate for a hot air balloon ride over Napa.  At the time we were living in San Francisco without a car, so it wasn’t a convenient outing for us.  Time got away, I got pregnant and had Ellie, and we still hadn’t scheduled it.  Luckily for us there was no expiration date!  Anyway, Brandon finally put his foot down and scheduled our balloon ride and I am certainly glad he did (although at 4:30 this morning when the alarm went off I was thinking maybe it was not such a good idea).

140517_BALLOON RIDE-3

140517_BALLOON RIDE-8      140517_BALLOON RIDE-12

I didn’t think I had a fear of heights, but I happily confirmed that today. While I am a bit of a scaredy cat typically, I am pleased to report I wasn’t nervous at all–I surprised myself.  It’s incredibly peaceful and beautiful to be floating along like that, although the burners every few minutes take away some of that peace–they are really loud!  Our balloon had 20 people in it and was something like a 400,000 cu. ft balloon (I believe it’s the largest they make).  In balloons that big, they have the basket sectioned off into 5 areas–1 for the pilot, and then 4 compartments for the passengers. We floated above the Napa Valley for about an hour, had pretty much the smoothest landing one could hope for, and then were shuttled back to a hotel for a lovely champagne brunch (with bottomless mimosas–I was not complaining).  The brunch was included with our hot air balloon ride–quite the deal.  We had a very leisurely brunch and then returned to my parents house to pick up little miss Eleanor.

140517_BALLOON RIDE-14
140517_BALLOON RIDE-16
I’m so thankful to my parents for getting up super early to watch Ellie so we could have a few hours just for Brandon and me, and thankful to my brother-in-law for giving us such an amazing experience. I was just emailing with a dear family friend the other day, and she was asking how my work/motherhood/alone time balance was going.  I think much of the time once kids come around it’s the “alone time” thing that suffers the most, but for me it’s actually the couple time.  In some ways this seems surprising since B and I are hope together much of the time (he works out of the house) but that certainly doesn’t mean we get quality time together.  Since we only have childcare help 1/2 day a week (shout out to my sister here who is a peach and makes this happen!), we pretty much tag team all day.  One watches Ellie while the other works, we both work while she sleeps, and then frequently we have to continue working once she goes to bed since our days aren’t 100% productive.  While I wouldn’t trade this arrangement, it does create blurred lines between work time and down time.  All this to say this few hours of time for B and I to sort of catch up without the distractions (at least one is a super cute distraction) of our everyday life.

140517_BALLOON RIDE-22
140517_BALLOON RIDE-25

The balloon ride was a great time out for us, something that forced us out of our normal routine to do something fun and indulgent for the two of us.  Thanks to everyone who made this possible!  I think I’m going to challenge B and myself to make more of these excursions, with and without Eleanor to keep us focused on the important things like spending time as a family.

500! And an Easter Egg Hunt

Well, this is apparently my 500th post!  In many ways I feel like this should have come like 3 years ago, and it would have if I had continued blogging consistently.  Alas, I haven’t so instead we get post 500 today.

On Saturday our church did a community Easter Egg hunt, which was a really great event.  They did crafts and activities and then of course a massive Easter Egg hunt.  Eleanor was interested in the eggs, but more interested in the contents of the eggs.  This meant we had to really go to the edges of the hunt to even get the eggs since other kids were really quick at snatching them up, and Ellie would pick one up and then spend a couple minutes trying to open it, then another couple examining the contents.

140419_EGG HUNT-8

Eleanor and her friend M

The highlight of the day for E was probably the parachute.  I thought at first she might be timid, but she charged right in and couldn’t get enough, giggling and smiling and squealing in delight.
140419_EGG HUNT-13 140419_EGG HUNT-14

140419_EGG HUNT-16 140419_EGG HUNT-21

Of course I didn’t get pictures during the actual hunt because I was busy holding a hand and guiding along, but rest assured it was cute.  After, Eleanor couldn’t wait to find her cousin Claire (they separated the kids by age for the hunt) and was quick to walk hand-in-hand.  So sweet!
140419_EGG HUNT-23

Overall it was a great day!  A little windy, but sunny and warm and the kids all had a blast.

