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17 posts from July 2010

July 30, 2010

Is there such a thing as

"left-behind" guilt?  I know there is "survivor guilt" and I completely understand that, but that is not quite what I am talking about.  I am referring to the guilt one feels when they Skype their beloved for the first time and it finally hits the Skyper that he (or she, in this case) feels terrible for the entire situation?

Last night, yesterday...I don't know, I've lost track, at some point during the day we Skyped and instantly it hit me that he is stuck there for  a year.  Yes, it took a few minutes (days) to register.  By all accounts (his), he seems fine and has everything that he needs...yet I still feel guilty that I am not there, sharing in the experience.   I know I can't, well, won't (due to the kids), but that's not the point.  Yet, I probably shouldn't feel this way, as he has indicated that all is well, and that his apartment is what he expected, if not better.

Granted, I have only seen a bit of the bedroom...which is plain, but ample and has more than enough storage for his few belongings (including the custom-designed laptop built for the year away).  We have not had the official tour of the rest of the apartment, but given that Peter felt right at home at the unrenovated Oakwood...I think he's probably satisfied (to say the least) with the granite countertops and stainless steel fridge that he mentioned.

IMG_4983 IMG_4989 So why am I worried?  Why do I feel guilty?  Can anyone pinpoint and perhaps comment on why I should fret over someone who seems to be happy and  healthy?  Sure, he's a teeny bit sad to be away from home, but not overwhelmingly so (and it's to be expected). Since I couldn't figure it out, I thought the best solution would be to ignore it, take the kids out, and maybe I would get over it/forget about it.  So, we went to the Natural History Museum.  In DC.  At the end of July. Do you know who we saw there?

Guess. 

IMG_4974 Yep: the rest of America.  We were all in the Natural History Museum together and boy, was it cozy for such a cavernous place.   The kids, not surprisingly, did not notice.  Thank goodness.  Nicholas spent the entire time screaming "Die-soar, die-soar!", Caitlin wandered off on her own a bit (but returned in a reasonable amount of time), and Kelsey loved everything but the forensic discoveries.  Too many skeletons (or "monsters", as Nicholas termed them) for her liking.

I can't say I absorbed much, but did get to overhear tourists bragging about seeing Obama's helicopters flying overhead (uh-huh), and absolutely adored the couple fighting in front of the elephant in the front hallway.  No, let me rephrase that:  the husband, for some unknown reason (guessing that general vacation happiness that everyone else was exuding) decided to dress down his wife in front of his kids, and anyone who was within a 10 foot radius got an earful.  Seriously not cool, but they all eventually stomped off in grumpy agreement, so here's hoping it was just a bit too much together time.  

More importantly, we had a DC first!  I didn't think that was possible, but given that Nicholas has never lived here, and the girls were fairly young when we left:  we rode the Smithsonian Carousel.  It was technically closed, but the operator opened it back up for another go not long after we arrived.  I guess the cadres of disappointed parents and overtired toddlers melting down appealed to his softer side, and he let us all on for one go round.  Nicholas was getting a bit cranky, but loved the wind in his hair and we managed to delay our foray into Friday afternoon DC rush hour traffic for just a bit longer.  

It wasn't until we returned home and Nicholas fell asleep (before dinner, so tired and hungry) and then woke up 15 minutes later (on the wrong side of the bed, to say the least) that we had our first "I miss Daddy" meltdown. Forget the guilt I had, how do you remind a toddler that Daddy hasn't vanished off the face of the earth?  We pulled up recent pics, talked about Daddy a bit, tried to have some dinner (think we drank our dinner...juice, folks, juice!), and even though it was a bit early for Pete to be up (according to our special clock) , we threw caution to the wind and rang up Peter on Skype.

IMG_4970 IMG_4960 He miraculously showed up on the screen, Nicholas talked a bit, blew Daddy kisses, and said good night.  Not ideal, but thank God we have that.  I'm thinking we also have to schedule story-time with Daddy...anything to make it feel like he's here.  It also helped to print out a favorite picture of Daddy, Uncle John and Nicholas in "Unca Chon's annance".  He wouldn't let go of it, though, and is finally snoozing soundly with the picture clutched tightly in his little fist.   Thank you, Skype inventor, we owe you one!

 

July 29, 2010

This one's for you...

Nickburger For calling, texting, tweeting and sending messages on Facebook.  For the comments on Facebook and the blog that had me close to tears.  For the missives sent in the middle of the night when you should have been sleeping...instead you were up thinking about us and stopped to write and let us know.

I am so grateful for the babysitting offers, the play date invites, the much-needed lunch out (Indian, perhaps?) and the swim & lunch afternoon yesterday (though I fear my kids completely deleted your goldfish and pudding supply!).   I haven't necessarily had a chance to write back to each and everyone one of you, but until I do, please know how much your support is appreciated.  You have all helped make what could have been a much rougher transition so much easier.

And to answer the question of the day: yes, we have heard from Pete.  In addition to Skyping last night (or this morning for him) while he was in Jordan, I received an email today indicating that he has reached his destination and is "boots on ground, safe and sound".

The picture?  I ditched my idea of being the uber-great mom last night when I turned the corner after leaving a friend's house and ran smack into Elevation Burger.  Its wonders had been extolled to me, and I just couldn't resist.  I know it's a bit early to be so lazy, but who doesn't enjoy a tasty organic, grass-fed beef burger that one doesn't have to cook?  And what's more fun that ketchup smiley faces on said burger?

July 27, 2010

He's gone, baby, gone

IMG_4965  It seems like it has a been a whirlwind few months. From racing out here to find a house, getting a contract on the 'perfect place', going back to California to wrap up the school year,  buying the house at the end of May, packing out our rental the next day and then heading east...it's been crazy.

In reality, we saw today coming over 13 months ago, when we first perused the summer 2010 bid list.  Well, not "the" bid list, a special bid list that only included certain posts.  We had long bandied about the idea of Peter taking on a UT, but I was unwilling for him to go until Nicholas had at least reached toddlerhood.  He missed too much time with girls when they were babies, and I wasn't going to let that happen with Little Guy.

We had already made up our minds that there was no time like the present, and it was merely a matter of Peter officially putting his name in for several positions.  We had no idea what to expect, and after hearing nothing for a while, assumed it was not a go.  Then, in late August, Peter received an email and everything changed: there was now a 99% chance that he would go overseas alone.

We still didn't say much of anything, as the unofficial motto of the Foreign Service is "it depends."  Plans and tours of duty can change overnight.  Finally, in late December, we had received enough information that it seemed like this was a go.  I typed up a post with the news, but saved as a draft, as I just wasn't sure I was ready to click publish.  Several days later, he received the final word, and we moved headlong into trying to plan for the next year.  

