Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Missing Home

Sometimes it seems a bit scary to be perfectly honest. Maybe it's because honesty makes you vulnerable. Perhaps it's because reading honesty is boring and the popular fabulous mommy blogger posts are more attractive. Well, good thing I am not a popular mommy blogger (Ha! So there). But you know what, I want to remember the real stuff. When I look back even 10 years from now, I want to remember how I really felt.

This holiday season has been difficult, I mean really difficult. Moving to the East Coast in August was exciting, so much that I didn't really notice the ping of emptiness that comes in the absence of family. Hey, I thought, I guess I am just one of those people that can just be a wonderer because I am lovin' this adventure. Then one day, I saw it. The Facebook post where there was a Christmas party. In the photo there was a beautiful table, decorated and complete with name plates. The little cousins opened their gifts, the adults were laughing in the photo, the house looked warm and inviting. That family was mine. My siblings, my nieces and nephews, and my sister's house which her and her husband finished building after I moved away. I was missing from the photo. My kids were not on the floor, excitedly opening gifts with their cousins, I was not sitting around singing or playing some crazy drum circle with my siblings. For the first time I felt really sad to be away from home on Christmas. It felt empty.

My family is a huge part of my own identity. Coming here is a massive shift for Sean and I and the kids. We are our own family, of course, and we are happy to be together. But my family (siblings/parents) is so important to me. I remember growing up in a home with 9 children. We didn't have much but we had each other (excuse the cliche). Christmases were spent together, filled with special traditions. We had an advent calendar which my mother filled with a daily assignment in December. The assignments were usually service or spiritually driven. Every year, we made treats and caroled to the firemen at our local fire station on Christmas Eve. Christmas tree decorating was a devotional where my mom would come up with some awesomely elaborate lesson on every set of ornaments and how they related to Christ's birth (she is amazing!). But don't be fooled, I had a bad attitude about sitting through it once I turned 15! My mom read us the Christmas Carol every year and cried at the end every time. I thought she was weird but now I totally cry at the end too and I've realized I'm equally as weird. We sang so many Christmas songs and the harmony part to Angels we Have Heard on High now holds a permanent spot in my long term memory. Grandma Jeannie always made us hand made gifts that are still my most prized possessions. Grandpa Dee always made amazing grandson gifts out of wood. Grandma Dotty was always so happy to have us over on Christmas too. I mostly remember the the hanging tinsel, I imagined icicles. I probably snuck at least 20 candy canes off the tree and stashed them in my pockets.

I think I am going to get through this. I am going to survive without my family for now, not because I want to, but because it is necessary. The kids are so excited about Christmas. I will make a Christmas dinner, we will stay up late on Christmas Eve, moving things around to make it look perfect. We will video the kids on Christmas morning. I will still sit in my jammies on Christmas and build legos or play a new board game. Things will be alright. Don't worry.

There is my honest bit of blogging. And I hope that my future self can read this and think, what a great memory that Christmas was.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

New England and New York Adventures

Let me tell you the real goal here: I am trying to get everything up to date so I can FINALLY print my blog for my kids. I hope this is the last post because my brain is fried.

There are so many things I have left out but I will give it a try:

Rhode Island: We visited the beach where Taylor Swift has a mansion. The beach was beautiful, sand soft and there was a beautiful view of a lighthouse. Rhode Island is pretty, green and quiet. I think people who live there are probably really pleased with themselves for being native to Rhode Island....I mean it is very awesome.

Tower of the Sleeping Giant: We took the wrong trail and ended up hiking a long and steep hike. It was the closest to Utah hiking I have seen since I have been out here. When you get to the castle, you can go to the top and see the view, it's beautiful! Brody and McKay found a little dirt mound outside the castle so they were entertained the entire time. They also found the one tiny, nasty, stagnant puddle which existed up there. Yep and they played in it. Gross.
(This isn't actually the Sleeping Giant, it's called Mead Chapel in Westchester County bit it's better)

Kent, CT: The grandest display of Fall colors I saw this season, absolutely beautiful. Something that is interesting about Connecticut and all of New England are the thousands of Random cemeteries from the 1700s. These cemeteries look so cool with a backdrop of fall leaves. We stopped at a cemetery right outside of Kent in the middle of nowhere. As we walked through the tombstones, we came across a pile of bones on the corner of the cemetery. We looked at them for a long while and saw that they looked like human bones. The leg bone was long and thick just like a human. The hip bone seemed round and crested just like a person's hip. We called the police and they came to check it out. The officer called me and said they had determined they were deer bones. Hm. That was embarrassing. It gave us some serious excitement though.
(New England, fall colors)

New York: Of course we cannot forget the fact that we live super close to NYC which is so much fun. We have explored Times Square, Central Park, Metro Museum of Art, The Boathouse, Ground Zero, The Statue of Liberty, St John's Cathedral, Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park, Columbia University, Harlem, Wall Street, Broadway and lots of other things in between. We took Kayla down to see the Statue of Liberty and she loved it. It's amazing to see so many things that are recognizable because from movies, news and other media sources. NYC is such a lively place. There are many more things to explore there and we can't wait to do more!

