Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lilly's Mediterranean Vacation: Days 1 and 2

A few months ago, while planning this trip, we decided to add on an extra day in Barcelona. We had originally thought arriving a day prior to the cruise would be fine; but then realized that our day and a half in Barcelona would be with jet lag and exhaustion, not really getting to experience much in Barcelona, and getting on the cruise still recovering from the time change.

So, we added on an extra extra night in Barcelona – which meant we left Sunday (July 17) afternoon from Baltimore, connecting in Philadelphia, and arriving in Barcelona Monday morning local time for a cruise that leaves on Wednesday July 20.

Surprisingly, everything went as planned. Sunday, we drove to Baltimore around 11 am, after doing last minute packing all morning. We struggled looking for parking at the airport (we’re not familiar with it since we’re new to MD) and some of the lots were full and/or the people looked like they were waiting forever for a shuttle to the airport. Finally we found an “express” lot which was $10/day but the shuttles were waiting immediately to take us to the airport. Lilly happily jumped on board, and was so excited sitting on the shuttle. She was beaming and dancing and grinning and so happy.

We easily checked in – including scanning the passports, checking our luggage, being offered an upgrade to first class for the minor cost of $1500 total for the 3 of us (we declined), and finally we were ready. We got through security with no issues – Lilly is a total pro – she got the baskets for us, took her own shoes off, carried her ticket through all by herself, waiting for me on the other side, and found her shoes and put them back on. We had three carry on’s for the 3 of us: one backpack for each of us. We had to take out our dvd player and computer and “liquids” which were her sunscreen and our toothpastes.

While Lilly was happy as a clam, I wasn’t feeling great. I never feel 100% on travel days, and usually a minor aching head mixed with a little stress turns into a total full blown migraine which often lasts 3 days, so I was weary of how I felt. We had an hour and a half before the flight, so we stopped to get a bite to eat. As soon as we sat down and were ordering, happy go lucky Lilly took a sugar packet, opened it, and poured it on the table – which was our cue to step out for a minute. Lilly and I walked to the store nearby, and I directed her which box was “Excedrin Migraine.” She picked it up, took my credit card, and walked to the counter to pay for it. She did everything herself, except sign my name, and was so proud of herself.

By the time we got back to Jon in the restaurant, happy-go-lucky Jon was drinking a beer and watching golf, relaxed as ever. I took my headache pills and started feeling better myself, and Lilly’s grilled cheese and fries made her happy as can be. When we were finished eating, we got a to-go container for Lilly’s food, and she put everything on her plate into it: including the pickle and parsley. I love how independent she is.

We walked through the airport to our gate, which was one of the last ones. We were on a puddle jumper, a 30 minute flight to Philadelphia. Lilly and Jon got settled together, and I was across the aisle. We didn’t need to take out any of Lilly’s “tricks” for the flight – literally the 3 of us just read the US Airways magazine, and I did the Sudoku puzzle in the back.

We arrived in Philly with 3 hours to spare, but it was worth it. We arrived in F terminal and A terminal was a long walk, followed by a decent shuttle ride, followed by another really long walk. Once in A terminal, but not near our gate yet, we found a playground for kids, so Lilly spent a half hour going down a slide, playing in a fake plane, and shyly making friends with a couple kids.

Then, we began the super long walk to our gate. Along the way, Jon discovered there was a bar with a soccer game, so once we arrived at the gate and found seats, he disappeared for awhile. Lilly watched Elmo on the DVD player, and I read a book on my new Nook. I texted Jon at one point to bring me a McDonalds caramel sundae, and he readily appeared with it, before disappearing again.

