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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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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