Friday, May 29, 2015

Life, Lately

- Now that the produce in the stores looks appealing again (for some reason everything looked really sad this winter, and I was reluctant to spend money on stuff that already looked half-spoiled), fruits and veggies have totally taken over my grocery bill. Last week I found this baby pineapple:

Apparently it has a soft, edible core and is super sweet. I'm looking forward to grilling it! This week the find was tiny bell peppers (about 2"). And strawberries were $1.50 for a big container! I bought two; might be time to make more of the homemade whipped cream I whipped by hand last week and was so proud of. ;)

- My birthday is coming up, it worked out for me to take a day off (from everything but swimming) and I'm trying to decide how I want to spend the day. Spend the day in D.C. in the modern wing of the art museum? Sleep in and putter around working on projects? Spend the day driving around corners of the county I've never seen before? So many choices! :)

- Abigail's last day of school was on Friday, Thursday was the last time I drove her as a first grader, so we did our traditional first-and-last-drive-to-school donut stop. :) I cannot wait for summer to start! So much fun planned and there's never enough time to do all the cool stuff we want to do (but we're sure going to give it our best shot LOL!).

- Last weekend I started my very first batch of ginger ale brewing, yeast, sugar, and all! On Wednesday, Maggie and I tried it, and I loved it; a little sweeter than I prefer, but still good. I'm looking forward to trying another batch soon so I can play with the sugar and ginger proportions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cupcakes For Connor

Connor is one of my favorite people. Some people have so much positivity that they can't help but affect everyone around them, and that's Connor to a T. I look forward to winter and summer breaks when he returns to coach with us; I say I'm looking forward to having extra help, another pair of hands, but the truth is, I crave the upbeat energy he brings to the deck. I love knowing that if (when) things hit a rough patch, his attitude changes a bad day into a challenge to be conquered. 

Lately, I've been thinking about how incredible it is to be surrounded by people who embody traits that you want to develop in your own life, and Connor is a great example of that. I'm the one who overloads under stress, who generally assumes the worst that can happen, will happen. Time to grow. Time to change. I have all summer to practice. ;)

Happy birthday, Connor!

(Cupcake deets: yes, I saw it on Pinterest - it was originally a sheet cake. The cupcakes are Duncan Hines vanilla, topped with blue raspberry frosting. The swimmers are made from peanut MM's and pretzels. The lane lines are regular MM's.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I have... my windows open. It's cold (less than 60 degrees out today!) and dripping rain, and I'm listening to the raindrops on the roof.

I smell... the candles I'm burning: "Rainy Spring Day" and "Silver Birch." The flicker and glow of the latter against my gray walls is absolutely beautiful.

I am wearing... a long-sleeved tee and fleece pants, both from the pile of clothes I've been meaning to store away for days.

I am working on... lesson plans. Today was mostly for Abigail - lots of math games and creative writing. But I still need to put together stuff for the triplets.

I am looking forward to... swim tonight. My favorite class to teach, even if one of my favorite students is in Disney World for the week.

I am feeling... sad. And today, I'm not going to talk myself out of it, or keep moving forward; I'm just going to be sad. I don't like the way God is writing the Story lately. Faith is hard.

I am thinking about... my best friend, whose birthday it is today. Happy birthday, bestie! :)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Life, Lately

- My happy song: "Try To Remember" from Josh Groban's Stages album

- Enjoying: the warm weather. Letting the triplets play outside without shoes. Getting the water table ready. Leaving the windows open all day (and night).

- Things I finally got done: mowed the lawn (I forgot, I have allergies). Took down the heated hose and packed it away. Made meals for next week (shrimp ceviche; a burrito bowl with ground beef, black beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro; tomato sauce with ground beef, zucchini, and bell peppers over sliced steamed cabbage; steamed salmon with broccoli;  and huevos rancheros with black beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, and over-easy eggs) so all I have to do is grab and go in the mornings next week. Sorted through Addie and Lucy's clothes and pulled everything that was too small. Bought them new bathing suits, and sunscreen and sunglasses for everyone (Batman for big brother!). 

- Things I still need to do: clean the girl's cage. Work on lesson plans for the triplets, and summer activities for Abigail. Think about freestyle stroke, specifically arms. Buy a new swimsuit before mine literally falls to pieces.

- I'm encouraged by: the way my green bean plants are growing (all the other seedlings I started died, so I'm counting on a bumper crop of beans to make up for it). Getting an unexpected raise at work. Unexpected grace.

