and we didn’t even see a single shark

I had been thinking about taking the girls to the beach back in July, when Catie was on her summer break, but there were all kinds of stories in the news about people getting bitten by sharks, and it kind of freaked me out. I fully realize that it’s statistically far more likely that we’d get hurt in a car accident or a million other ways before anything involving a shark. But I already have a weird phobia about open bodies of water – I’m fine in swimming pools, but I hate boats, and at the beach I don’t go in the water past my knees. So just the idea of sharks was enough to keep me away.

Then last week, I realized it was August, it’s been weeks since there have been any shark incidents on the news, and I really hated the idea of skipping out on something that’s become an annual tradition for our family. So, on Saturday, we loaded up the car and went to Wrightsville Beach for the day.

It’s about a 2-hour drive to the coast, which isn’t that bad, although it’s long enough for the girls to really get on each other’s nerves and start fighting. At some point I felt like the cliche of every parent on earth when I yelled, “I will turn this car around and we will go back home if you do not leave each other alone FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!” (My mom would probably find that hilarious, since it’s pretty much verbatim what she said to us on countless road trips when I was a kid.)

Once we got to the beach, the girls had a blast, and you’d never know from the pictures I got that they were at each other’s throats in the car just mere moments prior.

Beach!
See? Total angels. Ha. Haaaaaa.

Catie has been taking swim lessons this summer, so she’s gotten a lot braver in the water, but she’s still very careful in the ocean. She found some other kids around her age and hung out with them, building sand castles and jumping waves.

Catie in the ocean

Lucy is a little more unsure about the ocean, but she had fun lying on the sand and waiting for the waves to roll up over her. She also had me carry her out to jump waves, which was fine, since we stayed in the very shallow water.

Lucy kept lying on the sand, waiting for the waves to roll up over her

After about 4 hours, when they’d completely worn themselves out, we loaded everything back into the car, grabbed some dinner, and headed home. Both girls slept most of the way, and I hated to wake them up when we got home, but they both needed showers after playing in the sand for so long. They got to bed way later than normal, but since it was a Saturday night, no big deal.

That night, around 2:30 a.m., Lucy came into my room and said, “Mama, I throwed up in my bed.” Chris stripped the sheets off her bed while I cleaned her up. She spent the rest of the night and most of Sunday feverish, puking, and miserable. Poor little goose.

Fortunately, it was just a 24-hour bug, because by Monday morning, she was completely fine. I kept her home on Monday anyway, because daycare wants them to be fever-free for 24 hours before they go back to school, and I wanted to keep an eye on her. Kids bounce back so quickly, though, she really was completely fine all day. And she was excited that she got to come with me up the street to meet Catie at the bus stop, since she’s normally at daycare and doesn’t get to do that.

A series of "waiting for Catie's school bus" selfies.
A series of “waiting for Catie’s school bus” selfies.

Unrelated to anything: I’ve decided I’m tired of the girls having bangs, because their hair grows so fast and their bangs constantly need to be trimmed. So we’ve started growing them out. (Hence why Lucy’s hair is pinned back in those above pics.) It’s an annoying process, always trying to find hair clips in the morning, and convincing Lucy not to pull hers out halfway through the day, but I think it’ll be worth it in the long run. I know I’m biased and all, but I happen to really like seeing their entire faces.

how we spent our summer vacation

I haven’t blogged much lately, so I sort of forgot to mention that Catie finished 2nd grade a few weeks ago, and she’ll be a third grader as of Monday.

Last day of 1st grade vs last day of 2nd grade. She's grown so much this year, and Catie is now a 3rd grader!

At the same time, Lucy has moved up to the pre-K class at daycare, which feels completely surreal, because it’s the exact classroom where Catie was, 4+ years ago when I was pregnant with Lucy.

Show & Tell at daycare. Lucy opted to wear her Anna dress and bring her matching Anna doll, because what else would you expect? (...And a fruit snack for the car ride because carpool is long & boring.)
(She’s a big fan of Show & Tell day.)

Catie has pretty much outgrown the “school-age” camp at our daycare, most of the kids there are in kindergarten or first grade, and she didn’t want to go anymore. She was scheduled to go to Science Camp for one week (it was last week, and she loved it), but she asked if for the rest of her summer break, she could just stay home with me.

