I was antsy for 2014 to give way to 2015. Once Wylie died, I was eager for a new year, a fresh start; it seemed like a plausible way to crawl myself out of the hole I'd found myself in. The walls of despair and doom and pain seemed climbable once the proverbial slate was wiped clean. In actuality, it didn't really pan out that way. 2015 was the year I found myself diagnosed with unexplained secondary infertility and a grim report on interventions being successful (and not gestating another child whose heart would be too broken to survive). 2014 pulled the rug out from under me and knocked me to the ground and 2015 just kept up the brutal assault. I didn't have much hope for 2016 other than to keep surviving. We had finalized our plans to begin the adoption process but yet happiness seemed so far away. It wasn't long into 2016 that we got the call that would change our lives forever: she chose you to parent, and the baby was just born.

And then this year, 2016, unfolded in all of it's glory. There was uproarious laughter and chaos and crying and bottles and juggling schedules and messy living room floors and perfection, all of it. Each day like a dream, a sleep-deprived stupor in which two small children were both reaching to me with arms outstretched; both capable of being held, carried, rocked in my arms. Real. Really real. Two children needing to be fed and needing me, all of me, until I wearily fell asleep each night so drained and yet so full. So very full.

I am apprehensive about the new year and what it means in terms of the ugliness and hatred that seems to have coated this country. I am saddened by the steps back we have taken as a society and intimidated by the height of the mountain we must climb to reclaim the victory of kindness. But 2016 gave me my fight back. It gave me my will to go on, to know that I can take on a lot more than I ever believed possible.

Ready or not.

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christmas with kids: diy stocking hanger

As a total self-proclaimed social media addict, I've been captivated by all of my friends gorgeous trees and holiday decor. We've also had our house ransacked with the stomach flu and other grinchy germs so it's Christmas Eve and other than our tree, we haven't managed to get any decorations up this year. Still, I'm totally impressed by my friends abilities to decorate and coordinate and transform their living spaces into a winter wonderland. I lack that skill despite my best intentions. We bought our house in 2008 and our master bedroom still has paint swatches on the walls, and our living room walls are still mostly bare. My favorite thing about the holidays, though, is that you can totally put kids in charge of the decorating. (No? Just me? It takes the pressure off of me and gives Ethan great joy.) Our tree gets another three pounds of salt dough ornaments each year (and now with Carmen here, that'll be doubling soon). 90% of our pre-kids (read: glass) ornaments are broken or mangled beyond repair, replaced with salt dough and plastic commemorative keepsakes showcasing our children's first Santa photos and other milestones.

Ethan was totally accepting of the fact our decorations never did quite make it out of the attic this year, but he was disturbed by the fact we couldn't hang our stockings. We don't have a chimney or a fireplace in our home here in South Florida and before this year, Ethan never really cared so much about the stockings (which usually sat propped up against a wall on Christmas morning). This year, though, he cared.

One morning, we went to Home Depot and bought a $5 piece of wood. If you're craftier (and less impulsive) than Ethan and I, you should measure. (We didn't.) While there, we also picked up four cabinet knobs. (Ethan was feeling the gaudy gold, apparently.) These were only a dollar a piece. Using Epoxy, we attached the knobs to the wood and let it dry.

Then, we used paint to stamp everyone in the family's handprint. Once dry, we used a metallic Sharpie to write everyone's names. (I don't doubt my days of having bigger hands than Ethan's are nearly numbered.)

I put the year in the corner because one day Carmen's freaking adorable itty-bitty-teeny hands won't be so itty-bitty-teeny.

And ta-da! The perfect keepsake. Which we didn't get around to hanging until Christmas Eve (just pretend you don't still see the Target tags on the stockings).

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christmas magic with ICE at gaylord palms orlando

When I was in college and living in Orlando, my friends and I always made sure to visit ICE at Gaylord Palms. If you've never been before, let me fill you in on why it's so incredible. For one, it's Florida -- which means we're ready for another 82 degree Christmas. However, inside of ICE, it's a chilly 9 degrees! Us Floridians get to layer -- including one of the signature blue, warm parkas that Gaylord Palms hands out to guests. It gives that real winter experience. There are also two million pounds of hand carved ice sculptures, with a theme that changes every year. When you get to see these ice sculptures up close, it's just absolutely breathtaking. My college days are (long) over and we no longer reside in Orlando, but I knew ICE had to be one of those familial traditions because as magical as it is to us, it's going to be infinitely more magical to see through the eyes of our children. We left Carmen with my parents this year due to her being so little and the chilly temperatures inside of ICE, but Ethan was so excited to attend ICE this year.