- I'm looking forward to: this weekend (I'm going to hole up in my house and hide). The second season of Broadchurch (finally found it at Target, on sale for $20!). Going to see Much Ado About Nothing at my favorite theater next month.

Monday, May 11, 2015

On Open Roads, Mountains, and Music

I've been wanting to visit Floyd, Virginia ever since I read about it in a road-trip travel guide. Listed as one of the best five road trips in the mid-Atlantic region, it sounded perfect. Five hours away (just enough time to qualify as a true road trip without being overkill), inexpensive, and filled with music and a quirky small town. Sign me up!

So on Friday, we packed our bags, and Cris, Maggie, and I piled into the car to go!

Off we go!

We were on the road by 10:30, and we stopped several hours later at a place with a sign that declared "Best Dang Barbecue in Virginia." Among us we ordered a couple of platters and tried a little of everything. We can only conclude that if that is the best barbecue to be had in Virginia, we feel terribly sorry for the Virginians! :( Not a great meal lol. Oh, well!

We pulled into our hotel around 4:30, got settled, and I hit the pool for a quick swim before we headed off to Floyd, about 30 minutes away.

The main attraction of this tiny town is the Floyd Country Store, which is where the Friday Nite Jamboree is held (and which was our main reason for coming). We parked down the street, bought tickets for the evening ($5) and wandered around, checking out the merchandise, barrel candy, vintage wares, heirloom seeds, local barbecue sauce, jams, and preserves, etc... So much to see! Maggie perused their recordings and found the most recent release by Dailey and Vincent. I bought some Alabama White Lightning barbecue sauce, and seeds for Amy's garden. Cris and I bought locally-bottled ginger beer (love!).

Once the music started, it was hard to be anything but happy. :) There's just something about live music, in the Appalachian mountains, surrounded by happy people... nothing better!

But there were only about five tables in the entire place, and they were all taken up, so after a little bit, we snuck out to the cantina down the street and ordered Mexican for dinner. After eating, we wandered around the streets listening to the music groups that were randomly gathered around.

You could literally walk around until you found a style that was your speed, and enjoy. This group was pretty traditional - Maggie loved it! But across the street I found a group singing acoustic covers of oldies, blues, and rock ballads, so I crossed over and hung out for awhile.

Enjoying the street music!

  Eventually we wandered back inside the Country Store, where we had the good fortune to score a table! Cris and Maggie bought coffee, and I had a dish of the local strawberry ice cream (which is to die for) as the last group for the night came on stage. We listened to the music and enjoyed watching some Appalachian cloggers dancing, as well! 

Around eleven we realized we were all getting old (lol) since we could barely keep our eyes open, and headed back to our hotel.

I'm already looking forward to going back for a weekend... There were lots of shops to explore (we didn't get a chance to see any of them since we were pretty wrapped up in the music), cool restaurants, and so, so much music. I think I see a return trip soon!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday Randomizer

- I had a fantastic weekend! I wrote before I left that I wasn't sure I was into traveling at this point in my life right now, but turns out, I do - I just like to do it on my terms lol. This weekend was a great little getaway filled with music, fun, and friends. Although I'll post about our time in Floyd tomorrow, Maggie and I spent Saturday watching our good friend and "adopted brother" graduate from medical school! It was so great to get to spend the day with him and his wife, his family, and many of our close friends. By the end of next month they'll be heading to Florida for his residency, and I will miss them terribly. :(

- It's gotten legitimately warm this week, spring is officially here, and I asked my dad to make sure my A/C was turned on during the day while I was gone (since temperatures in the trailer can EASILY reach much higher than outside temps, and I have no desire to roast the girls). I returned to discover that my place was hotter than 98 degrees (that's only as far as my thermometer reads!) and my cooling system was turned to fan instead of cool. Grr... This is one of the few things I don't love about summer in a trailer. I'm almost literally living in a tin can!

- The pool has been a wreck for the past week, so I came in early the first day to put in lane lines, backstroke flags, etc, and then came in early for the next few days to swap out the lane lines, trying to find the few lines that weren't broken, and pull the lines that were broken out of the pool.  One of those days I came in to find that most of the brackets were on the bottom of the pool. In the deep end. I know better (haven't been able to dive very deep ever since I ruptured my eardrum shortly after I started coaching) but I wanted the pool set up and I didn't want to be the one who asked someone else to do it, so I swam down to the bottom to retrieve them. Mistake. :( My ear immediately started throbbing and bugged me all week. A week traveling in the mountains only exacerbated the problem, so I'm babying my ears with ibuprofen, heating pads, and decongestants.  And sighing because I'm mostly deaf again...