Plan we did...from deciding to move back to the east coast to working through the what-ifs of me being a single parent for a year.  The culmination of the more than a year of planning, angst and likely needless worrying arrived this afternoon when we took Peter to the airport to catch 'that' flight.

IMG_4967  His plane to JFK did not leave until 5 p.m. and the kids yearned to eke out every last second with Daddy. We waited in the insanely long line of international travelers with Peter, glancing sadly at those families who appeared to be journeying or moving overseas together.   We finally made it through and he checked his bags to Jordan.  Without further ado, we moved to the pre-security area and said our good-byes.

IMG_4966  Watching him kiss Nicholas good-bye so tenderly was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The girls have some understanding of what will happen, and we have been vigilant about reminding them how we are still a family and have so many ways to keep in touch.  It is not as easy to impart such an abstract idea to the Little Guy.  He did adjust very easily during Peter's 6 weeks away last winter, so I hope it will be a similar transition this time, for his sake, if nothing else.

IMG_4968  We had one final photo op and I thought that was it.  I was holding it together fairly well until Peter gently grabbed my arms and reminded me of how much faith he had in me as a parent and as his wife.  We embraced one last time as a family and then let him go.  He turned and walked away, paused to look back briefly, moved forward and then looked back one more time.  I hurriedly hoisted a now very sleepy Nicholas into the air and we all waved as he disappeared from sight.  We turned around, wiped our eyes, bought a much-needed chocolate bar and headed out to the car for the long drive home.


July 26, 2010

The edge

It is as though I am at the edge of a precipice, waiting to leap.   I worry about all that I will leave behind, that one last good-bye will not be enough.  I fret about moving forward, into the (slightly) unknown, but feel it has to be better than this anxiety-ridden last day.

I couldn't decide last night whether to go to bed or stay up and watch Peter tinker with the computer.  I tossed and turned over sleeping in versus trolling the aisles of Target with him for those last-minute must-haves.  I want to unpack more boxes, but don't want to waste our 'together time' sorting through piles of stuff that can really wait one more day.  I am a mess of fighting back tears about the imminent departure vs. dreaming about a weekend away at a sleepy little bed and breakfast on R&R.

Every meal has that tinge of bittersweet.  I want to cook our dinner together at home, but too many errands and family time at the pool cancel out that hope.  There is also his desire to hit another favorite "one last time".  

The hours before he leaves are dragging and flying at the same time.  I keep reminding myself that thousands have done this before and thousands will likely follow.  I should buck up and stop thinking, talking or writing about it and I will just feel better.  I should just go enjoy a last few moments of completely normal before he leaves.

IMG_4954 Like we did yesterday...had a day at the Salty Dog pool.  We gorged on mezza and shawarma and then swam our little hearts out.  Kelsey had a cannonball contest by herself while Nicholas swam until exhaustion.  Cait twirled baby Nate in the water and we basked in a small break in the heat and humidity that the thunderstorm earlier in the day brought to us.

We dragged ourselves out of the pool to watch the kids play in the living room...Sunday evening play, nothing strenuous.  We read the comics and penciled in answers in the Sunday Post crossword.  Realizing the time, we gathered our bags and began to head out.  The blissfully normal continued until Pete started to walk out and said,  "see you in a few months" and reality reared its ugly head.  With that, we headed home in silence...until the girls fought over the radio and it was blissfully normal once again.


July 24, 2010

The UAB that nearly missed

IMG_4942  the boat (or plane, as the case may be).  I probably need not even mention it, as it is so widely known that one receives 250 lbs of unaccompanied baggage when heading overseas.  In cases of an unaccompanied tour such as Peter's, that is all one receives.  Nothing more, other than what one can purchase at post or ship in, but nearly a lot less for him.

Peter is a planner and has checklist after checklist after checklist for this move.  He has been on top of everything, calling, verifying, re-verifying, calling again, and checking email at all hours of the day.  Well, in nearly all respects.  The one area that lost a wee bit of his attention was the UAB.  My guess?  He wasn't even sure it was going to be necessary since he can take a whopping 70 lbs of belongings with him to post on Tuesday.  

If you know Peter, you know he is the definition of a minimalist, especially when it comes to travel. He is organized and efficient and takes the least amount of stuff possible.  In fact, we wondered if he would come remotely close to the 70 lb limit, much less have anything left over for air freight.  So much so that he considered canceling the UAB shipment entirely, figuring that he could (rightly so) purchase most of what he needs at post.

Now I am the opposite.  Not necessarily disorganized, but when I travel, I enjoy having a few creature comforts.  When I move overseas, I like to have a few 'favorites' with me, maybe a bag of coffee or  a favorite brand of toothpaste.  I finally managed to convince him that it might not be a bad idea to take a few items, whether it be a few treasured (but easily replaced) books or his brand of laundry detergent.  The response?  "Fine, fine, fine...".

Two weeks ago, he put in the shipment request and waited to hear back.  Meanwhile, time was flying.  He had consultations from the day we returned from vacation, and all the while patiently waited to hear about the UAB.  Nothing.  Finally it's Thursday night of last week and it occurs to him that not only did he request the pick-up for Friday morning, but that he never heard back from anyone. No messages on anyone's phone and not a single email.  One might think this means that the movers won't show.  Um, not so much.

Friday morning came bright and early as did our appointment with Cait's school.  We submitted her registration paperwork, and enjoyed a family breakfast out.  I was looking forward to an entire day of unfettered unpacking and organizing...until we pulled up to the house and found a moving van out front and three not so happy movers inside.  Commence three hours of phone calls, hair pulling, fears of no UAB shipment and (worse) fears of double payment for one UAB shipment. 

Unpacking?  Not that afternoon.  

Peter finally tracked down the right person, and it all boiled down to a technical error.  Really no one's fault, but wasn't something we really had time to deal with.  I suppose had we learned of the error Thursday night, we might have been able to throw something together.  However, given that there was no evidence the company was going to show, there didn't seem to be any reason to worry.  Nor could anything be done at the last minute:  his books were still packed, he hadn't had a chance to shop, and there was little, if any, packing space due to the unpacking that was still going on.

IMG_4943  In the end, it was rescheduled for yesterday.  No one really ended up at fault, and more importantly, no one (read: us) was charged any extra fees.  We had time to unpack his books, find a few videos, throw in a jacket or two, buy a new suit, and stock up on those favorites.  The movers showed up not only on time, but early, were finished prepping prior to the departure for nature camp and had departed the house by 9:30 a.m.   

