Monday, January 16, 2017

Grown-up Update

If you're just here for kid pictures, you probably want to skip this post, since it's all about the grown-up half of our family :)

2016 was when Ryan and I both got our feet under ourselves again after having the girls. So we spent more time getting back to our own hobbies, getting more me-time again, and remembering who we were before having kids. It turns out we're still roughly the same people, just with a few new interests (i.e., all things kid-related ;) ).

Ryan is now back to playing on a pool league (along with countless hours practicing on his pool table at home, although he probably gets slightly less assistance from helpful little munchkins at the pool hall), and he goes skateboarding each Sunday morning. Meanwhile, I'm still going to yoga once a week, but now I am riding again too!

After riding fairly consistently since my "retirement" in 2002 (when my mare got a new home, I got rid of most of my horse stuff, and I was done with riding...which didn't even last a year before I found my way back to horses), I had only ridden once since breaking my riding lease in January 2011, when I was pregnant with Josie. And after living in this area for close to 20 years now, I finally admitted that perhaps I should be looking at other disciplines besides QH-style Western and hunt seat, since those just aren't that popular down here. So I bit the bullet and decided on dressage, which has been interesting and is probably going to be a good fit for me. I'm taking lessons once a week, and while it's been a bit of a challenge reconciling all the things I still have the muscle memory to do, all the things I learned when I last took lessons 20 years ago but that I have gotten rusty about, and all the things I don't yet know about dressage, it's been really good to be back riding again.
That was one big item checked off from my 2016 goals ("figure out horse situation"). Another item was a Christmas activity (hence, the trip to National Harbor/ICE! that I mentioned in the last post). I also did a reading challenge, since while I have been reading quite a bit still (thanks to having a Kindle I can read in the dark while putting kids to bed), I had been feeling a bit lazy with my reading selections. So I found a reading challenge I liked, and just for posterity, I've listed all the categories and books I read for them below... pretty much all of which were great :)

  • a book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 - The Outsiders
  • a book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 - God Help the Child
  • a collection of short stories (same author or anthology) - Trigger Warning
  • a book published by an indie press - A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
  • a book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ - Stone Butch Blues
  • a book by a person whose gender is different from your own - Mystic River
  • a book that someone else has recommended to you - Room
  • a book that takes place in Asia - First They Killed My Father
  • a book by an author from Africa - Purple Hibiscus
  • a book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture - Queen of Water
  • a microhistory - Milk
  • a YA novel - Daughter of Smoke and Bone
  • a sci-fi novel - The Age of Miracles
  • a romance novel - Outlander
  • a National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade - Salvage the Bones
  • a book that is a retelling of a classic story - The Flight of Gemma Hardy
  • an audiobook - America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction
  • a collection of poetry - milk and honey
  • a book that was originally published in another language - The Shadow of the Wind
  • a graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind - The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • a book that you would consider a guilty pleasure - A Beautiful Disaster (this was so terrible)
  • a book published before 1850 - Pride and Prejudice
  • a book published this year - When Breath Becomes Air

Ryan and I increased our date night frequency, so we're going out roughly once a month now, to at least get dinner by ourselves on occasion without anybody crying during it ;) Although the picture below did lead to tears, inadvertently - I had taken a picture of our dessert to show Josie, not thinking that of course she'd be upset at not getting said dessert (instead of being happy with just a picture of it? Not really sure what my plan was).

We did miscellaneous house stuff over the course of the year, of which I only have pictures of a tiny portion since Ryan did most of it (I, on the other hand, have still not finished painting ceilings from when we moved in). Ryan has built (and built and built) things, including the girls' beds, but also put up my clothesline. Ryan put it up while it was cold out and I almost forgot about it when it was actually warm enough to hang out clothes... but then I remembered, and life was good :) For some reason, I just love everything about line-drying clothes, so this was a wonderful sight to me:

We also had the privilege of repainting the ceiling in the sitting room for the third time now in the 4 years we've lived at our house (when it was built in 2012, after the fire in 2013, and now...). Although, truth be told, we didn't paint it ourselves this time - we already had to pay for the ceiling to be replaced, so we splurged and paid to have it painted too :-\ But all of that was because the HVAC unit in the attic leaked, which was because the condensate pipe came apart, which was outside of the tray to catch wayward water... so that was fun.