-Everyone has been bitten by gardening fever. I thought I was the only one, but turns out, Cris has, too! When we arrived back at her house after our trip, she took us on a tour of her awesome container garden, rose garden, and asparagus patch, and her mom showed us her amazing planters (I want some!!!). Cris did her raised planters herself - aren't they awesome? :)

Friday, May 8, 2015

On Travel

I love (loved?) to travel. I love (loved?) exploring new places, finding new sights, stepping out of a plane or car and having that exhilarating sensation that the air is different, here. I love to travel on a deeply visceral level; my favorite mode of long-distance travel is a road trip, where you can't help but feel the rhythm of the ground under your feet, and see the world around you change mile by mile. The hours stretch on, monotony inspires you to dig out battered CDs you haven't played for months (or years), and boredom inspires deep conversations with your travel companions. Eventually the rhythm of the road lulls everyone but the driver to sleep, and the quiet hum of miles passing lends a nice soundtrack to introspection.I'd rather have a journey than a destination. For most of my life I fought wanderlust every spring, dreamed of packing up, hitting the open road, following a ribbon of highway wherever it led.

And yet.
And yet.
And yet..

The last time I traveled was in March; Maggie, Cris, and I caught a plane to Florida, escaping one of the worst cold spells happening at home. We ate seafood, marveled at the balmy weather, went to the beach to watch the sun set, snorkeled in crystal-clear rivers beside tarpon fish, swam in the hotel pool, walked around the adorable historic district.

And I was not having fun.

I thought I was stressed out. I THOUGHT I was worried about work. I thought if I could just get everyone squared away, then I could sit back and enjoy everything going on around me. I thought I was glad to be home because it was easier to solve problems in person than from five states away.

It didn't hit me until I was on deck that night, and realized that I was suddenly, completely, and perfectly content, that I also realized that while all of those reasons were partly true, none of them were the whole truth.

The whole truth was that, for the first time in my life, I was homesick.

I can't ever remember being homesick before. All my siblings got terribly homesick at summer camp; I never did. I dreamed - literally, for weeks afterward - of getting to stay, of not having to go home. There was a lot of conflict in home (there was a lot of conflict in my life) and I was unhappy. Travel offered this illusion - albeit temporary - that I was escaping, that I was setting up a life that was happier than the one I was in.

For the first time in my life, I don't want to travel - I want to stay. I don't want an escape. I don't need an escape. I want more of my life, right now, just the way it is. I want to do more of the things I spend every day doing. While it's true that I sometimes need a rest - a chance to recharge, to regroup, catch up - I don't need (or want!) the illusion of the different life anymore.

I'm getting ready to leave tomorrow, a quick weekend getaway. I'll be home in time to take Abby to school on Monday morning and be on deck again Monday night. If I were perfectly honest, I would have to admit that I'm more excited about getting to go back to my life on Monday than I am about this entire weekend.

I saw a sign once that read "Someday I want to have the kind of life I don't need a vacation from."

I think it's very possible that, for right now, anyway, I'm there.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May The Fourth Be With You!

Happy Star Wars Day! 

What are you doing to celebrate? I'm wearing a new Star Wars shirt (not this one, but I want it so badly!) and listening to the soundtrack of "A New Hope" in the truck, and probably I'll be playing at least one of the movies today (in the background while I clean, but still).

In the meantime...

Gardening hair. Much like swimming hair. I'm not winning any awards for beauty, here, lol, but my green beans look happy!

The pots I salvaged from the side of the dump (score!). The tomato cages were $1.27 apiece (I had one left over from last year) and the potting soil was $1.47/bag at Wal-Mart (it took three bags to fill all four pots). Looking forward to getting lots of green beans for the triplets!

My tomato plants are not at all as happy. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong...

I'm down to the last week before they shut down the pool and take down the bubble. :(

I don't know whether I'll keep swimming there once the bubble is off. I'm hoping my parents decide to get their pool functioning again this year so I can swim there, but who knows.

I love this picture I took of Cris over the weekend.

She's so much fun to photograph! It's hard to get a bad picture of her - she always looks so happy to be alive. :)

Some other favorites...