This year's theme was A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is one of Ethan's favorite parts of Christmas. He loves Charlie Brown, he loves Snoopy, he loves the entire Peanuts gang and their Christmas adventures and movie and books (and dinnerware and collectibles -- he has them all).

We attended ICE on Thanksgiving weekend, on a Saturday night. It was busy, but I have to high-five Gaylord Palms on their efficiency. The lines are wrapped enough from room to room that you're always moving (and little ones don't get too impatient). The line moved rather quickly and after only a short, painless wait, it was time to enter the exhibit!

While you cannot touch the ice sculptures, there are FOUR ice slides that children and adults alike can slide down as many times as they wish. Ethan was still a little unsure about the slides this year, but I know next year this will be his favorite part of the exhibit! In addition to the ice slides, there are a few more interactive parts of the ICE exhibit, including many photo ops and a crawl-through Snoopy's doghouse!

From room to room, you get to venture into a new chapter of A Charlie Brown Christmas and see all of your favorite characters. The soundtrack to the film plays overhead, and in some rooms you get to hear the characters acting out the scene that is displayed in front of you in the ice.

We also had the cool opportunity to see a demonstration done by one of the ice sculpture artists at the Frostbite Factory.

Once you've taken in the display (you can walk through as many times as you would like!), you can exit, ditch your parka and purchase some hot cocoa to warm up. The entire lobby is decorated like a winter wonderland, filled with trees and lights and a Build-A-Bear factory and a gift shop that looks real enough to truly be the North Pole. Although ICE is the event you came for, the Christmas experience begins the moment you step foot into the Gaylord Palms lobby.

ICE runs through January 1st and tickets can still be purchased online. If you're making the trip, check out their packages for snow tubing and other special events!

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getting into the holiday spirit with pear tree greetings

I love holiday card season and not just because it's the one time of the year where my mailbox is regularly packed with something other than bills and junk mail. The first thing Ethan and I do every year once Thanksgiving passes is plan our holiday card display and get it all ready to start hanging photos and cards from our loved ones as they start trickling in. (This year, we duplicated last year's idea to make a washi tape tree to hang the cards on.)

I put a lot (read: way too much) thought into our cards every year, but this year just felt extra special. After all, this is Carmen's first holiday season with us. When I think back to last year, I was still trying to will myself off the couch and scrounge up enough hope to keep believing that the very idea of her was possible. And now, here she is.

I've dreamed of sibling photos for a long time, so that was a given. I knew I wanted to order from our favorite greeting card company yet again, Pear Tree Greetings, so that was another given. We get so many compliments on our cards from them every year and the quality makes an impeccable keepsake. But what kind of card did we want to commemorate this extra special holiday season? There were just so many choices!

Both my husband and I come from mixed religious families. We have Jewish relatives, we have Catholic relatives and we have friends who are all and none of the above. Something inclusive to everyone is always a must, and in the past this has been difficult -- but never with Pear Tree. There are always plenty of options for those who need to include a whole slew of beliefs in their holiday cheer. Immediately, the real foil cards caught my eye. I mean, real foil with bright, shiny, sparkling goodness -- it was a hard attraction to shake as I continued to browse the website. "I like the blue one with the shiny words, it looks like glitter," piped Ethan from where he sat next to me building Legos. I like his style. We did decide on Be Happy, a fun, minimalist design that added a beautiful pop with your choice of real foil. Blues, silvers, glittery-arctic-sparkling whites -- it was too good to pass up. I decided on a bright blue which complimented our taken-at-sunset photographs beautifully.

I chose my favorite photo of the two kids for the front and then started customizing the size, font and color for our names.

The back of the card also presented many options for customization. Seeing as how I had some more favorite solo shots of each kid, I decided on a collage style print to include them all on the back. For the optional message, I included one of my favorite inspirational quotes from Cory Booker and signed our family's name. Easy, simple, and totally magical.

Another favorite thing about Pear Tree is the quick processing and delivery. The cards arrived and were even more gorgeous in person than they were in the preview. The beautiful, professional matte finish gives the card such a classic touch against the bright, shiny foil. (Still obsessed with the foil. Ethan and I spend way too much time making the cards glisten under the lights.)

