7 months

Please excuse the million pictures, but as I haven’t documented her monthly letters since 3 months (whoops) I figured she deserved a full photo shoot…..

My dearest Claire,

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that you have been in our lives for 7 months. It’s so crazy how it can seem like it’s been a blink of an eye, and yet, like you’ve been in our lives forever, at the same time. What can I even say about you? You are, without a doubt, the world’s sweetest baby. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with my love for you that I want to hug you tight and physically absorb you back into my body. Does that sound crazy?? Most likely, but it’s the truth. You just have this aura surrounding you of peace and calmness. Sometimes, when your sister is driving me crazy like only (almost) 3 year olds can, I hug you and immediately breathe a sigh of relief. You are my little stress ball-all I need to do is hug you and my stress melts away.

Everyone says you are my little clone, and, although I mostly agree, I see a lot of your daddy in your full lips and wide smile. You love everyone and haven’t seemed to develop any stranger anxiety as of yet. You LOVE your sister and you find her completely hilarious. Leah can be doing the smallest thing, like jumping down the sidewalk, and you will break into the biggest laughing fit, laughing so hard you can barely catch your breath. Of course, your spotlight loving sister enjoys her captivated audience and she highly enjoys making you smile and laugh anyway she can.

Your sleeping habits seem to be (slowly) turning the corner for the better. Although you usually still try to call out for your 3 am nursing snack, if I ignore you (sorry) you usually fall back to sleep until 6-7 am. Your tired mommy thanks you and has been enjoying sleeping through the night for the first time in over 7 months. You started eating solids this month! “Milky milks” as Leah calls it, is still your top favorite food, but you are starting to enjoy rice cereal and purees a little more each day. You seem to love pears and sweet potatoes and you tolerate green beans and squash. You absolutely hate avocado and apple sauce.

You babble nonstop (bababa, mamama and dadada) and you love to let out a happy scream whenever you feel like the room has gotten a bit too quiet (like in the middle of church). You have this hilarious new fake smile you like to pull out now and again (best demonstrated in the second to last photo) and it cracks me and your daddy up. You like to do your little awkward smile when everyone around you is talking and laughing. Like you are thinking “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m going to pretend I’m a part of it…” You sit up like a champ, put everything into your mouth, and roll around to get where you want to go. You love being outside and being worn in any wrap or carrier. Cuddling mommy is still one of your favorite things in the world and you will instantly fall asleep as soon as you are bundled up to my chest.

You make us so happy, our happy little Claire Diana and the world is definitely a better place, now that you are in it.

Love,
Mommy and Daddy

The fabulous wedding week

A little over a week ago, my family descended upon Asheville for a week long reunion slash wedding celebration for my sister Caitlin. Having my entire family in one place is a pretty exciting feat, considering the fact that my sister Sarah, who is in the Air Force and stationed in Alaska, doesn’t get the opportunity to come home very often (as a matter of fact, I had not seen her in almost 2 years and had yet to meet her adorable 11 month old girl!!) So you could say that everybody was just a BIT excited to have a whole week together! It’s my (not well kept) secret plan to make all my siblings move to Asheville so we can all be next door neighbors and our girls (and maybe some future boys??) can grow up being the best of friends. So…the plan is in effect and I expect my sisters to all start moving here any day now. πŸ˜‰

We managed to fit a LOT into our week long reunion (and, as many pictures as I am about to post, this is really only captures like 1/3 of what we managed to do together) on top of all the wedding craziness leading up to Caitlin and Ian’s Sunday wedding. So, with that warning, prepare for photo overload….

We started the week hosting an (overdue) wedding luncheon for my sister Sarah and her new husband Gary. As they got married in Alaska, our family was sadly unable to attend, so we hosted them a little shower/celebration at our new house.

^^With all the little cousins running around, this is pretty much how our playroom looked all week…

^^Sarah asked to celebrate with her favorite dessert; ice cream cake.