The next hour went by fast, and finally it was time to board. We were able to pre-board with families with kids “5 and under” and Lilly was happy to be on a plane again. She hadn’t napped all day, so she was a little exhausted, but still in a good mood. We sat on the plane for about an hour as it was delayed taking off, so she was a little restless – it was bedtime (bc she hadn’t napped) and also dinnertime (which was delayed bc of not taking off on time), so mostly we just played with her “baby” doll, read books and magazines, did stickers, etc. Finally we took off and the flight attendants were quick with starting dinner service. We were in row 9 – just 3 away from 1st class – plus Lilly and I had special meals – kids and vegetarian – so we were eating in no time. Lilly’s meal was perfect for her – chicken fingers (the real kind, not processed nuggets) and ketchup, corn, tater tots (which I stole), a roll, grapes, and milk. My meal was good, rice and vegetables and artichokes, salad, a roll, and fruit with coconut sprinkled on top. I had a diet coke instead of beer/wine because it wasn’t included on the flight (unlike our flights to/from New Zealand with great local complimentary wines); plus I was hesitant about adding anything to the jet lag. In retrospect I think a glass of wine would have made me sleep better, but oh well. Jon got some kind of chicken and I’m not even sure what else because he ate it so quickly! But he did share his brownie with me. Lilly and Jon settled in watching the personal tv’s on the back of the seats – the kids programming had nothing of interest for Lilly, so instead she watched an old episode of Glee. Jon watched some kind of movie. I read my Nook book. Finally, as dinner was cleaned up, Lilly and I headed to the bathroom and brushed our teeth, and by about 8:30 or so, she settled down and fell asleep. I fell asleep about a half hour later.

Jon went to sleep at some point, and slept for the majority of the flight, as did Lilly. I woke up about 2 hours after I originally fell asleep, and try as I might, couldn’t fall asleep. We had a row of 4 – with no one in the 4th seat – so Lilly spread out into two seats, and Jon and I were on each end with an aisle, so we couldn’t put our heads against anything, it wasn’t very comfortable. Plus the guy behind us had his overhead light on the whole flight – which shined brightly into our eyes all night.

Spain is 6 hours ahead of the US East Coast, so we were set to land at 8:30 local time, which meant it felt like 2:30 in the morning to us. Lilly and Jon woke up an hour before landing, and we had coffee, water, and a Danish.

Officially I guess sometime around then, day 1 ended and day 2 began. We got off the plane around 9, and waited awhile for our stroller to arrive. Then we went through customs which was easy, just a short line. We waited awhile for our luggage to arrive, but they provided free carts – and we found a cart for Lilly that had a kids seat so she was happy. We played with stickers and hung out, and finally all the luggage arrived. We finally exited and easily found the Disney Cruise Line representative that greeted us. She checked our name off, and introduced us to our driver, who was friendly but spoke no English. Jon and I practiced remembering Spanish words and phrases we knew better a decade earlier.

We arrived at our hotel around 10 am, the Hilton Diagonal Mar. We picked it because it was one of the “Disney” hotels we could book with our package, and it wasn’t in the middle of everything, which sounded nicer to me – it was in the business district a little further away from Las Ramblas. When we got here, the staff was so friendly, and we had to wait a little bit to check in but when we did, our room was ready so we were happy. We got up to our room, and I was bracing myself for a small European hotel room… and surprise! We had a suite! It was a living room with a sleeper couch, two side chairs, and a desk, and a king sized bedroom on the corner of the building, with a huge marble bathroom, including a bidet (which has just confused Lilly, but she certainly likes it – she keeps wanting to wash her hands in the “kid sized sink.” And, the view from our corner view is amazing – facing the beach on one side and the city on the other. Lilly loves looking outside the windows.

Anyways, good start to the day, with our big room (I guess we were upgraded?), and a not-too-hard travel day behind us. We were exhausted though, and decided to get a quick bite to eat before taking a midday nap (which is our goal each day for the trip – at the beginning to help get adjusted to the time change but mostly to help Lilly stay up for all the nighttime events on the cruise). We walked outside where we knew there was a McDonalds and came across a little bakery with croissants, coffee, etc. We got chocolate croissants (which somehow Lilly didn’t like) and a fruit cup (which she loved). We came back to the room, took baths and showered, and by 12:15 all of us were lying in the bed, ready for a good nap.