I should explain a little about my job here, because I don’t talk about it much: I work on a small-ish team at a large company. My team is maybe 70 or so people, but we’re spread out all over the U.S., and some people are in the U.K., Russia, and China. My manager is based in California. Because of time zone issues, working from home makes more sense than a set 8 to 5 office schedule. It has its downsides; I often end up working late at night after the girls are asleep, when I’d much rather curl up on the couch with Chris and watch the Daily Show. But it also means that my daytime schedule is super-flexible. I know most working parents don’t have this type of telecommute option, and I feel very fortunate that I can have this flexible schedule working at a job I happen to love.

So, Catie wanted to have some “lazy time” at home, and I don’t mind, because she’s pretty self-sufficient and easy to have around. The problem is that I didn’t want her to sit on the couch playing Minecraft all day. (I have no issue with Minecraft, I think it’s actually good for their creativity to build things, but there’s no video game in the world that needs to be played all day.) And since I’m working, I can’t completely disrupt my schedule to help entertain her with various projects.

She did this same thing during her 3-week spring break in April, and I made a deal with her that if she wanted to stay home, she was going to have to run with me, because at least she’d be getting SOME exercise and fresh air. And let me say, that was a terrible idea. The thing I love about running is that I can lose myself in it and zone out, and you cannot zone out when your 8 year-old is whining that it’s too hard and she wants to just walk for a while. So I’d get irritable and start barking at her like a drill sergeant, she’d get pouty, and it just sucked.

Now, though, it’s July and it’s too hot to run most days. (I have a rule that I don’t run if the heat index is above 85. I love running, but I’m not a masochist.) So on this summer break, our daily exercise break is to go to the pool; Catie plays while I swim laps. I’m normally hyper-vigilant about watching my kids in the pool, but Catie is so cautious, she never goes past the water that’s 3 1/2 feet deep because she doesn’t want to be in over her head, and there are always 2 lifeguards on duty. So she’s fine, she plays with the other kids and has fun, and for a few weird minutes I feel like one of those stay-at-home moms who can do nothing but hang out at the pool with their kids on a weekday. Except not, because I swim laps for about 30-40 minutes, then we come home and shower so I can get back to work.

[Side note: swimming is WAY harder for me than running, and I am ridiculously bad at it. With running, I know I’m slow, but I don’t care because: whatever, I’m running. With swimming, I feel like a baby elephant flopping around in a bathtub.]

Also, if she’s had too much screen time, I bought Just Dance 2015 for the Wii, and yes ok, it’s still a video game, but at least she’s up and moving. I’ve done it with the girls a few times, and that game is a workout. So, if she starts whining that she’s bored: ok, go try to beat your high score on “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry.

(I admit, I mainly bought the game because it includes “Let It Go.” Try to guess which one of my kids has the high score on that one. Go on, guess. Hint: it’s exactly who you think it is.)

And really, she’s been great. She hasn’t whined much, and she’s spent a lot of time working on little art projects (as the growing stack of her drawings on my desk can attest), not playing video games. It’s been really nice having her around.

At the same time, I’m excited for her to start school on Monday. Partly because I want to get back into our regular routine, but also because THIRD GRADE. She’s getting so grown up! It’s both weird and completely amazing to witness.

road trip weekend

I think one of the keys of a successful relationship is accepting the fact that your significant other has interests that you find totally boring. I’m not sure what mine are that bore Chris (celebrity gossip and social media stuff, probably), but his is playing Magic the Gathering. If you’re not familiar, it’s a card game with wizards and spells and whatnot. Sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, but even geekier (if that’s possible).

And in the grand scheme of things, it could be worse. At least he doesn’t ask me to watch any type of sporting events on TV. (I have a lot of women friends who love sports, but I am not that girl. I would rather watch paint dry than watch a football or baseball game.) And when he plays, he has to go to a game store where they play in groups, so it’s a more social hobby than most.

This past weekend there was a big Magic tournament in Charlotte. Chris wanted to go, and I had the girls for the weekend and no big plans, so I thought it would be fun to tag along with him. My brother and his girlfriend recently moved to a new apartment in Charlotte, and they have a new puppy and kitten, so I knew we’d have fun visiting with them while Chris played in his tournament.