I undertook a project to figure out how to use our sewing machine, so I figured I would do a "simple" starter project and make Christmas stockings for us. Many, many months later (and after lots of trial and error, even with assistance), they were complete... and I even was ok with actually using them for Christmas. I was a little worried that pouring that much time into making them would make me too fussy about possibly messing them up with use, but I was able to deal ;) One of this year's goals is to try to figure out our serger, so we'll see what I make over the course of 2017 :)

[A sound bar is about as good as a mantel]

One other big goal for 2016 was to go to a show. I had gone to lots of (pop) punk shows all through college, but then kind of tapered off as I decided I was too old for that nonsense. But as it turns out, the bands I like draw a slightly older demographic now, so I was in good company ;) 

Knowing that I was going to go by myself (which I had never done before), and be up late probably on a work night, I had a very short list of bands that I would be willing to go see... and preferably not in DC, since I still do not like driving in the city. So one fine day over the summer, I saw two shows come up that fit the bill, and in a fit of nervous adrenaline, I bought tickets to both of them :)

So I went to see Bad Religion at the Fillmore in Silver Spring (which was probably the best venue I've been to). I have listened to them since high school but somehow had never seen them before, and it was just awesome as it all started to come back to me just how much I love live music - I think I had a big grin on my face the whole time :) Bad Religion was great, but I actually came away super impressed with the opening band, so now I'm in the midst of an Against Me! obsession.
[Against Me!]
[Bad Religion]

The second show was actually a two-fer - Less Than Jake was playing two consecutive nights of full-album shows... of my two favorite albums... 5 hours away from where I live (!). But I love those two albums (Losing Streak and Hello Rockview), and I've seen LTJ a bunch of times, and it just seemed right. So I got a hotel right on the beach (super cheap in November, it turns out!) and went to both shows, working during the day with this view:

It turns out Virginia Beach is pretty fun, even as a solo traveler in the off-season. I decided to avoid using my car once I got to the hotel, so the first night I walked over to a great seafood restaurant, and the second day I walked (perhaps a little too far) to a restaurant called "Commune", which was all locally-sourced, really awesome food. The weather was pretty mild out despite it being November, so on my way back to my hotel room with my bag of takeout from Commune, I even sat on the beach for a while and watched the waves come in.

The shows themselves were good, although I have to say I was second-guessing my decision during the first show, where I rather stupidly was front center, which is a very rough place to be for these types of shows. And yet for some reason I couldn't bring myself to just... move?? So instead I got shoved around, constantly fought to keep my footing as the crowd surged back and forth, watched for circle pits opening up behind me so I could shove people back in while not getting pulled in myself... all while trying to keep an eye out for crowd-surfers about to land on my head. 
[One of the few pictures I was able to take of LTJ the first night]

The second night was so much better, though, and probably one of the most fun shows I've been to. I managed to get front right this time (which is my normal spot anyway - keeps me out of the way of most of the moshers and crowd-surfers!), and I ended up in a nice little triangular nook right next to the stage where no one really bumped into me at all. So I got to keep my personal space bubble and sing along to my favorite LTJ album, so things were definitely looking up from the previous night. And then I got my first ever guitar pick from a band, as the bass player was passing them out after the show :)
[LTJ, second night]

And if you made it all the way to the bottom of this post, your reward is this beautiful tray of fake apples that Ryan's sisters and I tampered with in attempts to troll his mom. So these were all properly ordered by size, just before they were distributed throughout the living room in unexpected places ;)

Monday, January 2, 2017


So, since I last posted, we are all done with holidays for 2016 (well, and 2016 as a whole!). This has the potential to be a very long post, so I'll try to keep my recap brief :)

We did Thanksgiving at our house again this year, and it went well enough, except for a situation with an undercooked turkey that led to a touch more drama than I would have preferred.
[Here is a representative picture from Thanksgiving... I do not know what was happening here]

The next weekend, Josie and I met up with one of my friends and her daughter for some winter-themed fun. I had originally thought about taking Josie up to NYC (since there's nothing like NYC at Christmas-time!), but decided that was too ambitious for now... perhaps in the spring instead, when the weather will be better and I'll actually drive up there (instead of taking the train, which would have added some significant cost and complications). Anyway, we went to National Harbor instead, which was a good time... and considerably closer ;)

Josie and I took that Friday off, and got up there a bit earlier than when we were to meet our friends, so we walked around a bit, I said hi to my old friend the giant ("The Awakening"), and Josie got up close and personal with the slightly smaller, but still life-size statues there.

[In front of the giant Christmas tree]

We went to ICE! at the Gaylord Resort, which was shockingly cold but also surprisingly interesting. The girls seemed to like it but still kind of blew through it pretty quickly, but I was impressed by how just about everything was made of ice... and even verified it a couple of times, since it just didn't seem possible that some of things could be made of ice. So even though we were only in the exhibit for maybe 15 minutes, my fingers were completely numb by the end from touching the ice (and trying to take a few pictures).