We set the alarm for 3, because we didn’t want to sleep all day, and wanted to make sure we were getting adjusted to the time change. I woke up a little after 2, somewhat refreshed but feeling kind of nauseous and disoriented. Jon felt great though, and headed out to get a few things from the local store. There’s a mall across from the Hilton Diagonal Mar, with the McDonalds (with free wifi – that we’ll have to try out soon) and bakery, and tons of restaurants, stores, etc. It has one store in it that’s a multi-level store with one floor that’s like a grocery store, and another that’s like a Target. Perfect. He picked up a few bottles of water, a jug of milk, and some kids yogurts for Lulu.

Meanwhile, I got ready and got Missy Moo up at 3. She ate a yogurt right away, and Jon and I realized we were starving. He went down to the pool area cafĂ© to check it out, and I got Lilly in her bathing suit. When we met him down at the pool, he had ordered a veggie sandwich and side salad for us to split, with an order of potatoes bravas, and chicken nuggets and French fries for Lilly, which happened to come with side of roasted veggies. The food was all amazing, surprising for hotel food. Literally the best veggie sandwich and side salad I’ve ever had, I think.

It was super windy on the pool deck (floor 2 of the hotel) because we’re a couple blocks from the ocean. Lilly and Jon went in the pool for a little bit, but it was chilly, so we came back up to get dressed to go out. We were trying to decide what to do, so we walked a couple blocks to the beach, and Lilly asked for a bucket and shovel to build a castle, so we decided to walk to the superstore at the mall near our hotel, that Jon had gone to earlier. We found a perfect Disney Princess shovel/pail set and got her a Mickey Mouse beach ball.

But by the time we were done with walking the mall, it was 7. Too late to go back to the beach with Lilly’s new toys, but too early to call it a night, and with our 4pm lunch, we weren’t thinking about dinner. So, we hopped on a local bus for $1.45 Euro’s per person and took a mini tour of the city, and got off near La Rambla, in the tourist area. We walked around a fountain area for a while, and Lilly took pictures of the pigeons. She was extra happy because there was a huge billboard of a gorilla, and said it was the best part of her vacation so far.

We got on the return bus back to the hotel, and got back to the hotel around 8:45. Lilly said she was happy to be back “home.” We stopped in the hotel lobby bar to inquire about sangria, which apparently is a tourist thing – locals wouldn’t order it – but the guy behind the bar said he makes the best sangria. Sold! He took 15 minutes mixing things and chopping and arranging the fruit perfectly – and I have to say, it was in fact great sangria. I was finally feeling less exhausted and out of sorts, so it was nice to relax and unwind. Lilly enjoyed sitting at the bar next to daddy.

Two days down, no complaints so far. However, the best is ahead.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Today is the day!

In 4 hours, we leave for the airport for the trip of a lifetime. Maybe it's silly to pack up a 5 year old little girl and head over to Europe for 2 weeks. Maybe it's a waste of money that we really shouldn't allocate towards a vacation, to go on a Disney Cruise of the Mediterranean.

But maybe it is just so exactly what our priorities are, and maybe it's exactly what we need as a family.

I love that, since Lilly Lou was born, we haven't played by the rules - but have instead ruled our lives with our hearts, our instincts. We didn't let her chromosomes limit her, or us. I didn't have to sacrifice my career or my mommyhood: I was able to do both at the same time by working from home and being super involved in her life. We took the adventure of living abroad for a year and took advantage of every moment and opportunity; same with our year in New York, taking a 4 year old to Broadway theatres where elderly women would frown at bringing such a small kid to a show, and then at the end introducing themselves to Lilly and saying the loved watching her reactions to the performance.

I love exposing Lilly to every new opportunity, whether it's playing in Central Park or a playground on the beach of New Zealand, or getting her first trampoline in the suburbs, and getting used to living in a "real" house.

