Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chesapeake Weekend Pt. II

Saturday was the busiest day we have had in a long, long time.  I wasn't quite sure how Eliot was going to make it through all the way, but he did somehow!

We got up kind of early.   6:20 am.  Eliot usually wakes up between 7:00 am and 8:30 am, so not too terribly early for him.  Chris, my mom, Eliot, and I drove to downtown Portsmouth for the Elizabeth River 10k.  Chris was running and then Eliot would do a 100 yard dash.  Off Chris went at 8:05 am!  My mom and I walked to different places on the course to cheer him on.  In the mean time, we met a lot of dogs and Eliot pulled a tree branch around that had fallen.  Chris did a great job!  It is something like 6.2 miles and he averaged under 8:30 for each mile!  I couldn't do that for one mile, let alone over six!
While we waited for the kids' race to start an hour after Chris finished, we got Eliot a monkey balloon, which he didn't like, then loved, then popped, then threw away.  It works!

At 10:00 am, it was time for the kids' race.  First, they let the one- and two-year-old group run, which Eliot was in.  He was pretty obviously the youngest, and Chris was allowed to hold his hands to keep him on track.  He came in second place!  Out of three.  Ha!  I know this all seems silly (and it is), but we were not doing this to showcase his ability or anything--just for pictures, the tee-shirt, and to say he ran his first race at the age of one.
We went back to my parents' house and put Eliot to bed as soon as I could.  My niece's birthday party was coming up in a few hours.  Eliot refused to nap for a long time, acting all energetic, but I knew he was doing his "I'm so tired, I'm hyper" thing.  Eventually, he went to sleep for about an hour.

Around 3:00 pm, the party got going.  Eliot tried to throw all of the sand in the pool (and failed) along with the two sandy toy trucks (and succeeded three times).  Sydney, my niece, seemed to have a good time playing in the pool.  I can't believe she is six.  It was so hard to transition from thinking of her as a baby to then accepting her as a kid.  I think I finally let go that she wasn't a baby anymore when she made it to three.  Ha.  If Eliot were turning six (or even three), I'd have a total meltdown, but Chelse seems to enjoy Sydney being older.
Eliot took a second nap when Sydney was opening presents.  The rest of the evening went by fast and Eliot was ready for bed at 9:20 pm.  How does he do it?  I don't know, but ever since, he has been going to bed at 7:00 pm, which is just craziness for him.  I think he is still trying to catch up.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chesapeake Weekend Pt. I

I have spent the past few days in Chesapeake.  I haven't had a lot of time to write about our adventures, but figured I should get a head start.

On Wednesday, I took Eliot to a new play group with my friend, Becca.  She and some people she knows were putting together a small, weekly group, which I was thrilled to be invited to.  I have taken Eliot to some groups, but they were so many people that I felt a little lost.  This time, though, Eliot was the oldest.  And he knew it.  After he got settled in, he knelt down to whisper to the babies.  And take their pacis.  And start the hostess's dishwasher.  And share snacks with his buddy, Levi.  He had a blast and it felt nice to get out and socialize some.
Levi and Eliot's due dates were exactly six months apart, but Eliot was five days late.  And Levi was right on time!

We came home to eat lunch and pack up as quickly as we could--I think it took us an hour and a half.  We made it to Chesapeake about 7:00 pm!

On Thursday, the three of us met with Lesley and her boys at the bay.  Eliot loves the lake, an appreciation I had hoped would extend to the bay.  However, he was terrified of the waves.  He would get so upset whenever Chris would go in the water.  Eventually, he calmed down and played in the sand.  Then I took him out past the water breaking and he finally loved the water, just like the lake.  Chris kept warning me that I was burning, but I didn't see it or feel it.  I had put on 55 SPF, so I thought maybe he was wrong.  Well, I was wrong.  I got a decent burn, but Eliot didn't burn at all (he was really lathered up), so that is the important part.
Weston and Eliot!  They are almost exactly two months apart--Weston is older.
Chris and the boys!  Lesley's older son, Kingston, actually called Chris "daddy," which I thought was hilarious.  Chris is always a boy magnet.
Eliot with Weston in the background.  Don't worry; Chris took this one while watching Eliot play in the sand.  Lesley and I were farther down the beach watching the other boys.