[Josie, lying on some ice]

[Sofia and Josie]
[Sofia rightly wondering why Josie is lying on some ice again]
[Me and my little ducklings]
[Carving some more ice sculptures]
[The nativity scene]

We went to decorate gingerbread houses next, which the girls were very excited about. We shared a house (everything was a bit pricey there!), so the girls each got two walls and one side of the roof to decorate, which went pretty well. We then had some delicious hot chocolate in the atrium of the Gaylord, where Josie proceeded to get very confused as she demanded to know why there were houses INSIDE the hotel (to which I replied, "Good question").
[Pretending like I know what I'm doing]
[Hard at work]
[M. taking a turn at pretending like she knows what she's doing ;)]
[The finished product]
[Josie's roof flower]
[Licking some knives]
I had gotten a hotel room for the night, which maybe was an extravagance, but at least not as much of one as if we had stayed at the Gaylord ($300+ a night!). I was counting that weekend as the mother of all Mommy/Josie outings, and a large part of that was staying at a hotel (probably more so than ICE!). Josie had been talking about it for weeks, and I'm pretty sure her favorite part of the whole weekend was the breakfast buffet.

Anyway, so we went back to the hotel for a little while, and then headed out to an oyster bar for dinner (which I had jokingly suggested, thinking that was one of the more unlikely places to take two ~5 year olds, but my friend called my bluff and we ended up having a very enjoyable dinner there... even the girls!). We then wrapped up the evening by going back to the Gaylord for the indoor "snow" and lights/music show.

Then, a couple of weeks later, we did Christmas with the local side of my family. We were a bit worried about if we were going to be able to celebrate all together before my sister-in-law had her baby (given that she was quite pregnant at the time), but decided to forge ahead anyway, despite pretty much everyone being sick (and I think my mom and I were the only ones to come down with another cold afterwards, so that mostly worked out!). Benjamin was able to get more into opening his presents this year, and it was fun to see all the kids tear into their gifts.

And then one week after that, it was Christmas proper. At first, the girls seemed a bit lackluster about the presents that suddenly appeared under the tree Christmas morning, although Audra at least noticeably perked up once she asked "Oh, is it Christmas today? Do we open presents now??" So after everyone ate a leisurely breakfast, got dressed, and did miscellaneous other tinkering around (my dad would have been so proud! ;) ), we finally sat down to open presents. This was the first year we had stockings, so the girls were quite excited about their stocking stuffers... although we don't have a mantel, so we hung the stockings with care from a side table instead.

Then they got to the presents under the tree, opened one each... and then promptly stopped the proceedings to read a book together. Can't complain about the girls being so excited about their presents that they needed to play with each one at that exact moment, but it did make for a longer episode of present-opening :)
[Testing the video conferencing capabilities of Josie's new Kindle]
[Audra had some drilling to do]
[Josie and her favorite boots EVER]
One big present that didn't find its way under the tree on Christmas was Josie's loft bed. This was Ryan's first major welding project, and he finished it up just in time for Christmas, so now the girls are sleeping in the same room! It doesn't really seem like they're "sharing" a room yet, since all of Audra's stuff except her bed is still in her old room, but we are starting to figure out how we're going to rework the girls' room to accommodate Audra's stuff too... and then once we finish with that, then we'll work on transforming Audra's old room into an office.

So Josie loves her new bed, and the girls seem to like sleeping in the same room so far... granted, Josie doesn't appreciate when Audra cries and wakes her up, but since Audra has been having troubles sleeping again lately, I'm back to sleeping with her anyway, which means I can usually catch it and help her calm back down before she wakes Josie up. It's all baby steps :)

After opening presents at our house, we headed over to Ryan's parents' house for the rest of the day. So we had some brunch, opened presents, played with said presents, and then had dinner, which wrapped up all the Christmas celebrations with family, as it should be ;)
[Ryan was done tuckered out]
[Josie singing some karaoke with cousin Taylor]
And then the final excitement for the year: Brian and Emily's new little boy :) Emily held on until after Christmas, and Elliott was born on December 29th. My mom and I went out to visit them on New Year's, which was a wonderful way to start off the new year. Yay for adorable little babies :)

Miscellaneous cuteness:
[Our dining room was card-making central for December... this is before the mess consumed the entire table]
[Surviving my first time with the girls on my own with Ryan gone on travel... this was our good night picture to him]

[Sad Audra bringing down the mood for cousin pictures since 2014 :( ]
[Josie with her decorated cookie for her school's holiday party]