I love watching her confidence especially right now - at its peak - as she has her mommy and daddy's undivided attention for a month. That she bops out of her room in the morning, knowing daddy's not at work and that mommy's not overwhelmed with whatever is going on - and knowing each day is just a gift for our family. Her first concern each morning, these days, is to ask daddy if he's gotten coffee for mommy yet. (Because she knows the gift of each day is only a good one if mommy has had coffee.)

It has been an amazing 2 weeks here in our new home. Full of wonderful surprises. The house is so great; only Jon had seen it before we arrived, so it was nice that exceeded our expectations when we moved in. Little things like having a child toilet seat already permanently attached to the half bath (Lilly loves it!). Flowers blooming in the backyard, vegetables and herbs growing in a little garden. Lilly's own playroom where she's set up as her "Lilly cave" and we're only really allowed in with her permission (of course we can see in through the side glass doors which is nice to check up on her). A gourmet kitchen which we are taking full advantage of, cooking every night. A big backyard where Lilly loves exploring, and the freedom of going out to her trampoline whenever she wants because the yard is fenced in.

And even better, who would have predicted, we've moved into a super friendly street - our neighbors are all so welcoming to us; the local church is so nice and the people there make us feel at home. The YMCA has indoor and outdoor pools that Lilly and Jon have explored every day. And, most importantly, the musical theatre camp that Lilly has signed up for in August.

Life is good, in our new house, in our new world. And, like always, Lilly takes these adjustments well; I admire her ability to live in the moment and take advantage of each of life's opportunities.

I love that she totally understands travel - that she's known for the past week that we're going on the airplane, for a long trip. That she's going to see "Disney Mouse." That she can repeat the following, while counting them off on her fingers: "Barcelona, Malta, Sicily, Naples, Capri, Rome, Portofino, Santa Margherita, Corsica, Monaco." That she asked if she can have a backpack just like mommy and daddy for the airplane, and when she says who's coming on the trip, sometimes it's: "Mommy daddy Lilly and Lala" (lala is the name of her portable dvd player - yes, children who don't have pets or siblings will name their electronics and think of them as family) or sometimes it's "Mommy Daddy Lilly Grandma PawPaw Lyndsey Julianne" because she really wishes she could go see her grandparents and cousins instead, even with this "trip of a lifetime."

For me, I've been thinking about this trip for 2 years. And have been planning it for the past 6 months. And now that it's here, I'm nervous and excited and feel like I still could do so much to prepare, but it's just about here. We were up late last night packing, woke up early this morning with anticipation for today. Today isn't a fun day, necessarily, except for the excitement of starting our adventure: today we drive an hour to the airport, take a flight which has a 3 hour layover, then take the overnight redeye to Barcelona. Lilly's good with flying and airports so I'm not "worried" but it's still never relaxing to travel for 15 hours or so, with or without a good little 5 year old. And I worry about everything, from our adjustments to the time difference, to whether there'll be enough to entertain Miss Lilly in Barcelona for the 3 days prior to the cruise, to whether we'll have sea sickness on the plane, to whether we'll forget - or lose - something important.

But mostly, I can't wait to continue the next two weeks of family time, exploring new countries, sharing new experiences with my favorite people, and making the most out of our time together. "Real life" begins August 1, but until then, I'm having a good time immersed in Lilly's world.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Transition and pictures

June 30, we left NYC and moved to the DC suburbs. The most asked question is: are you sad to leave New York City? The answer is a confident: "Nope!"

It's not that we had a bad year - but it was a really uncomfortable year, if that makes sense. We made the best of it, Lilly had a great time, but it was hard.

So far, in just 2 weeks of being out of the city, our new life is not hard.

Maybe it's because we know we're here "permanently" (except we're renting our house - for 1-3 years - so we'll have to move again, but within the same area). But we love this house so much, we love our neighborhood, we love the stores on the street nearby, we love the restaurants, we love the people we've met, we love the church, and I am so confident about Lilly's new school, which she starts September 1.

We've never lived in the suburbs, since we became a family. Lilly's lived in a small college town, a beautiful foreign country, and the big apple, but never a normal suburban neighborhood. And we're loving it.

