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30 July 2012

Home sweet CNY

This week was my annual summertime trip to Ithaca and all other places home. He and I drove north early on Sunday with the niece in tow. We made really good time (9 hours and 45 minutes!) and the conditions driving up was gorgeous. No rain. No traffic. No problems. 

When we arrived at Mom and Dad's house, this is what greeted us ...

My parents have the most amazing views. 
The niece and I had requested breakfast for dinner as our welcome home dinner, and, as usual, Mom did it right! Pancakes with bananas and chocolate chips (and, of course, NY syrup!), orange juice (and mimosas), bacon (for the non-vegeterians), and cookies. The cookies weren't a breakfast food, but they were tasty nonetheless!


Mom dyed the kids' pancakes green. Not sure why, but they wanted it. 
The sky was absolutely amazing all afternoon. The clouds were beautiful and puffy and the sky was a stunning blue.  It was the best welcome home gift a girl could ask for!

And the sunset that night was stunning as well. 

25 July 2012

Birthday flowers last forever

He gave me flowers for my birthday. Mini-sunflowers and some pretty purple flowers. Really sweet and pretty. I haven't received flowers in forever, and it was a sweet surprise. 

Five days later, they are still as pretty as when I came home on my birthday. He's such a sweetie. 
Pretty flowers from my love

My blended family

While it's certainly not official, I am now a step-mom. To two dogs. He has two dogs -- a young yellow lab puppy and a 2-year-old dachshund -- and, initially, I was quite hesitant to combine our two families. Bailey can be weird around other dogs sometimes. She generally thinks that she is a people and prefers to be around people. When other dogs are in the picture, she generally ignores them, or they make her so nervous that she gets sick. With Him having two dogs, I was worried to say the least. Especially with the puppy because she is so ... puppy-esque. I was pretty sure that Bailey was going to hate Sunny. The dachshund is older and smaller, so I really wasn't concerned about the dynamic between those two. 

The three of them have spent the last four weekends together and it has been, surprisingly, great! They definitely play and roughhouse and often get into trouble for making too much of a racket, but, overall, things go really well with them. Even in my tiny little two-bedroom apartment. In fact, Bailey and Sunny often play rough together, and Bailey even acts like a young pup again around her ... until she gets annoyed and cuts it short. Which makes sense because B is definitely Old Dog. :)

B and Sunny playing
The dogs peacefully sharing a bed
The step-kids,  Sunny and Pickles
Awwww ....

So, as it turns out, being a step-mom isn't so bad. 

22 July 2012

Birthday weekend!!

This past Friday was the big 3-2 for me, and it was a pretty great day. As I've gotten older, birthdays have lost their luster. But this one was pretty fantastic. I had to teach summer camp all day, so I made sure I told all the kids early in the week that my birthday was coming up. A little shameless self-promotion, as one of my friends said. I'm okay with that. Having a birthday in the summer months always meant that all of my friends were away for my birthday and it was always pretty low-key. I'll take what I can get.

One of my former students brought me a box of her mom's AMAZING cookies. Another student brought me a huge cookies-and-cream cupcake. I got lemon bars, cards, and a few rousing renditions of "Happy Birthday!" All in all, they were pretty adorable with their efforts. 

Birthday cookies!!
When I got home, Leah and Him had worked pretty hard (and secretively!) to make some awesome birthday surprises. Leah had worked hard to create "coupons" for me for foot massages and early bedtimes and other cute things. She had also made chocolates in her summer camp that day. It was pretty adorable. The greatest surprise was from Him. He had purchased a ton of different craft beers for me as well as a few different wines to enjoy. He also got me flowers and a few other gifts. One of which was a coffee maker, coffee, and filters. This was actually hysterical because I don't even drink coffee. But, because of that, I never have any in the house for him when he visits. So it was more of an "us" present. It was pretty sweet.

An awesome birthday spread!
After all of the gift-giving, he and I went out to see The Dark Knight Rises and have dinner. We also stopped off at a beer tasting. Leah stayed at home with a sitter and had an absolute blast. It was our first real date and the first time we spent one-on-one time without Leah around. I love having her here, but it was nice to get away with Him and have a nice romantic night. 

Saturday night was dinner at My Favorite Couple's house, and that was a great time as well. A few of my friends got to meet Him, and I think it went really well. From my take on things, everyone liked each other. Which is awesome. 

All in all it was an awesome birthday weekend!

15 July 2012

Weekend in Charlotte

This weekend, Leah and I drove to Charlotte to spend the weekend having fun adventures and hanging out with Him. It was only a 2&1/2 hour drive which Leah happily wanted to take because she adores both Him and his puppies. We didn't arrive until around 8 on Friday evening due to schedule issues here in the Triangle, but the drive was nice and easy (minus a little heavy traffic due to an accident in Durham). Leah had never seen "skyscrapers" before, so, when we drove around 277 (the beltline around Charlotte) and she saw the tall buildings, she was bouncing up and down in her seat. It was absolutely adorable how excited she was about seeing "skyscrapers" for the first sign. 