Part of the reason we came down was for a race!  Chris was running a 10k in Portsmouth, so we had to pick up his packet on Friday.  While we were out, we went shopping at MacArthur to get a couple of summer shirts for Eliot.  He had been wearing his winter button-down shirts with the sleeves rolled up, which has been working, but we got him a couple of larger, short-sleeved shirts that will last him through the fall.  I wanted to go see my grandma, but I guess she decided to go out of town.  While Chris was getting his packet, he also signed up Eliot for his race!  They were having a small, 100-yard dash for kids, so we thought it might be funny just to say that Eliot ran his first race at the age of one.
Waiting in the car while Chris got the race packet.  Check out that sunburn!
Eliot and his first race number!
After all of our errands and shopping, we had dinner on the water at Kelly's. Eliot devoured a lemon....

I'll post about the second half of the weekend in a couple of days.  All of those pictures on are our "real" camera.  So, up next:  the race and Sydney's birthday party!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Petshoppin' and Lakehoppin'

I stayed up reasonably late Sunday night to submit all of my final grades and get everything in order for the end of the spring semester.  Chris just had some tidying up to do for his courses in the morning, so I wanted to be ready to get out and do something on Monday.  I felt so bogged down over the weekend.

After Eliot's nap yesterday, we headed out to Petsmart to get the dogs more food and collars.  Abed-nego's collar is now almost six years old and it somehow went missing.  He kept getting stuck to things with his nap tag, so we took it off for just a moment.  Now it is gone.  No worries; we wanted to get the dogs matching collars anyway once Dexter stopped growing.  Petsmart is so much fun with Eliot.  He pointed at the birds and excitedly said, "Bird!  Bird!  Bird!"  Then he'd scoot to the next bird cage and say the same thing.  All the way down the line.  Same with the fish.  And then we showed him the cats and he was really excited.  I think cats might be his favorite. (No, we're not getting any more pets, but Eliot sure loves to look)

We walked over to Target to pick up my niece's birthday present and few other things, like baby shampoo and some snacks.  Eliot knows to stand up as soon as he gets in a cart now--that way we let him down.  Not this time, buddy!  We got him in really, really tight and picked up an Eric Carle book that makes sounds.  He laughed all through our trip.  I know I can't keep buying books every time, but it worked for today.  And my mom always joked that this was how we ended up with so many Golden Books--she would get us one during most grocery store trips to keep us happy.

As we were leaving, Stephanie asked if we'd be interested in a lake trip.  The weather was warm, but the day was growing late.  I worried it would be packed at the lake.  We decided to go with it anyway and I'm so glad!  We made it to the lake about 4:50 pm and there were only two groups of people there.  I think Eliot had even more fun than last time.  He wants to swim swim swim until he shivers.  And then swim some more.  He loves playing in the sand too. 

While at the lake, we met a lady with her puppy there and Eliot took the liberty of trying to walk her dog for her.  Ha!

We left around 6:20 pm and had some dinner.  Chris made himself shrimp tacos and I had left-over pizza.  I was exhausted.  I think we all got just the right amount of sun.  Fifty-five SPF + an hour and a half of sunshine = just slightly tan.  Bath time for babe and he was asleep by 8:00 pm!  I headed to bed too because I had a bad headache that had been growing all day.

Eliot likes to dip his chips too

I'm thankful for productive days followed by fun, summer-y days!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Few Things

We've been on a grading spree, so here are just a few thoughts and minor events over the past few days.

1.  Where's my purse?
I had a baby shower to attend yesterday that I wouldn't be taking Eliot to.  Actually, I was going early to help out and Chris would come later with Eliot.  For the first time in a long, long time, I wouldn't need to carry a diaper bag.  I planned to wear a skirt, so I'd need a purse for my wallet and phone.  But where is my purse?  I couldn't remember.  And more importantly, I couldn't even remember what it looked like.  It had been that long since I used one.  And before you think I'm crazy, I told Chris about my dilemma and he couldn't remember what my last purse looked like either.  I've probably used it maybe once in the past year and four months.  Please don't think I'm complaining; Chris bought me a very nice diaper bag for my birthday last year, and I like it way more than any purse I have ever owned.