Here is my niece Julianne in Charlottesville as we stopped by two weeks ago to meet the movers at our storage unit. We miss Spudnut donuts!

As part of the move from Manhattan, we needed cars, since we had been living the year without any. Jon picked out his first car that was from this century - a 2008 Honda Accord.

Lilly Loo is enjoying her new backyard. During a rain storm last week, we went outside and watered the plants (not practical of course, but it's summer and it's what she felt like doing).

She loves gardening.
Lilly's new front door.
We (I) cooked Saturday night, after our new table and chairs arrived for the screened in porch. How relaxing was it to cook in a big nice kitchen (compared with a tiny NYC kitchen), and eat outside looking at our beautiful backyard (compared with the dining table being in the small living room of our NYC apartment). Proving that we take something from each life experience, a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc definitely accompanied our meal.

Miss Lilly was relaxed and happy as well.
After dinner, Lilly checked on our vegetable garden, and then ran through the backyard hose - first time with that summertime experience.
Another first: Lilly learned how to write the number "10" for the first time ever - so cool - and we are so proud of that girl! She actually learned it from Elmo and Zoe on Sesame Street, so cheers to tv for teaching my child something! (Mommy helped teach her though, as we watched it together, paused it multiple times to remember how to do it, and the first few times I helped her, before she figured out she could do it on her own - smart girl!)
Last night, Lilly and I baked corn bread - definitely not the first time we've cooked together in our new kitchen, and not the last either. Loving including my girl in the meal process, but we've done that for the past year, so it's not totally new - but having space to do so, and having our real kitchen stuff (which was in storage while we were in NYC) is sooo nice. As usual, Jon popped in at the last minute to help and sample the batter and appear in the picture. :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lilly and the Theater

Last night, we saw the Rockville MD community theater version of Annie.

We all know Lilly loves plays, musicals, movies, music, acting, dancing, theater, productions, Broadway, etc. She has a true appreciation for these things; but even more, she "gets" it - she memorizes plays, she remembers the lines each person says, she figures out the intricacies of the choreography.

She didn't get this from Jon or me; as much as we like "shows" we don't have an eye for it like Lilly does. It's a gift that is unique, and it is amazing to watch her appreciation and understanding of the fine arts.

We've taken her to plays (and concerts and all kinds of things like this) her whole life. Since she saw her first parade at Disney World when she was 13 months, we knew she appreciated these things - her clapping and big grin at that age told a story all its own. She was so little, but she made eye contact with each "character" and it was like they understood her and she understood them. I can't explain it.

And this past year of living near Broadway plays has taken it to a new level - she loves the big productions - and fell in love with Mary Poppins, Mamma Mia, and Lion King on Broadway, along with a number of off-Broadway shows. One of my best moments with her is sitting in our private box at Mary Poppins (which I got on discount for $50/ticket!) and watching her melt into the production. She wasn't just watching Mary Poppins, she was immersed in the experience.

And her birthday came along and we took her to Mamma Mia with our whole family in NYC - and she LOVED it (she had seen it once before on Broadway). My sister said, it's amazing watching Lilly - she is so "at home" in this posh seat, 4 rows from the stage, appreciating the experience as much or more than any other patron.

So when we got ready to go to Annie last night - we weren't sure if a "community theater" version would be "enough" for Lilly. But she ate it up.

As we walk into a theater - we get some looks. She's usually the youngest kid there. People look at us like: "Is she going to behave in here?"

But Lilly holds her head high. She asks politely for her ticket, and waits in line to go inside. She hands her ticket to the ticket taker (is that what they're called?) and takes the stub back from them. Then she goes to the next person and holds her hand out for her "Playbill" (or the alternative as was the case at this community theater version). She walks down the aisle, asking us which row and seats are hers. When we arrive at our seats, she sits down properly, with a big smile, and looks through her Playbill and gets so excited. She doesn't get up and bounce around, she just sits waiting - even if it's a half hour before the play starts. She is patient with anticipation of our upcoming event.