Also... I am completely freaking out about swim tonight (even though I'm also looking forward to it, since I missed it terribly during last week's break). I have tons of brand-new students, several brand-new coaches, and I'll be in the water with classes of my own, so my ability to help will be severely limited if anything goes wrong. I'm hoping everything goes smoothly with no hiccups, and that we power through until the rest of the summer staff arrives!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May Day At St. Mary's City

 If this adventure sounds like it starts off the same way as Monday's adventure did, well, there's a reason why Cris is one of my favorite people. :)

 It started off innocently enough - Maggie and Anna were selling at a show on Saturday, so when I woke up, I texted them to see if they needed food, drinks, or coffee (because I'm pretty much the coffee mule for everyone. It's like, my role in life. :)). They called a minute later, put in an order (three pairs of socks, a peppermint soy frappuchino, a caramel soy frappuchino no-whip-no-drizzle, and a large order of Burger King original fries) so I dressed and headed out. While I was sitting with them an hour later, I texted Cris to see if she was going to swing by (since she'd said the day before that she was going to), and soon after, she showed up.

"What are you doing today?" I asked. "I just have to pick up mulch for my mom," she told me. "Other than that, nothing. What did you have in mind?"

I'd seen on Facebook the day before that Historic St. Mary's City was having a May Day celebration on Saturday, and - confession time - although I've lived here almost all my life, I've never been to St. Mary's City. But May Day seemed like as good an opportunity as ever, so off we went!

No  description of St. Mary's is complete without mentioning how absolutely gorgeous it is. I love the river! And how amazing is this view of the inlet?!

I love tall ships, too. The Dove made me (and Cris!) want to sail away into the sunset to live on a big wooden boat. 

 Take up the rigging... (I do so love rigging. There's just something about the lines on a boat that are so incredibly beautiful!)

After walking around for a bit, we sat on the outdoor benches and got to watch the Foggy Bottom Men do period dances.

Men dancing with scarves? Yes, please! ;)

Then we walked over to explore the old cemetery and check out the courthouse.

 Watching them prepare the May pole from the upper room of the courthouse.

 "Happiness often sneaks in through doors we didn't realize we left open."

Wait one second and Cris will sign that into law for you... ;)

Judge Cris

And, finally, the day ended with the Maypole dance.

Although it included a lot of small children, it was fun to see the pole gradually wrapped in ribbon and was easily one of the most fun parts of the day! 

All in all, it was a fun place to explore, and I look forward to bringing Ruth and Dari with us on our next visit. 

Also - new sunset-watching spot found in the old cemetery. ;) Best. View. Ever.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Field Trip To Point Lookout

 I was sitting at breakfast with Cris on Monday morning, getting caught up on each other's lives, and I glanced out the window at the beautiful sky. 
"Let's go get the girls and take them on a field trip!" I suggested impulsively. 
We've been trying to get the girls out for more educational activities lately, so we did a quick mental run-down of where we could go that would be educational but accessible (as we had a limited amount of time). I'd never been to Point Lookout State Park, and it had been awhile for Cris, so off we went.

We started off at the Point Lookout Confederate Cemetery and walked around for awhile, examining the obelisks and talking about the information displayed there.

Then we went around the corner to the Confederate Memorial Park.


This is one of my favorite local sites, as it tells the story of the soldiers largely through their own words - excerpts from diaries, letters, etc.

We all spent some time wandering from plaque to plaque, calling out information that we found interesting, and reading each engraving.

Then we drove into Point Lookout State Park.


First of all, the park is really gorgeous! I'm ashamed to say that though I have lived in this county almost my entire life (I'm a happy, self-proclaimed SMIB),  I had never been to Point Lookout before. And we spent just enough to time there for me to realize that I will need to return many, many times in the future. :) The water views alone are stunning!

We hiked a bit from the closest parking lot to go see the historical sites - reproductions of the wall surrounding the prison camp, and the recreation of the guard's bunkhouses.

I kid you not, when we walked into the main bunkhouse, I had to laugh and exclaim "It's Hogan's Heroes!" :)


We read that the guards slept two to a bunk, so the girls climbed in to give it a try. :)

And they did some climbing in the bunkbeds, too. (Did I mention we were dragging poor Scout along, too? lol)

We stayed quite a bit later than we intended, and realized we had to scramble to make it back in time, so we took a shortcut... we thought. Turns out it was a literal scramble along the seawall, over a few hundred feet of riprap, through the marsh, etc before we made it back to the parking lot. I was truly terrified one of us was going to step on a snake. 

But we made it back to the parking lot just in time for Cris and Dari to zip off (hopefully just in time!).
Seaglass and rocks I picked up along the beach.

All in all, it was a great trip, and I look forward to going again, hopefully getting to spend more time exploring and enjoying the beach. :)