Leah also got to spend a lot of time just hanging out with her favorite best friend, cousin Millie! It was so cute because this was our first visit where Leah and Millie actually played together instead of parallel playing alongside each other. It was so fun watching them play “princess” where Millie would watch Leah dance around with her magic wand, and then copying her song and movements. Leah, obviously, will be oh so thrilled when Millie convinces her mom and dad to move next door to us. πŸ˜‰

^^Having breakfast at our all time favorite breakfast place here in Asheville, Sunnypoint

Sunday morning (wedding day!!) started with a trip to the hair salon to get our up dos!! I was seriously impressed with our 2 hair stylists and everyone’s hair turned out amazing. Caitlin was the calmest bride and was as cool as a cucumber the whole day!! I had a great opportunity to drive her to the wedding venue, just the two of us, so we got to have one last sister chat as I blessed her with all my marriage wisdom. Joking aside, it was nice to have that last sister moment before she became a married woman!!

The wedding was held at a GORGEOUS venue on Crest Mountain. The views during the ceremony (which was held on the back deck overlooking the mountains) were breathtaking. It was so beautiful, I didn’t even complain about the shocking amount I was sweating during the ceremony under that long bridesmaid dress…

We ended the night dancing and partying away, celebrating Caitlin and Ian!! My little flower girl did an AMAZING job during the ceremony (although no actual flower petals were thrown during her serious march down the aisle) and she had a blast dancing it up all night. At one point I even asked her if she wanted some cake and she answered “Mommy, I’m too busy dancing!!” She’s quite the little dancing queen!!

Like we knew it would, the week totally flew by, but man oh man did we have fun while it lasted!! Can’t wait until our next family get-together!

We have a house!

So…whoops…life’s been a bit busy these past few months and this poor blog has been sadly neglected. But things are finally starting to settle down thanks in big part to the fact that we (finally) found a house!!! We had NO idea how stressful it would be to find a rental here in Asheville. When we first moved (at the beginning of April) we figured that we would stay with my parents for a few weeks while we searched; imaging that we would be in our new home (easily) by May 1st. My parents warned us about the “hot rental market” but we kind of just nodded along thinking “yeah, yeah, how hard could it really be, I mean this is a big city!”

And then we got here. And oh boy, saying that Asheville has a “hot rental market” is an understatement. We quickly learned that there is something crazy like a 1% vacancy rate here in town for rentals (why are all these darn people moving here?! πŸ˜‰ ) and that we would be competing with a million other people to get a house. (Okay so a million may be a bit exaggerated, but it sure felt like it at times!!) Stalking Zillow and other rental websites became my full time job and I would call/email/text a property as soon as it hit the market. And then Brett and I would go see it and there would be like 10 other people viewing it at the same time; everyone eyeing each other up to see who their biggest competition would be to snatch the house up first. Let’s just say it was EXHAUSTING. Thank God we had my parents (who have been enjoying their time with the grandkids and were not pushing us out in the least) but with 2 kids and a big dog let’s just say that we have seriously taken over their house these past 2 months. Long story short (and seriously, it is a long story) we finally found a house!!

Leah sitting on the front steps on move in day!

We are still settling in (We just moved in Sunday) but we are so, so excited to finally start growing some roots here in our new city.

I am in love with our new bathroom. Also, this is the first time in our married life that Brett and I have a double sink in the master bath, which is thrilling. I’m sure more pics of the house will soon follow, once it isn’t a mess of boxes and furniture…

So, while we searched and waited for a house, I decided to just jump in and potty train Leah. We had put it off for a LONG time, but with so many recent changes (a new baby, and then a big move) I felt weird throwing too much at her at once so we waited and waited some more. But with her 3rd birthday around the corner, I knew she was more than ready! I will write a whole post about it (promise!) hopefully soon, but it’s been an exciting time for her!