It all worked out and the shipment is on the way.  The moving company is happy, we are happy, and no one is worse for the wear.  And, never, ever again will this household assume that no phone call (or email...or text...or tweet) means no movers...

July 21, 2010

We *heart* nature

IMG_4937  so much so that we finally decided it was time for a camp.  Despite the fact that there are oodles of day camps in the area, I couldn't justify spending the money for a regular camp.  If I found a specialty camp, that would be one thing, but we have the neighborhood pool across the street and so much to do in the area.  Then I noticed that the nearby Nature Center was having a week-long half-day camp for those ages 6-10.  

I hemmed and hawed and finally came to the conclusion that it might not be a bad idea.  Only Kelsey could attend, but perhaps she would meet future class (or school) mates and if nothing else, have a bit of a break from the siblings for a bit.  This would then (theoretically) give me less of a complex about unpacking during the day...or at least fewer kids to worry about while unpacking.

IMG_4939  We had not been to the Nature Center in ages and I forgot what a gorgeous, treed area it is.  Since our last visit, they have added a "Nature Playce" with a short trail for kids.  Kids (and parents) can grab a guide that lists nearly all of the wildlife and their habitats.  There is a special garden designed just for the purpose of attracting butterflies and there was no shortage of them while we visited.  

IMG_4941  Kelsey and I journeyed there Monday afternoon to learn more about the camp and find out if spots were still open.  They were, but Kelsey spent the entire time lamenting "camp" and  being a bit grouchy about the whole thing.  Kelsey kept muttering under her breath, "I don't want to go, I don't want to go!"

To her credit, the director who gave us a tour remained unfazed.  I think she assumed Kelsey would complain, I would drop my encouragement and that would be that. Kelsey asked when we left if she "had" to go.  I offered she could try it for a morning, after all, it had to be more exciting than watching me unpack. Lo and behold, the idea grew on Kelsey and while I was doing dishes that night, she ran into the kitchen, gave me a big hug, and said, "I think I am going to like Nature Camp!" 

Off she went Tuesday morning.  She was a little nervous, but between taking a hike, meeting two "damaged" (rescued) owls, and learning more about butterflies, she had a fantastic time.  She ran up to us when Nicholas and I came to get her and extolled the many virtues of the camp.  I began to feel a bit guilty last night as Nicholas started to beg to go to nature camp.  Not really a possibility for the under-three, still trying to get out of diapers set.  Then I received an email...

IMG_0155 IMG_0162   It was a reminder of a playgroup meet-up.  I dismissed it at first, thinking that I should stay home and unpack (even though I likely wouldn't get that much accomplished).  I then realized it was not only going to be held at a nature center, but there would be kids Nicholas's age, and it would be another opportunity not only to get him out of the house and rediscover local outdoorsy spots in this area.

Score a point for Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington!  The Nature Center isn't huge, but has a cozy play area with puzzles, a little clubhouse section, toys, and books.  The front room has several aquariums with snakes and frogs, and a fish pond is off to the side.  If one happens in at the right time, there may even be an opportunity to feed the fish.

IMG_0159  The best part?  Long Branch not only has a paved trail around a viewing pond, but a path down to Long Branch Stream.  It is a very easy walk down to the stream, though it will feel like a bit of a hike on a humid day like today.  Little Guy was appropriately attired in his crocs and spent the next 20 minutes running around in the flat bed of the stream, climbing up boulders (in his mind), wading through the deliciously cool water, and throwing rocks.  He was not along in this fun, as all of his new playgroup buddies wanted part of that action.  Had we not had to pick up Kelsey, I am fairly sure we could have happily spent the afternoon there.

IMG_0160  Not only did we have much outdoorsy fun, but I ended up several friends that I haven't seen in quite some time (well, one a few weeks and another 7 years...). It also gave me the opportunity to meet other parents at the playgroup that I had heretofore only chatted with online.  Had I stayed at home, I am sure I would have unpacked a box or two...but would have missed out on friends (for both of us), the nature center and stream, and that reaffirming feeling of accomplishment for having done something that makes the soul so very happy.  With next Tuesday looming in the distance like a grumpy black rain cloud, I am so glad I made the effort to get out.

Notes regarding Long Branch:  it is about 400 feet back from the street, down a long, windy road.  It is a "two lane" road, but really only room for one car at a time (with a few small pull-off areas).  Parking can also get tight and you may want to back in (good advice, D.!) if possible.  If it's a warm day and you visit the stream, don't forget your hats (we did *sigh*), sunscreen and water shoes.  An Ergo or carrier might be a good idea if you have a sleepy toddler, but strollers can easily make the trek to the stream.  

July 19, 2010

One bonus

IMG_4927  to the move back to Virginia is the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, see them on a regular basis and give back as they have given to us throughout the years.  As you may have seen on our blog or on theirs, the Salty Dogs are known for giving our kids breaks from us during the summer.

IMG_4930  During the past few years, they have taken them camping, boating (power and sailing), had beach days and, of course, crafty time.  This kind of generosity has allowed Peter and I time to take small trips, given us time to close on a house, unpack or just relax and enjoy each other's company.  Now that Baby Nate has arrived, we are finally able to reverse the trend a bit.  Needless to say, the mother hens, Caitlin and Kelsey, are thrilled to help us.

IMG_4929  We had our first official opportunity (as a family) on Saturday night.  Shannon and Mark were having dinner with friends in the city, and given our proximity to DC, easy enough to let their Little Guy stay with us for a bit.  To say the kids loved it would be an understatement. 

IMG_4935  We read books, played with toys, took walks, rocked in the chair, and spent requisite time with Uncle Pete toiling away on coding for his current hobby.  Other than when Uncle Pete foolishly decided it might be bedtime and tried to rock Nate to sleep, LG Talbott was pretty darn happy.  When he was a little overtired and having trouble falling napping (not exactly the normal routine), I put him in the Ergo and we walked until he was snoozing soundly.  I got exercise and he had a little nap-time...a win-win scenario for all involved!

Above are a few photos from the evening.  No worries, Cait was only pretending to be asleep and definitely had a grip on Nate.  And, yes, Nicholas loves to eat cucumbers like their are apples.  Please ignore the boxes in the background and the general lack of organization.  Apparently we still have a wee bit of unpacking to do...

July 18, 2010

The towel

was crumpled up and left to dry (not) in a heap on the towel rack.  Thinking perhaps I had forgotten to put it away, I picked it up only to find that my hair towel (yes, I selfishly need a towel just for the tresses) was extremely damp, if not downright wet.  I looked around, realized that only one bath towel was hanging on the back of the door, and instantly knew that Peter had used my hair towel instead of getting the clean bath towels from the laundry room.