Saturday morning, we went to breakfast and then out to Discovery Place, a really cool children's museum in downtown Charlotte. There were a ton of great hands-on activities for her to play with and learn from. We watched a 3-D movie about dolphins and whales (Well, she and Him watched it. Leah knocked my glasses off my lap accidentally just as the lights went down, and we couldn't see to find them. As a PSA, 3-D movies are totally not cool without the 3-D glasses) and saw some pretty cool fish, including a shrimp called a "Sexy Dancer Shrimp." Huh? What is that about? Of course, Leah noticed the name of the fish and asked a lot of questions about that. 

Leah using her muscles in a tug-o-war.
Laying on a bed of nails
Looking in the cool mirror in the creepy "germ and bacteria" section of the museum.
Like I mentioned before, Leah pretty much adores Him. Anytime he and I attempt to kiss or hold hands or hug, she always steps between us and pushes  us apart. Every time we go out to eat, she has to sit next to him and I get to sit all alone on my side. It's sweet how much she loves him, and he definitely loves her too. They are always laughing and joking and roughhousing. She loves it. 

Besties in the making. How adorable.
Acting tough. Believe me. It's all an act. 
Maybe someday she'll back off enough for Him and I to actually get our picture taken together. :)

13 July 2012

First birthday presents!

Today I received this beauty in the mail from the 'rents. It's a large shell that attaches to my silver slider chain.  I was super excited to get it because 1.) it means my birthday is just around the corner and 2.) I have wanted it since last April when I saw it in Florida! I'm so glad Mom and Pops pay such close attention to me!

Now I can't wait to wear it!

LOVE this.

12 July 2012

Just when you stop looking ...

The whole dating thing is daunting. It's exhausting. And discouraging. And overwhelming. You have to weed through a whole lotta bad to find anything good. And the hard part is that sometimes the good stuff sometimes isn't the right stuff (I feel like busting out into a NKOTB song). And discerning between the two can be the most exhausting and trying part of the whole dating process. I've dated some good, some bad, some okay, but I haven't found the right one yet. The one I'd be willing to get married again for. The one I'd consider having kids with. The one with whom it just feels right.

Because I am surrounded all day by married people and young kids, my "meeting eligible bachelors opportunities" is limited. Unless I become a barfly -- which presents the opportunity to meet a certain type of individual -- it's hard to meet men worth my time. So I ventured into the world of online dating and have had some questionable results. There are definitely some sketchy people out there, and the online world gives those sketchy people confidence and a forum. So weeding through them can be a challenge. 

I was getting pretty discouraged with the whole thing and was ready to give up. And then, on a random Sunday afternoon, I "met" Him. We chatted online for a while before we exchanged numbers. We texted furiously for a few days before we actually spoke. And, when we finally spoke on the phone, we talked for three hours. And the next night we spoke for three more hours. And I hate talking on the phone! Ever since then, we've talked and texted every day. We spend all our time laughing and joking and really enjoying each others' company. The hardest thing is that he lives about three hours away from me, so seeing each other isn't the most convenient thing in the world. When we finally did met face to face, everything just fell into place perfectly. 

He's pretty awesome. He's driven up to visit me the past few weekends, and he is totally cool with doing 9-year-old friendly things with my niece. We've seen the Katy Pery movie together with Leah and gone to the pool and the children's museum and all sorts of different things. Everything between us has felt 100% normal and comfortable and easy. Which is weird because we've only known each other for such a short time. 

Last weekend while he was visiting, I got sick. Sick enough to have to go to Urgent Care. What did he do? He took care of everything. I went to Urgent Care and he stayed home with Leah and the dogs (mine and his two). While I was gone, he cleaned up the kitchen, made Leah's bed, made sure her teeth were brushed and jammies were on. The next day, he stayed in town to help me with Leah because I was still a little fuzzy from the pain meds they put me on. I was so amazed and impressed that I wanted to cry. 

He's one of the most kind and sweet man I have ever met. He is thoughtful and considerate and readily shows me affection and love. He is generous and giving. He makes me laugh. And, if you know anything about me, that is truly the key to my heart. 

We've talked about everything and really don't have secrets from each other. Granted, it's new and there's obviously a lot of the honeymoon period thing going on, but this feels right. Righter than anything has ever felt before. We've talked about taking vacations and kids and potentially getting married. Yep, even that. We've joked about getting married in November when I go to Vegas for a conference. So don't be surprised ... ;-)

Mom and Dad are telling me to slow down, and I get that. I'm not getting married tomorrow, but I could definitely see it happening with him. I told them that we wouldn't move any faster than they did. And they got married after 6 weeks. :-) We're definitely serious after such a short time, but we aren't doing anything crazy. We're going home to see my family at the end of the month, and I'm pretty sure that he will blend in perfectly with the dad and brothers. 