And now for the only picture that I took on actual Easter in her actual Easter dress.
140419_EGG HUNT-1-3

She’s gotten really old, hasn’t she?  Looking all grown up these days…

Rainy Days

E_brella

Rainy days are FINALLY here, and Eleanor could not be happier.  This girl loves umbrellas so much that we must hide them, otherwise she will throw a tantrum if we leave the house and don’t let her have her “brella.”  Further complicating matters, she isn’t content holding an umbrella that is collapsed–it must be open, and she must carry it herself.  Going into the store/library/house becomes a point of contention, since we won’t let her go indoors with the umbrella open, and that is not acceptable to her.  She has gotten better, but it always takes a few minutes to move past the issue.  Dang, does she look adorable with that umbrella, though!  She loves nothing more than throwing on those rainboots, grabbing her umbrella, and heading out into the rain to do some good, old fashioned puddle jumping (or “splash” as she refers to it).

E_splash

Also, she does not own a raincoat (oops) and she DID have a scarf and hat on, but she quickly took them off because they interfered with her splashing.  She also enjoyed standing under the roof dripline and getting soaked by the big water droplets.  She’s a nut.

In other news, whether it was from said “splashing,” or just from generally being in public around other people, Eleanor has contracted a cold.  Thankfully for me, it is not one that involves copious amounts of snot–those who know me well know that snot is NOT my thing.  It really really grosses me out and I can’t handle it.  Anyway, enough on that.  Whatever she has is more of a chest congestion/cough thing, poor girl.  A quick funny though–her voice is a little raspy, and the other morning she was “exploring” her newly acquired raspy voice, having fun with the strange sounds she could make with it.  SO, back to this illness thing.  Unfortunately, little ones can’t really take much, but she’s been having a tough time sleeping so this mama went a little crunchy and decided to try some things that are a little more natural.

After a trip to the health food store, I came home armed with homeopathic tablets (Eleanor loves these, calling them her “num nums” and is sad she only gets 5 of them 3 times a day), essential oils for breathing easier, and ingredients for a homemade cough “salve” you apply to the bottom of the person’s feet that is supposed to stop the coughing.  Brandon has made plenty of jokes about me having my seance (with the essential oils and candle oil diffuser–don’t worry, we don’t leave this lit in Eleanor’s room), but by golly, she does seem to be breathing easier.  Also, she still has a few coughs with the salve, but she does seem to be coughing less SO I’ll consider it a win.  Plus the bottoms of her feet are extra moisturized now!

In case anyone is curious about my crunchy measures, here is what I have been using:

For breathing easier, I have been using Olbas Oil in a diffuser (now I want an electric one, but for now we’ve been getting by with a ceramic candle diffuser purchased at the dollar store)

For the salve, I made this recipe for a natural cough remedy

For the homeopathic tablets, I have been using Boiron’s Spongia Tosta

Anyone have any go-to methods for fighting colds in the toddler crowd?

Growing Up!

TITLETEXT(4)

Kids…they just grow up so fast, don’t they? It’s been amazing to watch Eleanor’s personality and vocabulary explode lately.  She has taken to saying things like “It’s beautiful, mama!” or “Mmm…delicious!” and even “Here, Mama, I’ll trade you!”  She enjoys singing, or more specifically singing songs from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is a-ok with me.  I pretty much melt instantly when I hear her little voice sweetly singing “I like you, just the way you are…” or “keep trying, you’ll get be-e-tter!”

TITLETEXT(3)

Her imagination is taking off as well, “making” things in her little kitchen, and “hiking” around our living room.  Her current favorite activity is stirring up a pot of beads, spooning it out and telling me to “try this!”  It’s amazing the little phrases she parrots back to us.  When she spoons me some of said beads (often they are “blueberries” which I find hilarious, because she refuses to eat blueberries but she likes pretending about them!) and then after one bite will say while putting the lid on the pot “Okay, all gone! That’s all we have!”