I started the shower and began to mumble under my breath about the use of my towel.   How hard is it to just go get another towel?  Then a rather sad thought popped into my head:  two weeks from now he will 'over there'.  My towels will be neat and orderly every day, or at least as I left them.  No damp towels on the floor, no extra piles of laundry where they shouldn't be and a nightstand with nothing on it but a lamp.  No wallet, no creds, no keys or any piles of loose change.  I started to tear up until I realized, on one level, that I asked for this scenario.

Eight years ago this August, we moved back to this very neighborhood from Venezuela.  Due to the needs of the service, Peter took position on a protective detail. Caitlin was not even four and Kelsey was 4.5 months when we returned to the States and he began the job.  We had heard that there was a bit of travel, and the schedule was a slightly topsy-turvy.  Nothing prepared me for what took place.

The minute home leave ended, the crazy schedule commenced, as did the travel.  Peter went from days to nights every two weeks and had a midnight shift every 12 weeks.  Interspersed into this chaos was trip after trip after trip.  As you can imagine, very few were domestic.  The tally at the eventual end of the tour in 2005 came to 48 countries, some of them several times.  We were not able to plan anything, including vacations or Kelsey's baptism.   The only guaranteed time off came when one of us had serious medical issues to deal with, such as Kelsey's cranio-facial reconstruction in June of 2003.  Despite the travel and odd hours, no one blinked an eye when Peter requested the family time.  More importantly, not having taken a sick day in ages meant more than enough time saved up for both the surgery and an appropriate recovery time.  The sick leave policy is nothing if not extremely generous.

That being said, the travel was so random and frequent that we really became quite independent of each other. I can't tell you how many times Peter called home to tell me that he would not only be leaving, but had to be on a flight that left in a short time.  This scenario meant that he magically needed to pack (he usually never completely unpacked) and get to the airport, as wheels up (not check-in) was exactly 5 hours away.  After 2 years of this (and more and more unaccompanied tours began popping up), I uttered the unthinkable, "It would really just be easier if he left for one solid block of time."  I was not bitter, but had simply come to realize that it would likely be less stressful if the travel came in large, prescheduled blocks rather than frequent last-minute trips here and there.  Little did I know how great the need would still be 6 years later.

Now lest the above description of our years from 2002-2005 sound like a rant, rest assured, it's not.  While it was not an ideal schedule for a young family, we learned to work around it.  We made the most of our time together, and Peter was able to attend a few events without question that would normally require time off.  We didn't rely on each other as much, and I learned that what didn't leave me exhausted, just made me stronger.  I managed to build a good support and social network and had a babysitter who could help out at the drop of a hat.  It wasn't the easiest time of our lives, but definitely taught us much about what we could or could not handle...like this upcoming year.

Yet we are now 9 days out from his departure and I am already weepy over bath towels.  Silly, really, as we have so much available to us that years ago was unfathomable.  We will be able to call, Skype and email, technological capabilities that eluded most in this career for decades.  I know where he will be and how long he will stay there.  I know he gets three R&Rs and those will be solid chunks of family time.  I know I have friends and family (thanks in advance, Dad!) near and far who have already begun to offer support in anticipation of me not being able to do it all myself.  Yes, I can, but I have learned that there isn't any shame in knowing when one truly needs help.

I also have friends who will be going through the same thing at the same time and completely understand our unique situation.  I'm not the only one who is going to be a single parent this year, and I am comforted by the notion that at least this was a choice for our family.  

And that crumpled towel?  Yeah,  I'll miss it..not the wet, crumpled heap, but what it represents...

July 15, 2010

Something was missing...

from our weekly routine.  I knew we were off-kilter after moving across the country, then taking a week-long vacation and topping that with visiting friends and family for another week.  A good off-kilter, mind you, but the move was beginning to sink in...as well as the realization that I needed to get settled and fast. I tried to get back into the swing of things on Monday while Peter began his consultations, but came to the conclusion rather quickly that I no longer knew what the 'swing of things' was for our new life.

So instead I stressed about everything.  Stressed about the unpacked suitcases, stressed about the unpacked boxes and realized that unpacking with the kids around simply wasn't a good idea.  Lest I sound like the worst mother on the planet (or a close second), I have decided to be selfish and need time for myself to get settled.  As much as I know the kids can help, I really, really want to simply want a day to myself with no one around.  I want to put my headphones on, crank up the iPod and get back into my mad decluttering/organizing/box-emptying mode that I was in the day the movers arrived.  Mercifully, I will get my wish tomorrow.

I was given the above news last night, when I really, really needed to hear it.  In fact, just hearing about my 'free time' gave me the inspiration to get through an entire box of china and crystal.  It's not put away yet, but in a staging area (like that, S.?) for tomorrow. It also gave me the idea that getting out of the house today and setting very few goals (rather than too many) might be the best plan.  By the time I was really awake this morning, I realized our morning would have one goal, and one goal only.

We woke up way too late as we have been less than strict on bedtimes and I have not been sleeping well. Nicholas and I ate breakfast, roused the girls and tried to hurry them along so as not to miss our first trip to the local farmers market.  Yep, that was it. That's what I needed...not more coffee, not to worry about where to put the crystal, not to cry over a lack of exotic summer plans...we just needed to get out and visit a familiar place that would put us all in a good mood.  Call us simpletons, but that place was the (comparatively speaking) tiny, but chock-filled with fresh produce goodness farmers market in Annandale.

We pulled up into the lot 15 minutes before closing, but we were there (hint: going late also often means lower prices).  It had been over 5 years since I had attended this market and wondered if any of my old favorites such as Valentines's Country Bakery or the Greek lady who sold baklava from her trunk would still be there.  Sadly, Greek lady* was not there, however in the past she left when she ran out of her homemade delights, so not surprising.  

IMG_0115The Amish bakery was there and now also offered a wide variety of grass-fed meats, which we will have to sample soon.  Five years ago, the booth was attended by a young boy (maybe 8 -10) and his father.  He was no taller than Kelsey is now, very quiet and unassuming.  Five years later, and the stand is still run by the same family.  The young boy now towers over me and seemed to exude friendly authority rather than shyness.  How reassuring that the business was not only run by the same family, but seemed to thrive in our absence, despite us having not purchased a single whoopie pie from them in over 5 years. 