During the peformance, she watches intently through each scene. When complete, she bursts into a huge grin and claps appropriately. She knows to add extra clapping when someone hits a perfect huge note or does a special dance, and laughs at all the right times.

I swear, if you didn't see that Lilly was a little kid, just judging from her behavior alone, you'd thinks she was an Upper East Side elderly expert theater patron. She just "gets" it in a way that is beyond her years, and beyond most of the "average" person's apprecation.

During the intermission, she sits or sometimes stands, and politely chats with us. She does not want to leave walk around or go to the bathroom, because she doesn't want to miss a thing. She doesn't need to be bribed with food or drink or anything to be "good" because she truly understands she's at a special event and is just thrilled to be here. When the play is over, she stands and claps as everyone bows. Many times, she asks if she can meet the actors, which we explain that she can't. Last night, we asked her what her favorite part of the show is; and she said: "Annie."

I love watching my girl in this type of environment, it brings out such an amazing side of her, and her appreciation makes me want to take her back again and again and have her experience as many events like this as she can.

Can't wait to be on the Disney Cruise ship next week so we can have 10 nights of shows!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I get this way a lot: I have so much to say and start rambling on here that it ends up being the longest post ever with no real point and so I just delete it and move on.

Sometimes I realize in advance that I can't share every emotion, story, or funny thing that happened in a small space, so I try to pick the highlights in advance. Which is what I need to do; otherwise I'll never get a post out, and I really do want to memorialize these days.

And realize, that lots of times when I write on here, it's not to be the funniest/most profound/interesting piece of writing that you've read this year (or even today). Most of the time, it's for me, to remember the funny things that Lilly did, or the way I felt about moving or starting over or our life generally - it's for me, and I can't always put my thoughts into coherent words that others might easily understand and relate to. But, I love going back a year or two later and remembering how it felt to live in a foreign country for the first time, or the hardships of living in the busiest city in the world. Or the relief it felt to be back "home" in Charlottesville, just to move again (and again and again). And, while I try, every post can't be a convincing argument on how amazing it is to be blessed with a beautiful daughter who has Down syndrome - but those of you who come back to read regularly know just how full my heart is, because of my little girl.

I am loving Bethesda, part of the DC suburbs. I love the house we're renting, I love the space (compared with a small NYC apartment, especially), I love living in a suburb instead of a city or a small town or a foreign country. I love Lilly's independence in our new house, how she goes from her playroom to outside on the trampoline and to the potty independently and to her room to read a book. And I love how, with that independence, she wants more than ever to include us in her world. And I love how, with this month off of school and work and obligations, we are able to just go with her flow for once, and do anything she wants, whenever she wants. We rarely have to tell her no right now - not in a spoiled way, but in a "Of course you can go on the trampoline. Of course you can watch Mary Poppins. Of course you can play, laugh, go swimming, be a child enjoying summer."

Most people have this, I realize, but with our moving and traveling and working and craziness, we haven't had a normal summer for Lilly - ever. And I am loving day after day of giving Lilly a great childhood.

Of course, sometimes we have to say no. Lilly asked to see Mary Poppins on Broadway, and I had to turn her down this time. (A month ago, I would have scouted for last minute discount tickets, and she knows it.) And yesterday, when Jon was out looking at cars, Lilly asked if she could get a horse. Because, if daddy gets a car, why shouldn't she get her own mode of transportation? We had to reject that request, although seriously I looked around my backyard to make sure we couldn't squeeze a pony in somewhere... maybe on the trampoline?

And finally, yesterday, I went to the grocery store for our first normal shopping. We had to stock up on everything, as we only moved from NYC with our spices and that's it. (Note: we don't even need spices because our back yard includes a vegetable garden with thyme, basil, and who knows what else...) The best place to stock up on the essentials is Trader Joe's. Their prices are great, and I can get many organic items for the cost of a regular item somewhere else. So, now we have a full pantry and fridge - I spent $275 which for Trader Joe's is next to impossible - I have a hard time spending more than $100 there usually - but I think I literally bought almost every item in the store.