TITLETEXT(2)

She also enjoys stacking things, or rather she enjoys stacking them so she can knock them down.  I finally found some blocks for her, because she had taken to stacking packages of diapers and wipes since we didn’t have any blocks around.  Our local library also has those large cardboard box blocks, so we try and take E to the library and let her play with those as well.

TITLETEXT

E is also getting more adventurous!  Now, that said, she still asked my sister to help her step over the hose in her yard this morning, but she confidently can step from the sidewalk to the grass now, so I consider that a win.  She also can be found running around at the park, yelling “Mama, where are yoooooooooou?” as she runs directly away from me.  She also greatly enjoys the medium and small slides (we have done the large slide a few times, but she seems to enjoy the independence of the other two slides–the large slide requires some team effort) and the swings.  I love seeing her physical confidence grow, as she climbs up and down the play equipment and runs after other children, laughing and smiling.

TITLETEXT(5)

I was watching her the other night and was struck at how amazing kids are–it is such an honor and blessing to be able to watch her learn and grow, developing into a more independent, self-sufficient little human.  Now for the humorous part of this epiphany moment, let me describe the scene which stuck me: Ellie was sitting in the bath, talking into a bucket (with the bucket completely covering her face).  I was just marveling at how there was definitely something going on in her head, a scene playing out.  There she sat, totally uncaring what anyone around her thought about her antics, entertained completely by what she was doing.  It was also a nice moment to step back and realize we can be happy with so little, if we would only let ourselves. Right? So, now my question for you is what are your truly simple pleasures in life, or have you had an epiphany moment in life lately? Big or small, what was it?

Ch ch ch changes…

eleanor_sqIt has to be a good blog post starting out with a picture that cute, right?  Really, that’s just a gratuitous picture of Ellie, complete with food on her face and all and it has nothing to do with my post content.

Anyway, we moved.  Like 6 months ago.  To the ‘burbs.  And I’m just not writing about it.  I may have mentioned it previously but honestly I’m too lazy to reread the text of the 3 posts that I’ve written in the last 6 months so I’m going to talk about it.

Moving was not something we expected to happen at the time it did, and it was certainly not something I was ready for, especially out of the city and into the suburbs.  About 6 months before we moved, Brandon started getting a little restless with work, and decided to explore his options professionally.  He also saw the writing on the wall that it may not be possible for us to remain in the city if he was going to contemplate a large career leap, and thinking long-term, our 1 bedroom, 525 sq. ft apartment wasn’t going to hold 2 adults, 2 overly active cats and 1 growing toddler comfortably much longer, especially with the possibility of him working from home.  So, Brandon started looking for a new place to live all over the Bay Area.  He would show me places, and no matter where they were, I poo-pooed them.  Too small.  Too dark.  Not close enough to a park.  Not close enough to a downtown.  Too ugly.  Carpet.  First floor.  Just…no.  Bless his heart, he kept trying, but I just wasn’t ready to move! We even thought about other places in SF, but have you seen those prices lately?  Yeah.  No thanks. We were trying to get MORE space and less rent, not less space and more rent.

Around January, we had a chat where we sort of made “the scary leap decision” which basically was this: Brandon was going to put in a proposal for a job, and if he got it, he was quitting.  This, in turn, meant we would need to move.  I put on my big girl pants (reluctantly…dragging my feet the whole time) and on board-ish with the house/apartment-hunting, which really just meant I didn’t veto EVERY place he showed me, and in fact I took the initiative to look on my own occasionally as well.  I still had a totally negative ‘tude–I was feeling kicked out of SF, out of the apartment I loved, out of the lifestyle I loved.  In reality, I wasn’t being forced out–I was making an adult decision based on what was best for my family, I just didn’t want to handle it in an adult way.  I also sort of had it in my head that, while I have much faith and confidence in Brandon’s abilities, no way was he going to land the first job he put in a proposal for.  That just doesn’t happen!