IMG_0116  Other farms also had young help, logical since most are family businesses.  At the very next stand, we found plump grape tomatoes and cucumbers perfect for slicing and tossing with vinegar (Kelsey's favorite). The cashier could not have been more than 10, but chatted fluently in both English and Spanish with customers. She weighed, counted, bagged and made change without missing a beat in either language.  

We finished up with fresh peaches across the way as the stores were beginning to shut down.  As we were walking down the aisle of the market, I realized that I had finally started to feel normal again.  Funny how one tiny routine task can make a day or, in my case, a week?  Now lest one think I am attached to this particular market, I have already researched others in the area and have heard the Falls Church (among others) is well worth the trip.  It's held on Saturday mornings and I am thinking we will have to mosey over there next weekend. I'm quite grateful we have an entire year here, as we will also have to hit the markets in Alexandria City, Reston, and Annapolis, to name a few.

IMG_0134  Now I made us sound a bit lazy, as though we did nothing but run to the farmers market and back home again.  No, we also had a chance to meet up with our friends Jack and Janet for dinner.  We had recently heard of a new burger joint, Ray's Hell Burger (and Ray's Hell Burger, Too).  It was rumored to be exceedingly good and could possibly trump Five Guys.   Peter is always up for a good burger, and even more so now with the count-down to departure clock rapidly ticking away (11 days, 18 hours and 49 minutes, not that we are counting...), no time like the present!

IMG_0124  We found a metered parking spot in front of the restaurant and headed into the most unassuming burger joint we have seen as of late.  The menus were simple and had been typed up and photocopied.  Despite the plain appearance, the burger styles had me unable to choose until the last minute.  And the toppings?  Too many to list here, see the menu.   The girls went with plain burgers and Peter and I created our own burgers with the lil devil option (supposedly small, but quite enough in my opinion).  

IMG_0132  Yum, yum, yum. Perfection on a bun.  In fact, the brioche bun was the only negative.  Tasty, but a bit weak for all of the toppings we had them slather on the poor burger (which was excellent).  If you are in the area and have a hankering, definitely worth the stop.  Tasty and the tab was easy on the wallet.  Delish burgers and good friends...not a bad way to spend the evening and a perfect wrap-up to the day.

*From a Yelp review, it sounds like she is also a regular at the Falls Church farmers market...yippee!

July 13, 2010

Home Again, Home Again

IMG_0072  After almost two weeks on the road, we are home (well, in our current locale) for the moment.  Sadly, the unpacking elves did not do their job while we were gone and the house was not quite as organized upon return as I thought we left it.  On the other hand, since we had only moved in 6 days prior to our trip, I think we can cut ourselves a break on this one.

In addition to the lack of organizing, the elves also forgot to stock up on cleaning supplies and groceries. I made the requisite trip to my not-so-local Whole Foods last night and bought two day's worth of dinners and other 'necessary' supplies for an ungodly sum of money.  Despite the payout, the trip helped me find 'my' grocery store.  I have been so incredibly dissatisfied since we moved from San Ramon, as I realized I finally had everything I needed there.

It's the one aspect of moving that drives me crazy:  having to find my new 'everything'.  Yes, there is still a long list, and I will probably not complete it until the movers pull up next summer.   My roots are begging for a touch-up, we need to verify with a new pediatric dentist that we will have to shell out for the kids "orthodonture" sooner rather than later, the fridge has a leak (anyone know a trustworthy appliance repair person in the Northern VA area?), and the list goes on.  

I won't dwell on that stuff though, as at least are living in a crowded, box-filled house that we own!  We made mortgage payment number one on July 1 and only have 359 more to go.. As much as I loved living in Northern CA (yes, I did, I really fall in love with the area...), I do not miss that house *shudder*.  

Since I have completely and utterly digressed, my point was not to complain about the area stores, but regale you with tales of catching up with old friends.  This past weekend, we ended up having an opportunity to catch up with our friends, Beth and Nick and their three absolutely wonderful children.  We met them only days after moving to San Ramon and have been so very glad for their friendship since that first time we talked.

We were at ye Olde Residence Inn at the same time and started chatting while at the pool (where else?). Beth's daughter, Sarah, kindly made Cait's acquaintance (they are a mere 5 months apart in age) and things went swimmingly from there. We would lollygag about around the hot tub and commiserate about moving (they have also moved quite a bit). We even eventually figured out that we both grew up in Memphis and went back and forth with the "Do you know..?"s quite a bit.  

Sarah and Cait quickly became friends.  Despite the fact that we eventually lived in different towns, the girls were able to get together frequently for slumber parties, movies and the like.  Beth and family hosted us for our first California Thanksgiving dinner and we had them over for Christmas Eve dinner after we all listened to Cait sing at mass.  

As it turned out, they did not stay in the area very long.  We were very sad to see them go, as all of the kids got along so amazingly well.  They ended up moving to a delightful small town in Connecticut, which thrilled us.  It may sound terribly far away, but their house is not a great distance from the route that takes us from Peter's parents house (albeit, a long one) to our own.  Last Saturday, we had our first chance to stop for a visit since moving back to Virginia.

IMG_4924  It was planned rather quickly, as our beach vacation/family visit planning was in flux for so long.  In fact, Beth opted not to tell Sarah, that we were coming (on the off chance we couldn't make it). Cait surprised her at the door Saturday afternoon and it was as though they had never been apart.  Daniel, her middle child, took Nicholas under his wing, and they had a great afternoon playing cars, trains and helicopters despite the 8 year age difference.   The kids (let's not forget Kelsey or Emily, Sarah's little sister) played, swam, played some more, swam again, and finally fell asleep to a movie (sans Nicholas, he was early to bed).

IMG_4925It was a wonderful weekend, from the kids reconnecting to the fabulous spread Beth prepared to the scrumptious steaks Nick grilled for us. Despite the fact that it had almost been a year since we had seen each other, it felt as though nothing had changed (other than Cait and Sarah each growing 4 inches taller!). Our only misgiving was not planning to have more time there, as the catching up and relaxing with old friends is just such a good thing for one's soul.  Much appreciation to Beth and Nick (and the kids) for hosting our family and can't wait to see you again soon!

July 10, 2010

Eric Carle & The Titanic

or vicey-versa.  We have been spending the past week in Massachusetts with Peter's family, and realized there were quite a few places that we have not had the chance to visit prior to now. 