As I begin addressing and popping our cards into the mailbox to reach their destinations (a process delayed by the scrooge of a stomach flu infiltrating our family's house this past weekend -- bah humbug), my heart is just so happy. Last year, I didn't think we'd have the opportunity to snap a photograph of our two sort-of cooperative children and include it on a holiday card, but this year we do. This year, I get to proudly send a card with my sunshine and rainbow sort-of smiling (or yelling, but work with me here) on the front to all of our friends and loved ones, and then tuck a copy into the pocket of our family's photo album to remember this year always. Carmen's first Christmas, documented so beautifully with the perfect pop of blue foil.

What's your favorite quality in a holiday card? Check out Pear Tree Greetings to build your perfect holiday card!

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regular mothers

When Ethan was first born, I signed myself up for every mommy and me class I could find in the tri-county area. Every playgroup. Every meet-up. On Tuesday mornings, I would drive thirty minutes away just to participate in a library story time. And every other day of the week, we had another activity or adventure or playdate. Never someone to socialize willingly or reach out to meet new people, I found it easier when I entered the phase of my life that is motherhood: we were all in this together. It's like someone pushed the reset button on life and, in a room of 20 strangers, we were all suddenly standing on the same starting line. No one knew why the babies cried for hours on end, and everyone worried about screen time and what finger foods should be started first.

Once Wylie died, I stopped being able to relate to everyone. Other mothers continued on with their subsequent pregnancies: second, third. Other mothers shared memes about wanting a silent night during the holidays when all I wanted was the chaos of two children fighting over who could see Santa's gifts first. This want became a compulsion that made breathing difficult, and living next to impossible. Other moms shared first day of school photos as I held onto my ever-growing, brilliant boy and wondered how this phase of my life could be over. Was it over? I didn't know. As other mothers sat and debated the pros and cons of having more children, I slipped deeper into grief and loss and infertility, unable to even have a choice in the matter. I was no longer able to relate to anyone, even those I used to relate to. "Are you going to have another?" cuts your body open like a knife. "Don't you want to give him a sibling?" spills your blood all over that library carpeting.

I've come a long way in my loss and infertility journey. At some point, we made the decision that I did not want my body to ever carry another pregnancy. While permanent birth control measures were our choice, it was a choice made by circumstance and a perspective I wish I never had. It was a choice made because it was the only one, and there will always be mourning and longing for the dreams that died with our first daughter. I nod and smile and make my way through the murkiness that is other mothers laughingly sharing their birth stories and diagnosing themselves with baby fever and swooning over their friend's big, pregnant bellies and squishy newborns. At times, it feels like I am unfamiliar with the language being spoken when I'm surrounded by other mothers. I can no longer relate to them.

When Carmen was placed into our arms for the first time, I felt pieces of my body coming back to life again. She is here, and the brilliance and magnitude of that is not lost on any of us. When I see my first born off to school this January, I will still retreat home and diaper and care for my miraculous daughter. I will still take her to mommy and me classes and playgroups. I will be soaking in every ounce of her brilliance and hope and beauty because her smile is what fuels me. While I am still a mother in a room of twenty mothers, I am still unable to relate to most other mothers. Sometimes I catch myself calling them regular mothers.

"She looks just like you," mothers reassure their mom friends. "He has your smile," they say as they admire their children. I am the mother who receives stares when out in public with my two children, the ones who receives friendly banter at the park by nosy parents trying to figure out our dynamic. I am mistaken for a nanny often, or it is assumed one of my two children isn't truly mine. Once, I was asked nonchalantly if my children have different fathers. Well-meaning friends and relatives meet our lack of shared physical characteristics with pity, which I do not understand. When it comes down to family, little is less important than who a child resembles.

On my journey into motherhood, the rough and sharp edges and dangerous turns and twists that got me to where I am now in current day, I was fortunate enough to meet many others who find themselves unable to relate to regular mothers. Some have experienced heartbreak and loss. Others have had to rely on science so intricate it is hard to fathom. Others also have little ones who don't have their hair or eyes or smile. I am grateful for the others, these others. I have been many things over the last few years but alone never had to be one of them.

As this holiday season begins and there are gifts for two children under our tree -- two children sleeping soundly in their beds, two children who shared Santa's lap this year -- I am beside myself with love and gratitude and disbelief that life can be as beautiful as it is in this very moment. I am complete and whole in ways that I never thought possible. Sometimes it takes a while to realize that although you cannot relate to your peers, you aren't broken. Different is not broken. Different is not hopeless. Different is not doomed.