So, there you have it. The down low on my current dating situation. It's going really well right now (obviously), and I hope this trend continues. 

Adventures in Parenting

So I've been a "parent" for about three weeks now, and it has been quite an experience. It's kinda nice that I've totally bypassed the dirty-diapers-and-midnight-feedings stage of childrearing and that my parenting experience has a definite end-date on it, but it has certainly been enlightening. Leah and I have had some wonderful times, but, to her dismay and my requirement, it hasn't been a non-stop picnic every day. There are rules and responsibilities whether we like it or not. But I think she's adjusted well.

Every morning, Leah is responsible for walking the dog and feeding her. This kinda just happened. She asked if she could take her out, and I told her "yes." Ever since then, the dog has become one of her family responsibilities. It's actually pretty adorable given that she used to be afraid of The Beast. She cleans up her dishes off the dinner table, puts away her own laundry, and takes care of her own room. It's basic, but necessary.

I've discovered the hardest part of parenting is the laundry. It never ends!!! How many outfits can a child wear in a given day? This is ridiculous, people! I'm doing laundry almost every day. Is that normal?

I've also realized how hard it is to have a moment alone. I used to wonder why my good friends with kids didn't have time to blog or Facebook or keep in touch, but now I totally get it! Leah is 9 and pretty independent, but I still barely have five minutes alone in a given day. And, when I do have a moment, it usually involves just having a quiet moment. Blogging, unfortunately, has taken a backseat.

I've also come to discover that parents can't be sick. Ever. Because, if they are, there is no one to tend to the children. Seriously. How do all you parents do it every day? I was diagnosed with a severe ear infection on Sunday and I couldn't even really take a day to just lay in bed and sleep. A friend was in town, and he certainly helped with Leah, but I still needed to be up and at 'em all day. And she's 9!! I couldn't imagine being in that much pain and on meds with an infant or a toddler. You parents out there AMAZE me. Seriously.

We've had some major attitude moments that required some discipline, but that's to be expected when dealing with a 9-year-old-going-on-16. But clear expectations and consistency and helped her to understand the house rules and what she can and can't get away with. I've discovered that simply talking to her in a stern voice and giving her a choice can eliminate a lot of our problems. Like yesterday. She woke up with MAJOR attitude. I told her that she had two choices. Either get a new attitude by the time we got to the library (about 20 minutes away), or she could spend the afternoon in her room. Within ten minutes, she had perked up and was a totally different kid for the rest of the day. Of course, some battles are a little more blown up, but things are pretty even keel.

We've also had some awesomely sweet moments. Like when she is playing in the living room and I'm in the office, and I can hear her talk and play with her toys. So imaginative! And when she just wants to cuddle and be close. And how first thing in the morning she crawls into bed with Bailey to cuddle. And how she likes to crawl into my lap halfway through a movie in the theater and just sit together.

This whole experience has gotten me thinking about the "kid" situation. It's not that Leah has made me not want to have kids, but having her around has made me realize how much work kids really are. And how they limit what you can do. And see. And listen to on the radio. And eat. I think it's definitely rewarding, but it's also A LOT of work. And it makes a girl think.

Blowing Rock Adventures

This 4th of July, a former student and her family invited us up to their home in Blowing Rock for a mini-vacation. It was a wonderful 3-day break from the heat of Raleigh (it's been over 100 for over a week straight ... hot! hot! hot!), and we had a great time. The mountain air was cool and refreshing, and we did a ton of very cool things ... hiking, fishing (and eating what we caught), 4-wheeling, watching fireworks ... I haven't spent much time in the NC mountains, but I'm definitely game to make it a priority. 

The most adorable moment of the trip? When the girls saw the mountains for the first time and exclaimed:"Oh my gosh! They are beautiful!" Warms an auntie's heart. I'm glad I could share that with her. 

Lots of pretty path pictures

And stepping stones and stairs

Quite the threesome ...

My NC family!

What a group of ladies. This was before we were too hot and sweaty to smile. 

I imagine hobbits living at the end of this.

The rhododendrons were in bloom and beautiful.

See? Stairs. 

Swimming in a mountain stream.

The water was mighty cold. 

But cold water doesn't stop fun!

My Megster.

Brrr ....

Pretty mushroom.

And yet more stairs.

We were only 2.5 miles in on our 6, and the Megster was thrilled!

We happened upon a doe. And she pretty much ignored that we were there. 

The Blue Ridges. 


Hiking on a cow path ... complete with cows. 

Baiting a hook to catch dinner. 


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