We had intended on visiting the newly discovered (by us) Eric Carle Museum of Art on Thursday, but the schedule didn't quite allow.  We instead decided upon a trip to The Titanic Museum in nearby Indian Orchard.  The website contained an overwhelming amount of information, and since our girls have always had a fascination with the Titanic disaster (and Nicholas loves boats), we felt it would satisfy our museum needs for the day.  Then there is the family tale that my great-grandmother was set to travel on the Titanic...until she found out she was pregnant with my grandfather.  She ended up opting to wait as she felt it wasn't the best time to travel.  She could have been a survivor, but in hindsight, I am quite glad she did not take the risk.

We thought it was interesting that there weren't too many photos of the museum on-line, but assumed it was the natural avoidance of photography near precious artifacts.  However, one might expect a photo of the museum itself.  Unless, of course, it is fronted by Harry's jewelry shop.

IMG_4910 IMG_4911 We whizzed past the museum the first time, having completely missed the information that indicated one needed to enter through Harry's Jewelry Shop.  This seemed a little odd, but we decided to go with it.  We parked on Main Street, zipped across the street and entered my maternal grandmother's living room.

No, not really, Harry's had nothing on Rose.  However, it was the most eclectic combination of wrapping paper (circa 1983), cards, and Catholic memorabilia galore I have seen since 2000.  It was all supervised by a woman clad in a vest covered in patches that would be the envy of Girl Scouts far and wide.  We sidled up to the cash register, and requested 4 tickets for the Titanic Museum.  The response?

"Ooh, yes!  Let me go turn on the lights!"

I love energy savings as much as the next person, and couldn't help but wonder whether that was a  bad sign.  I love it when my assumptions turn out to be silly and unfounded!

The museum was not huge, but jam-packed full of information.  Naturally, not many true artifacts (we are easily impressed, though), but enough to instill a sense of wonder and awe.  By far the most fascinating items were letters and diary entries from those who had traveled on the Titanic.  The museum also covered other impressive ships of the era, so one need not be a Titanic fan to enjoy a trip to the society.

When we first stepped through the doorway, I noticed a few interesting photos.  They were framed pictures of a couple who were clearly modern day, yet dressed in the finery one might find in 1912.  I looked to the left and saw photos of Leonardo DiCaprio and Frances Farmer on the deck of the Titanic movie set...with the couple immediately to the right.  The curator noticed our curiosity and quickly noted that the well-attired couple in the photo happened to be her brother and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Ed Kamuda.  She then pointed out other photos, and a chandelier (used in the movie) hanging in the corner.  Apparently her family's interest in the Titanic, especially her brother's information and artifact gathering over the years, had garnered the couple roles as first class passengers in the film.  

It was a bit tight for Nicholas, so we probably did not spend more than 45 minutes.  We were all suitably impressed, though, despite our initial worry that we had completely missed the boat on this one.  Oh, and the Eric Carle Museum?  No worries, we hit that one today.

It was a bit longer of a drive, and given that we had several other errands and family visits, we had less time to explore than we desired.  The girls were having a day out with Nonni, Peter's mother, so that coupled with a shorter amount of time equals to very good reasons to go back in the future.

IMG_4916 IMG_4912 The museum is located in the southern part of Amherst, a college town located in western Massachusetts.  It is around the corner from a country market, and, frankly, not much else.  There appears to be no limitation on space, so the hallways are wide (allowing for tall murals), the galleries are numerous and large, and there is plenty of room for the library, art center, story area, and, of course, the giant caterpillar.  In case you are wondering, yes, it did almost scare the pants off Nicholas.  I think he is used to the caterpillar being safely ensconced between the pages of a book, not larger than life in the middle of a museum hallway.

IMG_4913 IMG_4915 We viewed exhibits on the work of Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, and Lizbeth Zwerger.  Is there anything more amazing than seeing the original work up close and personal?  Viewing Eric Carle's tissue paper collage of the alphabet in person may even (in my humble opinion) trump my viewing of the Mona Lisa. 

No pictures from the gallery, and sadly, we had to miss story hour.  We were able to visit the art room, and Nicholas made his own tissue paper collage entitle (hold back your surprise and shock): Trucks.  We had a bit of an issue when he felt a toy truck (they had a play area in the art room...how incredibly thoughtful is that?) was his to keep.  Thankfully we were able to work through it without disappointment on Nicholas's part...and I was reminded once again how just a little bit more patience on my part can keep things on a much more even keel.  So not worth it to ruin a fun day by not remembering that a 2 year old sees the world so differently.  We would have loved to stay a bit longer, but we had one more exciting trip for the day in a town a few miles away.

IMG_4919 IMG_4920Yes, this was a trip to visit Uncle John at his 'office'.  Peter's brother is an EMT and we are hoping to see him one day work for the local fire department.  In the meantime, he is employed by a local ambulance service.  He was kind enough to let us stop by and check out the "ananances" that he frequently rides in for patient transports.  Nicholas enjoyed the visit, but was appropriately stunned by the lights, sirens and equipment that Uncle John utilizes on a daily basis.

And tomorrow?  We begin our journey home (to include an overnight with friends).  Then back to unpacking, getting settled and distracting ourselves (for the moment) from thinking about the end of July.

July 08, 2010

It's not all about the

IMG_4843   IMG_4846  beach.  Sure, we go to Chincoteague, well, Assateague (to be exact) to frolic in the waves, sink into the sand with a good book and build super-deluxe beach castles.  However, we also go to discover (and re-discover) the swath of land between the Assateague Channel and the ocean.  

It teems with wildlife of every sort.  Assateague and Chincoteague may be famous for the wild ponies that live in the marshy woods, but that is hardly the only draw. Birders flock to the island to catch a glimpses of herons, egrets, and piping plovers (among others) and will no doubt see more gulls (laughing and sea) than may be desired.  Those who have more of an interest in earthbound marsh creatures can find a plethora of crabs, shells (and the animals that dwell within), and fish.  

On Wednesday (1 July, I am a bit behind...) we opted for a less structured non-beach day.  While in Chincoteague last summer, we finally stopped by a little creek that had garnered our interest over time.  We had noticed cars by the side of the Beach Access Road, just yards from the beach. We were never entirely sure what folks were doing, but were too busy at the visitor centers, the pony center and the beach.  Many folks tend to crab near the bridge, so we assumed perhaps this was a different venture.  In fact, we were quite correct in our original assumption.

The girls wanted to try and crab, not so much to catch an edible treat (no place to steam) but just to try and get a bit closer to the little guys (or gals) in their natural habitat. Unfortunately, we had neither a proper net nor any bait to tempt those that tend to live just a bit too far from shore to be caught even with a long net.  This year we were a tiny bit more prepared.

We had stopped at Woody's for lunch, and Kelsey was not quite as hungry as her normal self.  She opted to save her sandwich as a treat for the crabs.  Not a chicken neck, but hopefully would do the trick (mind you, as if we knew how the meat would get out to the crabs...).  We also picked up a two long-handled nets and then headed to the creek. 