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santa baby

Carmen turned nine months old on Sunday, the day we were driving home from a three-hour-drive-turned-six-hour-drive (due to holiday traffic and impatient bladders and a five year olds insatiable appetite). We had spent Thanksgiving a few hours north at a lake house my parents have, which is one of those places where you go to relax if you’re not going to be chasing small children up and down a marble staircase and desperately trying to shield them from snakes and bears and alligators, oh my. In other words: my parents can relax, and we did once upon a time before we had kids, but now it’s just exhausting in that “the baby won’t sleep in the travel crib, ohmygosh, have my eyes even closed at all?” kind of way. And while someone like my father revels in what he refers to as “clean country air,” I whine that it shouldn’t take a thirty minute drive to find a Starbucks. In all seriousness, I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth since the election about leaving my blue bubble of South Florida and retreating north to a part of our red state that was celebrating its redness. We were greeted by many signs that made me bite my lip and try to turn away, hoping Ethan wouldn’t read them from the back seat. (“What does ‘re-elect god’ mean?” asked Ethan as we drove. Too late.)

In all of our exhaustion, our children got to sit on Santa’s lap and Ethan got to ask the jolly guy for an electric toothbrush which is one of two items on his wishlist this year. (The other is a game of Yeti in my Spaghetti, which he’s been begging me for since he saw it on the shelves at Target a few months ago.) Carmen decided that Santa was pretty much the only human being she doesn't want near her and pouted through the process, but there was still magic in seeing my children step up and having the photographer let Santa know there would be two children in this family. Last year, the sting of Ethan being the only child without a sibling in the Santa line stung especially hard and I had to excuse myself to the mall bathroom to cry. This year, there they were, my two children clad in matching outfits. For once, Ethan was the one with the smiles and cheer while Carmen stared with a wrinkled brow at the guy in the red suit.

The pictures just kind of mean a lot more than just being pictures, if it makes sense at all.

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redshirting: an update

We made the decision to redshirt Ethan, which essentially means hold him back a year. While the rest of his similarly aged peers have begun Kindergarten this year, Ethan is in Pre-K. Because of his summer birthday, holding him back a year will make him one of the oldest in the class instead of one of the youngest. This was not a choice we made for any academic interest, but simply because we feel like true enrichment is still happening at home. I don't feel modern day Kindergarten is biologically appropriate for a young five year old and I just wanted to tack on some extra time to his carefree childhood.

So how's it working out?

Pretty spectacular, actually.

Last year, Ethan wasn't ready for school. He was working through attachment and coming into his personality on his own time. I'm a firm believer in following the child, and I didn't feel like school should be any different. This year, Ethan is ready for school. While we hit a little road block after pulling him out of a preschool that wasn't a good fit and then getting snagged on a waitlist until January, Ethan cannot wait to start preschool again after the holidays. Seeing him ready and excited instead of apprehensive and unsure has really eased a lot of stress that I've been prematurely carrying around for years. It has also helped me to feel pretty confident that he will be ready and excited for Kindergarten next year, which is the best thing I could ask for.

Ethan is reading, writing and thirsty for knowledge. I try to follow his lead by balancing fun outings (the park, the museum, the zoo, etc.) with structured homeschool activities in the theme he's interested in at the moment. However, knowing he's academically ahead of where he should be leaves me with more wiggle room to plan more fun stuff. Or not plan anything at all. Hours of backyard play? Baking and cooking and painting and coloring all morning? Of course. There's nowhere else to be!

There is a huge noticeable con, however, and that is the fact that all of his friends are in school. The kids he's spent the past few years playing with are mostly all gone Monday through Friday. For Ethan, that has been the hardest adjustment in the sense he's trying to understand why his playmates have suddenly all disappeared into thin air. Making new friends at the park is tricky when they're all three or younger and he's the only five year old who isn't in school at the moment. This has forced our mornings to slow down a little bit.

I've enrolled Ethan in extracurricular activities of his choice every afternoon, which he is ecstatic about. It sort of takes the bite of all of the children his age being in school away and helps him feel like part of a group or a class. He takes engineering, art, yoga, gym and music and it's been amazing for me, as his mom, to see his independence blossom. He is fascinated with his classes, his classmates and getting that time to be around other children in a group setting.

People ask a lot how it's going at this point and I really have no regrets. Actually, I'm so happy that we made the decision to redshirt. While it totally stinks that Ethan is now in Pre-K limbo until January when his spot opens up at his new school, I'm excited that his entrance into school is age appropriate and on his own terms. Beginning school again is something he's excited for, which makes all of the difference to me. We'll see how our journey goes the further we delve into school but as for right now, we're just taking it day by day.