(Side note: there were something like 4,000 people in this tournament. Chris and I joked that if a bomb went off in that convention center, IT helpdesks across the Southeast would be virtually wiped out, because that’s the type of person who plays Magic the Gathering.)

Friday afternoon, Chris and I packed up the car, picked up the kids from daycare, and set off for Charlotte.

Picked up these messy-haired ragamuffin children, & we're road-tripping to Charlotte for the weekend. They're kinda excited.
They were pretty excited.

We stopped for dinner along the way, so we ended up not getting to Charlotte until about 9:30, well after the girls’ bedtime. They were so wound up from the trip, they ended up not falling asleep until after midnight.

Catie is totally in love.
Catie is totally in love with my brother’s puppy, Annabelle.

My brother’s girlfriend Mandy was trying to tell Catie how to get Annabelle to obey commands, and Catie obviously doesn’t spend much time around dogs, because she said, “Ok, Annabelle, if you want a treat, can you sit?” I tried to explain that dogs understand one-word commands better than full sentences, but it was very sweet that she tried to phrase it so politely.

Even Lucy, who is typically indifferent about animals, is pretty enamored with my brother's puppy.
Even Lucy, who is typically indifferent about animals, came around and played with Annabelle for a while.

Samson, my brother's kitten, wisely kept his distance from my loud children all weekend.
This is Samson, the kitten, who kept his distance most of the weekend. Most cats tend to be a little skittish around loud children, so I don’t blame him.

Saturday, Chris got up early and went to the convention center for his tournament. The kids and I goofed around for a while, then my cousin Renee (the cousin whose wedding we went to last October) came over and we all went out for lunch together. It was great to see her and catch up.

It was so hot over the weekend (in the mid-90s) that doing anything outside like a playground was just impossible. So after lunch, my brother dropped the girls and I off at a nearby kids’ museum so they could run around and burn off some energy indoors where it’s air-conditioned.

Flying an airplane at the kids' museum.
They had fun.

At the kids’ museum, they have a big stage in the middle of the main room, and every hour they have some type of presentation. One was a science experiment (which was pretty cool), and they also had a puppet show. We were sitting on the floor to watch it, and the emcee was trying to get the kids all excited. She said that the puppet show was going to be about the circus. She asked the audience, “What types of animals are in the circus?”

Catie leaned over to me and whispered, “Tortured ones.”

Which I mean… ok, I laughed. It was kind of a snarky and rude answer, but she knew that, so she just whispered it to me rather than saying it out loud. And it’s not like she’s wrong.

(As for how she knows about Ringling Brothers’ animal abuse: she once asked if we could go to the circus, and I said no, because they mistreat their animals, so I won’t give them any of my money. She obviously remembered that.)

Chris played in his tournament until pretty late that night (he got back after 10 p.m.), so in the meantime, the kids and I went out for dinner with my brother and his girlfriend.

In hindsight, I should’ve known that going out to dinner was a bad idea. (Foreshadowing!) Lucy hadn’t slept nearly enough the night before, and she’d skipped her nap that day, and she was starting to get kind of whiny. We walked to the restaurant (it was about 4 blocks from their apartment), and even though they live in a really pretty area, the walk was pretty unpleasant in the heat. Then we got to the restaurant and the hostess said it would take 30 minutes to get a table. Red flags everywhere that we were headed for Meltdown City, and I missed them all. Lucy is normally so easygoing, I just wasn’t expecting it.

We finally got a table (it was more like 45 minutes than 30), the waiter came over for our drink orders, and I ordered an apple juice for Lucy. The waiter said they didn’t have apple juice. And Lucy just completely freaking lost her mind. She was wailing, “Aaaaaapple juuuuuuuuice!!” over and over, and this was not fake tantrum crying, she was completely distraught, real tears and snot everywhere. I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be able to calm her down because she was too far past the point of exhaustion. I told my brother what to order for me, and told him to have it boxed up to go. I left Catie with him and Mandy, and I carried Lucy outside.

