beloved albuquerque

This blog has been dreadfully quiet, mostly because I'm all backed up emotionally and bogged down with the never-fun game of catch up that follows a vacation. There are so many posts that I'm dying to write but stop myself for fear of appearing messy or inconsistent by posting out of order. It's kind of like laundry -- when it builds up so much, you just lose all motivation to do it. (No? Just me?) Because I've really never been much of a stickler for rules, I'm diving back into writing and accepting that some posts may find themselves out of order while I straighten out life in it's current state.

The last weekend in September, my husband and I piled the kids into my sweet new minivan and embarked on a cross country roadtrip to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We not only decided to drive, but to make the drive in three days. Minimal stops with the exception of some landmarks or places that were on my (apparently very weird) bucket list, like Birmingham and Oklahoma City.

Altogether, the kids got to see Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Lousiana. Not bad for a five year old and a seven month old!

Once we arrived in Albuquerque, we spent a week in the most charming, magical basement apartment that we rented when I fell in love with it on an airbnb listing. It did not disappoint and I'm pretty sure both Ethan and I wake up angsty every other morning upon realizing we are no longer snug in our cozy underground digs. Even crazier than the drive to Albuquerque was our drive back, which we made in two days because we decided to extend our trip by a day and my husband had to work that Monday. We arrived back home at 5 a.m. on Monday and my husband made his way into work a couple of hours later because he's absolutely insane, or motivated and responsible. You pick. Since our return home, it's been a steady stream of chaos (did I mention our washing machine broke the day before we left?) and catching up and readjusting to Eastern time and our schedule and the decompressing that has to happen following a vacation, however blissful and relaxing it may be.

On our trip, the kids were able to hike Boca Negra Canyon at the Petroglyph Monument, shop the Downtown Grower's Market, see the BioPark Zoo as well as the aquarium and (absolutely enchanting) botanical gardens. Ethan fell absolutely in love with the old school magic down in Old Town Square, took a tramway up and down the Sandia Peak mountains -- and the highlight of the trip, hands down, was the sheer magic of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. We attended a few different days of the balloon fiesta, including a morning glow, a special shapes glowdeo, fireworks show and an ascension. Watching the balloons take off that first morning over the mountains in the crisp, cool air with hot cocoa (and coffee for me) to warm up our fingertips -- it was truly magical. New Mexico is the land of enchantment and I feel that's a motto that fits every inch of the state. Every moment of our trip, I got to see the enchantment wash over Ethan's face. I cannot wait to watch Carmen grow and take it all in as well. (I'm already counting down the days until next year.)

The trip was a dream. Albuquerque is seared into my heart in a way that I'm unable to put into words, but there was freedom in the fresh air and the beauty of the mountains. It was healing in it's own right, and enough for us all to declare that it would become our yearly tradition. Some Floridian families go to Disney each year but we apparently pile into a minivan and drive across the country to New Mexico. We've been back a few weeks and as I try to (although futile) catch-up on laundry, I'm still missing blue corn donuts and lattes from the cutest coffee houses scattered across downtown Albuquerque (we desperately tried to try them all). We came back to cloudy skies (so much for the sunshine state) and hot, humid weather and I'm still a little nostalgic for the crisp cold mountain air.

As our vacation inched closer, I began to truly fear the drive. Ethan was a horrible traveler from birth and, with the exception of a trip to Georgia the weekend before New Mexico (we're crazy, okay?), he'd never traveled more than four hours in a car. Even driving ten minutes to the grocery store, he's notorious for whining and complaining. We used our Georgia trip as a traveling trial run and came to the conclusion that 4 a.m. was the best time to leave. The kids would doze back off immediately when we carried them into the car in the dark and wake up a few hours later wanting (a packed) breakfast and not yet dreaming of escaping the confines of the car. It worked like a charm. Actually, despite a few necessary leg-stretching breaks (like at a playground in Little Rock), the kids both did magnificent. I had packed the car with bagged snacks, new toys, games -- anything I could think of -- to try to ward off Ethan's impatience. To our surprise, there wasn't a whine the entire trip -- and none of the new toys or games were played with, either. We made the drive without any technology or iPad or movie watching at all. All Ethan wanted was a package of 500 regular white computer paper sheets and a box of markers. He used up the entire package of paper on our drive, but it was perfect. I have plans to place each drawing in a binder, a collection of Ethan's Road Trip Art, or something.