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diy dinosaur christmas tree topper

On the last visit the kids and I made to the beach, we were strolling downtown (looking to see what time Ben and Jerry's opened, I'm just saying) and found a little boutique selling the cutest dinosaur tree toppers. For $60 each. Ethan and I promised one another we would actually attempt this project but then everyone got sick, and life happened, and our dino topper just sort of got pushed to the back burner.

Until today!

This was pretty inexpensive to create. Our dinosaur came from the dollar store, the spray paint was $5 and the spring -- the most expensive part -- was eight bucks on Amazon. I'm sure you could find the spring for cheaper if you, you know, actually went to a craft store instead of ordering online.

First we gathered our supplies and used hot glue to fasten the dinosaur to the spring.

During Carmen's naptime, Ethan helped me spray paint. Spray paint with kids is sort of a nightmare, so in hindsight, I wished I just bought acrylic paints and let him sit and paint it. Either way, our drippy, gloppy dinosaur only adds five-year-old charm, which is what will make it so special in the long run.


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the one about america; the one where i can't even think of a title

Like many Americans, I am mourning. I'm no stranger to mourning and so I understand that grief comes in waves and phases. I am feeling every bit of those phases as the hours roll on. My eyes burn from lack of sleep and I keep apologizing to my children for the world ad nauseum. The bulk of the people I surround myself and my children with are also sad. They're also terrified, understandably. Many of our friends were able to marry the loves of their lives -- finally -- thanks to marriage equality. Some have transgender children. A few are post-abortive women and mothers. Many are a part or have children who are a part of the LGBTQ community. We're also fortunate enough to have many friends of varying cultures, races and religions. We have Muslim friends who have already experienced the shock of Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric. And then there is a small portion of people I know who cast their votes loudly and proudly for a Trump/Pence ticket.

Cry babies, they say. Get over it, they urge. We must be one country now, they preach.

It occurred to me (albeit a little too late, if I can admit my own naivety) that people believe the outrage stems from people disappointed their side lost. Their team. They are likening a Trump/Pence victory to someone who made a bet in a coin toss and lost, resulting in some kind of tantrum. I can understand this feeling if this was a normal election, with normal candidates. I was terrified when Romney was running against my main man Obama during the 2012 election. I didn't want Romney to win! I didn't like his platform! I didn't like his politics! But I would have survived -- and, fine, maybe posted some sore loser memes and angry rants on social media. But this is different, because this isn't just politics. This is so, so much more. Sure, maybe you like Trump's policies and politics. Maybe you think he really is the guy to fix whatever it is you find wrong with America. I can respect that, as much as I don't understand it.

But to deny climate change? To pick someone as dangerous as Mike "electroshock conversion therapy" Pence as his running mate? To vow to punish women for having abortions? To promise to rid the country of gun-free zones? A man who has inspired so much hateful, racist rhetoric? The ticket that will undo my friends marriages? Take my reproductive rights away?

That's no longer politics. That's dangerous and downright scary. You see, nothing in this world is more important to me than people having access to their basic human rights and freedoms. Isn't that what America is all about? You can have your opinions (and your religion, if we're talking about my longtime nemesis Pence), but to make laws based on them that force everyone in this country to do as you believe? Dude, that's not America. That's not my America.

So, no, I'm not sad that Trump won. I'm sad that my friends marriages are in jeopardy. I'm scared of the increase in hate crimes and racist backlash facing terrified human beings. I'm sad that some day soon another woman will find herself pregnant with a dying baby just like I did, but her bodily autonomy will really be gone. No, Trump didn't tell his supporters to set out on day one and let the hate crimes fly -- but he emboldened the racists who always existed. He gave them a voice. He gave them their spines.

Maybe you can believe that there are other things more important than my liberties and freedoms, or those of my friends and their children. I don't believe this. I am scared for my children's future and not just because we have a President who wants to "grab 'em by the pussy." I think Trump is a vile, disgusting man who doesn't represent me or my America and, to be honest, I think Pence is 150 times worse -- but this isn't about their personalities (although I believe if Trump's remarks could get him banned from Macy's, they should also disqualify him for the Presidency) or their politics. This is about a promise to take away freedoms and rights from people -- and if that isn't worth outrage, what is the point of anything?