IMG_4865  We pulled over on the gravelly shoulder, gathered our meager crabbing supplies and headed down to the creek that eventually flowed into the ocean.  We were lucky to find another family, experienced at crabbing (to say the least), well- involved in a search for the elusive creatures.  They had string, bait, nets, and coolers, and were clearly in not only for the long haul, but possibly also for dinner.  We observed them carefully as they loaded up their hooks with glistening, raw chicken necks, tied their strings to sticks rooted in the mud and gently tossed them as far as possible into the water.  Our kids were (not surprisingly) suddenly incredibly jealous of their careful system...how could they possibly find even one tiny crab by tossing cold pulled pork into the water?

IMG_4847  The answer presented itself quickly as I scanned the shore that bumped into the the rapidly rising path to the road:  trash.  Sadly, previous visitors felt no issue with dumping everything from obvious recyclables to leftover crabbing tools.  I started a pile of garbage to be removed when we left and and looked at Peter as I picked up a clump of string.  He looked at my hand, inspected the contents and instantly understood my idea.  He then ran to the car to find an old bungee cord for disassembling.  Five minutes later we had a line (pulled from the trash), a hook (old bungee clip) and bait (yep, the pork).  Not thinking it would work and realizing Nicholas seemed to want to explore more, we crossed the street to another more solitary part of the marsh.  

IMG_4850  IMG_4862 Selfishly, I had also been tempted by a great egret (hope I pegged that one correctly, Jack & Janet!) that had landed on the lower part of the bridge.  He remained for a few photos and only flew away when I inched just a bit too close for his comfort.  I thought with my newfound stealth skills, perhaps Little Guy and I could catch a photo or two of other elusive island dwellers for the memory book.

We tiptoed across the mud, and I caught a quick glance of a tiny animal slipping into a perfectly circular hole in the mud.  It was a fiddler crab, a first for Nicholas.   Even bettter?  When two popped out at the same time to dance around on the sand in unison, pausing only when we caused slight tremors with our footsteps.

IMG_4872  We continued along, moving further away from the road and in a southerly direction towards the water.  We thought perhaps we might catch sight of a pony, but instead found a plethora of fiddler crab homes.  We caught sight of two more, but sadly I still have but a weak point and shoot that couldn't capture them quickly enough.  

IMG_4874  Realizing that quite a bit of time had passed since our departure, we crept quietly up to the road and back down the path to the creek.  To our astonishment, each of the girls had managed to tempt in a Maryland blue crab. Kelsey's disappeared before Peter could wrangle it with the net, but had successfully pulled in Cait's.  Cait realized, as you will see in the video (now here, see below!), that she really had no plan beyond the attempt.

She had carefully put him in a bucket with marsh mud and plenty of water.  The crab buried himself and after several more unsuccessful attempts on Kelsey's part, we were out of bait.  We tumped the crab out onto the ground, snapped a few photos of Cait's catch and watched the little blue creature skittered into the creek.  

Finished for the day, we, too, scurried home to our hotel with three tired and sandy, but very triumphant explorers.


July 07, 2010

New Kid on the Blog

There's a new badge on the blog, and though you may not be aware, it is something near and dear to my heart.  The badge links to a site created by two caring mamas who wanted to take a few days to spread the word about a simple activity that often becomes rife with complications: feeding one's child in public.

How on earth could that be difficult? When the method of feeding is the most natural, possibly the easiest, the cleanest, safest, most nutritional, but also (at times) the most ridiculed and misunderstood.  Yes, the simple act of breastfeeding in public can cause undue stress on the nursing mother for no other reason that others who happen to be near the mother may not approve of said activity.

May. Not. Approve.  Yes, someone (likely not related to mother or child) may find it repugnant, and make their disdain known through looks or comments that indicate said nursing mother is somehow deliberately trying to make the entire planet uncomfortable.  Given that I have been the recipient of both looks and comments, I couldn't help but think I needed to do a bit more to support this effort.

I am not going to go on and on about the statistics or try to convince anyone that they should or shouldn't nurse their child.  I am not going to ridicule anyone who doesn't, as in the end, it is a choice.  Do I feel strongly that children should be nursed? Yes. So much so that I still feel guilt that I *only* nursed Cait full-time for three months (and part-time until she was 5 months).  I was far more successful with Kelsey (and know that  "extended" nursing assisted her in her incredibly fast recovery from cranio-facial reconstruction at 14 months), and Nicholas still nurses in the morning and night.

I had no idea I would end up feeling so strongly or passionately about a topic.  Despite my viewpoint, I don't discuss it much, primarily because I feel motherhood is hard enough and I prefer to lead by example (and before you chuckle, I know it's not always the perfect example).  If you ask, I am happy to offer what worked for me, and after Nicholas, I finally feel as though I have a decent grasp on the topic of nursing a baby and/or toddler (having memorized the Kellymom website certainly helped).

Why the badge?  If he only desires to nurse in the morning or at night, and might even wean soon, why do I worry about the right to nurse in public?  Sadly, though not necessarily a worry for me, it is still an issue for other moms. Despite that almost every state protects the right to breastfeed in public and federal law also has protections in place, it still feels as though many have the assumption that it is not legal (or, more importantly, right) in public. It seems not a week goes by that there isn't a story of a misguided employee, from a lifeguard to a waiter to a clothing store staffer, who threatens the mother's right to feed her baby in the best way she knows how.  Why does this happen?

It seems that there is the idea that woman who nurse in public want to show off or display themselves somehow.  The reality, at least for myself, and for those I have seen nursing in public, is that one can find far more lascivious displays on the beach or in a Victoria's Secret catalog.  I can't say that I nurse in public (at the moment), because it simply isn't when Nicholas currently desires/needs to nurse.  However, I fully support the rights of others to do so, and given one such experience in my past, felt a little promotion for such a natural part of life is well overdue.

The incident?  I was the one criticized by a clothing store staffer.  I was humiliated and belittled because I sat in the only chair I could find in a shop to nurse my (then) 5 month old baby (Kelsey).  I was told that I was making others feel uncomfortable because I fed my child in the healthiest and most natural way I knew (and, not that it matters, extremely discreetly).  Would the same person have blinked had I whipped out a bottle? I feel very sure the answer would be "no."  

The badge will not be up for long, as it is part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public and it will end on July 9. However, my support for those wishing to nurse in public will never waiver, and I would hope (regardless of how you choose/are able to feed your child), neither will yours.