And I carried Lucy – all 40 pounds of her – the four blocks back to my brother’s apartment. (In case you’re wondering, yes, my back still hurts from that.) She stopped crying once we were outside and lay her head on my shoulder, and I thought she might fall asleep while I was carrying her, but she didn’t. Near my brother’s apartment, there’s a Starbucks, and we stopped so I could buy her an apple juice. That seemed to help perk her up a little.

Once we got back, I got her bathed and in her PJs, and she fell asleep on the couch watching cartoons on Netflix. I moved her to the air mattress that she and Catie were sharing, and she kind of half-woke up when I moved her. She said, “I’m going to watch TV for a while, but when I go to sleep, I’ll stay in my bed all night. And if I have something to tell you, I’ll just tell you in the morning.” I stroked her hair and said, “Ok, baby girl,” and her eyes closed and she was asleep again within seconds. She didn’t make a peep until 7:30 the next morning.

I really hope that when the kids are older and I look back on these little trips we took, that I remember the fun stuff like watching them laugh running around together in a kids’ museum, or singing along with silly pop songs on the radio, and not the parts like Lucy losing it in a crowded restaurant.

Nice one, Lucy.
More of the good stuff like this, not the meltdown stuff.

And credit where it’s due: I always think of Catie as being my high-strung, more anxious kid, but she is an excellent traveling companion. The last several times we’ve taken trips, she’s been so easy, she doesn’t whine, she’s extra-patient with Lucy, and she’s just been great. She still gets stressed if her routine at home is thrown off, but I guess when we travel, she accepts that we’re going to be off routine anyway, so she adapts and it’s totally fine. I look forward to doing this type of thing when Lucy is a little older (past the “needing a nap” stage, anyway), because I think it’ll be even more fun.

Uncle Chris & Mandy's house has a big couch with a big TV. They've wasted no time making themselves at home.

On Sunday, we packed up our stuff, and said our goodbyes to my brother, Mandy, and the puppy and kitten (that was the hard part for the kids). We made one quick stop by the convention center downtown so Chris could get a couple of his cards signed by the artists who designed them. (It’s kind of a “thing,” and it supposedly increases their value. Like getting baseball trading cards autographed, I guess.) After that, we headed home. The kids slept in the backseat for a large portion of the drive, so it was a pretty easy trip.

Overall, it was a fun weekend, Chris enjoyed his tournament, the girls had a blast, and I’m glad we all went together. That said, it sure was nice to get back home last night.

Mother’s Day house cleaning

This past weekend was Dave’s weekend to have the kids, and even though it was Mother’s Day, we didn’t really feel the need to change it up. I mean, I guess if the girls had been upset about it, we would’ve altered the schedule? But it’s just a day, and it didn’t feel like a huge deal to any of us.

The kids both made cards for me, which I got on Friday. The daycare teachers always come up with some little craft project for Mother’s Day, which is how I got this little flower pot with Lucy’s face on it.

Kudos to Lucy's daycare teacher: Mother's Day flower pot with my crazy girl's face on it.
I laugh pretty much every time I look at it.

Catie made a comment, “For Mother’s Day, I’m going to let you sleep as late as you want.”

I thought that sounded nice for a second, then I said, “…Do you mean because you’re going to be at Dad’s?”

She laughed and said, “Yeah.”

So, that was Mother’s Day. I slept late, Chris brought me flowers, we had dinner with his mom, and I had some time to relax. I also took on a big house tidying/re-org project over the weekend, which was nice to do without the kids here.

My house was built in the 80s, so like a lot of houses in its era, it has a separate living room and den. The living room is kind of the “grown-up room,” and the den has been designated as the kids’ playroom. Mainly because I think it’s ugly. It’s got dark green carpet and wooden beams along the ceiling, and I just think it looks dated and old. There’s a lot of updates I’d love to do (new carpet, painting), but it’s a rental house, so I can’t.

But the playroom has a problem with getting trashed pretty quickly. See, exhibit A:

IMG_3511
Looks like a damn Toys R Us exploded in my house.