So, I am sad. I am sad because the country has become very murky. I am scared because my daughter is a person of color. I am scared because I am a woman of reproductive age who has stocked up on emergency contraception like a Pre-Roe V Wade doomsday prepper. I am scared because people I love are hurting, they're afraid -- and rightfully so. I'm scared that there are a few -- thankfully, only a few -- people I know who don't seem to find this very catastrophic at all. Do they share these views, or are they just that unimportant to them?

Are we really expected to say things like "oh, sure, void my marriage. We can still be friends!" or "well, they won -- so let's work together to become one unified country who will provide safe and legal access to electroshock conversion therapy?" Are we really hateful if we refuse to hug it out with someone who voted to take away our rights? Am I really supposed to not unfriend my longtime friend on social media when they say (quote): "I guess the black people will have to get out and get JOBS! #blacklivesdontmatterunlessyoumakesomethingofthem?"

There's so much conflict. There's so much pain and so much emotion because this isn't a regular election. We aren't pouting because our candidate lost. We're pouting because we are angry, because we are scared, because we are fearful of an America that sets us back 50 years. We are angry because while maybe you will scoot by unscathed, not all of us will. We're disappointed that all of the sudden, following a Trump/Pence win, we have friends who don't see the horror in someone ripping a woman's hijab off or grabbing another unsuspecting woman by the vagina at a gas station. What is more important than civil rights? What is more important than human rights and bodily autonomy and equality? It's sad to me that other people actually have an answer they feel is valid because I thought so much higher of society as a whole. (That's probably just my white privilege showing.)

My friends and I aren't sore losers. We aren't bitter. We don't have to "get over it." When someone tells you they promise to invalidate your basic human rights, you're not going to just shrug and say "well, that's life." Or maybe you would. But I won't. Pence can take back Roe V. Wade from my cold, dead ovaries. We see the racism and we're raising you some angry, strong activism.

And in my time of utmost disappointment in this country, that's my silver lining: I'm seeing the helpers. I'm seeing the fight and the spit and the strength and the fire in the bellies of the people around me. I'm seeing the camaraderie and the compassion and the spirit in those closest to me. No, it doesn't erase the punch-in-the-gut of seeing people you assumed you were normal suddenly fly off their racist handles on social media, but it gives me hope. And right now, hope is all we have.

Perhaps in four years, if we survive, our Trudeau will come.

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carmen fable: eight months

I am so behind (understatement of the year), what with Halloween and it's myriad of festivities and then strep throat sweeping through our house -- but Carmen Fable turned eight months old on October 27th!

She weighed in at just shy of 16 pounds. She's still cloth diapered exclusively during the day, and is (finally) in size 2 disposables at nighttime. Perhaps the biggest milestone was me getting to pack up her 0-3 month clothing and finally start putting her in 3-6 month clothing! This was a little bittersweet, and it's 99% likely that she will be our very last baby but I'm seeing that with such a teeny little one, it's exciting to see them grow so quickly. (Ethan was already in 2T by the age of 1!)

Carmen is loving solids (finally) and is starting to accept the fact she sort of needs to eat once in a while. She still has no teeth, but is getting better at gumming bigger chunks of banana and avocado. Today she tried the Sprout organic puffs for the first time, and loved them! So far, she's eaten: butternut squash, carrots, green beans, peas, pears, apples, broccoli, spinach, lentils, red pepper, cucumber, zucchini, quinoa and kale.

Carmen can crawl and is thisclose to fully being able to pull up to a stand on any surface. She loves to get around and explore. She is always smiling and happy, which is still so incredible to me.

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this year's halloween card: bugs and kisses

Even though he's not in school yet (again), Ethan loves handing out cards to all of his friends for every holiday. This year, I whipped these up and printed them on cardstock. With just a dab of hot glue, I stuck on spider rings and a Hershey kiss. Easy and super cute!

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checking in.

For many months, I bit my lip in nervous anticipation of Ethan beginning school. And then as quickly as the day came, that chapter came to a close. Ethan is excited to begin at his new school in January, but we are so very much enjoying this little reprieve. When we have a lull in the pre-Halloween madness, we've taken to trying out a new playground on the city's website until we've tried out them all. We usually stick to the same parks, but the weather has been beautiful and, well, we literally have nothing else to do in the mornings where everyone else is in school and we are still free from the chaos and hustle and bustle. It's like a challenge.

We've been busy living and Halloween-ing and adjusting after our vacation so this little space has been a bit quiet. I've been overgramming on Instagram and promise to catch up here soon, too!

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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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