2.  Bats!
I wrote an entry before about watching the bats fly around our backyard.  I'm not scared of bats.  I think they're neat.  However, the other morning, I came downstairs to find one dead on our door mat.  In the house.  It might have flown in through the chimney and our cat must have killed it.  I don't know how else it would have gotten all the way to the front door.  Chris gave it a proper burial and we read Stellaluna in its honor.  Neko (our cat) pranced around extra proud that day, and I thanked her for not bringing the dead bat to us in bed.  She does that sometimes with crickets....

3.  Cookie zombies!
While at the baby shower, Eliot was playing with another toddler.  This boy was about six months older, but Eliot was hanging in there well enough--and I can't believe how tall Eliot is when compared to other older kids.  Anyway, the boy's mom asked him if he wanted a cookie.  I guess Eliot thought she was offering it to him too.  All of the sudden, they both turned around, arms out-stretched, and let out a loud affirmation that they both indeed wanted that cookie.  She almost jumped back as they both came after her.  I'm not saying they were fighting or anything, but they looked like cookie zombies.  We laughed and I gave Eliot his own, which he loved until he hit a chocolate chip (which he spit out).

4.  Monkey food!
Eliot isn't too terribly picky of an eater, but he definitely has started having "moods" lately.  One day, he loves Cheerios.  The next, he doesn't want anything to do with them.  And that's fine.  I just keep offering everythinggg to him. Today, though, Chris figured out a sure way to get him to eat a banana:  show Eliot videos of monkeys eating bananas.  I don't know why, but it worked!

That is all!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lake Weather

It is lake weather again!  I love the spring, but, man, once those hot days hit and water is available, summer is the best.  Although I am fair-skinned and burn easily, sometimes I feel like an iguana on a heat rock as I try to soak up enough sun to prepare for the dreaded winter.  Winter does have its place, though, I will admit.

Anyway, we headed to the lake for the first time this year.  Last year, we were excited to introduce Eliot to the water, but he wasn't that stoked.  I mean, he splashed some, but today he didn't want to leave.

Here is Eliot at the lake last year.  Little buddy!

And now this year.
I love our little dude!

As you can see, he spent a lot of time playing in the sand.  Then throwing sand and rocks at the water's edge.  And he loved to sit in his float and be pushed around.  He especially wanted to go out to touch the buoy, but the water was a little chilly.  He was shivering, but still wanted to run in!

Sometimes I feel a little sad that Lynchburg is a bit far from the ocean, but lakes really give me my fill of sand and water.  I mean, we can usually only stay about an hour anyway because I burn so easily and Eliot gets over it (kind of.  not today).  I hope to explore Leesville and Smith Mountain Lake sometime.  We never really have!  Lynchburg has a lot of other great things to offer that many other areas don't, like the trails.

Speaking of trails, did I mention that we went for an eight mile bike ride/run yesterday?  I biked.  Chris ran.  We were both tired--him more, I'm sure.  So, it felt nice to relax today at the beach.  We only did but so much relaxing, though, because Eliot did not take any naps.  I thought the sun and beach and water would wear him out.  Nope.  He was hyper allll day.  And he stayed up until about 9:30 pm!  That kid.  I love him like crazy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our House is Off the Market--We're Staying in Lynchburg!

We decided to take the house off of the market.  We'll stay here in Lynchburg for at least another year.  Maybe three.

I suppose I have some explaining to do.  Here is the short explanation if you don't want to read the whole story of how we came to be where we are.  Simply put, the houses in Chesapeake that we were originally interested all were short sales.  We didn't know this at first, so our budget kept growing and growing out of control.  Then our realtor here in Lynchburg kept suggesting that we drop the price about every two weeks.  Suddenly, we would be walking away with less money and needing to spend more on a new house.  Eventually, something has to give.  Since we don't have to move and quite honestly really like Lynchburg, we decided to stay here for at least another year.  In a year's time, we can save up more money and will hopefully be done with our dissertations, which will mean that we won't have to pay tuition any more (which we have been paying in cash).  Or maybe we'll stay for three years to really get ahead.

So, here is the whole, long story.