I will just say that she has done SO well and we are extremely proud of how she has handled the big change! But more details about our “potty plan” will follow. (I know, I know, you’re all just on the edge of your seats!)

Besides that, Claire turned the big 6 monthsΒ  (how has it already been half a year?!) And I haven’t done her monthly letter since 4 months. #secondchild. This girl is sweet and chubby and delicious and basically just the world’s cutest baby. A full 6 month update will come soon…

So there you have it. A bit of a life update (have we done more these past 2 months than house hunt and potty train?? I’m not really sure) and a promise to (hopefully) get back in the blogging game soon.

The big move update

So I didn’t intend to go all quiet on the blog this past month or so, but let’s just say that it’s been quite the whirlwind with packing and moving and starting to get acclimated with our new town. But to back it up a little….

Packing a house is no fun. Packing a house with 2 small children…well that’s a form of torture. Although, if you asked Leah, she would tell you that packing and moving is the absolute best because it means you get to watch Frozen at least once a day and all the episodes of Daniel Tiger that you could ever dream of. I guess you could say that we are somewhat strict with “screen time” with Leah. We don’t have an Ipad she plays on, we don’t let her watch much TV (and when she does, it’s only PBS-mainly Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger) and the only movie she can sit through is Frozen….but when you are trying to pack a whole house by yourself, all your rules and cares go out with window. Want to sit on the couch with an entire bag of goldfish and watch Frozen 5 times in a row? Go for it, just let mommy pack.

Even though Brett was getting a moving allowance with his new job, professional movers are EXPENSIVE so we decided to do the move ourselves. We rented the largest Budget truck (and man oh man was this thing huge. Which, side note, I find amusing/troublesome that just anyone can rent this huge truck. Brett drove this gigantic truck, with a car trailer attached to pull one of our cars, which basically made it as long as an 18 wheeler, which people need a special license to drive. But apparently it’s totally fine to rent a truck and trailer the exact same size…) and filled it up. We were so lucky to have help from both our parents. Brett’s parents came down on Wednesday and helped us wrap all the furniture and load the truck. Brett and his dad were amazing. Even though the truck was huge, I was apprehensive that we could fit everything from our house into one truck. But Brett was determined (mostly because he didn’t want to pay for a second truck) and they packed that thing like a puzzle. Every once and awhile they would stop, step back, survey the furniture, and decide what piece would fit into the exact shape spaces they were filling. They did well and we filled that truck to the brim with every last box and piece of furniture we owned. Then my parents flew down from North Carolina, helped us clean the (empty!) house on Thursday, and then drove up with us to North Carolina on Friday morning. My dad and Brett drove together in the truck (with Lucy, their trusty truck dog!) and my mom and I drove up in our SUV with the kids.

I was worried how Leah would do on the long car ride because she has NEVER been in the car for that long, but she did awesome!!! I was way prepared with all her favorite toys and books, plus 3 downloaded movies on our tablet, tons of snacks, and a bag full of wrapped presents I got from the Dollar Store the day before. I gave her about one present every hour and she LOVED it! Who knew Dollar Store baby dolls and coloring books could be so exciting! She did awesome the whole drive and only watched one movie (we tried Finding Nemo for the first time and it was a HUGE hit) because the rest of the time she was totallyΒ  content playing with all her new toys! (the winning Dollar Store toys were a small plastic baby doll-which she named Pinkalicious, and a small magnadoodle). Claire was an angel baby, beside the few times she decided that she needed to nurse NOW and we were still trying to find a good exit to get off. The chubster is still nursing every 2-2.5 hours and I was trying to push her at least 3 during the ride, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. But stopping every 3 or so hours helped Leah as well because it gave her a chance to stretch her legs and run around a bit.