The Pez Factory: Located in Orange, CT, this was a fun day trip. You have to pay a few dollars to get in (really cheap for the kids especially) and then they include a 2.00 credit for the Pez shop and the kids get a bingo card which they earn a free Pez dispenser just for participating! The factory area can be viewed from the museum but it was closed on Saturday when we went. Well worth the drive and effort! We visited 2 months ago and the kids still ask if we can go visit the "candy factory". Staff was awesome too!

Of all the adventures we have been on, my very favorite is my stay at home adventure! This is the first time I have ever been able to stay home with the kids. It is so amazing to be here with them, read to them, hug them more, listen to their thousands of opinions throughout the day, and make them my main focus. It's been almost three months now and I don't want to quit yet. Staying home is difficult but I love it, I am finally getting my chance.


Before we left Utah we celebrated our tenth anniversary. I always thought we would do something grand like go on a cruise or visit Europe together. However, circumstances as they were (only days away from our journey to the East) we had to settle on a dinner at Cheesecake Factory. I had Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Sean had Cajun Jambalaya. As usual, we had a bite off each other's plate to taste. We had a lovely time, great conversation, reflected on the past year and talked about hopes for the next ten years together.

On the way home, I began to get congested and my mouth felt itchy. I told Sean I felt like I was having allergies. We thought it was weird but kept driving. Within a few minutes my eyes started to water and I was getting uncomfortable. I had experienced allergies before so I wasn't completely alarmed. As we got closer to home, I continued feel more congested. When we got home, Sean suggested I try a hot shower to see if that would clear my congestion. I thought it wasn't a terrible idea. I went in the bathroom and noticed in the mirror that my eye was a little bit puffy but still wasn't terribly alarmed. No sooner had I turned the faucet on, that I felt a swollen lump on my tongue. Okay, now I was alarmed. I went straight out to Sean and told him he has to take me to the Emergency Room right away. We apologized to the babysitter and ran back out the door. The hospital was a 12 minute drive (I know the exact time because I used to work at this hospital). En route to the ER, my eyes began to rapidly swell, my throat was so swollen I could barely talk and it was very difficult to breathe. I sat in the passenger seat, leaning forward, starting to feel desperate for relief. I am very familiar with what anaphylaxis is, but it wasn't until I actually experienced it that I realized what anaphylaxis FEELS like.

In the Emergency Room, they quickly got my name and walked me straight back to a room. I couldn't see because my eyes were swollen shut but I remember IVs, a lot of hurrying and then being wheeled in to "Bed 11" which I was well aware what room that was: one with a crash cart because patients in that room are at risk of death. I didn't care, I just wanted to breathe. Once I was in that room, I heard someone say they were going to give me some Epinephrine. I am also well aware of what this medication is used for and I wasn't too worried. When they gave me the medication in my IV, it was then that I really thought I was facing death. There was a sudden elephant sitting on my chest, my extremities and head went completely numb, it was dark, my body felt heavy, and I couldn't move my hands. I literally thought to myself "I am dying, right now, this is it."

The symptoms subsided and I came to. I was happy to be alive but I was still very swollen. I stayed in the ER for about 6 hours until my throat swelling had significantly subsided. Before discharge, I asked the Dr to have a look at my cardiac strip during the Epinephrine. He returned and informed me that I had a 20 beat run of Ventricle Tachycardia (AKA V-Tach). This is a rhythm where, often times, the heart is not perfusing but there are crazy electrical things happening. Essentially, the reason why I thought I was dying is because I was. He said he does not typically see that with Epinephrine. I guess I am just the lucky one.

Could be a new onset shellfish allergy, or maybe just a random freak thing. Until I can get in to an allergist, I am not coming near shellfish or anything crazy. I now carry an Epi Pen a long with a little bit of paranoia.

So instead of a romantic getaway on a cruise boat, we spent our tenth anniversary in the Emergency Room making some serious memories. I have now come pretty close to death, much too close for me. But we made it through our first ten years of life together. We have taken many adventures and there are many to come....they just can't include Shellfish!
 Without the photo, you really can't get the full effect. Sweet dreams! (evil laugh)

Mystic, CT

I have refocused on journaling for my family. I feel that this life is so short and my brain is too small to fit all the memories in it. I have to purge my memories in a written format in order to keep them and share them with my children. My mom has tried hard to record memories in writing which has become something that my children beg me to read to them often. My hope is that one day my kids will share their childhood with their own children.