It’s just… not very inviting. Since the kids were gone, and it’s so much easier to do these things when they aren’t around, I cleaned out a whole bunch of toys they don’t play with anymore. (If the girls are here, I can’t get rid of anything because suddenly toys they haven’t touched in two years become their most precious belonging, and there are wails of, “…but I LOVE that!” It drives me crazy.) So I’ve stashed away 4 hefty bags of toys, and my rule is that the things they notice are missing and ask for will be returned, but everything else goes to Goodwill in 6 months. I’m betting they won’t notice or miss 99% of it.

I also bought a small bookcase to organize some of their smaller bins, and hung up some curtains, and boom.

IMG_3522

So much better!

I mean, the carpet is still ugly, nothing I can do about that, but I feel like the room overall looks more finished. I think there’s something about adding curtains, in particular, that makes a room feel less “naked.”

And yes, I know the kids will trash all my hard work within 20 minutes of their arrival home tonight, but for now, I’m really enjoying it.

I also cleaned out a whole bunch of other stuff, which I didn’t take before-and-after pictures of, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it looks a lot better. And it felt like a really great Mother’s Day gift to myself, to have a tidy house.

And as much as I really didn’t mind not having the kids yesterday, because it was so nice to have the weekend off, I’m also really excited for the girls to come home tonight, so I can get all the extra hugs and kisses I didn’t get yesterday.

eat your lettuce and be sad

So, I didn’t finish Whole30, and I’m not going to.

Here’s what I learned through doing it twice, and lasting about 10-14 days each time: I should probably avoid sugar and grains for the most part. Dairy and legumes aren’t much of an issue for me, but sugar and grains definitely affect my energy levels, and make me feel bloated and gross. So I guess it was a worthwhile experiment to learn what my “bad” foods are.

The problem is that foods containing sugar and grains tend to be my favorite foods (cookies! donuts! cake!), so it isn’t practical to avoid them altogether. But I’m trying to adjust my usual daily routine so that they become occasional treats rather than daily staples, and so far that’s working ok.

Also: artificial sweeteners. This is the first time in my life I’ve cut out artificial sweeteners completely. I was a Diet Coke addict from middle school until about 2 years ago. After I gave it up, though, I always put Sweet & Low in my coffee and iced tea. I’ve cut that out – I gave up iced tea completely, and now just put a little milk in my coffee. And I’ve noticed that since I started doing that, I have significantly fewer headaches.

(The Whole30 book mentions that artificial sweeteners are several hundred times sweeter per tablespoon than regular sugar, so they tend to trigger the part of our brain that craves more sugar. I don’t know how much of that science is true, but I’ve noticed that I have less frequent “OMG I need some Skittles” urges now, so that’s good. I mean, I still want the Skittles, don’t get me wrong, but it’s less… urgent? I don’t know. It’s odd.)

And yeah, this post so far can pretty much be summed up with this GIF:

shut_up_eat_lettuce_be_sad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know, I know. I’ll stop.

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So! Other stuff.

This weekend, the girls were with me, and Chris and I really wanted to see the new Avengers movie. I thought Catie would enjoy it, because she seemed to like the first movie, but she wasn’t in the mood. So, we left the girls with my parents on Saturday night, and had a little movie date night.

Obligatory date night selfie. About to get our geek on & watch the Avengers 2.

The movie was good – honestly, I never watched any comic book movies until Chris and I started dating (well, ok, Christopher Reeve as Superman when I was a kid, I guess). Now I’ve seen several of the Marvel movies, and I think they’re pretty fun. I mean, they’re not going to win any Oscars (except maybe for special effects), but they’re entertaining.

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Thinking of other TV/movie stuff, here’s some random notes on things we’re watching:

* Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD – Sort of related to the Avengers thing. It’s more of a spy show than a superhero-y show, and it’s pretty light and fun to watch. (I mean, the superhero/alien stuff does come up, but it’s not the main focus.) Also, I kind of have a crush on Clark Gregg. But I tend to go for nerdy, funny guys, and he is a total nerd who gets the best one-liners.

* Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – I really didn’t think I would be able to get Chris to watch this with me, and even he thought it was funny. So, consider that a ringing endorsement if I can get the dude who doesn’t watch sitcoms to watch a sitcom.

* Justified – We started watching this on Amazon Prime recently, and we’re about to start season 2. I think I like it? Some of it is a little gory, and there are some highly questionable Southern accents being thrown around, but it’s good. And Timothy Olyphant is… uh… not hard to look at.