On the way home, he drew Zia after Zia, hot air balloons and mountain ranges. There is still some of that Albuquerque enchantment in us.

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products you can't live without: the dock-a-tot

Our entire house is tile, except for the bedrooms which have equally hard wood floors. This was such a plus when we purchased our home as a kid-less couple and is probably still a plus when you consider the messes that pets and kids are capable of. But once my first was a baby and learning to crawl, I quickly began to realize how irritating tile could be and how impractical rugs are with pets. Much like her big brother, Carmen is rarely not in my arms or being carried, but sometimes you just need to put the baby down. You know, when you need to pee or pop something in the oven or answer the door for the UPS delivery person. When I first heard about Dock A Tot, it was a proclamation by someone else on Instagram that you couldn't possibly live without one. I was intrigued but skeptical, and then overly excited when Carmen received the opportunity to try out her very own.

Guys? This thing. It's miraculous.

We have the Dock A Tot Grand in Minty Trellis. The materials used are hypoallergenic, breathable and washable. Carmen absolutely loves to chill in her Dock A Tot when I need a moment to put her down. It's the perfect place to lay down and chill while I'm helping her brother get dressed or to practice her rolling over and rocking-on-her-knees pre-crawling skills without the hindrance of tile. The Dock A Tot is lightweight and easily transferable from room to room. In fact, I just pop it in my trunk and bring it over to my mom's house whenever we're going to be there a while and Carmen will need to nap. It's snug and cozy and perfect as well to be placed in an adult bed for safe co-sleeping while traveling or keeping baby close in the same room.

With the Dock A Tot, I'm able to put laundry away from room to room while Carmen happily plays beside me. There is plenty of room for her to grow, which means the Dock A Tot will be functional long after Carmen is an infant.

In fact, Ethan (age 5) adores the Dock A Tot and has claimed it as the perfect place to sit down and read or watch a movie.

The Dock A Tot is offered in two sizes: the grand (which we have) and the deluxe, which is just a little bit smaller. The Dock A Tot's soft, breathable sides also act as bed rails when it comes time for safe crib-to-bed transitioning. The Dock A Tot is versatile enough to take you from those early days of diaper changes, sitting practice and tummy time to bed transitioning and reading nooks. A few weeks ago, Ethan even used the Dock A Tot as a mattress to camp out inside his tent on his bedroom floor. It is truly a remarkable must-have product.

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carmen fable: seven months

Today, Carmen is seven months old!

So far, Carmen has:
- No teeth!
- Been out of Florida (Atlanta, Georgia)
- Attended her first wedding

She is currently wearing 3-6 month clothing and has finally started to outgrow the 0-3 month clothing that I thought she would be in forever. She's sitting, albeit still a little wobbly, and has begun rocking on all fours. She is a plank master and has completely figured out army crawling and rolling across rooms. Carmen is determined to be on the move and can't stand being still or sitting in one place for too long.

So far, Carmen has eaten:
- Butternut squash
- Carrots
- Green beans
- Peas
- Pears
- Apples
- Broccoli
- Spinach
- Lentils

She takes two long naps per day and sleeps for 11-12 hours per night. She currently eats 6 ounces of formula per feeding -- but I think that's going to be increasing soon. Carmen's absolute favorite person in the world is her big brother. She lights up whenever he walks into the room! (Ethan is also 99% sure that she says "bruh bruh.")

What an amazing seven months it's been!