The drive, however, was pretty awful. It was perfect up until Savannah, but then after that we hit accidents and traffic jams the whole rest of the way. It was a 15.5 hour ride total (when it should have taken 10) and by the time we pulled into my parent’s driveway we were all starting to go a bit crazy. We are staying with my parents for the month or so while we try and find a rental. We went back and forth about whether we wanted to rent or buy right away, but ultimately decided that renting would make more sense so we could feel out the area and neighborhoods and decide where we want to buy next year. So that’s where we are now. Although Leah is having so much fun with grandma and grandpa and their dog Cooper and kitty Reuben that she is in no hurry to leave!

So, in the week we’ve been here we have….

Celebrated Easter:

This was the first year Leah “got” Easter and she had a blast finding her Easter basket in the morning and going on an Easter egg hunt on the gorgeous lawn of the Biltmore Estate after church. I was a little worried how she would do IN church, since she usually attends Sunday School during services, but we sat in the balcony (due to leaving 5 minutes “late” for church-sorry, dad) which was probably a good thing because Leah highly enjoyed sitting up there, gazing down at everyone the entire service while snacking on animal crackers.

Started exploring this awesome new city:

Brett started his job today so all last week we were in vacation mode, walking around downtown and exploring new parks and playgrounds for Leah. Asheville is such an awesome city, with so much to do and explore, so I think we will be kept busy for quite some time! The weather has been gorgeous, low 70’s and sunny, and we are LOVING the break from the South Florida heat and humidity!

A lot, lot, LOT of good eating:

Before we moved Brett read some statistic that, in Asheville, there is one restaurant for every 100 people, or something crazy like that. Let’s just say that there are plenty of amazing restaurants in this city and it’s going to take us a lot of good eating to try them all. πŸ™‚

And just enjoying some good old relaxing:

After a month of packing and stressing and moving, it feels good to just relax a bit and not have to worry about anything! Yes, we still need to find a rental, but we are totally content mooching staying with my parents for a bit longer while we get acclimated with the city. Plus, we are enjoying this brief time of having very little financial responsibilities. Selling the house has allowed us to pay off the rest of my grad school loans (woohooo!) and it’s a crazy feeling to be 100% debt free. Until we buy a new house, of course. But for now we will relax in our financial freedom. πŸ˜‰

So, life in Asheville is good and we are slowly settling in! And hopefully I’ll soon be able to share news of finding the perfect new home. πŸ™‚

Some Florida fun before we go…

The clock is ticking and we are down to our last 2 weeks in South Florida!! We have been up to our eyeballs with stress these last few months; dealing with selling the house, coordinating a move, starting a new job…all amidst having a new baby and a toddler who, let’s be honest, demands attention like no other. But even though we have a lot on our plate right now, we wanted to make sure we tried to enjoy these last few weeks in Florida as much as possible. Since we moved here 4 years ago, we’ve been talking about taking a weekend trip over to the west coast of Florida to spend some time on Sanibel Island. It’s almost happened a few times…once for Brett’s birthday and once for our anniversary, but every time the idea crossed our mind, something else happened which made us put the trip off once more.

So, once our move was decided, I looked at how few weekends we had left and I was afraid that our dreamed about trip was never going to happen. But low and behold, Brett chose a weekend and off we set! I had been to Sanibel as a kid, but Brett had never been, so I was excited to see how much I could remember and spend one more relaxing Florida beach weekend on the gulf before the packing craziness began.

The awesome thing about Sanibel is that it’s kept its quaint island feel over the years. There are no major hotels and resorts on the island, just beach front inns, bed and breakfasts, and rental cottages. We stayed at Captiva Island Inn and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the island! We had a great, huge room, with a patio overlooking the pool and a full size family room and kitchen right outside the room, which was shared with 2 other rooms on the floor. (Which made me think how fun it would be for a few friends to reserve the whole floor and have all that great space to use together!) The inn was just steps from the beach and we spent the weekend hanging out at the pool and the beach and eating a great meal (and left over cake!) at The Bubble Room, which is a fun, crazy decorated restaurant that me and my sisters LOVED when we were kids.