* Game of Thrones – I’ll be honest, this is Chris’s show, not mine. I can’t cope with the extreme violence, so I hang out in the room while it’s on, but I usually play Candy Crush on my phone, so I have something else to look at during the gross parts. (I don’t do well with violence/gore. We only made it 2 episodes into the Walking Dead before I started having nightmares and had to stop. I’m a wuss.) So, I watch it, and I’m curious to know what’s going to happen next, but I’m also still like, “wait, who is that guy and how is he related?” Chris says my confusion at Game of Thrones character names is how he feels at my family reunions, which I guess is fair enough.

* The Americans – It’s SO GOOD. Season 3 just finished, and dang. It’s also got some really intense violence where I have to cover my face, but the characters are so complex and the storylines are fascinating, and it’s just. so. good. First 2 seasons are streaming on Amazon Prime. Go watch it, if you haven’t already.

* Better Call Saul – I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Chris and I both liked it a lot. Already can’t wait for season 2.

* Once Upon a Time – I really loved this show for a while, but it’s now in season 4 and starting to get a little ridiculous. A lot of the plotlines lately are wearing pretty thin. I think it was pretty clear they were running out of Disney storylines when they brought in Cruella DeVil as one of the villains. I’m not sure if/how they can turn it around, but for whatever reason, we’re still watching it. I guess I just want to see how it ends.

* The Flash – This is the show Catie and Chris watch together, while I go play with Lucy. I don’t get it, but they both love it, and I like that they have a “thing” they do together.

* Blacklist – I don’t even know why I put this on the list, we started season 1 on Netflix and gave up. It’s absurd. Every single episode has at least one moment where one of us says, “well, that’s dumb, nobody would ever do that.” It’s got Mike from “Homeland”! And the girl who played Jess in “Bend It Like Beckham”! And James freaking Spader! And it still sucks. Sorry, I can’t.

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Anyway, not much else going on here. Trying to get outside and enjoy this spring weather as much as possible before it gets too unbearably hot.

Sisters in the sandbox.

The kids don’t seem to mind too much either.

Austin’ed

Our trip to Austin was SO fun, now excuse me while I inundate you with pictures and a recap.

The secret for getting super-cheap flights? You end up on the flights that leave at God-awful times that nobody else wants. Our flight to Austin left Raleigh at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. That meant that I had to wake the kids up a little after 4 a.m., to make sure we could get to the airport by 5.

As much as the timing sucked, both girls were great.

On the plane. Everybody say "Texas!"
This picture was taken at 5:30 a.m., right after we boarded. I don’t know why they both look so happy.

There are no direct flights from Raleigh to Austin, so we had a connection in Atlanta. The flight from Raleigh to Atlanta is short, less than an hour. Then we had a pretty long layover, about an hour and a half, but it worked out perfectly. We had time to get breakfast and walk around a little, no rushing from one plane to the next. It was nice.

The flight from Atlanta to Austin is a little longer, around 2 hours. I was really hoping Lucy would take a nice long nap on the plane. Instead, she waited until about 15 minutes before landing to fall asleep.

Lucy did this approximately 15 minutes before landing in Austin. Two hour flight. She waited until the end to fall asleep.
Awesome timing.

I borrowed a stroller from Trish for this trip, which was a life-saver because I knew Lucy was going to get tired and not be able to walk the whole time. (My old stroller that I’ve had since Catie was a baby is broken. A spring snapped, so you can’t fold it closed. It currently lives in my parents’ garage, because my dad will still take Lucy for walks in it sometimes, but the child is nearly 4 years old, I’m not going to buy a new stroller at this point.)

When Lucy woke up after the plane landed, she was weepy because she was still tired from not getting a long enough nap. I needed to get us off the plane quickly, because she was just falling apart. The kids each had a backpack with their toys, books, and iPads in it; I had a backpack carry-on, plus my purse. When it was our turn to de-board, Catie put on her backpack and I told her to start walking, then I put on my backpack, grabbed Lucy’s backpack with one hand, my purse with the other, told Lucy to stand up on the seat and grab me around the neck, and I carried her plus all our crap off the plane.