This whole moving idea started last August.  At that point, Chris and I were both officially working from home, so we can work from anywhere as long as we have an internet connection.  Prices in Chesapeake (where I grew up and Chris went to high school) were finally looking realistically low.  I love it here in Lynchburg, but Chris's heart was missing the ocean, home, and friends.  My parents had toyed with the idea of moving to Lynchburg and so did Chris's, but the logistics never worked out.  Here in Lynchburg, we don't go on "dates" or have someone to watch Eliot aside from Chris's sister when she is here for college, but we've only asked her to watch him a few times for work-related things (like double meetings) when it couldn't be avoided.  I know she'd gladly watch Eliot if we asked, but the reality is that she is in college and we need to let her study and do her college-y things.  In moving to Chesapeake, we were hoping for a support network and a feeling of community.  We knew we'd need to wait until the following spring (this spring) to sell, so we worked on final projects and decided to give it a go.

As I've said so many times, I'd be happy to stay in Lynchburg.  I love our house.  I love the mountains.  To me, spring and fall in Lynchburg are far better than anywhere else.  Summer is great too, but I can't deny that the beach might be preferred.  And winter sucks everywhere.  Houses in Chesapeake are a good $100,000 more than Lynchburg, which made me feel uneasy.  Still, since Chris wanted to move so badly and it seemed like we would make a bit off of our house, I said we should give it a try.  I can't deny that the thought of "home" was very appealing and comforting after being away for seven years.  We went on a "spending freeze," and only bought groceries, paid bills, decided that we would only eat out once a week at the most (and rarely even ate out that much), and limited "fun" purchases to very small and very occasional things for Eliot. 

During this process, everyone kept saying they loved the charm of the house, but there was always something that turned people away.  We did get an offer, but it was a lease-to-own deal that we didn't quite feel comfortable with.  As our realtor suggested that we drop the price a couple of times and the houses in Chesapeake we were looking at were more than $50,000 more than our original budget, I had a bad feeling.

We had the house up for a month until we felt like we hit a breaking point.  I just didn't feel good about how little money we were going to walk away with and how far we were going to have to stretch it.  We could make it work and just be tight for a few years, but that didn't seem like the wisest decision.  I thought of all the things that Dave Ramsey would say--he'd tell us that we were throwing away a good thing and great financial situation where we could really get somewhere.  I want to be a good steward with my money and use it wisely so that I can provide for my son, give freely, and bless others.

I told Chris that I felt like I was holding my hand over a candle flame whenever we talked about moving.  I was antsy, anxious, and felt a gnawing.  It didn't seem right.  I didn't want to make a bad decision.  Chris and I started feeling divided; we were having disagreements.  Chris and I rarely disagree on much significant, so when we are divided, something isn't right.  He was feeling the excitement of a new house in a new city and dreaming of the places we sat when we first fell in love.  I could feel those positive things too in regards to moving, and I tried to just go with it.  Not to mention all of those unknown questions in regards to the market.  What will the interest rates be in a year?  What if they are worse since they are so good now?  What if the houses in Chesapeake are even more outrageous in a year?  It would be tight, but we could make it work.  We wrote a budget.  We developed financial plans and determined ways to pay for our extra expenses, like our doctorate tuition.  However, I couldn't shake that nagging feeling.

The other day (a couple of days after I expressed my concern), Chris just kind of came to this realization that it was too much on one side and too little on the other.  We were giving too much on the sale of our house and then too much was being demanded of us for a new one.  It's like we were on a rope bridge, losing rope on both sides.  We could make it work, but he said it simply didn't make sense anymore; we had come so far from our reasonable plan that we started out with.  And we don't have to move!  We thought about it for a few days and then officially took the house down yesterday.

I feel relieved and thankful.  Chris and I work together through our challenges instead of against one another.  When we weren't agreeing, we knew we both needed to communicate more clearly and search for a solution together.  And after letting the thoughts settle, we came to a conclusion that we both felt comfortable with.

Christopher and I both feel so much peace with this decision.  While it is a little embarrassing to "change our minds," I know it was absolutely the best decision we could make.  I'm a planner; I like to know where I'm going to be and what is going to happen.  We had made up our minds that we would be in Chesapeake in a few months.  Now that has changed.  Usually, it is hard for me to deal with a big, dramatic shift like this, but we're embracing it and making plans. 

Moving into a new house can be an exciting time.  It is a decision charged with emotion.  It is so easy to fall in love with a house.  However, I have always tried to be cautious, realistic, and leery of stretching ourselves too thin.