July 05, 2010

It's all about...

IMG_4903

Lemonade stands with a hand-painted sign (that will likely hang in Nonni's garage for years to come)

  IMG_4907

Consuming said lemonade

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Hanging out in the sandbox playing with cousins

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Extra-large marshmallows

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A reminder of how and why we can do all of the above without question.   A gift given to Peter by a friend as a good luck charm of sorts.  It is only to be given back to the friend upon Peter's safe return from his tour of duty.  I am already looking forward to witnessing that next summer and hope it will be accompanied by more lemonade and marshmallows.

IMG_0065

From our family to yours:

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July 03, 2010

Click, click

Din_2010_176_T  I generally despise family photos.  I worry about slouching, not sucking in my stomach, the kids not smiling enough, and Peter doing that fake "I hate to smile" thing. I realized late last year as I was trying to decide whether or not to do 'official' two year shots for Nicholas, that we had not taken any real family photos in ages (other than quick snaps by a strangers in front of Hoover Dam with a so-so outcome).

Ages turned out to be almost two years.  We  had a semi-professional photographer take shots of us on the beach one morning in Chincoteague in June of 2008, and despite the fact that we did the 'white t-shirt look alike' business, many of them were quite good.  One shot of the girls was particularly darling, and it reminded me recently that since the kids are growing like weeds, well, no time like the present.

I toyed with having the photos taken in San Ramon by an absolutely wonderful photographer.  She has a gorgeous garden for a backdrop, and my only problem was not being decisive enough.  I probably should have gone to her last winter, but I was in a funk about losing more baby weight and I let that distract me.  

Then I saw these photos online, and knew I might have a chance of getting absolutely the family photos I craved.  Not with Jessica, but with a divinely talented photographer who frequently visits the Annapolis area, close by the home of the Salty Dog Crew.  I made mention of this to Shannon (Dr. Salty Dog) who happened to be in touch with Jana.  Jana wrote to me, and it turned out that she would be in town the week that we arrived. We couldn't hope for better timing and grabbed the opportunity.

In some respects, it couldn't have been crazier.  Not only was I throwing baby-fat, belly-sucking caution to the wind, but we were barely rested from our crazy cross-country charade.  My hair could end up being a frizz fest, the girls might argue the entire time, Pete might not smile (actually a trait that works well in his job, just not great for fun family photos), and Nicholas could have a complete and utter "I need a nap" meltdown.  So, we made sure to book early in the morning, I coffeed myself up (in order to deal with any arguing), Peter practiced smiling whilst muttering under his breath at morning traffic, and the hair magically worked out.

Now we have photos that made me laugh, cry and want to book another sitting.  Jana works wonders with nothing more than two cameras and a knowledge of perfect backdrops in downtown Annapolis.  It probably didn't hurt that our assistant also knew the kids (thanks, Jenn P.!), and even a bit of knowledge of the personalities being photographed is amazingly helpful.   Jenn and Jana both knew that Nicholas would be awestruck if the fire truck that whizzed by us towards the end of the shoot could stop for a minute. Jenn had a chat with the driver, and moments later, fire truck stalker Nicholas and his family had the perfect shot in front of "Firetruck, firetruck!".

There were so many incredible shots that it will be very hard to decide on a family photo book.  We will have not one, but two, as you can well imagine.  One for home, and one for Peter's home away from home.  I can't say his departure for a year didn't play into our decision to invest in gorgeous photographs. In fact, it increased our desire to capture more precious family moments on film.  Many thanks to Jana Bannan, and her assistant for the day, Jenn, for a morning and photographs that are burned into our minds and hearts forever.  

* Please note that the above photo was taken by Jana Bannan.  The same holds true for all linked photos in this entry.

July 01, 2010

Missing photos?

If you happened to read the previous post earlier in the day, and then recently read it again,  you may notice a few missing photos.  This particular blogger apparently inserted an inadvertently non-edited photo which was not supposed to be posted.  However, the error is due in part to the wonkiness of the blogger's MacBook (it's complaining about being 'low on memory'...whatever!) and the not so 'high-speed internet' of her hotel in Vacationland.

Due to a connection that does not even resemble dial-up, she cannot upload the properly edited photos. Hopefully, this situation can be rectified soon.  The vacation is over tomorrow and she will head to a new destination for another week where internet should be much faster.  Meanwhile, please understand that the photos that were in place did not portray accurate reflections of the subjects in said photos.  Hopefully this clears up any misconceptions.  

Mea culpa, thank you and have a good evening!  This blogger is off to enjoy her last night of vacation at the opening night of the Chincoteague Carnival!  Pictures will follow...in a few days.

Chincoteague Revisited

IMG_4796 IMG_4797   IMG_4807  We may be the most boring folks on the planet.  We go to the same beach every year, eat at the same nearby restaurants, and sometimes even stay in the same hotel.  Call us crazy, but with our lifestyle, it's nice to know there is a routine of sorts to be found somewhere.  We have also fallen in love with this sleepy little town and its nearby beach.  

We love that there is nothing on the beach, but sand and shells.  There are no man-made structures other than a naturalist shack and showers. Should one tire of the ocean view, there is the marsh just on the other side of the parking lot. There are numerous walking paths, creeks where bare-footed, sandy-bottomed swimsuited kids crab to their hearts content, and of course, the ponies.  

Every summer since 2006, we have come to Chincoteague and Assateague Island for at least 4 days.  We romp in the surf, chow on seafood and bbq (since 2008, when Woody's first opened), indulge in ice cream, and a few crazy games of mini-golf.  We have watched the new bridge come to life, and await the introduction of the connector.  Once that is complete, there will be two bridges leading into town (well, one split into two).  We only have to hope that doesn't change the nature of the town too much.  Though a coffee bar open past 5 p.m. would certainly not be an unwelcome addition...

IMG_4825  Thus far, this visit has been much the same.  We are downtown on the water, so much more is within walking distance.  Of course, the trolley is always an option, and one year we will actually be able to bring our bikes with us.  There has been one small change, but that is within our little family:  Nicholas. 

IMG_4799He liked the beach last year, and enjoyed being in the water.  This year?  He is an amazing ball of energy, and I am still surprised he left the sandy paradise somewhat willingly. He spent a good portion of the day digging in the sand and burying toy cars, but with much more determination and independence than last year.  The rest of the time, he was in the water and loving every minute of it. He spent much time running around in the waves, and loved it when they knocked him over. There was no sputtering or crying, he just stood back up and ran towards the next wave.  I have a feeling it will be very hard to leave on our last day, and can already hear him begging to come back next year.