And it’s weird, because I know I’ve gotten stronger with all the working out I’ve been doing over the past couple of years, but it was amazing to me that I was able to do that and not even get terribly winded. I mean, I didn’t do it for long, I just had to get us to the jetway, where the stroller was waiting for us (since I had gate checked it). But I honestly don’t think my arms and shoulders would’ve been strong enough to do that two years ago.

Tracy met us at baggage claim, and we went out to lunch before heading back to her house. She and Everett bought a house last year, so this was our first time seeing it, and it’s really beautiful. My sister’s house is the type that makes me feel like I’m still living like a college kid with random piecemeal furniture sort of thrown together. Her house feels like a grown-up house, everything is put together tastefully, and there’s no clutter, everything has its own little home. I’m kind of jealous, I don’t think I’ll have anything like that until the kids are grown and move out.

Trying to keep the girls quiet while my sister is on conference calls this morning. iPads & headphones are pretty much the best thing ever.
The kids wasted no time making themselves right at home, either.

We didn’t have a ton of plans while we were there. On our way to Tracy’s house, I saw a sign for a place called Mt. Playmore, and I asked Tracy what it was. She had no idea (stuff for kids isn’t typically on her radar), so I googled it and found out that it was an indoor playground. So on Thursday, we took the kids there, and it was AMAZING.

Mount Playmore in Austin is pretty amazing.

It’s basically three stories of climbing structures, everything is made of netting so it’s super soft, and it’s big enough that grown-ups can climb up in it too. Tracy and I climbed up with the kids a couple of times, and it was SO FUN. I found a tire swing thing that I could have stayed on for hours.

Thursday evening, Greis drove over from Houston to meet up with us for dinner. I haven’t seen her since Tracy’s wedding, and I was so glad she was able to come hang out with us for a little while.

You know you have a good friend when she drives hours out of her way to see you. @amazinggreis

After dinner, we took the girls to this famous bridge in Austin, that hundreds of thousands (millions?) of bats live underneath. Every night at sunset, they all fly out, and it’s supposed to be incredible to see.

About to go see some bats.

While we were waiting for the bats, Lucy needed to use the bathroom, so I left Catie with Tracy and Everett, and Greis and I walked Lucy over to this super-fancy Hyatt hotel across the street. I know hotel restrooms aren’t really open to the public, but let me tell you, when you walk in with a 3 year-old and ask for directions to the ladies’ room? No concierge in the world is going to risk an accident in their nice lobby. They will happily point you where you need to go. Just, you know, FYI for you parents of toddlers out there.

I didn’t think the girls would be that excited about seeing a whole bunch of bats, but when they all fly out in swarms, it’s pretty impressive. It’s dark enough that you almost can’t even tell that they’re bats, they could be just small birds, except for the squeaking sound they make. And they aren’t creepy bats that’ll bite you, these are the good ones that eat mosquitoes, so YAY BATS.

Greis came back to the house and hung out with Tracy and me for a while after I got the girls to bed, then she headed back to Houston.

Friday, I had made plans to have lunch with some of my co-workers who are based in the Austin office. These are guys I’ve worked with for nearly 5 years and never met in person, I’ve only talked to them on teleconferences. So it was kind of fun to meet them and put names with faces.

The office is near a big mall, so Tracy had dropped me off, and said she’d take the girls to the mall while I was at lunch. After lunch, my co-workers dropped me off at the mall, and I texted Tracy to ask where they were. She texted back they were at Build-a-Bear and I mumbled out loud, “Oh God,” because that’s a store I’ve intentionally avoided as long as I’ve had kids. I didn’t know much about it other than it’s crazy expensive.

And it is crazy expensive, but I guess that’s what fun aunties are for.

Solidifying her status as the Fun Aunt forever, my sister took the girls to Build-A-Bear while I had lunch with some co-workers. Catie got Toothless in a Jedi costume, Lucy got an Elsa bear.

Catie got Toothless from “How to Train Your Dragon,” in a Jedi costume. (He’s in his little carrying backpack in the picture, you can’t get the full impact of the Jedi-ness.) We’ve been joking he’s a Jedi (K)Night Fury. Lucy – surprise! – got an Elsa bear. They were both so happy, they wouldn’t set them down for the rest of the day.