One of the first day trips we took when we arrived in our home in New England was Mystic, Connecticut. This place is amazing. I think it's one of the first places I have seen where I could imagine myself retiring here and living a fairy tail for the rest of my life. The town is cute, little shops like anything else but the thing that sets this place apart from any other small town is the way that it is nested in a small ocean inlet. There is a drawbridge that separates the two main areas of the town. There is a lot of foot traffic on the bridge but it's stopped by little pedestrian drop gates when the bridge is preparing to lift. The people all stop to watch as the bridge makes way for sail boats. This might sound like the most annoying thing in the world but it is so cool! The kids loved to watch the bridge and see the huge sail boats go through. There is a museum (which was outside our budget to visit) which had huge ships that looked like they were from a pirate movie. We ate at Mystic Pizza (where they filmed the Julia Roberts movie, Mystic Pizza), had ice cream at some really yummy place right by the drawbridge (may have even been called Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream). So basically, if my dreams come true I will retire there and you can come visit me in my porch rocking chair.

Watching the Drawbridge

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Trip Across the Country

Trip taken at the end of August 2015

The journey across the country. That was a big one. Basically, it seemed like any other road trip (we love to take road trips) only it was going to be a very long one. I decided I would tell myself that I was only traveling to the destination we were planning for that day. For instance: "I am so excited for our trip to Cheyanne, then I am so excited for our trip to Omaha today, ect." This helped and made it so suddenly we were going to arrive at our East Coast home before we knew it. A long the way we had a great time. Thanks to Instagram, most of the trip was documented.

Wyoming is flat and boring across the I-80. No offense but it may be the only part of I-80 that is worse than Nevada. Once we arrived in Cheyanne it was quite beautiful. There were rolling hills and it was greener than what we'd seen in the rest of the state. We stayed at a shabby run down hotel but were excited to have a place to sleep and a shower. We saw a lot of semi trucks. The worker at the little gas station where we stayed was really sweet. She gave the kids free cookies for "Costumer Appreciation Day." Nice.

Nebraska. Much greener than Wyoming and we started to see massive windmills. We stopped off at an exit that had a dirt road going all the way to the horizon. We got out, had a roadside pee and walked down the road. McKay was ecstatic because there was dirt. The one thing McKay asked when we told him we were moving was "mom, is there dirt there?" There was a feeling about Nebraska I really liked. It was peaceful yet a little mysterious. I found myself wondering what it would be like to see a huge twister rip through those endless fields. Then again, I am glad there weren't any twisters! We visited Winter Quarters Museum in Omaha. This is where the Mormon pioneers camped during the harsh winter of 1847.

Then there was Iowa. I felt so far away from home in Iowa, like we had earned our traveling stripes. Iowa was beautiful. The corn went on for miles and miles. All over, there were signs that stated "build in the city, save our farms." I would be interested to learn more about the politics that exists behind this statement. Des Moines was an awesome city as well. Luckily, we were in Des Moines during the Iowa State Fair. This is a BIG deal! We met families who had been going to this fair for generations. It did cost money to get in but totally worth it. We ate at a yummy Mexican restaurant where the staff was super sweet. My Des Moines experience was a sure positive! Right on the border of Iowa and Illinois there is a city called Davenport. In Davenport, the John Deere headquarters has an amazing museum which is FREE and super awesome! There were massive farming machines which had stairs to get up to the driver's seats. The kids (and adults) were able to climb up and sit in the seat. There is a kids area with really fun activities that relate to logging and farming. There is a few simulators where you can operate an excavator (not as easy as it looks folks!). The John Deere Pavilion is a must visit if you pass through Davenport.

Up close at the Iowa State Fair
We found a sign later that said "no swimming" oops

Illinois, don't pronounce the s! It was very exciting for me to cross the Mississippi River but I was not a fan of the traffic south of Chicago. Illinois, in my opinion was more of the same with Iowa, only more city. I liked Iowa a little better.

