Friday, December 23, 2011

Early Christmas with my parents

Some photo highlights from my parent's recent visit:

The past few times my parents have come to visit, they brought a book in their suitcase to read with her. She now expects that when they come, and my parents gladly accommodated.

 Grandma bought Emily her first happy meal.

 We went to see the trains at the Botanical Gardens. They did a really good job, and I hope to come back next year and do it again. Elliot loved pointing at them when they came close.

 We weren't quite ready to go home after seeing the trains, so we stopped by the Museum of the American Indian, which we hadn't been to before. Um, wow. They recently opened an exhibit for kids where you can build a big foam igloo, climb into a large tipi, and read relevant books and do puzzles. It wasn't crowded at all, and the staff was very involved and helpful. The kids LOVED playing here. They will do their full unveiling with all their activities in March, and I'm definitely coming back here. Oh, and Elliot thoroughly enjoyed the ducks in the wetlands outside of the museum.

 We went to a nearby farm to see the animals. Elliot LOVED the goats and the pigs. There aren't any good shots with the kids with the animals, but here's a cute one of Elliot we took there.
 Baking Christmas cookies. Our trees also now boasts a paper chain, some paper ornaments, and some glittery pine cones that Emily helped grandma make (which she collected in her trick-or-treating pumpkin. Hey, it was the perfect size and easy to find).
We did an early Christmas with my parents. As you can see, Elliot is happy to have a dump truck full of ducks. Emily's favorite is a doll that cries when you give it shots (and stops when you give it "medicine"). She loves making that baby cry. For the first few days, she referred to it as "goo-goo-box" (the first time she's picked a name for a toy that isn't purely descriptive), but now it is just "baby."

The other really big highlight: For our anniversary, my parents watched the kids overnight so Rob and I could get a night to ourselves for the first time since having kids. I love my kids and all, but it was SO nice to have some time alone with Rob. We didn't want to spend the whole time commuting, so we spent the night in Old Town Alexandria. We thoroughly enjoyed roaming around the Torpedo Factory Art Gallery, having a nice dinner at Vaso's Kitchen, and the delicious candy cane custard at the Dairy Godmother (it is good we don't live in Alexandria - I have no will power when it comes to that place).

I say it all the time, but I love living somewhere my dad travels for business, and it is doubly nice when my mom joins him on the trip. It was really, really fun to spend time with them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This love will change you

I’m kind of obsessed with The Weepies, and I’ve been listening to “Same Changes” a lot while I’ve been cleaning for assorted holiday company. I’m not going to admit how many times in a row. The line “everyone says this love will change you” has been sticking with me, and I’ve been thinking about the impact of love on identity.

A common complaint heard in high school relationship drama is “man, she’s changed since she started dating that guy.” And while I don’t condone the kinds of obsessive teenage relationships that knock priorities out of whack, or pretending to be someone you aren’t to keep a partner interested, I do think that any love worth having will transform you. Love involves sacrifice. It involves changing your plans so you can both move forward together. It involves compromise, which involves analyzing your priorities, plans, and values, and deciding what you need to hold on to and what you can bend for. It involves service, which never leaves you unchanged. I don’t think you can be in a truly loving relationship without shifting somehow (and naturally, the shifting needs to happen on both sides for it to work).

Rob and I recently celebrated our 6th anniversary. I’m very grateful to be married to someone who changes me for the better. I’m calmer, gentler, and more grateful. I’m grounded, but freer to explore and expand. I’m happier – he gives me an atmosphere of service, kindness, and understanding to build myself in. I know I’m better for loving him. Happy anniversary, Rob.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Time

Like many of you, I struggle to find the right balance with the Christmas season. It is so easy to overschedule, and so easy to get caught up in the commercial side of things. Last year, I swung too far in the opposite direction. I tried so hard to simplify that we left the season feeling like we hadn't done anything to make it special at all. So I'm adding a few things this year. I've tried two new things this year that I've really been enjoying, and I thought I'd share.

Walk With Christ. Last year, Jeans at the Beginnings New blog posted a fantastic two-week scriptural "Walk With Christ" with topical scriptures to read and questions to ponder. It didn't happen last year for me, but this year, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, I've been taking time each day to study the scriptures and write down some of my feelings on the topics. I've loved having the chance to focus on the gifts Christ has given me, and how I can use his teachings and the power of the atonement to improve myself and my life. I recommend it!

Christmas Books at Bedtime. I don't have enough to make it all the way through December (we'll eventually repeat), but Emily and I have been reading a new Christmas picture book every night before bed. Emily LOVES it, and it is the easiest time I've ever had putting her down for the night. She wakes up the next morning wanting to read the books again, and she talks about the things that happen in them throughout the day. The funniest is after we read Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree, the next morning she asked for some scissors to cut the top off our tree and share it. Love it.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Rob's dad and new stepmom came up to spend Thanksgiving with us. It was my first time hosting Thanksgiving, which was really fun to do. Check it out - I made a turkey! My feast was ready shortly after noon. Seriously, who am I, and what have I done with the real Erin?

I opted for pumpkin cheesecake instead of a pumpkin pie. I'm never going back.

Elliot's first time eating his grandpa's family recipe for mac and cheese. He proved that he is genetically related by literally trying to climb into my lap and get more after giving him a sample of the extra-sharp cheddar grandpa uses to make it, and eating a very large dinner.

Where we live so far from family, I just soak up moments like these where my kids enjoy their relatives. The kids also had a wonderful time playing ball (and grandma taught Elliot how to bounce the ball to people - very fun).
On Friday, we steered clear of the shopping malls and went downtown insetad. We had a picnic in the Hirshhorn sculpture garden, which is one of my very favorite places on the mall.
We then enjoyed the National Gallery. We also made a trip to the Natural History Museum. When we walked through the "Birds of DC" exhibit, Elliot was mellow, until we got to the two cases of ducks. Oh, man. He was so happy - giggling, pointing, exclaiming "uck! kuh! kuh! uck!" And let me tell you, he threw a royal tantrum when I moved him from the case. What can I say? That boy loves ducks. Emily's favorite was the giraffe, who was sticking out his long tongue (which she happily demonstrated, to the amusement of nearby tourists).

It was a wonderful, wonderful time. I know I say this all the time, but I feel so grateful to have such wonderful in-laws. I know so many people that have so much drama with theirs, but I really genuinely love all mine and get along well with them.