Over the next few years, we will be financially comfortable enough to enjoy life, maybe take a vacation, continue to pay our tuition in cash, and work on student loans.  We have a beautiful home that we take pride in.  We live in a safe, unique area with good schools.  I miss my family at times, but four hours isn't that bad for now.  Just a week ago, I wrote this long entry (and didn't publish it) about how I'd miss our autumns in the mountains and our fall traditions, like apple-picking at Johnson's Farm, watching the leaves change from the top of Cold Mountain, picking out pumpkins at Morris Orchard, and Thanksgiving.  I am convinced that Lynchburg is one of the most amazing places in the fall.  And maybe we'll move to Chesapeake by the time Eliot starts school.  Or maybe we'll move to some island with a palm tree forest that Chris has been dreaming of.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A [Slightly] Bloody Mother's Day and Hate For Chocolate

It has been an eventful few days as we get ready for the end of the spring semester and also the beginning of summer school.  I've been mostly attached to my computer and phone to stay in contact with faculty members and students, but we've still had time for some fun.

For Mother's Day, Chris offered to take me out to eat, but it just didn't seem practical.  I knew it'd be packed and Eliot isn't all about long waits anymore.  He is good at restaurants to a degree, but when he is done, that is it.  Instead, we enjoyed the flowers Christopher bought me and reflected on life plans.  Then we went to Toys'R'Us to buy Eliot a sandbox.  He loved the train table, so I think we'll buy in one in a handful of months.  Maybe Christmas.  Maybe September.

Afterward, we went to Best Buy.  We didn't get anything.  Except for glass in my foot.  Yes, all of the sudden, I felt a sharp pain in my heel, like I had stepped on glass.  I don't think Chris believed me all the way.  I mean, I was wearing shoes.  I hobbled back to the car, took off my shoe, and found my foot gushing with blood.  Eek!  And I couldn't just pull it out.  I told Chris I'd be fine until we got home, but he wouldn't hear it.  He went by Target to buy tweezers, band-aids, and something to clean the cut with.  While Chris was in Target, I was able to get in touch with my mom to wish her a happy Mother's Day.  And then Chris pulled that glass sucker out!  It wasn't horrible, but very strange.  I was wearing flats, so I know it is possible for a small piece of glass to fall in and make its way to my heel, but it seems unlikely.  What are the odds?

On to our house where we put together the sandbox for Eliot.  He loves it, but is having too much fun throwing the sand out into the yard.  Gah.  He'll learn, I suppose.  Eliot took a nap and then Stephanie came over for a walk and smoothie time.

Today, we met Chris's dad for dinner.  He is in town for a pastor's conference at TRBC.  Eliot was happy to see him and share dinner.  I think Eliot is the funniest little thing with food.  I am one of a small group of women who don't really like chocolate.  Sure, chocolate with something else (say, the chocolate on a Snicker's bar) is pretty good, but I'm not crazy about chocolate--and especially not by itself.  When I gave Eliot a piece of fudge for dessert with sprinkles, he made the worst face.  And then he picked the sprinkles off to eat.  Just like momma.  I love it!

Maybe all mothers feel this way.  Maybe just some do.  All day on Mother's Day, I felt so thankful for our little family, like I should be celebrating all of us together and showering Eliot with presents for being an awesome son instead of expecting any appreciation or thanks for my efforts in my role.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear Eliot: Sixteen Months

Dear Eliot,

You are now a year and four months old!  Sixteen months!

I love watching you grow and learn.  It has become apparent that you know a lot more of what I am saying than I have previously realized.  The other day, we dumped all of your animal toys on the floor.  We asked you to bring us certain ones.  The horse...  The pig...  The lion...  The elephant...  While you don't say these words yet, you brought us the right one each time!

You love books still and are interacting with them more every day.  Your dad bought you a book with paintings by Rousseau.  There is a painting in it with monkeys.  When you see it, you make a monkey sound.  Then when you get to a painting with a tiger, you growl.  One of your favorite paintings is one with some men playing with a ball; you point and say, "A ball!"