Indiana: The crossroads of America. It seemed like we had just passed through south Chicago and we happened upon a big sign that said "Indiana." For some reason every state line we crossed the further from home I felt. This was uncharted territory for me. I remember learning about Indiana in Elementary school. I thought it was a strange name for a state and it was so far away, there was no way I would ever see the state of Indiana. When we approached Michigan City, Indiana Sean had an idea. He said "If this is east, then the shores of the great lakes should be that way" pointing left. He turned the car down the street on the left and drove toward Lake Michigan. Because of time we didn't stay long but I snapped a photo of Kayla by the edge. I have always wanted to see the great lakes, and now I have! I am glad that Sean's sense of adventure has benefits.
 Denny's Gary, Indiana

Ohio, well it was pretty cool but I will tell you the one thing I didn't like: toll roads. Man those things came up quick. We were on a toll road (the Ohio Turnpike) the whole was across the state. This made it hard to go and explore much of anything. The exits were all the same service stops with a gas station, Dunkin Donuts and a McDonalds with jacked up prices (the beauty of a monopoly). It was in Ohio that Brody had to poo so bad we snuck in the back door of an upscale hotel, left a treat in the perfectly decorated bathroom and then left before anyone saw us, regular criminals we are. We stayed near Cleveland, which was awesome. I liked Cleveland....good vibes.
 Love when Hotwire lands you in a Holiday Inn for $50....

Then there was Pennsylvania. What a State! Beautiful green rolling hills. Bridges with large rivers. I-80 took us over the Susquehanna River twice. There were a lot of farming communities a long the way. So far, this was the greenest state we had been through. This day was rough. I believe we had been on the road for 5 straight days and the kids had had it. I remember snapping a photo of poor McKay, dirty face, tired eyes and huge crocodile tears. He was so done with being strapped in to a carseat. I got out of me seat, climbed in the back, hugged him and held his hand. Poor guy. We stopped at a rest stop and McKay took his monster truck with him (mistake #1). Then, when Sean went in to the restroom he placed the truck on top of the vending machines where he thought no one would be able to reach it (mistake #2). Well, someone took the monster truck. I hope Karma bites the thief in the butt one day! Pennsylvania took a long time to drive through.

He never lets me take his photo

 The mentioned photo of poor McKay

New Jersey! When got to New Jersey, it was dark. That is the problem with our family and road trips. It takes about an eternity to get anywhere. The biggest danger is stopping. Getting the kids motivated to get BACK in the car after having a short break is nearly impossible. Therefore, when the trip is "8 Hours" just plan on 12. New Jersey was exciting, I felt like I was officially on the East Coast. I take it many New Yorkers don't like New Jersey because the response to my facebook post "we're in New Jersey" came the response "I hope it doesn't last long." and "Oh I'm so sorry." It didn't seem too terrible and we found gas for 2.15 a gallon! We arrived at the Tappen Zee Bridge and were ready with the toll. As we crossed over, there was the city, off in the distance, New York City. Even though you could only see lights it was still exciting. Kayla smiled as she said "We are really here mom, I just saw the lights of New York City."

Passing over the bridge we suddenly entered New York State. We were excited but so tired that we just hoped the sign for Connecticut would come soon. Dark, and much like the roads in New Jersey it really wasn't that exciting to be in New York.

Finally it came, the sign to Connecticut!! We had waited so long to arrive. We were almost there! Even though dark, we could see the trees overhanging the road. I couldn't see the trees but I could tell there were a lot of them. We entered the our little town around 11PM, exhausted. We were really confused because after 10PM some of the traffic lights turn into stop signed by blinking red for one way and yellow for the other way. We were confused but now that it's our everyday life it's not that big of a challenge. It was the end of August and it was just about a perfect temperature outside. The boys were asleep but Kayla was too excited. Kayla walked in to the dim house (with no overhead lighting) and was so happy. She went straight to her room, led by the phone flashlight and claimed her space. We all slept in our room together. We slept good, really good.

There you go, including Utah, we passed through 10 states. If you ever have a chance to take a cross country drive, do it! It was such a blast.

Just a few words of advice is you are going to move your family in a mini van thousands of miles:

1. Pack a bag for each day with a clean change of clothes for each person, including socks, unders, etc. This way you grab one bag out of the car instead of multiple pieces of luggage. Then, when everyone changes, put the dirty clothes from the day before in the same bag and it's then zipped up and kept in the car until it arrives safely at your new home, ready to be laundered.

2. Pack a toiletry bag which includes a pair of PJs for everyone, if you are really careful and you don't have any major bed wettings, one pair of PJs will last the trip! This bad goes in the hotel every night. We literally were able to walk in to the hotel room and NOT go back to the car for luggage. Loved it. Will never travel any other way.

3. Keep activities simple. Crayons and paper were the most popular.

4. We planned for about 6-8 hours of driving per day. This was perfect because when you drive that many days in a row, stamina dwindles.

5. See a few things. You will regret it if you don't. Sean is Mr adventure and I am woman on a mission, get there and don't mess around. We made a good balance.