It truly was the perfect weekend to bring our time in Florida to an end. As Brett and I relaxed on the beach we talked about how blessed we were to live in this gorgeous place for 4 years, but how excited we were to see what adventures come next. One thing is for sure though, Florida will always hold a very special place in both our hearts! Some pictures from our little getaway weekend….

^I have a picture of me and my sisters sitting right here when I was about 10 so I just had to get one of the girls as well!!

^This orange crunch cake (not actually orange flavored) is The Bubble Room’s famous cake. It is a moist, buttery, delicious cake with brown sugar and almond crunch between the layers and a light, amazing cream cheese frosting. I told Brett we had to order it and he was all “Eh…I’ll probably just eat a bite or two…” And then we ordered it and he inhaled half the slice. It’s just that good.

^The outside of our B&B. They also had a few cottages across the street.


^Next time we come, I’m totally renting this house! Cute, huge front porch, and about 10 steps from the beach….Perfect.

^The beach on the gulf is so much different than ours! The sand is full of crushed pieces of shells and is not that smooth, silky softness that we are used to on our side. The water is also so much calmer with barely any waves. Leah liked it MUCH better, since the waves still freak her out a little.

^On my Sunday early morning run, I just had to stop and take these pictures. Nothing makes a run more enjoyable than watching the sunrise and then running along side the beach for 3 miles….

^Got back from my run and this little girl with an endless pit of a stomach couldn’t even wait for me to rinse off so it was right off to breakfast for this sweaty mommy….

^This cracked me and Brett up, so I just HAD to take a picture. Since it is March, there were a LOT of college spring breakers and Leah particularly had her eye on this group of girls and guys who were playing with a soccer ball (Leah is obsessed with soccer balls-much to my soccer playing husband’s joy…) So she was watching the guys kick the ball back and forth and she kept turning to me and Brett and asking, “Can I go play with those guys!?” and we said “Sure!” thinking there was no way in heck our little 2 year old girl would have the guts to approach the college kids and ask to play. Low and behold, this girl started inching up to the group slowly but surely, until she was standing right next to them. Then, as soon as they turned their backs for a second, she snatched up their ball. One of the girls turned and noticed her and started playing a little game of kick the soccer ball back and forth, until she realized that playing with a 2 year old was not as fun as flirting with boys, and she left our daughter broken hearted and returned to her group. And then we had to convince Leah that she really DID have to give the boys their soccer ball back….But Brett and I got a good laugh at how brazen this little girl of ours is! She goes after what she wants!!

And, with that, we loaded our sandy bodies back in the car and drove the 2.5 hours back home. Perfect weekend for a farewell to Florida trip!

 

Cousin love

Back at the beginning of the month my sister and her family came to visit for a week and we had so much fun. Even now, weeks after they left, Leah is still asking “Hey, can we go to the pool (or beach, or playground..) withΒ  Millie!?” And when I tell her (yet again) “Honey, Millie went back to her house!” She gets sad all over again and grumpily responds, “But I don’t WANT Millie to go bye-bye!!” Me neither kid. Me neither. We fit a lot into their 5 day stay and we had a blast. Since they were escaping the cold, snowy, Vermont weather, we made sure to fit in plenty of beach and pool trips and just spent a lot of time outside in the sunshine. It’s crazy to think that last March when they were here, Millie was Claire’s age and Claire was just a thought and a hope and now, one year later, we had 2 toddlers and 1 little babe playing on the beach. πŸ™‚ Leah absolutely LOVED playing with her cousin Millie and it made me excited (yet again) for when Claire is old enough to play because I just know they are going to be the sweetest little friends!! Some pictures from our visit with cousin Millie and family…

^There was lots of cute hand holding between Leah and Millie (although some of it may have been just a bit forced on Leah’s end…) and it melted my heart!