That afternoon, Tracy and I took the kids to a children’s museum called The Thinkery, where a friend of Tracy’s is the executive director. It was a lot of fun, kind of like the Marbles children’s museum we have here in Raleigh, but a little more science focused. The kids had fun.

Story time at The Thinkery.

Friday night, we cooked dinner at Tracy and Everett’s house, and my aunt and uncle (who live in Austin) came over for dinner. That was fun, it’s always nice to catch up with them.

Saturday, we were scheduled to fly back, but our plane didn’t leave until after 4 p.m., so we took the kids to Mt. Playmore one last time to burn some energy before we had to get on the plane to go home.

Took the kids to Mt Playmore one more time before we had to get on the plane to go home.

Tracy and Everett then dropped us off at the airport, and we said our goodbyes.

We had so much fun in Austin with my sister & brother-in-law! Now on the plane heading back to NC.

The flights back were ok. The layover in Atlanta was way too long (2 1/2 hours), and it was late at night, and the kids were exhausted, but they were troopers.

Even when our second plane was delayed and the A/C wasn’t working and we were all sweaty, they didn’t really whine or fight with each other (much). They were just so great.

On the plane. God bless technology. (And Cheez-its. That bag of Cheez-its broke up a pretty big sibling fight. Truce through snack foods.)

They ended up not getting in bed until after 1 a.m. on Saturday night, but we had all day Sunday to recover, so it was ok.

A little over 3 years ago, when Dave and I had just split up, and I was alone with a baby and a four year-old, and I had no idea what my life was going to look like, I would sometimes daydream about fun things I could do when the kids were older. One of those was the idea of taking vacations together, just the three of us. Me and my girls, on our own, doing our own thing. So this trip kind of fulfilled that for me. And I know it’ll be easier as they get older – Lucy is still pretty high-maintenance when she gets off her routine, while Catie is old enough to roll with it (for the most part). This trip was great because I know we’ll be able to do this kind of thing again in the future.

Still, when Chris met us at the airport on Saturday night to pick us up, I was pretty damn happy to see him. Going to do stuff on my own with the girls is great, but I also really like having him around.

#whole30 week 1, done

I’m up to day 9 on Whole30, and I haven’t killed anyone yet. Sometime around Thursday (day 4), the “carb flu” kicked in and I started feeling awful. It really does feel kind of flu-ish, your head hurts and you feel achy all over and it’s just miserable.

Friday night (day 5), I went to Drag Queen Bingo with some friends, which should’ve been a blast. (It’s an outing with other grown women! I almost never get to do those! I got to dress up! And it’s bingo! And drag queens are hilarious and fun!) And instead, I just felt… tired and sad. When your friends are all sitting around with beer and snacks, and you just have a bottle of water? That’s pretty lame.

At some point, there were cupcakes. I TURNED DOWN A CUPCAKE. That may have been the hardest “no thank you” of my life.

The kids were with Dave over the weekend, so they didn’t have to deal with me being so horribly irritable. Only Chris had to put up with me, bless his heart. But I only snapped at him a couple of times, and I apologized afterward, so I think he’ll be ok. Saturday and Sunday (days 6 and 7) really were the worst – I expected to crave foods that I wasn’t supposed to eat, but I wasn’t expecting to feel so sad and depressed. It’s weird how much all of this has affected my state of mind.

But I’ve been feeling better since Monday/day 8, and hopefully it’ll continue to stay this way.

One of the things they say in the book is that when it seems hard, just repeat to yourself, “it’s only 30 days.” The problem is, that doesn’t really help, because it feels like FOREVER when you’re in the middle of it. The best analogy I can think of is when you have a newborn and you never get to sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. Obviously that stage of babyhood is finite and eventually ends, but it sure doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Tomorrow, the girls and I are flying to Austin to see my sister and brother-in-law. I don’t know if (or how) I’ll be able to stick to the Whole30 plan while we’re traveling. I have a bunch of nuts and dried fruit in my carry-on for the flight, and I figure I’ll just do my best. If I go off the plan, I’ll pick it back up when we get home. I’m trying not to obsess too much about it, because I really want to be able to relax and enjoy this trip.