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when the shoe doesn't fit

Yesterday, I made a difficult decision: I pulled Ethan out of Pre-K. It was one of those difficult decisions that I had to make above Ethan and his input, which is so out of the realm of how I parent that I swear it physically ached. From his first day of school onward, I felt a feeling of dread and worry in my stomach that I tried to convince myself was normal to feel as an attached parent who had never been away from their child. While Ethan would come home having enjoyed the school experience -- he loves being part of a class -- there were concerns that I felt were legitimate and not just because it can be argued that I'm a helicopter parent. Eventually, he began to ask us questions that made it apparent his masculinity was being challenged (at age five, mind you) and these little insecurities began to fester in a way that led me to question if he was truly happy at school. He loved the idea of school, and he loved the friend he had made, and he loved the teacher and following directions and creating projects that he got to take home -- but he didn't love the chaos. Or the yelling. Or the boys who would begin simulating wrestling moves during math center while the teacher struggled to regain control of the environment. He didn't like the way some of the children would physically hit the others while the poor teacher struggled to finish reading a story. I listened intently to the input of friends that these situations are hard to avoid at this age and I looked at my friend's children's preschool photos on social media while comparing how vastly different they seemed from Ethan's experience. Something didn't sit right, however, and as I dropped him off on that last day and watched two little boys scream in his face while chaos ensued and the teachers struggled to understand why a child who wasn't in that class was dropped off there in that class, I walked to my car and sobbed. I buckled Carmen into her seat and drove us over to a small Montessori school that I had heard wonderful things about. As I sat and observed the classroom, I knew this was a better environment for Ethan.

I then went back to his school and told them it was his last day. This was difficult for me. The teacher -- oh, how my heart goes out to her -- helped me collect Ethan's art from around the classroom and place it in his backpack. I watched as he played on the rug with the friend he made and felt the lump rise in my throat as he innocently smiled at me, not knowing it was to be his last day. When I told him, there were tears. He didn't want to leave school and his initial assumption was that he had done something wrong to cause his removal. We toured his new school and I feel like that helped -- except for the fact that his new school won't have availability until January.

I am wearing cinderblocks made of guilt tied to my ankles while knowing that it was the right choice to make. Sometimes the right choices are the hardest to make. Sometimes they hurt. At nine o'clock at night, Ethan and I ate cold pizza in bed and hugged and talked about how some shoes fit better than others, even if we really like the way the shoes that are too small look.

This morning he woke up as a homeschooler again, and while most of the sadness subsided, there is still a little bit of nostalgia lingering. He misses his teacher and having assignments to complete at home to share with her. He misses being part of a class. This morning, we sank into our homeschool lessons while Carmen napped and everything fit as it used to. He was overjoyed to have his homeschool activities resume -- but the fit was still a little snug. He will be outgrowing it all as he once did already, waiting to spread his wings and try on a school that will hopefully be a better fit.

This morning, I told the barista at Starbucks that I don't know what I'm doing, and she assured me most moms don't. We are led by our need to always follow the best interest of our child. That I can do, even if it's not what makes sense to other parents of other children who aren't my own. This is our time to enjoy our family and homeschool and traveling and the holidays and then give a new school another try to be the place where the pieces fit better than they did the first time.

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the song and the story

Your first name means song and by definition your middle name is a short story. Story, the word itself, was one of my name contenders but Fable fit you better. I knew that before I knew you, back when there was only hope for you. You are here now and that hope has stuck, too. You are the song and the story that have changed our lives so very much. There is renewal in hearing your brother exclaim "good morning, sis" over your video monitor and there is restoration in the smile you flash in return. You are a soft, poetic soul and simultaneously a powerhouse of strength and determination. I'm frequently stopped so that passerby can admire your beauty and charm, and then comment on how they thought you were much younger than you are. They see tiny but me? I know better. I see fierceness and a spirit so big that you are capable of so much more than you will ever know.

Two days a week, your brother goes to school. This is an adjustment for me, as I learn to begin two days a week without posing the question "Ethan, what would you like to do today?" It is also an adjustment for me in getting to know you in the way that I got to know your brother during his infancy. Those tired mornings sitting on a rug, singing and holding and reading and playing peek-a-boo. Trying to get to know your quirks and likes and favorite songs as I did with your brother half a decade ago. And at nap time, you grow tired and nestle your head in the crook of my arm and we rock slowly on your bedroom rug until you are asleep. And with each gentle breath you take, you are breathing life back into my own lungs.

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