 


We had so much fun with Aunt Lauren, Uncle Evan, and cousin Millie!! One of the most exciting aspects of our move north is that, because we will live right by my parents, we will get to see all my siblings and the cousins every time they come into town to visit grandma and grandpa. See that guys, we are saving you money so you don’t have to make two separate trips to see us and the grandparents, so now you can do even MORE trips to see us both!! Although I think they may be a bit bummed to lose their Florida spring break trip every year….
One thing’s for sure, we sure can’t wait to see them all again soon!!

Good-bye South Florida…

Before Brett and I got married we were living right outside Washington, D.C. Although we had some great friends in the area, we were looking for a change and Brett suggested moving to South Florida. I was originally pretty iffy about the idea (I think, as Brett laughingly put it last night, I said it was full of “bugs, humidity and old people” which really is all true…) but after getting a job offer at a great Children’s Hospital in South Florida, I warmed up to the idea and we made the move down in March 2011, 4 years ago this month. We LOVED living in Florida; being close to the beach, the perfect “winters,” an excuse to eat ice cream year around, what wasn’t to love?! But then a few years passed and we started a family with our two gorgeous daughters. And suddenly, even though all those perks of South Florida living were still there, some of the cons (such as being so far from family) started to outweigh the good.

About 2 months before Claire was born, Brett received a great job opportunity in North Carolina. But we would have had to sell the house, pack and move, and start a new job all within a week or so of Claire’s birth and it was just way too overwhelming. So we passed on the offer and decided to keep praying and asking God to lead us to where our family should be. However, the potential offer gave us the moving itch so we decided to go ahead and put our house on the market anyways, just to see what happened. We figured we would take our time and wait for the best offer and, should we sell before we had another potential job and/or move lined up, we would just rent for a bit until we figured out what our next step should be. And that’s when things got crazy.

Within a few weeks we received our first offer on the house. It was an okay offer, and although we tried to negotiate the price up a bit, we couldn’t get the buyers to meet us in the middle so we decided to walk away from the offer. Again, we weren’t in any hurry and we thought “Why accept a just okay offer when we could hold out for a potentially better one?!”

The day before my birthday, I resigned from my job, after deciding that being a stay at home mom was what was best for our family at this time. That night Brett and I went out to dinner with the girls and he joked about all the things I had accomplished by the age of 29: grad school, marriage, buying a house, giving birth to 2 kids, a great career, retirement from said great career (haha) and he joked, “Too bad you can’t say you sold your first house by 29 as well!” And then, on the morning of my 29th birthday, we received our second offer on the house. A solid offer that we would have accepted, but hey, why not try to negotiate them up a few thousand dollars to our “dream selling price”?! And low and behold, they accepted.

And then the next day we casually found out that the job opportunity from all those months ago was back on the table. And that the president of the company just so happened to be in Orlando for a convention the same weekend we were going to be there and would love to meet with Brett. And suddenly we were all, “Okay God, we hear you” because we knew there was NO way that this was all just coincidence.

Fast forward another week and Brett officially received an offer for an amazing position based out of Asheville, North Carolina, the same town that my parents live in. The same town I fell in love with the first time I visited over a year ago. We had been praying and praying for God to lead us to where our family was meant to be and we felt like God was basically shouting; “Here it is! I LITERALLY could not make this any clearer!”

So, we decided to listen. The sale on our house is almost complete (it’s been a smooth process through inspection and appraisal and we close in the beginning of April) and we are packing up the house and making the 11 hour trek north to our new home in Asheville, NC (well, we still need to find an actual home, but luckily we can always crash with my parents for a bit while we search!) We are going to really miss South Florida; our first home, our friends, the awesome weather…(although I’ll be honest, I am thrilled to pieces to experience SEASONS again, although I might change my tune after that first winter back in the cold…) but we really feel like this is the BEST decision for our family and I am so excited to raise my girls near family and in such an awesome family friendly area.

You’ve been good to us, South Florida, but now it’s time to move on to our next great adventure…