As you can probably guess at this point, he did indeed get the job.  I had a major “oh $h!t” moment, where I was thrilled and excited and proud…and terrified and sad and filled with anxiety.  This all was really happening! The search for a place to live went into overdrive, 2 weeks later we had a lease and 2 weeks after that we were all packed up and moved out of our beloved apartment.  It happened in the blink of an eye–I didn’t even get to fulfill a bucket list of things to do! No last date nights…nothing.  Just like that, we were gone.  My drive out of the city was extremely tear-full, as I said goodbye to the place that I loved–it was our apartment that we moved into when we got married, the place we brought Eleanor home to from the hospital…it is filled with so many memories and so much love, I just wanted to keep it forever (even though we didn’t own it).

And that brings us back to here and now.  Do I miss San Francisco? Terribly, with all my heart.  I even miss my tiny apartment.  I miss so many things about living in the city, but when I get down about it I remind myself how much I get to see Brandon now, and how much he gets to see Ellie.  He works from home,  so we take turns with E and do a lot more as a family.  Whereas in SF he was frequently gone 10-12 hours a day, now he’s around most of the time and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, and I especially wouldn’t take that away from him.  He is so much happier and less stressed now, and that is worth the world.  Also, we have a backyard now.  I have a garden.  We have a stoop.  We live in an adorable early 1900’s house.  We have an awesome office space in the house.  We’re near the water.  I GET SUMMER WEATHER (this has probably been the single fact that helped me most).  We live near my family, including my grandmothers.  When we walk down my grandma’s street, Ellie gets so excited squealing “Gigi! Gigi!” and it’s in those moments, too, that I know we made the right decision.

But I still miss San Francisco (and yes, I still live close to it, but visiting is never the same as living there)…

Vacation, Part IV: Savannah

Yeah yeah yeah.  Two years later…whoops.  Anyway, first off for any “The Office” fans, remember that episode where they are doing a murder mystery thing at the office and Andy says “there’s been a murder in Savannah…” in his “molasses” accent?  Well, Brandon couldn’t stop saying it throughout our stay here (luckily in the privacy of the two of us, not in public where people might become alarmed).  It kept us laughing the whole time…

And another anecdote.  The first day, first thing we decided to do was to visit Bonaventure Cemetery, the most famous (and supposedly a haunted) cemetery in Savannah.  I always try to be very respectful in cemeteries, but I did want to snap a few photos because it has a really special feel to it–it’s pretty much what you imagine when you think old Southern cemetery.  Anyway, out comes the camera and as I’m snapping a few photos I was like “uh oh…my viewfinder must be dirty” because I started having trouble seeing out my camera.  I then realize that my lens has completely fogged over, like within minutes of being there.  Here’s a little example of what happened:
collage_03

I, uh, took it as a sign that I needed to stop taking pictures.  For the record, I had other lenses on me and none of them fogged up, and none of my lenses fogged up at all the entire time I was in the South (and there were days that were much higher humidity than that afternoon).

Savannah lived up to its reputation for us: hot, humid, and gorgeous.  We loved just strolling around exploring, we loved the master plan of the garden grid throughout the city, and we loved all the iron/metalwork on the old buildings.

collage_04

The architecture is just so different from the West Coast style we are used to, and of course I immediately fell in love.  The only thing I didn’t love?  The bug bites.  Otherwise, it was a magical city for us (just like Charleston was).
collage_02

(For the record, some of these photos are film and some are digital)

I had extra fun seeing the sites because I had read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” a few years prior, so I already had a fascination with Savannah.  Even without that background, however, I think anyone could feel how special this place is.  It just has an air of mystery and of a time past…

collage_01
collage_05

Sigh.  The good thing about posting so long after the fact?  You get to relive a great vacation.  The bad thing?  A bad case of wanderlust renewed…