We cooked our first real dinner last night - homemade pizza, salad, baby zucchini, and carrot sticks and dip. Lilly helped make everything, which was great - including bites out of the raw zucchini before we cooked it - she loved it! Love family dinners, especially those prepared with love by my little chef.

So, just another 10 days of moving in and unpacking and organizing and shopping for a few more things (tv stand, bathroom trashcan, karaoke machine - the essentials) and then we have our biggest adventure of our life: our Mediterrean Disney Cruise!! And then... even more normalcy as Jon starts work, Lilly and I hang out for most of August, and then she starts school and I get back to work. Life is good.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Life in America

There's a billboard in New York City, an advertisement for a storage company, that says: "If you move out of New York City, you'll have to live in America."

New York was definitely an interesting place to live - and immersing ourselves in the city for a year made us really live the NYC lifestyle - but boy is it nice to be back in the real world. While there are positives and negatives to every life experience - and we definitely loved the good times - living in NYC is hard, overall. It was cool seeing Lilly become a city girl - hailing taxi's, holding elevators for people in our building, buying fruit on the street, and asking the doormen if we have packages - all while begging each day if we can see another play on Broadway - but now, being back outside the Big Apple, we are finally breathing again.

In the past week, we went to Atlanta after spending 7 hours at the airport for a 5 hour delayed flight (arriving at my parent's house at 3:30 am Saturday), I was the matron of honor in my best friend Melanie's wedding (congrats Mel and Rick!), Jon and I drove 14 hours from Atlanta to New York City, we packed up and moved out of our NYC apartment, all while working a few days last week too, and started the rest of our life.

Lilly stayed in Atlanta with her grandparents while we moved out - no use in making her life more nuts than it is. Meanwhile, Jon and I drove from NYC to Bethesda MD on Thursday with my 9 year old niece to see the house for the first time - Jon picked it out but I hadn't seen it yet. I was really nervous - but - thank goodness - it's beautiful. The owners were transferred out of the country on an unexpected job assignment for a year or more, so they really cared for their house - it's not a typical "rental property." They had just built on an addition recently - a beautiful kitchen and family room - and their vegetable garden is showing signs of squash, basil, bell peppers, and tomatoes, among other things. I think I love them.

We spent Thursday night in Charlottesville getting the move started from our storage unit (we drove from NYC with just a U-Haul that we packed ourselves but had real movers do the heavy lifting from C-ville) and got to see our old best friends along the way - Lesley, Jamie, Dar and Jen. How amazing to catch up with friends that we used to spend so much time with.

And, yesterday we officially moved in to our new house. My parents and Lilly and my other niece joined us, so there are 7 of us here for the weekend. Moving is relatively smooth - most of our "stuff" we haven't seen in a year or 3 years (we had to pack up a lot of stuff prior to rent our house out for the New Zealand year) - so I think we might throw out a bunch of "important" things that turns out, aren't so important.

Lilly was happy to see her new house, although she's in so many houses & vacations I don't know if she realizes yet this is where she's living for the next year or more. We did set up her bedroom right away, and she is loving it. Shout out again to Land of Nod for their pink ruffle flower duvet/bedding which has followed us from Charlottesville to NYC to Bethesda.

Lilly's having an identity crisis: the same week she had to learn to say she's "five" instead of "four," she also has to say she lives in "DC" instead of "NYC" so a few times when I correct her she tells me she lives in "ABC." Oh well.

And the highlight of the day today was getting Lilly a trampoline. Love it, she is so happy to have a backyard that's all hers and a trampoline and all that comes with living back in "America."

We are all exhausted from our move - and we still have so much more to do (can anyone recommend furniture stores in the DC area? we're not having luck, and need lots of furniture!). But, we look forward to the next two weeks of settling in (which involves throwing out my old Barbri books, I hope), and then heading off to Europe - before coming back to really enjoy our new life here in "America."