You have also learned the cutest trick.  When we ask you if you are a monkey, you pat your chest or tummy and say, "Ooo ooo ah ah!"  It is adorable.  I can't get enough of it.  In fact, that is how we got you to smile in this photo.
You love to run around, pick up sticks, and throw rocks.  Because of this, we take you to parks with places to run instead of play equipment sometimes.  You are growing more brave with the water, though, and want to touch it instead of just throwing rocks to make a splash.

You are definitely all toddler and all boy these days when we try to go shopping.  Somehow--no matter how tight the straps are--you manage to STAND UP in shopping carts!  You want to explore so badly that you shout.  We don't know what to do with you!

While a bit difficult, this also makes trips to Toys'R'Us more fun.  Before, you would only get excited to play with a ball, but your eyes lit up with most every toy during our last visit.  We don't go that often; this time we went to pick out a sandbox.  You fell in love with the train table, so we will probably buy one for you for Christmas (or in the fall if I just can't wait, which is likely).  This adventure happened to be on Mother's Day.  Your dad bought me flowers, wrote a nice note in a card, and offered again and again to take me out to eat--breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three!  However, I was so satisfied and felt so blessed just watching you have fun in a toy store.  And maybe that is what being a mother is all about--rejoicing more when your children are blessed than when you are.

As you can see, you have started to love trains even more.  One day in attempts to clean up, I put your trains in a box that I then slid under the chair in the den.  The next day, you kept pointing to the chair and babbling to your dad like you wanted something.  He didn't get it, but then I told him that your trains were there.  You remembered!  As soon as he brought them out, your face lit up.  You call them "cars" for now, which is fine.  I can see how that would be confusing.  You love cars too.  You make them go "vroom" and drive them around--sometimes on the floor, other times over my legs, and then frequently over the pets' backs.  I showed you how to line them up for races.  I would count them down and push them across the floor.  After a couple of times, you started saying, "Buh.  Buh.  Buh.  GOO!" and sent them sliding across the room too!  It took me just a moment that you were trying to count down.  You're so smart, Eliot! And so much fun!  I love playing trains and racing cars with you.

You are continuing to grow in height and remain slim.  You are 75 percentile for height and 10th for weight.  Our string bean.  I was so small as a baby that I was rarely even on the chart, so we aren't worried at all.  Lately, food for you is hit or miss.  All four of your molars are in and I think your canines are slowly coming in, so sometimes you just don't want to eat the hard stuff.  You do drink lots of smoothies, though, with fruit and vegetables.  You are getting plenty of good stuff.  This month, your shoe size went up too!  You are now a size FIVE!  Those shoes look so big!

You also got your first haircut this month!  I trimmed up the back a little because you were getting a bit of a mullet!  I think I need to give you another one soon.

Just like every month, your love for sports and playing ball continues to grow.  You do the funniest thing with a football now....  When you get your hands on a football, you spread your legs and squat a little.  You start shouting like you are setting up a play.  Then you take off running around a little before throwing the ball to me or your dad or Abed-nego (our dog) or anyone around.  I swear you get it somehow even though football season ended a few months ago.

Did I write to you about our first adventures on the golf course?  I don't think I did....  Well, we were on a walk with you in the jog stroller.  You love to ride in it.  We walked up to a golf course, the first time you had even been on one.  Suddenly, you started yelling and crying to get out.  You have never, ever done this in your jog stroller, so I was curious to see what you wanted.  You must have somehow remembered watching The Masters with your dad because you ran onto the green while yelling, "A ball!  A ball!"  There was no ball around, but you say this whenever you see something related to sports--someone in a base ball or basket ball uniform, a basket ball goal, a golf club, or anything used for sports.  I just can't believe the stuff you remember and the connections you make, Eliot!

Eliot Thomas, you are a maker of messes...

...a great explorer...

...a lover of animals...
...and my sweet boy. 

So.  It has been sixteen months, huh?  I try to drink up every second of every day with you.  I try to appreciate all of our time together, even when I'm tried and you are not.  Every day, your dad tells me that he is so thankful for both of us in his life.  Friends come and go.  School and jobs are important, but they are only a small part of life.  In the end, God and family are what counts.  You are my family, and I promise you that I think of you every second of every day.  All that I do, whether it is determining the order in which I make our lunches or when I plan to shower, is centered around trying to make sure you get the best that I have.  And I promise that won't change.